By the end of December, my social media feeds were wall-to-wall lamentations of what 2016 had wrought. Wrenching world events, personal tragedies and sad celebrity deaths made the year difficult for everyone. I had my own mini-crisis after the election, true. And yet…

Guys, Red Stylo had a great year. A GREAT YEAR!!! One of our best. Despite the fact I know that everyone struggled with so much, it wouldn’t be right to take away from the incredible things our team accomplished in 2016, or to ignore the incredible and amazing things we have planned for 2017.

It’s a convenient bit of luck that I am late with my recap, and posting this just as the New Year has begun and everyone’s in the mood to put away all that sadness and look forward. I’m writing this thing like 2016 was the upbeat, magical year that it was, despite the full knowledge that there are difficult days behind and ahead. Life and comics, people. That’s just how it goes. And I am really looking forward to this New Year and all the new things it will bring. What follows is our extended highlight reel, with lots of stuff about what we did, and what we still have PLANNED, all mixed together. Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for everything!

Hello Harvey. a.k.a.“We were supposed to be on a break!”

THE 27 CLUB, A Comic Anthology went global just in time for New Year 2016, kicking off our team-up with Action Lab Entertainment. The book is a product of 54 artists and writers, inspired by an infamous list of music legends who died age 27. It was not only the biggest collection of comics we’ve ever put together, but also our first hardcover, and the product of a successful Kickstarter that garnered us the most reviews and attention we’ve ever had. Reward enough? Absolutely. It’s the dream of every indie publisher to reach the world and have our work seen and embraced.

Enter: Harvey. Six months after the book was released, THE 27 CLUB made the list of nominees for the Harvey Award for Best Anthology. The Harvey is a major industry award, the nominees selected for recognition by fellow industry professionals and comic artists. For a full day after the list was announced, I was certain there was some kind of mistake. Happily—incredibly—this was not so. We owe forever thanks to the Action Lab super-engine for getting this book seen by so many. And if anybody ever tells you it’s an honor just to be nominated, believe them. Try it and you’ll see.

More surreal was that this year was our, “Let’s take a break from the annual anthologies” year. After five years of a breakneck pace, the books were only getting better. And bigger. I was exhausted, the team was… well, turns out the team was NOT that exhausted. Despite the bigger push for promotion and new shows. Despite the challenges with the new books we were working on. Despite the fact that we were planning not just one, but two Kickstarter campaign, so many people were eager to see more, and Red Stylo still had some folks hungry to jump in and take the reigns. What I didn’t realize (and should have) was the full extent of what the anthologies mean to Red Stylo.
As a company, we have published over 250 artists and writers, veterans and newbies. It’s a wonderful thing to take on the mantle of such a creative force of talent and put their work into the world. The Harvey nom was a sweet validation for the work we put into all our anthologies, not just one. I’m happy to rest right here, but we’ve built to a place where someone else can take over and keep the magic going. I’m thrilled to share that, January 1, Red Stylo posted an Open Call for a new Red Stylo Presents anthology. That collection, STRIP: A Twisted Vegas Comic Anthology will be headed up by editor, James McGee.

Evil “Assistant Editor” McGee (and Ziegfried)

As an assistant editor (and briefly tyrannical overlord), James has been key in making the books a wonderful success for many years now. I can only guess at the amazing and wonderful things he will do as the new editor for the Red Stylo Presents series going forward. Stay tuned!

THE 27 CLUB wasn’t the only collection to get some serious love this year. In March, we released the ANGEL WITH A BULLET trade paperback, a mini-collection of short comics that I wrote, inspired by the music of Tom Waits, with a new foreword by my friend, Jennie Wood. I’ve fallen in love with this leaner and meaner format of collections and my second mini-anthology inspired by Elvis Presley has long been in the works. Why dance alone? Later in the year, Red Stylo contributor, Mario Candelaria, expressed interest in working on his own collection of comics inspired by the music of Lana Del Rey.

That collection has grown all on its own with more writers and creators (and yours truly) thrown in. BAROQUE POP, a comic anthology inspired by the music of Lana Del Rey will be released under our Red Stylo Press imprint at C2E2 in 2017.

And, oh yeah, we’re going to C2E2!

A POE-tastic Time

Part of the reason it was important to take a break last year was because another book with Action Lab was going to need attention. The adaptation with artist Jason Strutz of Edgar Allen Poe’s THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO and our sequel, THE HOUSE OF MONTRESOR, hit stores the first half of the year. In July, all five issues were collected in a gorgeous trade paperback at San Diego Comic Con, with a new wraparound cover.

Reviews for the book were outstanding:

“Strutz’s art is disgustingly good and if The Cask of Amontillado is any indication than the duo’s upcoming full-length original graphic novel is sure to be a huge hit.” Cask Ranked one of the “Best Indie Books” – Shawn Perry, Bleeding Cool

“What’s important here is how this team brought the story to the comics page. Jang’s script is true to the classic, and Strutz does some of his best work here with illustrations that effectively convey the macabre nature of this wonderfully chilling tale.” –Ed Garrett,

“The cellars feel ominous and dreadful, and Fortunato’s horror when he realizes what’s happening is gripping. Both writer and artist are clearly in sync in this beautiful adaptation of one of my favorite Poe tales.”– Mike Marlow, The Fellowship of the Geeks

“The one-shot succeeds in dramatizing the classic story to an unfamiliar audience while using brilliant art and bold direction to create a chilling tale as cold as the fabled glass of Amontillado.” – David Stehman, Emertainment Monthly (Emerson College)

“This book is a classic Hammer Horror movie enshrined on the page, with elevated dialogue that still sounds natural and lavish sets bathed in firelight. The more exposition-heavy pages are balanced by sumptuous illustrations so indulgent that the reader can almost hallucinate the music in the Carnival flashback…This book is a treat for fans of literature or horror.” – Matt Connor, Ultimate Comics

“Creepy. The art from Jason Strutz is absolutely gorgeous…A suspenseful, great bit of horror, suspense, Edgar Allen Poe-esque storytelling.” – Jason, Talking Comics Podcast

“Edgar Allan Poe would be proud of this story. The tone, the plot and the dark colors embody the very things that made Poe a unique, as well as a famous, writer. This is a title worth reading for fans of any genre.” Joe Grodensky,

Great reviews are especially precious as Poe lovers grab up anything Poe related, but are not an easy bunch to please when you take on the Dark Master himself. Keep an eye out for more, as we have some exciting things still in store for Montresor & Company. (Want a teaser? FIVE never-before-seen pages may be included in a new deluxe edition, to be announced soon!)

A very big thank you, however, to Ultimate Comics (Raleigh, NC), The Comic Shop (Wilmington, DE), Summit Comics (Lansing, MI), and Blue Marble Comics (Mechanicsville, VA), for hosting Jason and I at signings and other Poe-themed events this year! We had a blast, and I’m so grateful to the long-time and even NEW friends we met, all lovers of Poe and Montresor.

The City of Baltimore is home for Poe lovers everywhere, and 2016 was full of opportunities to meet fellow die-hard Poe fans here. This year we were a featured vendor at Raven Beer, a Poe-themed brewery’s, for a special crab feast and concert event in the tasting room at their Peabody facility. We were also invited once again to exhibit at The Haunting of Poe, A Burlesque Masquerade—-a sexy and fun twist on the Poe mythos—-staged at the Creative Alliance. Baltimore’s historic Poe House also picked up Poe Twisted and House of Montresor for their museum shop, a great honor indeed. A big thank you to Stephen Demczuk, Josh Adkins, Brian Funk from Raven Beer and Maria Bella from Gilded Lily Burlesque for their hospitality this year.

Patreon and Kickstarter

Crowd-funding has become the best and most successful way for indie publishers to get titles into the most hands—-true for our industry, and true for us. For a second year, our patrons on Patreon were key in keeping the lights on at Red Stylo, and lighting the way ahead for all our upcoming projects as well. By releasing a different story every two weeks, we spotlight the creative teams, and also keep the book in front of readers throughout the year. There have been months where we might have had to choose between promotional events and future opportunities (i.e. spend money to promote the books we have now, or invest in new books), but thanks to the ongoing support from that wonderful group of Red Stylo patrons, we always keep moving forward.

We needed the boost, in fact, because a lot of time, love and energy were needed for two new titles, both launched via Kickstarter:

It was the support of our long-time Red Stylo friends and readers that got the wheels turning on CROSSING, a new paranormal comic series with Alex Cormack and Mark Mullaney. We hit our funding goal in less than 36 hours, eventually getting to 239% with the help of 309 backers! I owe thanks in no small part to the great following that artist, Alex Cormack, has built up over the years. The guy is a beast, and has been churning out fantastic books at breakneck pace. I was lucky to get this opportunity to work with such a talented and amazing artist, and folks in the know gave very generously to CROSSING because of his work.

The Kickstarter magic also works in unexpected ways. Due to the success of our campaign, CROSSING #1 debuted at New York Comic Con in October. Which is how we caught the eye of another fantastic publisher, Darby Pop! Announcement time: we’ve signed with Jeff Kline and Darby Pop to release CROSSING both digitally and in print next year! Keep your eyes here for our next campaign news, and look for CROSSING in shops, slated for holiday release for 2017. Another dream come true, both personally and professionally, and I can’t wait ‘til you guys see what we have in store in the coming months!

Our second campaign, OPHELIA’S REVENGE, launched in late Summer, just in time for Ren Faire season. Shakespeare Shaken, a comic collection inspired by the works of William Shakespeare, is one of our most popular anthologies, but we had to shutter printing the last few years, as funds got scooped up by new projects. OPHELIA’S REVENGE is the first wave of our plan to revive the Bard. The one-shot is a new story by James McGee inspired by the original poster by artist, Laura Guzzo, with comic art by Alex Clark and Jan Velazquez. The campaign itself was a lot of fun, and we have a great team and 97 backers to thank for it (and also artist, Emily Swan and Caroline Francis, for their special contributions to the campaign!) Backers dug deep and gave generously (108% funded!) to make the one-shot a success. The second part of our diabolical plan—a new version of Shakespeare Shaken in 2017—will see the release of a slimmer volume of selected titles from the original collection, featuring OPHELIA and friends.

Here is where I pause to thank Lady Miranda a.k.a. Emmy-nominated Mark Mullaney and the Making Art Work Podcast (MAWP!) for his incredible support this year. Mark worked on both campaigns, but really came to bat for us for OPHELIA, contributing logo and graphics talents for the campaign, the video, and even the book itself, and also hosting James, Alex and I on his first live recording of the MAWP! cast to promote the book.

Mark is a great friend and I don’t know what we’d do without him. He’s also a funny writer, animator and artist, which made teaming up with him to release his new comic, NINJA BEAR, a no brainer! NINJA BEAR is a third all-ages title for Red Stylo, joining Ellen’s Adventures and City of Walls. The mini-comic was a free giveaway at SDCC and NYCC, and we’re excited to get more pages to readers in 2017.

The Shows Must Go On

I only have room for notes about a few of the conventions and shows we attended this year (detailing them all would take a year) but there were some outstanding highlights that bear repeating:

  • Our number finally came up (it’s literally a lottery) to exhibit at Small Press Expo, best known as SPX . It was 2011 the last time I got the chance, and that time only by sheer stroke of luck. The triumphant return was made better when we got to exhibit side-by-side with Flutter’s Jennie Wood. What struck me about that show is the absolute loyalty of its attendees and crew: people who hadn’t seen us since that first year still remembered Red Stylo and made it a point to pick up all our newest titles.
  • I was surprised and honored to be invited as a speaker at Geek Kon in Madison, WI. Red Stylo makes it out to shows in as many places as possible, but this was my first time in Madison. Now I know what I’ve been missing: great crew, great show, great opportunity to meet new friends and connect with old ones. Oh yeah, and we sold a lot of books too. Unreal! Hugs and special thanks to Matt McElroy, Monica Valentinelli, Brian and Sari Hagen, Caroline Francis, and Bill Boddington for a great first experience.
  • It was the second year we were accepted into Small Press at Comic Con International in San Diego (SDCC), and James McGee came out to help promote our newest titles and schmooze. Comic Con is still the big kahuna show (though is that New York Comic Con I see rising up out East?) and it’s a thrill to get to be on the main floor with the best in the business. I’m excited to confirm we’re slated to return to Small Press in 2017!
  • At New York Comic Con, we teamed up with Ryan Morrow and One Squared Studios, joined by sponsor Chuck Suffel from in Small Press on the main floor. NYCC is killing it in terms of attendees and events, and that’s another show we won’t miss this October!

Panels were another important part of shows this year:

  • Our “Marry, Do, Kill: What Will It Take to Shatter female Stereotypes in Comics” panel was held again at C2E2 in Chicago, in addition to a new panel, “Trigger Warning: How do Comics Creators Take on Society’s Most Sensitive Subjects”. The slate of speakers included: Jennie Wood (Flutter), Wesley Sun (Sun Brothers Studios), Sandy King (Storm King Productions), Cat Staggs (Wonder Woman, Smallville), Juan Navarro (Creature Entertainment), Brigid Alverson (CBR) and Ryan Morrow (One Squared Studios) Attendees filled the rooms at both panels, even despite late hour schedules.
  • For a second year, Reed Pop invited our Marry, Do, Kill panelists to host their “Female Fandom and Industry” meet-up at NYCC
  • Artway Alliance asked us to host six panels at different venues throughout the year, including a “Publishing Comics” workshop at the new Escape Velocity Sci-fi convention at the Gaylord Grand Resort at National Harbor and once again at the Baltimore Book Festival in Inner Harbor.

Our partnership with Artway Alliance will continue in 2017, with some new shows and workshops already in the works, and a new Baltimore-based anthology project in the initial planning stages. Eric Suggs continues to do great things with the Alliance, and it’s a privilege to continue to be part of this dedicated team of artists working to bring comics and other art workshops to kids all over the DC/Baltimore metro area.

More books from Red Stylo Press:

R. Robert Pollack released his second collected edition of ELLEN’S ADVENTURES AT THE SHADOWLAND: My Alien Pal in March. Shaun Noel and Abede Lovelace, the creative team behind CITY OF WALLS continue to make waves over on WEBTOON with the digital release of their series via their exclusive webcomic platform. Expect more of both this year.

And this is the third and final year of our work with Bob Almond and the Inkwell Awards on The Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge and Results Book. We joined the Inkwell Awards at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC, for their Annual Award ceremony, and finished the year strong with the release of the long-awaited Ms. Inkwell Gallery Book, featuring an all-star lineup of artists that included Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin, Mike Lilly, Joe Sinnott, and a dozen others.

Alright! I think that’s enough looking back for one year, no?

More in store? Of course. I’m a dreamer schemer, but there’s only so much you can map before you just have to start the car and hit the road already. It beckons. Please wish our creators and editors the best of luck as they continue the journey they’ve already begun.

But before I go: THANK YOU, as ever, readers and friends. For reading this, for supporting us one more year, even just one day. Every day is a gift, and EVERY day I’m grateful, for you.

See you on the other side,

Enrica J.
January 2, 2017

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