As we look back on 2005 and look forward to 2006 we took some time out to chat with Alias Entertainment’s Mike S. Miller about the year that has past and the year ahead in Alias Entertainment’s State of the Union.
First Comics News: Alias Entertainment comprises two companies Alias and Cross Culture. Comics like Tempest, David: The Shepherd’s Song, David’s Mighty Men, as well as Pakkin’s Land have all come out from Alias but are also solicited through Cross Culture are these the same comics with a different branding?
Mike S. Miller: Yes, they are the same comics. The Cross Culture division of Alias is our strictly Christian brand. Where you could say that Alias is more secular in the sense that we don’t discriminate about theology or religion much when it comes to Alias, we do so with books that come out through Cross Culture. Those books are available only through the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) bookstores, and not through Diamond to the Direct Market.
1st: Are the Cross Culture Comics sold with an Alias logo on them or a Cross Culture logo?
Mike: Cross Culture logos only.
1st: How do orders compare between the Alias brand and the Cross Culture brand?
Mike: Cross Culture graphic novels do on average more than twice as well as our best selling direct market graphic novels. Since we don’t produce any Cross Culture single issues, there is no comparison there.
1st: The year started off with the announcement that Alias was going to sell comics for 75¢, how did that work out for Alias?
Mike: It started off very well, with the 75¢ books selling incredible numbers, but as time goes on, people seemed less inclined to order extra copies of the introductory price books. The shine was off the penny, you could say. The industry saw the same thing happen with the 25¢, 10¢ and even 9¢ books, the more that came out, the fewer were ordered. With 75¢ books coming out regularly from Alias, we were not immune to that pattern.
1st: Alias did quite well at bringing in a variety of studios how did Alias acquire so many studios so quickly?
Mike: If you build it, they will come. I already had many connections, being a 13 year veteran of the comic industry, so calling people up and asking if they had anything they were looking to publish was a breeze. My good friend Darren Davis brought the most titles, and was already issues into production on each of them. That gave us about a quarter of our launch right there. And once people heard we were making the move toward independent publishing, the emails started coming, and the phone started ringing.
1st: You also had one of your comics, Deal with the Devil, optioned. Is this something Alias is actively trying to do with all of their properties or did David Tischman come to Alias looking for the option of this particular title?
Mike: I met David at Wizard World LA last year, he read Deal with the Devil overnight, and came back to our booth first thing in the morning to tell me he wanted it. I hooked him up with our Manager, Lisa K. Brause of Goldenhouse Ent., and they’ve been working on the deal ever since. Lisa also has several of our other titles in the hands of producers and directors and actors and agents. Other titles like Blue Water Productions’ 10th Muse and The Legend of Isis have been optioned also. There has been lots of great news coming to us from Hollywood, but until contracts are signed, and checks are cleared, you won’t get any more of it out of me.
1st: Monkey Pharmacy, Runemaster Studios and DBPro left Alias this year as well with a little bit of controversy. What are the requirements for studios to work with Alias and what has Alias done to make those policies clear at the outset of the relationship with new studios?
Mike: Alias does not sign studios. Not specifically. We sign books. Any studio we work with is perfectly free to publish any of their other books with any other publisher they feel like. Blue water is a good example of that. He’s got a couple different books that look to be coming out through Arcana this year, and several projects going through Left Field, inc. but he’s still perfectly happy publishing the bulk of his books with Alias. There aren’t any set requirements for studios to work with Alias that aren’t the same requirements we ask of individuals who publish with us. With the exception of DB Pro, the sole reason the other studios mentioned above ‘left’ Alias was because we had to pull funding from their books. We offered them options that would make it possible to continue the books, and they chose not to. Alias doesn’t wish them any ill will, in fact we hope that Lions, Tigers and Bears (Vol. 2), Elsinore, and DBO Pro books do very well at their new homes.
1st: Alias set a launch date in April and by November the company had reorganized. What happened between April and November?
Mike: Brett, you take this one.
Brett Burner: Actually, Alias began releasing titles through Image in January 2005, with planning and production happening before that… just to paint the picture that there was a larger window of time we were working in. But basically, as Alias began making it’s announcements and enacting its advertising and marketing strategies, there came a point, several months in, where we needed to make some revisions to, or reorganize, our business plan, mostly because now we had some real data to work with.
Around this same time, two of the partners, not intimately involved in the daily operation of the business, agreed to be bought out by Alias Publisher Brett Burner. This changed the “partnership structure”, but most of the organizational changes were already coming into effect.
1st: 2006 looks to be an even bigger year for Alias what can we expect to see?
Mike: We hit the ground running in 2006 with our 50 thousand copy distribution of the new Comic Book Digest preview magazine! We’ll be previewing the new Lullaby ongoing series, as well as a fantastic new book by former Wildstorm artist, Ryan Odagawa and Adrian Todd: Twin Blades. We’ve come to a cross-promotions deal with one of the biggest art related websites in the world, and we’ll be announcing that soon! We are also publishing a slew of great titles including Super Teen*Topia from Forcewërks, Hyper-Actives by Clint Hilinski and company, a number of new Blue Water titles including Orion and The Blackbeard Legacy, not to mention the return of Judo Girl. Actor/Screenwriter Kevin (Underworld) Grevioux is bringing us two lines of comics, from his all-ages Astounding line, we have The Hammer Kid by Grevioux and Jack Lawrence, Valkyries, by Grevioux and Leonel Castellini, Guardian Heroes by Grevioux and from his more mature line,Darkstorm, we have Alivs Rex, and a few others that have yet to be announced. Those, plus many other new titles will be making their way into the Alias fold on the direct market front. Alias is also working with multiple major Christian publishers to co-develop new properties for the Christian and bookstore markets. We at Alias believe that everything happens for the greater good, and that all the pruning we have been going through the past year has been so that we could set our roots down and let our vision for where we want to take this company grow. I won’t say it’s been easy. Pruning never is, but it’s only so that we can grow as people, and as a company. I won’t make any predictions about what kind of a year it will be, but God willing, it will be a good one!