On Friday, 11AM, at Megacon in Orlando, Florida, a new underground comics imprint will launch, but with quite a bit of steam behind them already. Punkhouse Press has a lot of big ideas, including operating outside the Diamond distribution system, and if you're in the Orlando area this weekend (or if they manage to livestream their launch party as planned), you can attend the big event and maybe witness history in the making. Here's the deets from the event's Facebook page:
D.I.Y. "Making Comics Punk Again!" w/ Martin Dunn (Wrong Way), Ruben Romero (The Agency), Peter Bagge (Punk Magazine), Milo Beasley (Milo Beasley Show), Fred Zara (Average Community) and more!
In the 1970's the D.I.Y. aesthetic of the punk subculture created a thriving underground press. These amateur magazines and underground comix were inspired by the cultural shift and musical revolution that was happening around them. Join Martin Dunn and the rest of "Punkhouse Press" as they not only launch their new imprint, but also provide you with the information, encouragement, and feedback to make your own comics, Zines, and more!
Select Giveaways will be provided by Slope Records, BiFocal Media, PunkHouse Press, and more!
Ahead of the event, Martin Dunn sat down with Bleeding Cool to tell us all about it how Punkhouse Press came about, where they plan to go, and whether or not punching Nazis is punk rock (spoiler alert: it is).
Tell our readers about Punkhouse Press. How did the imprint form? Who are some of the people that have gotten involved?
Back in January of 2016, I'd started trying to re-embrace elements of my life that I'd sort of ignored or neglected. I was heavily involved in music before I decided to come and be a big money, comic book creator. When I left the music industry back in 2008, I was really burnt out on it. I'd worked as a producer for major labels for the better part of my adult life at that point and I felt completely drained on a creative level. So, one of the things I sort of put behind me was my roots, growing up as a punk kid, going to shows, playing in bands, and sort of being a part of that whole culture. So, my New Years resolution was, to begin with, me being more PMA. (Positive Mental Attitude)
PMA is this thing that guys like Bad Brains preached back in the 80s and it became a huge focal point for the Hardcore post-punk scene. So, it sort of evolved and I was getting more and more engaged in the scene again and I started playing music again. Meanwhile, I was still making comics. I was doing my freelance gigs, but I just was not feeling like I was making the same headway I had in previous years. I guess it's hard to top a year where you sell your rights to Blizzard so they can go on and make a couple billion dollars off the namesake that you created. Sometime around April of last year, I teamed up with Cori Walters to do a book called "Wrong Way: An American Punk Story". The book is a semi-autobiographical recount of lots of things that happened to me and/or friends growing through the fictional eyes of the main character Trey. Trey also is living out my own 30-something crisis and sort of was a therapeutic take on how mental illness has affected my life. It is sort of like Fight Club meets Bonnie and Clyde by way of SLC Punk. (Totally stole that from a review of the book somewhere) The book got really great reception among reviewers, (Bleeding Cool even praised it) I wasn't expecting the amount of interest it started to generate. We had a few delays, but issue 2 actually came out today. (5/23/2017) on ComiXology. I decided at some point around August I wanted to start a new imprint. In November, I started putting together my ideas. I wanted to tap into the side of the comic industry that seemed to have been forgotten which was underground comix and I wanted to see if I couldn't capture some of the amazing support I see the punk community show towards the arts.
I planned, developed, and just kept quiet about it to everyone until around February when I brought in my best friend Dustin Holifer (Former member of Send out Scuds and comic writer himself), and a friend named Brendan Mulvaney who does underground comix at his own "Concrete Canvas" imprint/studio. We started coming up with some ideas. I wanted to do something different. The political climate didn't help calm the urge to say something loud and use the voice I've built to speak out against injustices I feel are all over the place these days. That's sort of where "Fake News" came from. It's a platform for creatives to say what they want. We have so many awesome comics and articles and just great content coming in.
(This is a really long answer. haha)
Along the way of us building the infrastructure, I hooked up with Charles Cardello of BiFocal Media (a company who develops merch for some of the world's biggest punk bands) and he introduced me to Brian Walsby. We brought Brian into the fray in March and he just brought so much more credibility to us from the punk rock scene. If you're not in the know, Brian Walsby is considered the Steve Ditko of Underground Punk Comics. His series Manchild has been released via Zines like Maximum RocknRoll, Flipside, XXX, Suburban Voice and his own trade format releases for over 30-years. Brian also has worked with bands like The Melvins, Ryan Adams, Descendents, 7 Seconds, Jello Biafra, Propaghandi, I mean I can list people for days. He also has been the drummer for a number of influential punk bands since the 80's hardcore movement all the way up until now, where he currently plays drums for Double Negative. Brian was a huge catch for us and on a personal note, I've never met a more humble and insanely nice guy. We have plans to re-release his entire catalog of Manchild strips in the near future. So, once we had Brian on board, we started getting others. We brought in punk music journalist Craig LeSieg, Comic artist/writer Jake Smith, blogger and former producer Mark Harris, Comic writer Ruben Romero, Kimber Grobman of Robot Chicken and Aquabats, and named Deanna Destito, former Dreamwave editor, our new EIC. We have so much more people involved though. The list keeps growing bigger and bigger.
Were you expecting such a big reaction?
Not even remotely. We're not officially launched in the eyes of the office. We're looking at everything right now as a soft launch. We opened the gates to take in submissions for the magazine and the website and suddenly we were being shared all over to all these various punk news sites, music review groups, etc. We locked in some amazing sponsors really quickly with Slope Records, HYM Turntables, BiFocal Media, Yancy St Comics, and a lot more. We have been talking with big brand stores that carry punk related items… It's been really overwhelming and exciting. Mostly overwhelming.
How do comics and punk fit together?
I honestly think they are family. I mean, depending on which punk historian you speak with… "PUNK ROCK" as it were called was introduced to the world at CBGB, in a comic book called "Punk Magazine". It illuminated the entire New York scene in the 70's and John Holmstrom sort of birthed the whole movement in that area. "Watch out! PUNK is coming!" stickers were everywhere before the first issue came out. You have Shawn Kerri, an amazing artist who developed comic-styled artwork for The Germs and the infamous Circle Jerks punk boy design. The Hernandez Brothers have made their entire career around Punk rock with "Love and Rockets". I think we all know about "Punk Rock Jesus", but outside of that, I think the counter/subculture of punk rock has influenced a lot of things we've seen in mainstream comics these days.
You're launching the imprint on Friday at Megacon. What can attendees expect from the event?
WE HAVE NO IDEA! hahah, Nah, We have some fun things planned for those who attend. We have some free stuff that we got over from some of our sponsors. We have some free copies of Fake News #1/2. It's essentially a sampler of what we hope to be our quarterly Punk Comix magazine. We have this awesome panel at 11 am on Friday called "DIY: Making Comics Punk Again" and have got Peter Bagge (who worked on the original Punk Magazine), Milo Beasley (former pro wrestler who used to manage CM Punk, and award winning youtube show host) and filmmaker Fred Zara (who was not only in an early hardcore band but also made some great documentaries about punk rock) joining us. We are going to be answering questions, talking about how others can pursue their dreams of making comics or whatever they want a reality. We're gonna have a good time, the idea is to just engage in a fun conversation with the audience and at the end of it all, we will make some cool announcements about projects, some awesome new additions to our staff and our official launch.
What are your publishing plans?
We have this crazy goal of trying to avoid Diamond. We want to try our hand at direct market publishing. We have locked down over 100 music shops, venues, and bookstores who are ordering from us. We have some great plans in place for distribution. The challenge we face with this is encouraging comic shops to join in. We are attempting to do something that I don't think I've seen done in this way before. I've seen similar concepts and I'll be the first to admit that no one is 100% original in execution, however, we hope to deliver something that will help build a whole new market and assist in not only giving back to the comic community but the local music scenes as well. The one thing we hope to do above all else is giving everyone an alternative to the same comics, the same stories, the same art styles. We are completely embracing the underground comix mentality and hoping people love it. We have currently planned for Wrong Way to run for 6-issues. We will evaluate if we should do more when we get closer to that point. We are releasing a new issue of "Fake News" 4x a year with our website housing daily content that we like to think of as a year round zine. We are in the planning stages of a couple of Kickstarter projects for Brian Walsby and a Wrong Way collected edition. We have an anthology comic we are planning to play off the "American Punk Story" name, and then a few projects we will be announcing soon. So, lots of stuff is going on all at once.
And for people who can't make it to the show in person, where can they go to find out more about Punkhouse Press and get updates?
With the beauty of technology, we HOPE to live stream the panel on Facebook. So, www.facebook.com/PunkHousePress is a good start.
After Megacon, our website and production schedules are our primary focus, so in the meantime, I'd say our facebook and twitter.
How long do you think you can possibly keep this going before selling out?
Isn't "selling out" relative? I mean, if this generates enough buzz that we can move up the ladder. Maybe feed our families off of it? Pay some bills? That'd be cool. My goal is to do something I love doing and have fun doing it. I want us to stand out to folks, but I walk them to feel welcome. We want to build a scene, a community. We want to make comic fans and music fans come together and have something. One challenge we face is that with a name like "PunkHouse" we may seem like we are only doing books that revolve around punk music, but that isn't the case. The name came from hearing Andy Warhol call "The Factory" a punk house. The Factory was a hotel of sorts that Warhol let artists and other creative types live and make art. It worked. So, we are not just making comics about punk music, more trying to keep in line with the ideology of the culture. We have plans for supernatural, science fiction, and fantasy comics. I don't know if I tangent-ed too far off, but my point is, I don't think of anything we're doing as a point of it it's marketable as much as if I'll enjoy it. Comics have become really hard to enjoy from the inside looking out lately. I see a lot of stuff I really can't wrap my head around. It's coming from both sides too. The fans seem to be more vocal and aggressive to what they want to see and I respect the fuck out of that, but the spin is that publishers should stick to their guns and do what they want as well. I got really disenfranchised with the hunt for the great gig at the big 2 over the past couple years. I just wanna make some great comics, tell some awesome stories, and listen to some good music.
Finally, for the record: is punching Nazis punk rock?
Nazi punching is part of the initiation. You see, when you go out to punk rock school, Jello Biafra makes you learn all the words to "Nazi Punks, Fuck Off" and then you have to log at least 12 Nazi punches before you can eat dinner. Quite honestly, I think it should be every person's duty to punch Nazis. This obviously means that the Nazis should be punching themselves. I don't care if that Nazi is dressed as Captain America or pretending to be President of the united states. Nazi's suck. Punch them all I say.
Follow Punkhouse Press on Facebook for the latest updates, and stop by Megacon on Friday at 11AM to participate in the festivities, or just huff a bunch of glue and tune into the livestream.