Concluding our series of interviews with folks about the San Diego Comic-Con, today we check in with Jason and Elizabeth James, AKA Citizen Press, AKA the publisher of Johnny Repeat. We spoke with them back in June about the launch of their first graphic novel at SDCC, so let’s see how everything went …
Blog@Newsarama: When we last spoke to you, Citizen Press was preparing for the launch of Johnny Repeat at the San Diego Comic-Con. I assume since you’re talking to me that you survived the heat and the crowds?
Elizabeth: Oh, I’ll take those crowds any day. Those are my peeps! Represent, Citizens!
Jason: Yeah, it wasn’t so much about the heat or the crowds this year, as it was that god-awful humidity. Where the hell did that sticky mess come from?
B@N: Speaking just as fans, how did the con go? What were the high points and low points?
Jason: Meeting Matt Fraction was actually the high point of the show for me this year. He’s got such an amazing handle on his craft at this point in his career and his approach to the material is brilliantly refreshing. He’s taking chances no one else is willing or able to take right now, and I feel like Casanova and Johnny Repeat are kindred spirits in a lot of ways.
(That is, except for the fact that he’s doing it better, of course.)
Elizabeth: Let’s just say I spent a lot of money over in Artist’s Alley with Adam Hughes. A LOT.
Shhhhh… Don’t tell the hubby.
B@N: Same question, only this time, you’re a hot new independent comic creator …
Jason: Friday night, Elizabeth and I hosted the “Johnny Repeat Wants to Buy You a Burrito” dinner for the team. Since we were spread across two continents and communicating mostly through emails during the production of Johnny Repeat, I can’t tell you how great it was to sit across from guys like Paul Azaceta, Bruno D’Angelo, Mark Dos Santos and Noel Tuazon, and just drink beers, eat tacos and bullshit. I’ll never forget the moment of it.
Elizabeth: Taking pictures of Jason signing his book side-by-side with the likes of Tim Sale and the rest of the Johnny Repeat team was a real high for me. Watching them together, laughing, joking and meeting the fans, it really touched me as a first-time publisher and made me proud that I had a hand in it.
B@N: You enlisted companies like AiT and Khepri Comics to help you sell Johnny Repeat at the con. Tell us a little bit about how that came about. How well did it sell?
Jason: For the folks just joining us, Citizen Press was planning to have a booth of our own. But as we started to crunch the numbers and talk to industry vets like John Nee, a booth didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense for a first-time publisher. Like anyone making an investment, Elizabeth and I wanted our money to work for us.
So rather than be cooped up in a booth waiting for fans to find us, we decided to go out and find them. Our strategy was like this … We cancelled our booth. We printed 250 limited edition copies of the book specifically for the show. And we begged, bribed and cajoled the good folks at AiT/Planet Lar, Komikwerks, Khepri Comics and MasterMinds Unlimited to let us sell and sign copies of Johnny Repeat at their booths. They all took amazing care of us and helped out any way they could.
On top of that, Elizabeth could be found every day wandering the aisles with a fat stack of postcards, directing traffic and promoting the hell out of the thing.
Elizabeth: At the end of the day, I think our little experiment was a pretty solid success. We had an 80 percent sell-through of the limited edition copies. We passed out thousands of postcards. And we generated a ton of awareness for the book that wasn’t previously there.
Next year, you’ll definitely see us in a booth. Johnny Repeat – Book Two will be hitting stands by then. We’ll have two books and a line of T-shirts and posters. It’ll make sense at that point.
B@N: You’ve let some people (cough, cough) read the book in advance (two thumbs up, BTW), but now the book is out there in the hands of comic fans. Have you received any feedback yet from people who bought the book at the con?
Elizabeth: Not yet, but every time I watched Jason give his Johnny Repeat quick pitch to an unsuspecting fan, I saw the same light bulb go off in their heads and that’s all I needed.
Jason: Everyone really seemed to be taken by the concept of a guy in the near future who tries to stop the end of the world, fails, and wakes in the present as his eight year old self, but with every memory leading up to his death. I hope everyone’s critique of the actual book was as positive as yours, John.
B@N: So are you doing this all again in Chicago in two weeks? What’s next for the Citizen Press crew?
Elizabeth: After a year and a half of getting Citizen Press and Johnny Repeat off the ground, we’re off to Greece in a couple weeks to clear our heads and recharge the batteries. Once we get back, Jason and I are going to take a long look at the convention schedule for the remainder of 2006 and 2007, and really pick our battles. We’re a legit small publisher now and really need to make every appearance count.
Jason: Beyond that, I’m already working on Johnny Repeat – Book Two, the working title of which is “The Day of the Towers.” It picks up nine months after the cliffhanger ending of Book One and readers get to see what Johnny, Nate, No Name and Jeronimus have been up to since then. It’s frenetic, it’s dense, it’s surprising, and it all takes place over the course of a single day. Look for it in San Diego and comic stores next year.