It’s the strangest sensation, feeling humbled and yet so proud at the same time. It has to be said: Wow. Red Stylo kicked some serious ass this year! A lot of ground to cover, so let’s just jump right in:
Deciding to go away from literature do this fourth collection, KILLER QUEEN, A Comic Anthology inspired by the music of Queen, was like pushing a big, glittery PLAY button and then hanging on for dear life while the whole year just rocked-n-rolled right by.
From the day we announced the theme to the day we released the book at New York Comic Con in October, people seemed to go crazy for this thing. And why not? A comic anthology inspired by the music of one of the greatest bands in rock history? Oh hell YES! Past contributors returned and embraced the new direction, churning out some of the best work I’ve seen from them yet. We tossed some brand new creators into the mix, and everyone worked like mad to make this collection worthy of its royal name.
And, while we knew we had something special, validation can still mean the world–quite literally, in this case: the President of the Official International Queen Fan Club, Jacky Smith, floored all of us by writing a glowing introduction for the book, and blasting word of our project out to Queen fans all over the globe! The anthology is seeing official release at home and abroad and I am thrilled.
And a funny thing happened when we weren’t looking last year: with the release of our previous anthology, Red Stylo Media published just over 100 artists and writers. With the release of KILLER QUEEN, we passed 150! Some veterans, many first-timers, and all wonderful and talented independent creators. Quite a milestone for our fourth year!
KILLER QUEEN could very easily have taken up all our time and attention, but RSM doesn’t stop for just one book. The first six months of 2014 saw the release of four new books from Red Stylo, either original series, or packaged by Red Stylo Press:
Anthologies seem to be a winner for Red Stylo, so I lent myself a little of the magic. ANGEL WITH A BULLET, is a mini-anthology inspired by one of my favorite singer/song-writers, Tom Waits. The first three comics stories have been released, written by me, with art by very talented superstars Lora Innes, Robert Grove, and Kelly Williams, color and letters by Sara King, Mark Mullaney, and Erica Schultz.
For San Diego Comic Con this year we packaged DEVIL INSIDE Vol. 3, by Todd Stashwick and Dennis Calero. Always a pleasure to work with these guys, and this book was an explosive and devilish thrill ride, even more fun than the previous two.
THE HOUSE OF MONTRESOR, Part 1 of a new, original graphic novel, and a sequel to Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short, THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO, also got an SDCC debut, and a print debut not long afterwards at Boston Comic Con. Artist Jason Strutz is working like mad to finish Part 2 for Poe’s birthday in January, and acclaim for this book continues to grow! Look for it soon!
This one deserves an extra special mention: this year we published our first project with Bob Almond and The Inkwell Awards for THE INKWELLS AWARDS JOE SINNOTT INKING CHALLENGE AND RESULTS BOOK, packaged for Heroes Con in June.
Some of the very biggest career names in comics contribute to the Inkwell Awards each year, and it was a special privilege to work with such a fine crew, and especially with Bob.
Mid-year is when things got really interesting. Many of you know that Red Stylo began as a small Kickstarter for our AZTECA series, but in the four years since that first successful campaign, we hadn’t tried another one. In the meantime, there’s been an explosion of new conventions across the country, while more and more of the reading audience are turning to digital comics on anything with a backlight.
Even as the expense of all the new shows continues to go up, we’re lucky to report that sales at shows seem to be on a modest rise every year. But our digital sales were flat, which meant our audience wasn’t growing. Faced with that, Red Stylo huddled up and decided to go back to crowdfunding, this time with something in mind other than just money: we want more readers. Enter Patreon.com/RedStylo
With an initial two-month blitz promotion on social media and a campaign steady and ongoing for almost six months now, Patreon has afforded us an operating budget, new readers, and the free time we needed to expand our digital offerings and visibility. We launched the campaign to coincide with our KILLER QUEEN digital rock-n-rollout, and bam! For just $2, Patrons get new comics from Red Stylo every two weeks, and both we and our creative teams benefit. It has changed our entire business model, and even more changes are in store! (Hint: webcomics, anyone?) That campaign is ongoing, so please check it out if you haven’t!
After much haranguing, ORPHANS writer, Eric Palicki, shamed me into finally submitting all our series to comiXology, and not long after, CASK OF AMONTILLADO and HOUSE OF MONTRESOR were the very first titles for Red Stylo on comiXology.
Individual stories from KILLER QUEEN are also rolling out now, and we can’t wait to see more digital titles on this platform as the new year begins. I suppose I should thank him now… Thanks, Eric!
WeWinCon.org continued this year, with an expanded list of organizations for charitable giving, including for ALS Ice bucket Challenge participants, St. Jude’s and The Mercury Phoenix Trust.
Everything in the last half of 2014 seemed to converge for SUPER WEEK at New York Comic Con: we released the print edition of KILLER QUEEN, we hosted our very first panel, and all our Red Stylo Press teams made some serious strides!
CITY OF WALLS creators Shaun Noel and Abede Lovelace released a new color volume of the series at New York Comic Con, featuring new color work from Carly Hwang. It’s one of the best parts of this job to see the pages of an already fantastic story breathe new life. Look for more from these guys in the coming year!
Both Shaun and Abede were speakers on our panel, “Marry, Do, Kill: What Will It Take to Shatter Female Stereotypes in Comics?”, alongside Marvel Editor Ellie Pyle, Comics Experience’s Andy Schmidt, Jennie Wood (FLUTTER), Claire Connelly (OCULUS), Erica Schultz (REVENGE, M3), and Dennis Calero (X-MEN NOIR). The room was packed, and reviewers had great things to say about the sessions and all of the speakers.
Nick Dedual and the TORCHBEARER team at Odd Truth Inc. always have something crazy and new bubbling away in a secret lab. Mum was the official word for a good part of the year, until they exploded at NYCC with a second TORCHBEARER trade paperback in addition to a brand new OCULUS EXPERIENCE for attendees to check out the sci-tech from TORCHBEARER for themselves.
All the while DRAGO BENTLEY: SPACE DETECTIVE has been on fire, with Joe Kisch selling out in Australia and much higher numbers here in the US with the new, improved jacket cover. Clothes don’t make the man, but a great cover can certainly turn the page for a book!
The tail end of 2014, we’ve been settling into our new home in Baltimore MD, connecting with old friends, and happy to meet new ones! We had our very first booth at the Baltimore Book Festival, and I was introduced to artist Eric Suggs who runs an outstanding Baltimore-based non-profit organization, Artway Alliance.
Artway Alliance’s dedication to teaching comics, manga and animation to young kids, cultivating a new generation of visual artists, is a wonderful inspiration.We spent Black Friday after Thanksgiving with them at an event at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum next to Camden Yards. And at our first holiday pop-up at Historic Savage Mill in Savage, Maryland, we helped to sell art and raise funds for Artway Alliance classes next year. The whole experience has been a true pleasure and we look forward to working with them at several events in 2015!
So, what could possibly be left to say after all of that? Well, even with everything we accomplished last year, even more has been going on behind the scenes for next year, especially for new books!
We’re already rolling out hints and teases about the theme for next year’s anthology on social media, and the OPEN CALL announcement is set for January 1!
HOUSE OF MONTRESOR also continues in January (check out the new cover by artist Jason Strutz!)
Expect a long-awaited new teaser for an original graphic novel with newcomer, Chris Liu, right around Chinese New Year!
The 4th and final story in ANGEL WITH A BULLET is slated for Spring, just in time for the release of a new mini-antho inspired by the King himself, Elvis!
We’ll be adding webcomics to a new and improved RedStylo.com very soon! If you haven’t had a chance to read all of our anthologies, your time has finally come.
Is that all? Nope, not done yet:
Production has begun for two new original series, GUINEVERE (a whole new twist on King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table), and Snidley will soon be tripping the feline fantastic with a series called MUSTACHE & MUSCLES.
We’re looking forward to putting together next year’s Inkwell Awards and SINNOTT INKING CHALLENGE, as well as a special edition MS. INKWELL PINUP GALLERY book!
And work is almost complete on R. Robert Pollak’s collected first volume of ELLEN’S ADVENTURES AT THE SHADOWLAND: THE PHANTOM OF SAM’S POINT—-look for that one in the next month or so!
Somewhere in there we’ll find some time to do some shows. 2015, here we come!
This year’s recap is a lot longer than previous years, simply because this year we’ve managed to tackle so much more. First, this is due to the extraordinary work and awesomeness of editors James McGee and Mark Mullaney. I lean hard on these guys—especially Mark, as sometimes I can barely articulate what I’m trying to say and still he makes magic happen. “Overlord Snidley” has calmed himself down this year, but he’s been hard at work too. Both of them come through again and again, keeping things rolling and fun even in my most scatter-brained moments. Thank you, guys, for everything you do!
A word of thanks to Jack Norris for a special victory; you’re the best. And also to one of my best friends and soul-twin, Erica Schultz, for playing Red Stylo’s fairy-godmother so many times this year. She is, hands down, one of the hardest-working and most generous people I know. (And also a shout-out to her sweetheart husband, AJ!)
And foremost, start to finish, 2014 has been special. I owe heart and soul to my husband, David, for… damn, baby, what didn’t you do for me this year? The whole world is new, thanks to you. I love you.
Finally, if you’re still reading, THANK YOU, readers, patrons and friends, for helping and supporting us one more year. I write this line every year, but I’m no less amazed to still be here. Happy and grateful every year, every day, for you.
Best Wishes and Happy New Year, everyone,
December 26th, 2014