Ah yes, Lady Death. Epitome of nineties Bad Girl comics, at her peak (either of them I suppose), her book sold six figures for Chaos Comics and she became a poster girl (literally) for all theat was bad, and profitable, for comics.
Today, William Christensen, publisher of Bleeding Cool's owner Avatar Press, is launching a new publisher at the C2E2 Retailer Conference. Boundless, publishing Lady Death and, um, similarly themed titles.
I got to ask Christensen a few questions before he drove to Chicago.
William, aside from Lady Death, what titles will you be launching with?
Boundless will be launching with a monthly Lady Death series and a series of trades called Lady Death: Origins, collecting existing Lady Death, and that's it to start. We will stay small and focused and worry about growing the line later. It's never been my philosophy to try to put out a bunch of books just to grab market share, and Boundless will be no exception to that.
We've taken some time refining the right approach to this new series and I'm pretty pleased with the result. I could simply say all the correct things here, perfect for new readers and existing fans, and so on. But here's the real pitch: This is LD distilled down to her true essence, done by people who have loads more experience making great comics now than they did the first time around. If you've been curious about this character you'll never get a better chance to take a look.
But if you're already a fan, this is the Lady Death you've been dying to see.
It truly is a new chapter for her, a darker series written by her creator Brian Pulido, but now with the addition of Mike Wolfer as co-writer. We have re-focused on the strength of the character, why she is still so popular after 15 years of publishing, and bringing on Wolfer, with his 10 years of Gravel co-writing experience, has really allowed us to put some extra tooth on this series.
When Avatar started it was best known for, shall we say cheesecake, bad girl and soft core porn comics – and was often mocked for it. Now Avatar is more of a respected publisher, publishing work from the likes of Moore, Ennis, Ellis, Delano, Gillen, Lapham, Gage, Martin and more. Is Boundless a jump back to the bad old days? What will the main difference be do you think?
Ah yeah, the good old days of Avatar. Listen, when Marvel and DC get more shit these days for doing blatant cheesecake than Avatar, you know the world has changed, right? Boundless is here to right that great imbalance in the industry.
But seriously: Avatar started in a mid-90's indy world dominated by companies like Chaos!, Lightning, and London Night Studios — all of whom were top 10 publishers in their time. We experimented with different segments of the market. We grew and changed slowly and organically into the publisher we are today. In hindsight I think that any crap we got for some of that was largely the result of sending out mixed signals and generally not doing a very good job communicating what Avatar is about as a publisher. We're much better at that now.
So yes, no doubt about it, in a sense the roots of Boundless are in old school Avatar. The difference is that Boundless will remain very focused on publishing Lady Death and other books that make sense for that readership.
We had quite a bit of discussion internally when this idea was forming whether to do this as an imprint or a separate publisher. The advantage of a separate publisher is that if you're an Avatar fan and Lady Death and whatever else isn't your thing it will not affect you in the slightest. The distributor catalog listings will be completely separate. It allows us to remain very focused on what we're doing and to communicate clearly to fans.
That has some important advantages for Boundless also: For years, before the dawn of Crossgen and all that followed, Chaos! was virtually the only publisher outside the then-big 4 that had non-trivial market share. They were huge and yet got very little play in mainstream press and fan circles. Brian Pulido didn't care about this, because he and his fans simply went off and did their own thing and liked it that way. Chaos! got new fans when mainstream readers got curious about what that raucous group was doing next door. If we can capture a little bit of that magic with Boundless I'll be very happy.
Would something like Anna Mercury be more at home in Boundless?
Boundless is being launched primarily as a home for Lady Death, and
whatever happens next will be up to the readership. I could see Anna Mercury fitting in at Boundless, but obviously she's perfectly at home at Avatar. There's no set of criteria that would determine a book being a better fit at one publisher or the other, it's a simple gut check based on what makes most sense for the readers.
We've seen a drop in the prominence of sexually led comics – or rather such content had been absorbed into mainstream superhero and horror comics. Why do you think this is the time for Boundless?
Lady Death is about sex in the same way that Batman is about being a nutjob. It's a part of it but it's not the main point. They're both fantasy and dress-up, and that's part of a lot of comics. I have to say it's pretty interesting to flip through the distributor catalog every month and see DC and Marvel routinely doing stuff that a segment of the mainstream press would give Avatar shit for years back, but if that had anything to do with Boundless we'd have done it a long time ago. Lady Death fans have been asking me when she's coming back every day for the past several years, we're just finally in a position with our production capacity and general business infrastructure to do this the way we want to do it. I know the demand is there, we're now in a position to fulfill it in the right way.
Didn't you see Zenescope jump to #8 publisher and think "I want some of that"?
The Zenescope guys have been selling big numbers for a long time, and nothing about Boundless is a rush or reactionary plan. But there's no doubt they've been proving that the audience exists for quite some time while remaining off the mainstream radar, just as Chaos! did in the 90's.
How do expect to counter predicted complaints about Boundless – considering some are already up in arms against, say Power Girls' chest emblem, Supergirl's short skirt or James Balent's haunted vagina?
If you're a DC fan and you don't like what's being done with Supergirl or Power Girl then that's a problem because it's difficult for you to avoid. But the whole point of doing Boundless the way we're doing it is that if it's not your thing you can simply enjoy our other Avatar books and easily avoid it. We're not trying to be all things to all people here. We've never been about being politically correct. But for some people, we're going to be doing some really cool books.
Expect more Boundless news and visuals through C2E2. Oh and it appears that the Boundless website has just launched.