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Well, damn, we’re still here! Now what do we do? Red Stylo Media’s editor-in-chief, Enrica Jang, reflects on a hard-fought year and where we’re going from here.

New Orleans, Mega Con/Orlando, Wonder Con, C2E2/Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, Dragon Con, Cincinnati, Mid-Ohio, New York. Throw in 3 or 4 more little fish shows and signings. Oh! Add three new books, a mega anthology, a brand new imprint, our first staff hire and two (!) new interns.

*deep breath*

OK! Am I forgetting anything?

I read my year-end wrap from last year, just to orient myself before I started the wrap for this year, and I have to admit I’m shaking my head a little. I remember that enthusiasm and fervor, and there are even days I still feel it. But that compared to what I feel now… It’s the difference between electric sparks and nuclear glow. This time last year, I was so excited to dive into what was next, ready to take it all on, and so no one could have told me how high the highs and low the lows. This year was ten times harder than the first. And ten times more rewarding.

2012, by both accident and design, was a building year for Red Stylo Media. We had such a positive response to AZTECA and Poe Twisted at shows the previous year, I gambled resources and cash to book a major show every month for ten straight months. There were some favorites missed for timing issues, but on the whole we hit and hit and hit to keep the momentum going. And after scraping through our first year, familiar faces started coming back around. This year there were a lot of very public fights and professional back-biting in the upper echelons of our industry, but this year (like last year) Red Stylo Media’s greatest successes came out of the hard work of people who were happy to work together. Thirty-two artists and writers contributed comics to our newest anthology, Shakespeare Shaken. Sixteen comic shorts, a 212-page behemoth collection. The largest book we’ve put together (so far.) Anthologies are now a yearly thing for Red Stylo, and next year’s collection, Unfashioned Creatures, A Frankenstein Anthology, will be the best yet.

I continue to benefit from the advice and kindness of the friends I’ve made in comics, especially folks down in the indie trenches with me. A lot of hours drinking and talking shop with people, commiserating and finishing sentences with other indie creators trying to do exactly what I’m doing (publish books and kickstart a business.) After a while you start to ask yourself why you’re doing it alone. And thus Red Stylo Press launched in June, a brand new imprint, devoted entirely to creator-owned titles, working together, distributing together, pushing hard for exposure and promoting creative work. We put together two new books this year, Devil Inside by Todd Stashwick and Dennis Calero and The Unprofessionals —A Sociopathic Bromance by Alexis Cruz and Colin Rankine. And we’ve partnered with Nicolas Dedual and Odd Truth Inc., a new indie outfit in New York, to promote TORCHBEARER. **Update: just last week we got word that Red Stylo may not stay a diamond in the rough much longer. Mum on the outcome until January, but the outlook is GOOD!** We’re aiming for the sweet spot between Comix Tribe and Image, but in this and all things, it’s the journey rather than the destination.

High highs and low lows. You may have noticed the theme for this year is collaborative effort. Unless you’re that wunderkind who does it all yourself, there are no comics unless a team works together. And while so much seemed to come together for Red Stylo Media, a big something fell apart: AZTECA made it to issue #4 but has since been put on indefinite hiatus. I’ve already written about that project in a separate post, but the sum-up is that series is waiting to be reborn sometime in the new baktun.

If there are comics gods, they like to laugh at comics writers (and especially publishers.) The day I came to grips with the fact we had to announce the break is the day we got the letter from Comic Con International: Red Stylo Media will have a table in the Small Press Pavilion at SDCC 2013! Red Stylo also took on a first staff hire, writer Matthew Erman, followed very closely by not one but TWO new interns: folks have already been introduced to Lisa Sterle; in January we’re announcing the arrival of Gibby McDaniel! Contracts are signed and ready with a new artist to launch one of my own original graphic novels at San Diego in July, we’ve got the new Frankenstein anthology, a new series is also cooking (code word: cucaracha), more projects for Red Stylo Press in the works…

So this is where I am at the end of 2012: Still thrilled. But with a happiness forged in fire. Still fevered, but the burn is deeper. Through a ringer and still standing to tell tales, I’ve never been more proud of what we’re doing, more sure of what I want to see Red Stylo Media accomplish. And because I’ve come to care personally for all the people who have thrown their lot in with me, the desire and drive extends to, and for, them. Writing a wrap even feels like cheating, in a weird way, because we’re still just starting. But Erman can tell you —he’s heard me talking to myself in the office, on more than one occasion —I like to say, “Eyes forward, Enrica. Eyes UP.” That’s exactly how I feel, all the time.

If you’re still reading, you must care a little, and that means a lot. Thank you, forever and always, to readers and friends who’ve supported us along the way. Special note of thanks to Mark Mullaney and Erica Schultz for pulling off some pretty spectacular rescue operations for me this year —I’d have died of exposure on comics mountain over and over if you hadn’t sent the JPG dogs and PSD helicopters. I’d also like to thank Visa and Discover for getting us through the stickier times —and fuck you to Diners Club, because you didn’t do a goddamn thing.

More to come. Amazing, right?

Enrica J.
December 28, 2012