War Rocket Ajax #119: Chris Roberson & Allison Baker Become Digital Publishers with Monkeybrain Comics
This week on ComicsAlliance’s War Rocket Ajax podcast, longtime friends of the show Chris Roberson and Allison Baker join us to talk about their brand new project, Monkeybrain Comics! They’ve been teasing it for weeks, but in our interview, we talk about exactly what led to the decision to get into publishing comics, the lineup of creators they’ve approached to be a part of it, and how they plan to approach creator-owned comics in the digital age — and you can listen to the whole show right here at ComicsAlliance!War Rocket Ajax #119: That’s Not a Monkey with Chris Roberson and Allison Baker
(WARNING: Contains NSFW language)
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At the top of the show, Chris and Matt are back from HeroesCon in Charlotte with stories of a fun time, and a concerted effort to debunk rumors of being hung over. You’ll be able to judge for yourself on next week’s show, when we give you the live War Rocket Ajax Q&A panel! Plus, Chris has received his strangest review copy ever: A box of Crunchy Nut Cereal.
Once Chris Roberson and Allison Baker join us, the conversation turns to Monkeybrain and how it came to be:
Roberson: Concurrent with both my novel career and my time writing comics, Allison and I have been running a small press publishing company called Monkeybrain Books, which probably impinges on the awareness of comic book readers most with the releases we’ve done of Jess Nevins’ companions to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen starting in 2003. We’ve been publishers for as long as I’ve been a published writer, and over the course of the last couple of years, we’ve been trying to figure out how we could do comics. I write comics, and we publish things, how can we publish comics?
Realistically, we couldn’t figure out a way to do it with individual issues, and we couldn’t figure out how to fund just going straight to trades, but we realized that a combination of digital and trade made it possible to do new comics that people could buy, read and hopefully enjoy, and then ultimately collect them. Then we spent about two years figuring out how to make that work, and once we had done so, we realized we’d built a system, a kind of conduit from creating comics to selling them to readers, that would work not just for my work but for comics made by anybody else. Anybody we knew, and we know lots of people who make comics and want to make more of them. So we opened the door to creators we knew to sell comics they had made to the public at large.
Roberson also tells us about how much of his move to creator-owned publishing was influenced by his experience working at DC:
Roberson: It wasn’t really informed by that at all because all of these plans were put into place before that. I think, though, that it’s probably fair to say that the experiences that I had in the first couple of years working in comics and seeing the rise of digital, those things were kind of concurrent. In my 20s, as an angry young firebrand, I kind of first came to full awareness during the early days of the Creator-Owned Revolution that started in the late ’70s, and then the self-publishing boom of the ’90s. And then I got kind of gun-shy after the collapse of Capital and the distributor wars, and I’d given up on all that stuff. But I saw with the rise of digital a way to accomplish all of those goals that everyone had talked about in the ’80s and ’90s in a way that you wouldn’t lose your shirt if you tried.
And then certainly, my experiences working with DC just kind of reinforced the decision that yeah, to do the kind of comics I want to do, I really don’t need to go ask somebody for permission to do it. There’s ways that I could structure a deal where I and the artist I’m collaborating with can do what we want and get it in front of people to enjoy it, and give us money for it, without having to get permission from a long heirarchy of corporate employees before we could put pen to paper.
Plus, get a little bit of the lineup for Monkeybrain’s launch, and more!
The truly inexplicable Fruity Pebbles commercial mentioned on the show. We have no idea what any of this means.
The far more enjoyable Crunchy Nut commercial involving a super-hero.
Chris’s Rec: Where Eagles Dare
Matt’s Rec: Hark! A Vagrant
Justice League #10: “Once again, we have an issue where everybody hates Aquaman for no reason. None of it makes sense! These people literally just watched Aquaman save a bunch of people, and the media is immediately like ‘Haha, f*** Aquaman! You suck, Aquaman!’ They just watched him save a bunch of people!” “It makes zero Goddamn sense. I will say, to inject one brief moment of positivity in this, there is a scene in this issue that I thought was pretty decently written, and has a nice concept too.”
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009: “When 1969 came out, I called it ‘Family Guy for Smart People,’ because I felt that the references Moore was throwing in were taking precedence over the story. It was very frustrating. I don’t think 2009 has the same problem. I think it has a similar problem, in that there are a couple of panels where the principal characters are in the middle, and they’re surrounded by people flat-out looking at the camera. It’s Kevin O’Neill doing caricatures of celebrities and characters looking at the camera, and if you can’t figure out who they are, then that’s a pointless panel. The larger problem, and the more subjective problem, is that it’s essentially a comic about how much pop culture sucks. People literally make remarks about how British culture has declined since the Victorian era.”
Spider-Men #2: “This book, despite how likable the characters are — and I think that’s the biggest thing about it, that both Peter Parker and Miles Morales are extraordinarily likable in here — it does a lot to kind of dare you not to like it. For instance, on more than one occasion, Peter Parker says something to the effect of ‘Why is this place cooler than where I come from?’ It feels in some ways like a justification for the Ultimate universe.