Scratch the surface of Terminus Media, and you find a pretty awe-inspiring story about how hard work, vision, and gradual expansion has led to a variety of creative endeavors. Now publishing a line of creator-owned comics, one of which recently won a Glyph award for best comic cover, Terminus has also been influencing the way that people learn through comics via government agencies and companies, and venturing into motion comics. All the while, founder Tony Cade has continued to run his retail shop, Challenges Games and Comics, in Georgia, the hub where all these dreams began.
Hannah Means-Shannon: Terminus Media is incredibly multifaceted. How did you all get into producing comics and animation for the government and companies?
Tony Cade: Terminus Media began as a small group of screenwriters in the back of my comic shop in Stone Mountain, Georgia. We would talk about what we liked and didn't like about the entertainment offerings that were available at the time – comics, animation, film…everything. I also offered weekly art classes for kids that gradually turned into a social gathering for more advanced adult artist. We all wanted to tell stories that were great – and comics are the perfect medium for telling great stories on a limited budget. So I suggested that the artist and writers work together to accomplish that goal. Thus, Terminus Media was born. We are based in Atlanta (far away from LA and NYC) so we figured that we would have to do something GREAT and do it in an innovative way to find our audience.
Eventually we began to animate our comics and when digital readers that could also display animation began to emerge – we wanted to be as innovative as possible. We began experimenting with motion comics (comic art that is moved around in layers to simulate the action going on), and then we moved on to more sophisticated animation – but the goal is always the same: tell a great story. We never set out to do corporate and government work – our primary goal has always been to entertain our audience – but when the opportunity to help the government and other organizations tell their stories presented themselves, we were excited about those challenges. Also, the work that we have done for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and other non-profits is basically about sharing information that is entertaining and saves lives.
HMS: It reminds me a little bit of the great Will Eisner pioneering comics for instructional use in the military and for mechanical handbooks. What are the benefits of using comics for instructional and educational purposes?
TC: Education through Entertainment. I don't want to get too technical, but comics and animation are the perfect vehicles for the Sabido Method. On one of our teen drama educational motion comic projects, they tested the audience's prior knowledge of the subject matter before watching the episodes. The audience was always surprised by what they learned after being tested following the viewing. They were emotionally invested in the story and didn't really notice the information being given to them. And in true comic book fashion, we always left them wanting more with a cliffhanger at the end. People have so many options for how to spend their time these days so if we want them to hear your message, it has to be entertaining
HMS: How did you become interested in curating a line of creator-owned comics? What were the first steps you made into that field?
TC: I was very fortunate to be able to count future industry professionals like Joe Phillips and Don Hillsman II as my friends during my teenage years in Atlanta. And through them I met and got to hang around other talented creators like Brian Stelfreeze and Dexter Vines. Even though I couldn't draw myself, I learned a lot of valuable information about the craft. I really wanted to share and help other creators with what I had learned, especially the writers. Larger companies are always looking for the next hot dependable illustrator. But writers? Not so much. There is no shortage of original ideas – but most of those ideas never make it to a large audience. So we work to help get these stories out into the world. There is nothing like the day your comic book ships and you hold your story in your hands while smelling the fresh ink. So the creative production side is very rewarding. The distribution side is the hard part – finding your audience. Diamond Comic Distributors gave us a shot and now we also distribute all of our titles digitally through Amazon, ComicsPlus, and Comixology with a few additional platforms and trade paperbacks coming in 2015.
HMS: Congratulations on Route 3 winning a Glyph Award for best cover. That must have felt like an incredible vote of praise for the creator-owned comics line. Has it inspired you or influenced you to expand?
TC: Absolutely! Any kind of recognition is wind in our sails. Anthony Piper, the illustrator for that winning cover is a phenomenal artist and we look forward to continuing to work with him. But the awards makes me want more for our creators and Terminus Media as a company. I have to admit to certain amount of happiness when someone that was first published by Terminus gets to work for larger companies like Marvel and DC. But I want to have Terminus Media as a company that creators dream of working with.
HMS: Can you tell us a little about the variety of different comics published by Terminus Media?
TC: You mentioned Route 3 – So we can start with that one, created by Robert Jeffrey…
Route 3 tells the story of a Georgia teen, who finds out he has been either blessed or cursed with a fantastic set of world changing abilities. If you're looking for a solid character based story and over the top action? You'll want to check out Route 3.
Radio Free Amerika, created by B. Robert Bell is a post-apocalyptic story about the USA being defeated by foreign powers and how we as a people come together to fight to get our country back. The resistance is coordinated through a pirate radio station called Radio Free Amerika that sends out encoded messages to the resistance by way of beats and scratches in hip hop music. We are finishing up Issue 3 now and the graphic novel and some animation will be out in early 2015.
The Gilded Age, created by John McGuire is set in a steam-powered world and follows a carnival style band of performers. Every issue is a complete story that focuses on a character (or pair of characters) from the troupe, allowing the world to be built from a character level. And the art is GORGEOUS! Illustrated by Sheldon Mitchell.
Geist, created by Peter Mitchell is our newest addition. Set in Europe in the WW2 era, it is a great story about how people caught between love, war and the supernatural struggle to survive and control their fate in a world being torn apart. Illustrated by O.M.G. (Mario Gully) and Dennis Crisostomo.
Terminus Team Up takes creations from our multiple worlds and blends them together to create fantastic adventures and always classic hero confrontations. These stories star our company's avatar – The Amber Fox. These books are stand-alone titles. So they are a great way for the new reader to get to know us better. Illustrated by Sean Hill and Shamus Beyale.
Platypus vs. Monkey is our all-ages book. It features a hard-boiled detective Platypus who battles a malfunctioning super cyborg Monkey from the old Soviet space program. It's pretty crazy stuff and we just wrapped production on the motion comic for Issue 1. We will be releasing that entire first issue as a motion comic in early 2015 – so keep an eye out for that. Illustrated by Brian Hardison.
TC: Our books are available in print and digitally through Amazon, ComicsPlus, and Comixology. The best place to find our books is by going to our website here.
HMS: How do you develop or decide on the contents of your creator-owned comics?
TC: The story! But it's not about just the story for us. It's really about the whole package of what the person brings to the table and where their creations fit with the other things that we are doing. We value team players and don't really accept any divas here at Terminus.
HMS: Now, you also have a background in retail for comics and games and currently own a shop. Has that been educational for you working in other fields? Does it give you a sense of what readers are looking for?
TC: Unfortunately for the other creators in Terminus, I'm the voice of business sense. I first look at a situation from a business point of view before I ease into letting my creative side take control. And I love having a shop. My customers at Challenges Games and Comics are a built-in focus group for Terminus Media. Every Wednesday I learn what they like, what they don't like and what would make a comic better. They let me know what comics are worth $2.99 and why that comic over there got dropped for being $3.99 and is now digital only. And they are always asking me when the next issue of a Terminus book is out. So, I'm reminded to we do produce good stories and that I need to get more of the out there to create new fans.
You can find out more about Terminus Media and their line of comics here.