Yesterday (in Australia time) we put up a review of one of the more recent The Gathering Anthologies. Drew Goletz, one of the brains behind GrayHaven Comics and the Gathering was lovely enough to talk to us about his very cool project.
If you are still trying to get your break in being published in the comic world, definitely check them out, there’s still time to get submissions in for upcoming volumes!
What was your inspiration behind the original The Gathering books?
I tried to participate in a few anthologies throughout the years set up on various social boards and something always happened where the project just never came to be. The ‘what ifs’ nagged at me for a long time before finally I just decided that I’d give it another go, only with full control. This way if the project fell apart I’d only have myself to blame. Initially I suggested doing an anthology of 2 page shorts on the theme of ‘Hope’ with friends I made through Brian Bendis’ Jinxworld forums. Very quickly we had a couple dozen interested writers and then I set out to find artists to pair them up with, also from Jinxworld who I found through various art threads. The ‘Gathering’ name was suggested to me by one of the writers and friends from Jinxworld, Jason Hissong and it just seemed to fit perfectly, you know?
You’ve gotten a lot of support from people, including some very big industry names. Has it helped raised the visibility of your project, and does it help to have established comic book creators believe in what you’ve set out to do?
The support has been overwhelming and its taken me by surprise. I believe we have a great product with our comic but the reality is that it’s difficult to get a self published black and white anthology any exposure. We were fortunate early on for a couple things. Reviewers from sites like Aint it Cool and Wired.com helped us out by reviewing the book and giving us very high marks. Reviewers like yourself who take the time to read the books and do a piece like this are such an important part of our success. A lot of people are out there promoting their own work and it’s only natural for skeptics to thing ‘here’s another vanity project that someone is self promoting that I have no interest in’ but when you can point to a review where an impartial 3rd party has enjoyed the work…that’s crucial and sets the book apart.
And Gail Simone who also has a big Jinxworld presence was intrigued by what we were doing and asked to see the book. She was very impressed and gave us an in depth review/critique of the book which was very helpful as well as volunteering to do a short for us. Not only did she do a story in our second issue but she name dropped the book in interviews and encouraged other comic pros like Sterling Gates to contribute. Once we had a few issues under our belts and the door was opened for pros to participate I became less gun shy about approaching people and started talking to pros myself about contributing. We try and limit the pro stories to one or two per issue because even though it does create a bigger awareness the overall goal is still to give newer writers and artists a shot but I think we’ve created a nice balance in how we’ve done it. It’s also a selling point for new creators who contribute. Now not only are you getting your story published in read but chances are you’ll be in the credits with a comic pro.
The other thing that’s helped is that we’ve done a pretty good job of getting the book out. When the first issue was coming out we did a Kickstarter to help raise funds to produce it and we missed the goal by a mile. Once we actually showed that we had books being produced and at a pretty frequent rate it became less of a risk in people’s eyes in terms of pledging. We were also able to offer some great rewards thanks to people like Gail and Fabian Nicieza and Ross Richie at Boom who offered script reviews for certain pledge amounts. The buzz from Kickstarter’s success and doing more and more comic conventions has helped raise awareness.
How do you decide on the themes and the books you’re putting out?
Choosing the themes is one of the most fun and stress filled parts of doing this. After we did the first three books (Hope, Despair and Heroes) and figured we’d put these out on a consistent basis, the other themes (Horror and Romance) were picked based on feedback from folks who read the initial issues or that we met at comic cons. We try to find the balance between themes that we think would be fun to work on and those that would be popular with our readers. Last year we had a fan poll to decide one theme and two choices, Sci Fi and Western, were overwhelmingly popular so we added both of them to the schedule. With 2013 and beyond I now have a team of editors that help me out with everything from choosing which submissions make the cut to working on the books themselves so they’ve had imput as well. It was fun to do these brainstorming sessions where we’d all throw ideas out and then get on each other for it. With the latest themes we just announced I had a feeling going in on which would be the most popular and once again I’ve been surprised at what ended up resonating the most, at least with people submitting ideas. You never can tell and that’s the fun of it. We’d really had fun doing the Heroes book for instance but our readers did not want it, haha. Those that read it, loved it. We experimented with longer stories and it was 64 pages for just 4 bucks but the ‘Hero’ word chased some people away. On the other hand I wasn’t sure Horror would go over well but the two Horror issues we did (issue 4 and 6) were our most popular to date. Horror was so popular that we’ll be doing a seperate ongoing next year.
GrayHaven has grown beyond just the Gathering. Can you tell us about the upcoming year and the plans that you have?
In addition to The Gathering going monthly, we’ll be doing two one-shots (My Geek Family by Doug Hahner and Donal DeLay and Sparks by Glenn Matchett and Cassandra James). We also have the rest of our Ever After mini series by Matt O’Keefe and Lee Giles, the debut of Tales from the Abyss which is our new Horror anthology ongoing that will also have Sterling Gates as one of the main contributors, at least for the first 5 issues we’ve planned for and we should be collecting some of our popular webcomics into print. We just finished a 13 week webcomic tryout period and in early February we’ll be launching several new webcomics as well as seeing some old favorites like KID ROBO and FRAGMENTS return…all of which can be found at www.grayhavencomics.com As we get into 2013 we’re launching a Young Reader line of books called Hey Kids because I really want to have a series that is aimed just for the young that come to conventions so there’s something new and fun and affordable just for them. We’re also experimenting more with one shots, like Erotica and I want to do more mini series and likely we’ll have an original graphic novel debut sometime as well. The great thing about this industry is that it can serve so many and do so much and now that we’ve gotten the hang of putting out a comic on a regular basis we’re going to experiment with the format a bit and see what works.
Open submissions for the new volumes (including Crime, Pulp Heroes, True Ghost Stories, Erotica and Fairy Tales) is open until February 10th so take time to give that a look
And there’s about a week and a half left in our latest Kickstart. We hit goal very early on, within 24 hours but every pledge helps and there are some cool rewards still available