Adam Fortier was the king of licensed comics. Six months ago he turned in his crown to start his own publishing company. The new publisher took some time to chat with us about his life in comics.
Rik Offenberger: How did you get into comics?
Adam Fortier: I have always collected comics as a kid. I also worked at a store during high school, so comics have always been in my life in someway or another. But I never thought that I’d actually be involved in the industry.
Offenberger: How did you join Dreamwave?
Fortier: Long story short, I cold called them. We had a couple of meetings and I started to consult for them in a bunch of different areas.
Offenberger : Why did you leave Dreamwave for Devil’s Due?
Fortier: I really didn’t leave one company for another. The people who made decisions at Dreamwave determined that my services were no longer needed. It was that simple. I was always a free-lance consultant, so when one door shut, another opened. By that time I was developing a solid reputation as someone companies could easily work with, so I really didn’t have a problem moving on.
Offenberger : How did you end up working with UDON?
Fortier: I’m based in Toronto, as is UDON, chances are if someone is working in the industry, especially on a high profile license like Transformers, people are going to find out about it. Again, at the time I was a consultant, so UDON was another client that I felt I could offer my services to.
Offenberger: Tell us about your work at IDW
Fortier: I have nothing but great things to say about IDW. They were the most professional group of people you could ever want to work with. They’ve rejuvenated the horror genre in the industry with some really great books and quality artwork. And they know how to throw the best parties. They never do anything halfway.
Offenberger: You have a long association with Licensed Comics, what is the appeal of a licensed property?
Fortier: Licensed properties are always a double-edged sword because you have a built-in audience that is really excited about the project and want to see what the potential of the property is. However, you also have a lot of expectations from the fans. Relaunches are difficult though; some fans really don’t want to see favorite characters move in different directions.
Offenberger: How did Speakeasy come together?
Fortier: I jut figured that it was time to put my money where my mouth was. I’d been advising companies for years on their business, but I couldn’t force anyone to take my recommendations. Sometimes that was really frustrating. I was developing many contacts in the industry; artists, writers, retailers and printing, and I thought, “I could really try something here…”
Offenberger: How did you come up with name Speakeasy?
Fortier: I once started a company who name was a medical term for neurologically mixing the senses (ex: you hear colors or taste sounds). The explanation of what it meant was difficult enough, let alone actually pronouncing it. This time, I wanted something clean, snappy and easy to spell. I’m sure everyone knows what a speakeasy was: a really cool club that you had to be allowed to join. I liked that connotation: that we were discerning in the projects we accept. The name also lent itself to a really nice logo. It’s supposed to be a pair of really sexy eyes looking through the Speakeasy door’s peephole.
Offenberger: What type of changes did you face starting a new company?
Fortier: Coming from a consultation background the biggest difference is that there is no one to blame. I try to make the best decision based on the best information that I have. If I succeed that will be great, if I fail I’m going to do it in a brilliant flameout. The buck will literally stop here with me.
Offenberger: Did you immediately start distributing internationally or were you originally only distributed in Canada?
Fortier: We began with a North American vision. So far we’ve tried to make sure that retailer know we exist and that even though we’re a new publisher, we’re not going away in 6 months. First North America, then we plot for global domination.
Offenberger: Other then Diamond, how do you distribute to your comics?
Fortier: We have an exclusive relationship with Diamond for our comic books.
Offenberger: As a Canadian company do you compare your success as compared to other Canadian companies or do you compare yourself with all North American companies?
Fortier: I don’t try to look at other companies to rate our success. We succeed on a title-by-title basis. When I call retailers and hear that they’ve got pull sheets requesting our books, that’s success to me. When I get creators asking about publishing with Speakeasy, that’s success. When I can pay the bills, that’s success. But, it’s frustrating when every new publisher gets compared to Marvel and DC. Those companies have had close to 75 years to build and audience and product line. Publishers should be judged on the quality of work produced not just on size.
Offenberger: How do you attract established creators to Speakeasy?
Fortier: We offer established creators the same terms we offer newbies. You get creative control of your project, and we’ll do our damnest to get your project in stores and sell as many copies as possible.
Offenberger: So far there have been no Super Heroes at Speakeasy, how do you choose what type of projects are right for Speakeasy?
Fortier: First we look at the quality of story and art. How serious and professional the creator is. And third, what the actual market potential of the project is. I won’t say that Speakeasy comics doesn’t have any Superhero books. We just didn’t launch the company with them. We actually have several books coming up in the next few months that have heroes who are pretty super.
Offenberger: You have a long history with licensed comics, why don’t we see licensed comics at Speakeasy?
Fortier: It’s just not a priority for Speakeasy Comics right now. Our mandate is to bring fresh meat to the market. New, creative projects that haven’t been seen, and giving qualified people to make their dream of being published come true. It’s really exciting for some of our guys to see their name on the shelves of their local store.
Offenberger: DC recently said they wanted to get all their titles above 25,000 copies, what your minimum circulation goal?
Fortier: We’re aiming for about the 5,000 mark for our titles. I think that’s reasonable for a company in its first 6 months.
Offenberger: How close does your product mix come to making that goal?
Fortier: We’re in the neighborhood. It obviously depends on 2 things: the general appeal of the book and whether we’re being found by retailers either in Diamond Preview or through our website www.speakeasycomics.com.
Offenberger: The company started last November, are you profitable yet?
Fortier: Our original business model is to operate with a minimum cash flow. I don’t think that anybody is profitable in the first year of publishing. If they say that they’re in the black in the first year, someone is fudging the numbers.
Offenberger: I noticed that you have 5 page previews of the comics on your site, what type of feedback have you got on this?
Fortier: We’ve had nothing but great responses to our website. We have a very active membership on our forums, and everyone is just really excited to join the club
Offenberger: What can you tell us about Speakeasy Creator Services?
Fortier: Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and we’ll talk.
Offenberger: Speakeasy has been picking up a lot of titles from other publisher lately, how does this come about?
Fortier: I want to make it really clear that Speakeasy has never and will never poach titles or creators from other publishers. People approach us through our website, at conventions and through friends. They ask questions, we give answers and then we all see where it leads.
Offenberger: What future projects can we expect to see from Speakeasy?
Fortier: All I can say is that patience is a virtue and it will be rewarded. Check out our website for upcoming announcements on the wide variety of projects we have planned for the summer and fall.