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Hah! Got this one in just under 6 hours left in 2015. I’ll probably pretty up with a few more pictures, some better word edits, and some personal touches in the next day or so, but for now it’s here and ready as it will get today. Hats off to you, 2015. Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for everything!

“Are you a planner or a pantser?”

Earlier this year, Brian Le Tendre asked me this question about writing: “Are you a planner or a pantser?” Answer: In writing, in running Red Stylo, in everything, I am, most definitely, a planner. Not in the military- precise way of things, but I am an unabashed dreamer-schemer. I love looking forward and telling people what we’re doing next. But in trying to put this year’s review together, I went back to last year’s and all we had planned and I just have to smile… Guys, nearly half of that stuff didn’t happen. But I’m stunned and proud and thrilled to tell you what DID! 2015 was a year of surprises.

I usually go in chronological order, but it would take a year to tell all the tales. Have to hit some highlights instead, but take it from me: a lot happened this year. A lot. Take a spin through our blog archive to see all the goodies (that is if you ever get through this re-cap, which is STILL pretty massive.)

A #ROCKHARD year

January 1 we posted our annual open call for our new anthology, THE 27 CLUB, a collection of original comics inspired by the mysteriously long list of music legends who died age 27. An open call for any project is pretty much declaring open season on your inbox and we were immediately swamped with entries. I was lucky to have newly-promoted Editor, James McGee, on board to help with the sifting. We were also honored that Rock-comic veteran, Ken Eppstein, of Ohio-based Nix Comics, accepted our invitation to join our crew as a Contributing Editor.

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In the end, fifty-four creators joined our jam session and the result is the biggest, bestest, rockin’est collection of original art and stories we’ve put together yet. We even included essays for the very first time, which took us to another great milestone; in 2015, Red Stylo Media surpassed the 200 mark for the number of artists and writers we’ve published. To top it off, internationally recognized “27 Club” scholar, Professor Dianna Kenny, penned the intro for the book, and the project just hit the stratosphere.

All looked good for our fifth annual anthology … until we did some internal math: bigger book = higher production cost = higher cover price. Crunching the numbers, what we would have had to charge for a massive paperback to cover our cost just wouldn’t make sense. So it was down to two choices: cut some tracks, or roll the dice and make the book we wanted. That’s how the idea of our #ROCKHARD Special Edition hardcover was born on Kickstarter.

Enter Production Editor, Mark Mullaney. Mark designed the book logo and other graphics we needed to begin, and with a script written by James McGee, Mark even animated a crazy video for the campaign. Two wacko months of blitz promotion later—during which we were featured in some pretty big-named websites and podcasts, scored a Kickstarter staff-pick, and our awesome contributors blasted out the news to their friends, family, siblings, pets!—we hit 133% of our funding goal, complete with premium stretch goals to include a foil stamp cover and slipcase box! Scores of folks from around the world sent well-wishes, and we even got some love from The American Dream himself! That book debuted at New York Comic Con in October, and reaction has been massive!

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Getting to make the book we wanted could have been happy ending enough. But then…

What do a CASK, a HOUSE, a CLUB, and a LAB have in common?

That “good things come in threes” thing was pretty spot on for us this year. Red Stylo put pen to paper on a contract with Action Lab Entertainment to take over publishing and distribution of a passion project that Jason Strutz and I, at that time, had been working on for a little over a year: an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous revenge take, THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO, and an original graphic novel and sequel to Cask that I wrote, called THE HOUSE OF MONTRESOR. A quick word about Jason: he’s been absolutely killing it this past year with pencil, ink, color and letters for the entire book, and I could not have asked for a better partner for this book. Really! I wouldn’t have known what to ask for! The man is amazing.

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While waiting for the press release for those books, the President of Action Lab took a look at our ongoing Kickstarter campaign and offered us a joint publishing and distribution deal for the entire 27 Club collection! Obviously vastly different projects, but the culmination of a lot of work and heart.

It was Jason who introduced me to Bryan Seaton and the rest of the team from Action Lab Entertainment at a show in Michigan (of all places) a little over two years ago. As a fellow indie publisher, I can’t help but admire what Action Lab has done, and is doing, for our industry: not only do they put out an impressive and prodigious slate of great comics and savvy licensing, they’re also working to cultivate fans coming up in comics by respecting diversity in their readership, and with a voluntary rating system and Danger Zone imprint for mature readers, which shops seem to appreciate and encourage. I have great respect for Action Lab as a team and a company, which is all the more reason to be excited to work with them on projects that are the heart of Red Stylo.

THE 27 CLUB debuted in comic shops all over the place for New Comic Book day on December 30th, and the first half of 2016 we’ll see THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO and THE HOUSE OF MONTRESOR in comic shops, with a collected trade for San Diego Comic Con. Pre-order them anywhere now, and then look for them at your local comic shop!!!

MOAR Stuff

Nope, crazyhead, that’s not all that happened! Back to the highlight reel:

Hold on cover
We wrapped up our Tom Waits-inspired mini-anthology, ANGEL WITH A BULLET, with a fourth and final story, Hold On, art by Kelly Williams. All four stories were released on comiXology, and will be collected in a printed trade in time for Valentine’s Day, with an introduction by Jennie Wood (more on her in a moment!)
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Preview pages from THE STAR THIEF, a new graphic novel and our very first manga, debuted on the newly redesigned RedStylo.com. This project has been a long time in the making, but I have a dream team in artists Chris Liu (pencil/ink) and Jan Velazquez(color.)
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Both of these guys are actually amazing human being in addition to talented artists: Chris is an art teacher and volunteered his time for workshops with Artway Alliance at many of the events we attended this year. And Jan–despite a battle with some extraordinary health issues that have been hard on him and his family this year—-has worked on a number of comics projects in addition to this one. I know great things are in store for both these guys, and I can’t wait to show you what they’ve been working on for us when we release Chapter 1 of THE STAR THIEF next month!

The 4thAnnual Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge and Results Book
For the second year we got to work with Bob Almond and The Inkwell Awards on The Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge and Results Book. Over the years, Bob has become a good friend of mine and the opportunity to work with this organization is an honor.This year’s book had special significance for all of us, however, as the Inkwell family lost a very good friend and talented artist, Norman Lee, in March. It was a natural decision to dedicate the book in memory of Norman, and we had the chance to remember him as we honored the Awards nominees at the Inkwell Awards ceremony at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. Thank you, Bob, for that special opportunity.
The success of the 2014 “Marry, Do, Kill: What Will It Take to Shatter female Stereotypes in Comics” panel at NYCC spawned more opportunities in 2015 for panels in Chicago at C2E2, Baltimore Comic Con, Baltimore Book Festival and again(!) in New York.

panel It was standing room only in both Chicago AND New York for “Marry, Do, Kill,” and this year we expanded the slate of speakers, including Jennie Wood (Flutter), Dirk Manning (Nightmare World), Erica Schultz (Revenge), Andy Schmidt (Comics Experience), Jon Erik Christiansen (panels.net), NEN (Shinobi Clans), M. Alice LeGrow (Bizenghast), Ryan Morrow (One Squared Studios) and Sandy King (Storm King Productions.) Reed Pop invited our Marry, Do Kill panelists to host their “Female Fandom and Industry” meet-up at NYCC, and Action Lab invited us to share in their panel as they celebrate five years as a company. ComiXology hosted a panel broadcast via Periscope at C2E2, and later we joined up with Juan Navarro and Creature Entertainment for an Indie Comics panel at Baltimore Comic Con. Artway Alliance asked us to host two panels at Baltimore Book Festival for “Women in Comics” and “Indie Publishing”.

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This was not the only collaboration with Artway Alliance this year. Organizer, Eric Suggs, is a man on a mission to continue to bring comics and other art workshops to kids all over the DC/Baltimore metro area, and I always look forward to opportunities working with his team. We joined them for shows and workshops at the Artisphere in Virginia, and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore at the book festival and then again for Halloween.

In fact, the city of Baltimore and this area have become a new home and staging ground for projects we have in the works for next year. It’s the land of Poe after all, and it’s opened up opportunities to meet more readers always hungry for new books. We were invited by the lovely and talented dancer, Maria Bella, to exhibit at The Haunting of Poe, A Burlesque Masquerade-—a sexy and fun twist on the Poe mythos—-staged at the Creative Alliance, where we had the opportunity to chat with and share notes with the team from the Edgar Allan Poe House of Baltimore and sip Raven Beer from the Baltimore Washington Beer Works.

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This year at New York Comic Con, we took over our own booth in Small Press, which was made possible with a sponsorship from Chuck Suffel and WhatchaReading.com! Despite a completely wacky schedule of signings, panels, interviews and events, Chuck made the whole thing run like a dream and NYCC was our highest grossing show of the year.

More books from Red Stylo Press:

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Artist and creator, R. Robert Pollack, released the first collected edition of ELLEN’S ADVENTURES AT THE SHADOWLAND: THE PHANTOM OF SAM’S POINT last January. Press and reviews for Ellen’s Adventures have been wild, and Robert was featured in his own show mid-year. Book 2 of Ellen’s Adventures, MY FAVORITE ALIEN, is slated later this month. Look for it!
The guys from CITY OF WALLS have been on their own hot streak, inking a deal with the Korean-based company WEBTOON for the digital release of their series via their exclusive webcomic platform. We saw Shaun Noel and Abede Lovelace on the main floor at New York Comic Con where they released Book 2 of the re-mastered full-color trade paperback.
Joe Kisch, movie-maker and author of DRAGO BENTLEY, SPACE DETECTIVE, won a prestigious film grant in his native Australia and has been hard at work on movies this year. But I have it on good authority via secret, interplanetary dispatch that Joe has something fun planned for his intrepid space detective next year. More from Drago very soon.

So now comes the part where I tell you about next year…

My favorite part, remember? Well, this year has been different in all sorts of ways, so why should the recap be the same? I have to start by telling people something I’ve been anticipating/fearing/dreading for a while now.

This re-cap is a few days late for a couple of reasons, not the least of which has been sending out our Kickstarter rewards and wrapping up as we ramp up for the release of new books. But there’s something more personal I’ve been struggling with for a long time, and the string of surprise events that ruled the second half of our year have just made it clear that the announcement has to be made. With THE 27 CLUB now in shops, plus CASK OF AMONTILLADO and HOUSE OF MONTRESOR in Previews for release in January, so begins the daunting task of promoting those books. And trying to make more. With all the wonderful things that happened last year, the ones that didn’t were the other independent projects we had planned. They’re all waiting in the wings, some half-finished, some still waiting to be pitched and started. And they won’t if we start another anthology.

The news is this: Red Stylo is not going to have an open call for a new anthology next year. I never say never, so I can’t bring myself to say we won’t do another one, ever. But I’m taking off the editor’s hat for 2016, at least for anthologies. It’s hard to do; I truly love working on them. The anthologies stand out as some of the most rewarding projects I’ve had the honor and privilege to work on for the last five years—I love the process, I love the people, I love this job. But I’m ready to put it away if it means lending the time and energy to the books I write and the other books Red Stylo promotes.

So that leads me to what we have planned instead:

Red Stylo has published over 200 artists and writers, and that is a number we intend to see increase (even if at a slower pace) as new books roll out. News about the artists and new creative teams will happen as the books are announced. We’ve already started planning next year’s slate of shows and panels, plus some shop signings I can’t wait to start announcing soon! It’s time to visit some old friends (I’m looking at you, Larry!) even as we reach out to make new ones.

We’re still waiting for new about some of our panels, but the big, big news for shows is that, after some encouragement from one of my new closest friends, Jennie Wood, Red Stylo is returning to Small Press at San Diego Comic Con next year—-we got the acceptance letter and we’re psyched to be back on the main floor in San Diego in July! The completed graphic novel, THE HOUSE OF MONTRESOR, is also slated to debut at Action Lab’s booth at SDCC, and with any luck we’ll be making more appearances with them as the year goes on.

Our Patreon campaign continues and we’ve experimented by showcasing a bit of the back-catalog on webcomics. This year we’ll be releasing more stories and art as well as pages and giveaways for some of the newer titles. And We Win Con continues on, as every year there seem to be more worthy organizations that comics lovers can contribute.

Along with the new Red Stylo Press titles, RSM fans can expect more of THE STAR THIEF sooner rather than later, and teasers for a new original series, GUINEVERE, a sci-fi fantasy twist on the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Also on deck: a paranormal murder mystery meets runaway trains in a new limited series called CROSSING; a buddy-cop series a la MUSTACHE & MUSCLES; and we’re in the script-stages for a bloody good horror one-shot from James McGee, OPHELIA’S REVENGE, to accompany the release of SHAKESPEARE SHAKEN REDUX! Once again, we’re looking forward to putting together next year’s Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge book, and finally, finally completing the special edition Ms. Inkwell Pinup Gallery book. And those of you who’ve heard tell about our Elvis-inspired mini-collection, take heart: THE SUICIDE KING AT THE HEARTBREAK HOTEL is on the way.

Can we possibly get to it all? I guess we’ll see; you call your shots when you can. I couldn’t predict the incredible things that this year brought us. How could I possibly be sad not to know everything still to come?

And so here we are. And here YOU are, still reading, still with us. Amazing. Thank you, THANK YOU, readers and friends, for making all the magic happen for us again this year. As ever I am happy and so very grateful every year, every day, for you.

#ROCKHARD

end o' year

Enrica J.
December 31, 2015

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