I usually start to look ahead to writing the year’s recap somewhere in October. How to frame it, what to share. I really struggled to write this year’s recap, though. Not because we didn’t do a lot—holy smokes, another year of back-to-back projects, promotion, new staff, new creators, and laying the foundation for the year ahead. Plus, this year we brushed just under the 300 mark for the number of artists and writers we’ve published. The world around us in 2017 was relentless, even battering, but Red Stylo endured and thrived. That doesn’t happen without an amazing team of people. We faced our fair share of obstacles but kept moving forward and ended the year standing tall and proud, ready to face what comes next.
Chicks dig scars. Even our own.
What follows is a combination 2017 highlight reel and look ahead to 2018. Happy New Year, everyone.
A Tale of Two Anthologies
We started the year as we have in years past, with an open call January 1 for THE STRIP, A Twisted Vegas Comic Anthology. THE STRIP was a return to our Red Stylo Media Presents annual series of anthologies. Even after a year-long hiatus, we were happy to have veteran contributors return, as well as to bring in fresh blood. Editor James McGee spent months carefully crafting the lineup and the result is a collection featuring over twenty comics creators that shines as bright as the city of Vegas itself.
We launched the Kickstarter campaign in late summer with very high hopes and a book that seemed to have everything going for it: a great line-up, solid art, and a fun, spacey concept tying everything together. But there’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to Vegas. Our campaign just happened to coincide with one of the rockiest, most controversial months of the year, and every single week of our four-week campaign, something new and terrible was dividing the country: the military transgender ban, the attack in Charlottesville, the President’s disastrous press conference after Charlottesville, and a Solar eclipse (actually, that last one was actually very cool, just very distracting.) In hindsight, we might have at least expected the eclipse would *cough* overshadow our efforts here on Earth, but as for the rest of it… no one bloody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
With the help of 125 generous backers, we were FUNDED, and THE STRIP was set to debut at New York Comic Con. And then October 1, a murderer gunned down a crowd of people at a concert right on the Vegas Strip.
I want to stress that none of these things directly impacted our team. And yet no one with a working head and heart can be immune to what’s happening. The strain took its toll on all of us, and it was difficult on any given day to feel like a comic anthology was worth the effort when so many people were upset and hurting around us. It’s hard to even write about it and not feel that helplessness and sadness come rushing back. The only thing we could do was make a small gesture in solidarity: 100% of profits from the sale of THE STRIP at NYCC were donated to the Las Vegas Victims Fund and Red Cross of Southern Nevada, and most of our contributors also donated their share of profits from the book to those charities. Nothing and no amount of money could ever make things right, but we did our best to shine a little light in the dark.
In the end, THE STRIP is one of the best books Red Stylo has ever produced, and we did it under the leadership of a great editor with a big heart and a steady hand, who took care of the team and shepherded the whole thing to the finish line. Congratulations James and all THE STRIP contributors.
Red Stylo Presents will continue with a seventh annual collection next year. Details and OPEN CALL announcement go out January 1!
Remarkably, THE STRIP wasn’t the only anthology we worked on in 2017. Early in the year, Mario Candelaria wrapped up production on another book, BAROQUE POP, A Lana Del Rey Fanthology, which we released under the Red Stylo Press imprint at C2E2 in March. The book features original stories and vignettes inspired by the music of Lana Del Rey, and it has quickly become one of our most successful titles. Also, one of the most unique: rather than the traditional trade paperback size, the book was released in 7” x 7” format to look like a 45rpm record. LDR fans all over social media have been finding the book, and the reviews have been great!
Music-inspired anthologies have been a very popular through-line for books from Red Stylo, and there’s too much good stuff out there to stop. Writer/editor, Jennie Wood (A Boy Like Me, Flutter) has signed on to edit another square-format book that we’ll be releasing next year: Cosmic Love, A Comic Fanthology Inspired By Florence And The Machine. The project is the brainchild of artist Rachel Perciphone, and she’ll be the featured cover/vignette artist along with 13 others. Here’s looking to dancing in 2018, sans the devil on your back! The line-up is already complete and contributors will be announced for that book in February.
“Do you like ninjas? Do you like bears? Ninja Bear!”
That’s the pitch. People get it, kids love it. I fell in love with the silent-yet-soulful NINJA BEAR when I read Mark Mullaney’s webcomic, and made it a personal mission to bully Mark into bringing it to print. We started small– literally: the mini-comic, Azhuitl’s Curse was an add-on to our successful CROSSING campaign the previous year, and it was received so warmly, it was a no-brainer to move forward with the series.
And who doesn’t want to cuddle with a NINJA BEAR?!? He’s so cute, fuzzy and fierce. It seemed obvious that we should try to create plush toy to go along with the book, but the funds required to do so were a bit out of our reach, and more than a bit of a risk. Enter Kickstarter’s #AllinOne project series.
#AllinOne projects were Kickstarter campaigns that lasted one week or had one reward tier, for smaller projects that creators might not otherwise try to complete. A few Comixlaunch podcast listens later (thanks, Tyler!), we decided to what-the-heck a campaign and do a NINJA BEAR ACTION PLUSH along with the first issue of the series.Deans Family Productions agreed to take on the limited project and we were off! One reward tier, seven days and 53 backers later, NINJA BEAR hit 300% of our goal!
The small and mighty NINJA BEAR #1 debuted at San Diego Comic Con in July and Mark is already hard at work preparing the next installment in the series. As for the plush, now that we have a proof of concept under our belts, we’ll be working with a manufacturing company next year to produce a professional run of NINJA BEARS, coming soon to a comic con near you!
CROSSING the Finish Line
This year we focused on bringing CROSSING #1 to comic conventions across the country. On the one hand, the first issue has had an incredible reception and reviews have been great! On the other, plans were set, set aside, re-set and set aside again to publish the rest of the series, resulting in production delays. All the time behind the scenes, Alex Cormack and Mark Mullaney have been working on getting the next two issues complete before we head back to Kickstarter to continue the series. I’m very excited to announce that BOTH issues will be ready in the first half of 2018, and we’re working hard to have the rest of the series with us at our annual caravan to San Diego Comic Con this summer!
Check out this link to see a six-page preview of Issue #2, and then keep your eyes on social media for when we announce the next campaign!
WE WIN CON Gets Personal
We Win Con is the charitable giving arm of Red Stylo Media. We activate it semi-regularly, highlighting different causes or organizations that need help during the year and providing incentive for readers to give. This year things got personal as We Win Con’s co-creator, Nicholas Dedual from Odd Truth, lost his father in a hurricane-related accident in Puerto Rico.
I wanted to make part of our re-cap an appeal to folks to not let Puerto Rico fade from the news: the island is still far from recovery, and organizations still need help. If you can, please give what you can.
The Patreon and The Press
Red Stylo Press, our creator imprint, was in over-drive this past year with promoting the BAROQUE POP anthology, and the release of Book 3 in R. Robert Pollak’s ELLEN’S ADVENTURES AT THE SHADOWLAND: STAR STRUCK! To introduce ELLEN’S ADVENTURES to a wider audience, we released all three books via Patreon this past year.
Chuck Meets Comic Con
This re-cap would not be complete without mention of a very important person who joined RSM’s team this year. While James had his hands full as editor of THE STRIP, Whatcha Reading’s Chuck Suffel took over as social media editor through most of 2017. He was even our booth babe at three shows this year, including our corner booth expansion at New York Comic Con. There’s so much we couldn’t have done without him. Everybody all at once, say, “Thank you, Chuck!”
Are we there yet? Why, yes. Yes we are.
Special thanks time: you’ll notice that Mark Mullaney’s name shows up no less than five times in this year’s recap, and the simple reason is he’s basically become The Godfather here at Red Stylo (ask him to do his Corleone impression. It’s pretty cool.) A tremendous artist, a one-man production team, and the best work partner and friend anyone could ever have. Thank you, Mark, for all your hard work, congrats on your nuptuals, and here’s to a wonderful new year!
Also thanks to my handsome, inexplicably supportive husband, David. You let me dream with my eyes wide open and there’s nothing I can’t do as long as you’re beside me. I love you.
The years are passing faster between these updates, I swear. It’s been eight years, and yet there are still days I’m shocked and amazed that we’re still here. Red Stylo is a business, true, but it’s the business of doing something I love with all my heart. And it’s ONLY with the support of this incredible team, our talented creators, and our devoted readers and friends that we keep the dream going. It is a dream, a dream come true, because of you.
As ever, forever, I am grateful. Thank you,
December 31, 2017