You’ve been the Spider-Man group editor, the Editor-in-Chief of Topps Comics and now the Editor-in-Chief at Papercutz. What separates Papercutz from all the rest?
As far as how it relates to me personally, I’m actually a part-owner of Papercutz, the company NBM publisher Terry Nantier and I founded way back in 2005. We’re dedicated to publishing great graphic novels for all ages! I loved working at both Marvel and Topps, I really, really, did, and I’m still in touch with all my friends from both companies. But there’s only so much you can do as an employee. At Papercutz, the only folks who can ever say “no” to me are the buying public. In other words, I have tremendous freedom to do the comics I want to do, the way I want to do them! If they succeed, that’s great. If they fail, well, I have no one to blame but myself.
So you’re well into your third era of publishing, whatkeeps your interest going day-to-day?
I just love comics—all kinds of comics! When Terry and I started Papercutz, we didn’t think there were enough comics being published for children, especially girls! We saw that as our opportunity—to fill that void! Now, 9 1/2 years later, there are more kids comics than there had been in quite some time! Furthermore, we just launched a new imprint, Super Genius, to publish comics more for the existing comicbook store crowd. Our first series is WWE SUPERSTARS, and we have some really exciting stuff planned for the future!
What’s your long-term goal with Papercutz? What audience are you cultivating?
Hey, we’re just hoping Papercutz can continue to survive! We’re still a tiny company competing against countless competitors, many of whom are super-giant media corporations! Every day we’re thankful we’re still here! We just want to continue doing what we’re doing—creating great graphic novels for all ages. And we mean all ages! We want to publish material everyone can enjoy! Of course, some titles are more for younger audiences, while others are more adult. While graphic novel series such as ERNEST & REBECCA or ARIOL truly are for readers of any age!
Are there any lessons to be learned with different formats for different markets? What seems to be working best for reaching a young female audience?
We simply try to listen to whatever the market tells us! As far as what girls want, well, NANCY DREW has been around since 1930–she’s smart and can do anything the boys can do. I couldn’t believe no one had ever done NANCY DREW comics before. Also, I remember what my daughter and her friends liked when they were young. My daughter still loves fairies, so we publish DISNEY FAIRIES (featuring Tinker Bell) and SYBIL THE BACKPACK FAIRY. I used to take her to my ballroom dance lessons, so now we publish DANCE CLASS. Other titles she enjoys, ERNEST AND REBECCA, ARIOL, RIO, and THEA STILTON also appeal to our female audience. But we find girls also like titles such as THE SMURFS and LEGO NINJAGO and LEGO LEGENDS OF CHIMA—which they watch on TV, too.
You’ve been doing some great work with the Classics Illustrated line. Are these graphic novels reaching the schools and libraries where they’d make the most significant impact on our youth?
Yes, they sure are! Most of our titles reach schools and libraries. We love librarians, and they seem to love us. They’re always telling us they can’t keep our titles on the shelves! We also publish teacher’s guides for many of our titles.
Of the licensed IPs that you publish…Nancy Drew Dairies, Power Rangers, the Hardy Boys, LEGO Ninjago, Zorro, Smurfs, Toto Trouble, and Tales from the Crypt. Have you been surprised by the demand and durability of these concepts?
If something has been a success before, and if we’re able to capture those elements that made the property originally succeed, then we usually have something that will succeed for us, too! We don’t always do it right, but we try to learn from our mistakes and push on to the next property! Then of course, there’s something called luck. We were incredibly lucky to publish LEGO NINJAGO when we did—while the property was still essentially new and just taking off. And the best is yet to come—a LEGO NINJAGO 3D movie is coming in September 2016!
So I’ve heard some great stories about how you got started working at Marvel. Can you share with us the details of who got you the introduction and how it unfolded?
Actually all I did was send a post card to Marvel in the summer of ’72 offering to be their slave. Turns out they needed to hire a messenger to take the comics to the Comics Code Authority offices in New York City. Sol Brodsky wanted to take me up on my offer, but then Marvel Editor-in-Chief Roy Thomas insisted that they pay me! Roy has a great policy of trying to hire people who knew comics for any position that opened up. So, instead of hiring a guy who just delivered packages, they hired 15 year-old me, who was able to help out on all sorts of stuff. I stayed for 20 years.
Looking back over the years, who taught you the most about Story and visual storytelling? And how do you go about passing that tradition on to the next generation?
Most of what I know about comics I learned at Marvel listening to folks such as Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, George Roussos, John Romita, Marie Severin, Don McGregor, Steve Gerber, and many others. I credit Jim Shooter for beating the basics of clear storytelling into me. As for the next generation, all I can hope to influence are the young writers and artists I come in contact with through Papercutz and by going to comic conventions and events.
You’re known as a writer, an editor, and a great caricaturist. Is there any character that you feel you have unfinished business with? An untold story that keeps pulling you back to tell?
Being a bit overly literal, there was a story at Marvel that was started by Stan Lee many years ago—for the third magazine-sized issue of THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN. I had Gerry Conway write up a plot to complete the story, and I hoped Marie Severin would’ve penciled it, and [John] Romita Sr. ink it. A few early pages were actually laid out, and scripted by Stan in the 60s. I got those pages lettered. I don’t know what has become of any of that, but I’d happily finish it up for free, Marvel! (Hey, that worked for me in ’72!)
There are a few other great unfinished projects I’d love to complete and publish at Papercutz or Super Genius, but I can’t reveal those yet!
Of all the experiences you’ve had as an editor, what was your most gratifying moment? What made it so memorable?
Probably publishing the Kirbyverse titles at Topps. These were a bunch of Jack Kirby creations that we hired Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Tony Isabella, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Dick Ayers, Walter Simonson, and John Severin to work on. The comics themselves weren’t what was so gratifying, but the fact that Kirby got to be paid for his characters and kept the copyrights, and Heck and Ayers told me they had never made so much in royalties the whole time they were at Marvel—that was great! To be able to thank so many of the people who inspired me to get into comics, in a real tangible way, meant a lot to me. At a dinner at the San Diego Comic-Con, Jack Kirby kept thanking me for the deal he had at Topps. Finally, I just had to tell him to stop—that I was the one who had to thank him! If it weren’t for all these guys, and Stan Lee (who was still under an exclusive contract with Marvel, otherwise I would’ve roped him in, too!), who knows what I’d be doing today?
I’ve noticed you do something that comes naturally, that is a remarkable skill in it’s own right. You’ve introduced people who should know each other, but have never met…that’s invaluable in an industry like ours. Who do you credit with setting the example to help others like this? Are you “passing it forward”?
Thanks so much, Mark! My ex-wife, and great friend Paulette Powell is always great at introducing her friends to each other. I thank her for inspiring that—and so much more—in me.
Does Papercutz have any international partnerships we may not be aware of?
No, no actual partnerships, but just as we license material from many European publishers, we also license some of the comics we create to foreign publishers.
Where can we find the latest titles from Papercutz? What about digital distribution?
We try to get into as many places as possible. Our WWE SUPERSTARS comicbook is on newsstands, in comicbook stores, and available from comiXology. Papercutz graphic novels are available from booksellers everywhere, and most of our titles are also available digitally wherever ebooks are sold. If you can’t find Papercutz graphic novels at your favorite bookstore or comics shop, just ask them to order them for you. Or you can always order from such online booksellers as barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, and from us at papercutz.com.
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The Papercutz logo, and Super Genius logo are TM & © 2014 Papercutz Graphic Novels. All Rights Reserved.
This article is ©2014 mark mazz. A big Thank You to Jim Salicrup for his expertise and advise!