Even though the comic book industry, in its most conventional forms, has seen better days, the indie side of the profession has shown consistent growth over the last couple of years, especially with the rise of crowdfunding, as we have mentioned before here on this blog.
Writer Mark Poulton is one of those indie comic success stories: after a stint with DC’s Savage Hawkman and working with Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld on his personal comic book, Avengylne, Mark broke out on his own and created his own superhero team, Graveyard Shift, with former Cable, Thunderbolts and Jawbreakers artist, Jon Malin.
An enthusiast of comic books, a devoted father and someone that is always constantly churning out new stories in various formats, Mark is a great defender and believer in crowdfunding and indie comics being a step in this art form’s evolution and in this interview we had the opportunity to hear his take on many different topics. Hope you enjoy it.
"Well, I guess congratulations are in order. Graveyard Shift Vol. II just passed over $120,000 on Indiegogo. What can you tell us about the promotional campaign for your comic book?"
"Thank you. It’s really a grass roots promotion. The mainstream comic media doesn’t really give us any support, so we spread the word ourselves. Jon is on YouTube non-stop promoting the series on live streams. I’ve been doing some live stream interviews as well. Jon has his own channel and that helps. In addition, it’s a lot of interaction with fans on Twitter. Most importantly, I believe we have a good track record. Volume 1 was fulfilled on time and people were very satisfied with the level of customer service. I worked 2 months packaging books and taking them to the post office. We could have had a fulfillment center help us out, but I feel like they wouldn’t have put the same level of care into getting these books to our customers and I think the care showed. It’s paid off for us."
Graveyard Shift by Jon Malin and Mark Poulton
"For those readers that are not familiar with your comics, what is Graveyard Shift and how did the project come to be?"
"The elevator pitch has always been, what if the Universal Monsters were the X-Men? I had the idea for the book back in 2010. I had just come of working on a Brigade relaunch at Image Comics. The first issue had sold out and I was feeling good about myself. I reached out to Jon who I had known from the Rob Liefeld message boards and pitched him the series. He was on board with the first mention of monsters. "
"You’re doing this project with artist, Jon Malin. Being a writer, how do you structure your scripts for him to draw and what does he bring to the table as an artist?"
"I usually work the Marvel method. Jon and I discuss the story and then I plot it out. I save scripting the dialog until the end after the artwork is over. I like it. The artwork might inspire me to write something I might not have originally thought of. It could be the look on a character’s face or a little detail in the background.
As far as what Jon brings to the table, my tastes seem to be more fun and light hearted. When I was working on Hawkman with Rob Liefeld, Rob once said in an interview that we make comics for readers who still have that sense of wonder. I believe that‘s who I write for. Jon, on the other hand, brings a more serious approach to the story. It balances each other out. The original script pages had a werewolf on the team who stuck his tongue out as he hung his head out the window of the team’s jet. He reels me in when I get a little too cute. Jon always jokes, we have jet packs because of me."
"Both you and Jon have experience working with the two biggest companies in the business, Marvel and DC. Was it hard to leave those companies and jump into the unknown with your creator-owned project."
"I can’t speak for Jon, but it wasn’t hard for me. I’ve been doing indie work and creator-owned comics way before I ever worked for DC Comics. Right before Graveyard Shift hit Indieogogo last year, I had self-published a book I wrote with my son called Pizza Tree. Up until the success of Graveyard Shift, that was my biggest hit in my opinion and the book that brought me the most success both critically and financially. I had already dipped my toes into self-publishing, but nothing would prepare me for the support of Graveyard Shift."
"Let’s talk about your influences... What were your favorite comics and who were your favorite writers?"
"GI Joe was the book that got me into comics. If you were a continuity guy like I was, Larry Hama’s writing was for you. He would call back on events that happened 70 issues prior. All of the build-up and backstory between Snake Eyes and Stormshadow was epic. I also loved the Giffen/Dematteis run of Justice League International. I think that’s where I get a lot of my lighthearted fun from. Besides those books, my favorite writers are Scott Lobdell and Rob Liefeld. I think Rob’s writing is really overlooked."
Graveyard Shift by Jon Malin and Mark Poulton
"While doing research for this interview, I read that you are a huge fan of 90's comic books. What do you find so appealing about a decade that has been very criticized by many circles in our day and age?"
"Yes, I love 90's comics. There was never a more exciting time in the industry. That period in time showed me guys like myself could set out on my own and make something. There would be no Graveyard Shift if there was no Youngblood or Spawn.
The 90's were all about the superstar artists with their own styles. I think the mainstream industry has really stepped away from that and it has hurt them. Comics are a visual media. We need more flash and less realism. "
"Crowdfunding has become quite a useful way for indie creators to make comics and promote them. What have you learned through crowdfunding in terms of business, and is this something that perhaps you were not aware of earlier in your career?"
"This is really nothing new, but I think it has been lost with some creators. You need to take care of your customers. If you treat them right, they become return customers. You need to keep them updated and informed throughout the entire process. Also, don’t be afraid to promote your success. I had someone tell me I should cool it with all of my posts about Graveyard Shift, because it comes off as bragging. I told them no way. I am sharing these posts, because customers want to be a part of our success. Graveyard Shift’s success is just as much about the fans who back the book as it is about me and Jon. We’re nothing without them."
"While crowdfunding is certainly helpful to the creators, it can have certain limitations for the buyers. Do you think this approach is going to be further developed in the coming years? "
"I think we are already seeing more and more creators leaving the mainstream and trying their hand at crowdfunding. We are cutting out the middlemen. No more publishers and distributors taking cuts. We are delivering directly to buyers. As more and more creators leave the mainstream to pursue this, buyers will have more choices. Most have a set budget on what they can spend on comics. That’s why customer service is key. Those that take care of their customers and deliver quality on time will succeed."
"In terms of storytelling, what is the difference between Graveyard Shift and the other projects you have worked on throughout the years?"
"I think my other projects were developed with the idea that they were going to be a graphic novel or a 3 issue mini-series. Graveyard Shift was developed like it was going to be something bigger. Jon and I want to create a whole universe. Volumes III and IV are already figured out. We have ideas for spin-offs. There is a lot of world building going into this. We’ve already hired up and coming talent to help us bring these stories to life. In our current Indiegogo campaign, the Graveyard Shift Supplemental Book is available. It features stories by talent search winners. It’s worked out really well for us in helping to expand our universe. I can definitely see it continuing in future volumes."
Graveyard Shift by Jon Malin and Mark Poulton.
"What is your opinion on the current state of the comic book industry, and what direction do you think it’s headed in the coming years?"
"We’ve seen the two main companies either cut back on employees or start farming out their titles to other publishers. With this, I think we’ll see even more creators go towards crowdfunding."
"One man who has been very vocal about the future of the industry, and that is very connected to you and Jon, has been Rob Liefeld. What can you tell us about the experience of working with Liefeld on Avengelyne?"
"Working on Avengelyne was an early highlight of my career. Rob was my hero before I got into the business so the chance to work with him was a dream come true. He was very hands off and let the creators do what they do best… create! Rob has been very vocal recently about creators calling their own shots and that’s exactly what Jon and I are doing these days with Graveyard Shift. Rob was one of the earliest fans of Graveyard Shift. I showed him a preview of it back in 2011 and he flipped for it, so hopefully he’s been keeping up with our success."
"He (Liefeld) certainly has a very weird reputation. Some people love him, some people can’t stand him. As someone that now has his own creations, this must be a warning sign for you. What do you think about Liefeld's recent situation with the Youngblood property?"
"From what I’ve read about it, Rob has admitted he signed a bad deal. I don’t know all of the details but from what I gather he needed money at the time to keep his company Awesome going so he sold some of his library. If that is the case, it is actually very admirable that he would sell one of his “babies” to keep the company afloat and his employees paid. He is still a wealth of ideas, which the current success of Major X is proof of. He may have walked away from Youngblood but I wouldn’t be surprised if he has an even better superhero team up his sleeve. And if he does, I’d love to see them take on Graveyard Shift!"
Graveyard Shift by Jon Malin and Mark Poulton.
"Going back to Graveyard Shift. What are the main differences between this comic and the previous one? What new information are you offering current and future readers?
"Volume 1 is really dense with information. It set up a lot of backstory. With their origins out of the way, Volume 2 is more action packed. Get ready for some monster battles! For new readers, we have 2 new graphic novels. Besides Volume 2, we have Graveyard Shift Supplemental featuring stories from our talent search winners Cal Jameson, Von Klaus, Render Contender and Todd Mulrooney. As well, it includes the prequel to Graveyard Shift Volume III written by me with art by Mike McMahon. Not only is it the prequel to Volume III, but it is a crossover with Mike S. Miller’s Lonestar. Plus, we have a reprint of Volume 1 with a new Jon Malin cover for the “completists” out there. And if our Indiegogo campaign reaches $170,000, backers will get a super, secret book too! So in reality, we are offering four books! It has a lot of new material for the readers who were with us with the first campaign, but also has everything to allow a new reader to play catch up! "
"Do you have any future projects in mind, whether it’s with Jon or other creative teams?"
"I am always working on something. Jon and I already have Graveyard Shift Volumes III and IV planned, as well as more Lil Graveyard Shift stories. In addition, I am already hard at work on USAssassin Volume 2 with Mike McMahon, even though Volume 1 has not been released yet. An announcement on that book should be made soon. I have another graphic novel finishing up production with an amazing artist, Cesar Madarro called Loose Threads. It is about what happens to comic book characters after their series have been canceled. Plus, I have a line of pro wrestling kids books out with some of my favorite pro wrestlers available through Sevenhorns Publishing. My son, Chase, and I are also working on some ideas."
"What advice would you give our readers that want to start writing comics?"
"It sounds simple, but WRITE COMICS! I see a lot of aspiring writers talk on and on about how they want to break into comics, but can’t get that break. No one is stopping you but yourself. Make your own book! If you can’t draw, find a like-minded artist and team up with them. I’ve never had a problem finding an artist to work with. I’ve always been passionate about my projects and that passion can be infectious. I sold Jon on Graveyard Shift. I sold Rob Liefeld on letting me write Avengelyne. It can be done. Develop a strong work ethic, finish what you start, be professional. Once you get that first book under your belt, it gets easier. Trust me."
"Thank you once again for doing this, Mark. It was great. Do you have any last words for our readers? Where can we follow you on social media and back Graveyard Shift Vol. II?"
"It was my pleasure. Thanks for asking me. I really appreciate it. I just would like to thank all of the people who have backed and supported Graveyard Shift. The best is yet to come! Jon and I have so much planned for you guys and want to reward your support with lots of awesome stories!
If anyone is interested in keeping up with me, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @koniwaves. As well, you can follow my company I have with my son, Haunted Pizza LLC at @hauntedpizzallc. I help my son with his YouTube channel. If you want to see what a 9 year old award winning author is up to, go subscribe to chasehuntertv over at YouTube. I’m proud of how dedicated he is to making content and posting videos on a regular schedule. We’ll be doing a lot of Graveyard Shift unboxing videos as the new books and trading cards start rolling in!"
Finally, you can back Graveyard Shift Vol. II at Indiegogo by clicking on the link below!