Interview with Tom Pomplun: A FCBD Interview
Thanks to Tom Pomplun, editor of the Graphics Classics line of Graphic Novels, for answering a few questions concerning his very first Free Comic Book Day issue.
Comics in the Classroom-Scott: Let's start with a catch-all question. You have been editing and publishing your Graphic Classics line of anthologies for how long; how many books have you published so far; and how did you get involved in it in the first place?
Tom Pomplun: I got into this business by what is probably an unusual route for a comics publisher. In 1993, after many years as an art director in the advertising business, I co-founded and designed a nationally distributed literary magazine called Rosebud. Rosebud was a magazine of fiction, poetry and art, and in 2000 I began to add comics to the mix, with both original strips and reprints from artists including Robert Crumb, Jack Jackson, Frank Stack, Skip Williamson and Rick Geary. I found that the comics soon grew to be of more interest to me than the rest of the magazine, so in 2003 I left Rosebud to publish Graphic Classics Æ . The series has grown to 15 volumes, but there have actually been more books than that as a number of volumes have been republished in greatly revised second and third editions.
CitC: What made you decide that the time was right to participate in Free Comic Book Day?
Tom: I have been thinking for a number of years about a Free Comic Book Day edition, but have shied away from it in the past, mostly for economic reasons. For a small publisher it is, frankly, an expensive and risky proposition to be producing an FCBD edition. The hope is, of course, that it will lead to increased sales and I will eventually recoup the investment. For some time I have been seeing the need for a promotional book for use at library and teacher conventions, so decided to produce a book in conjunction with FCBD that would also serve that purpose.
CitC: Where did the stories you selected for this first issue come from? Are they stories selected from past and future Graphic Classics books, or have these stories been created just for this issue?
Tom: I wanted to do a new edition, rather than reprints from the regular volumes, yet have the book representative of the overall content and style of the series. I didn't think I could adequately do that in less than 64 pages, which is why my FCBD edition is twice the pages of most others, despite the additional cost to produce it. All the authors and artists appear in the regular volumes of the series, but the stories and adaptations are unique to this book.
CitC: Although I don't imagine that they stray far from the source material, some of the stories are pretty graphic - the Poe story especially. Why go for a horror theme (for the most part) for your first FCBD issue?
Tom: I wouldn't consider this a horror-themed book. In fact, I made a point of including a broad range of genres in the relatively short volume. While "The Black Cat" is certainly an archetypal horror story, and Arthur Conan Doyle's "John Barrington Cowles" is a horror-tinged mystery, the book also includes a satire, an historical romance and a comic fantasy. A Poe story was chosen for the lead as Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe is the most popular volume in the series. In "The Black Cat" the violence is mostly "off-camera", as is the rule in Graphic Classics. Also, please note that while violence and sex are kept to a minimum and the racist and sexist language is deleted from these adaptations, they are recommended for ages twelve and up.
CitC: The illustrators in this book are regular contributors to the GC series. Tell us a bit about them.
Tom: The cover illustrator and artist for "The Black Cat" is Gerry Alanguilan. Gerry was trained in the Philippines as an architect, but realized he preferred creating comics. He is a popular comics artist in the Philippines , and is well-known as an inker in the U.S. for Marvel, DC and Image Comics. Gerry has retired from inking other artists' work and is now concentrating on solo projects. He is an authority on the history of comics in the Philippines , and has referred several other talented contemporary Filipino artists to Graphic Classics. You can see more of his work at www.komikero.com.
Mark Dancey is a Detroit comics artist, illustrator, painter and founder of Motorbooty Magazine . For Graphic Classics he has specialized in doing single-page adaptations by authors including including Ambrose Bierce and HonorÈ de Balzac. His website is at www.iluminado.us .
Simon Gane is a British artist whose work I first saw in his self-produced fanzine Arnie . He has since become well-known for the Paris series from SLG Publishing, and is now drawing the DC/Vertigo series Vinyl Underground . He is one of the most popular Graphic Classics artists, and has illustrated stories by H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. You can find him at www.simongane.com .
Anne Timmons is famous for her work on GoGirl! with co-creator Trina Robbins. She has contributed to numerous other comics series, magazines and children's books. The Anne and Trina team has also adapted "The Handsome Cabin Boy" for Graphic Classics: Jack London, and Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" for Gothic Classics . They are now working on Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women", scheduled for July 2009 release. Anne is online at www.homepage.mac.com/tafrin .
Milton Knight is a comics artist and painter who has also worked as an animator, notably on Felix the Cat cartoons. His best-known comics work has been on the long-running Hugo series. Hugo made an appearance in "The Fool's Love Story" in Graphic Classics: Rafael Sabatini, and Milton has also adapted stories for the series by Poe, H.G. Wells, Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, O. Henry and Fitz-James O'Brien. His work can also be seen at www.miltonknight.net.
CitC: What is next for the series?
Tom: Besides the previously mentioned Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott, we are working on a revised edition of the long-out-of-print Graphic Classics: Ambrose Bierce for August 2008, an all-new Graphic Classics: Oscar Wilde for December 2008, and a multi-author anthology, Science Fiction Classics for March 2009. And several other volumes are already in planning stage for 2009 and 2010.
CitC: Thanks for your time. Good luck May 3 rd
Tom: Thank you for asking me, Scott. I hope all your readers can make it to a participating comics shop on Free Comic Book Day. For those unable to find a copy of Graphic Classics: Special Edition, please visit the Graphic Classics website in June ( www.graphicclassics.com ).
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