Monday, May 6, 2013

Interview: Mel Caylo of Archaia Entertainment

At C2E2 2013, or the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, I had the opportunity to meet and sit down with Mel Caylo, Marketing Manager of Archaia Entertainment. The indie publisher is home to such titles as Mouse Guard and Return of the Dapper Men. Archaia has big plans for the year and I was able to chat with Mel about those books and his role in the industry.

So here we are, it’s day 3 of C2E2 2013, how’s the show been for you guys?

Oh man, at Archaia, we’re doing really, really well here. Chicago’s always been a great town for us. We maintain an office here, so this is like a homecoming for us. Our editorial office is based in Los Angeles, but our executive office is based in Chicago. So when C2E2 comes around, it’s always like a nice little homecoming for some of our staff because some of them are native to Chicago. But the show has always been really great. The Midwest has always shown really great enthusiasm for our stuff and for all of our new books. So we’ve been having a great show thus far.

Personally, what are some aspects of the show you look forward to and that get you excited when it’s time for a con and specifically C2E2 2013?

Well C2E2 is run by an organization called ReedPoP. And I always look forward to working with those guys. They really know how to put on a show. They’re the same organization that puts on New York Comic Con. So we work them at least twice a year and they know what they’re doing. They really take care of us as exhibitors. So I love working with those guys. Whenever there’s C2E2 or New York Comic Con, I always look forward to working with those guys.

And personally, I love coming to Chicago. I’m from New York, I live in L.A, but Chicago is such a great town. The architecture here is so beautiful. It’s such a clean town. Not to say that the other cities are dirty, but I always feel refreshed when I come to Chicago. You know, with the Chicago River and Lake Michigan over there. It’s a really, really fun town. And then, you know, just meeting up with all of my friends in the industry. Comic book conventions like this size are usually like reunions as well. You get to see all of your friends that you’ve known through the years. You can all be in the same place at the same time. And for many people, the convention doesn’t stop when the convention floor closes. Oh no. There are dinners, there are drinks and there are get-togethers after hours. And that’s when you get to reacquaint with your old friends and catch up and see what’s going on.

Yeah, that’s great. I definitely understand what you mean on a lot of those points. I’m from outside of Chicago, so it’s always a great city to come to when you get the chance.

Oh yeah, absolutely. I love this town.

Let’s touch on your position here at Archaia. As Marketing Manager, what do you planned for Archaia in 2013?

Well, oh my gosh, we have plenty. Archaia is best known for our flagship title which is called Mouse Guard. It’s our best-selling title. This year we have volume three of the collected edition coming out. It’s called Mouse Guard: Black Axe. We have volume two launching of the Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard series. The first volume won an Eisner Award for Best Anthology. So we are looking forward to launching a second series. Basically, it’s a bunch of other creators handpicked by David Petersen to come and play in his Mouse Guard universe. He’s got people like Bill Willingham, Nick Tapalansky, Alex Eckman-Lawn, Stan Sakai. All these guys are doing short stories in the Mouse Guard series and get to have fun with the Mouse Guard books.

We also have a book called Cyborg 009 which is based on a classic manga by Shotaro Ishinomori. We’re doing a westernized version of it written by F. J. Desanto and Bradley Cramp and illustrated by Marcus To, which many people may know from Red Robin and his other DC books. It’s a beautiful looking book. It’s the closest thing that you’ll see Archaia publish to a superhero title. Unofficially, we don’t really publish superhero books. We do fantasy, science fiction, horror. Cyborg 009 was a great opportunity to work with the Ishimori Corporation. It’s akin to us working with Henson here in the states. We do a bunch of Henson books too like Fraggle Rock and The Dark Crystal. So getting a chance to work with Ishimori on Cyborg 009 was a great honor.

We have something called the Thrilling Adventure Hour coming up. It’s based on a Los Angeles-based, live-action stage show that itself is an homage to old time radio plays. It’s basically comedians and actors performing live on stage and performing these short skits like they were performing on the radio. So there’s sound effects and fake ads, all that stuff. The creators of that show, Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, have turned that into a graphic novel. It’s going to be a collection of 10 short stories based on the stage show of the Thrilling Adventure Hour. So we have that coming up.

Later this year we have something called the Joyners in 3D, which is the first ever red and blue, 3D, original graphic novel. It’s going to come packaged with two pairs of 3D glasses. It’s just an amazing looking book. The artist on it is David Marquez. He’s the artist on Marvel’s Ultimate Comics Spider-Man. This is his creator-owned book. He partnered with writer R.J. Ryan. They first worked together on a book called Syndrome, which we published about three years ago. But they’re back at Archaia with their new original, creator-owned book called Joyners in 3D. You should look for that around the time of New York Comic Con. So there’s a lot more. We have new volumes of Cow Boy, Gunnerkrigg Court, Old City Blues and The Killer coming out. So have a very ambitious slate coming up for 2013.

It definitely sounds like you have some big plans for the year. I want to switch to another recent book, Hawken and about the Hawken property. I find it interesting not only because it involves mechs, which I like. But it also represents that marriage between comics and video games. There’s a lot of crossover appeal there. I’m a long time gamer and comic book reader, so I figure most people like me see comics and video games connected, they’re going to get excited. So basically, how did that connection come along and how did that project as far as Hawken: Genesis come about?

Well we work with a guy named Joe LeFavi. He owns a company called Quixotic Transmedia. This is basically a transmedia initiative. And when I say “transmedia,” it’s taking the same intellectual property and representing it in different formats and different mediums. Not exactly all the same story, but stories that interconnect and kinda support each other for the wider universe.

So for Hawken, Meteor Entertainment came up with this great first-person, online, free-to-play shooter with giant mechs. It was created by Khang Le of Adhesive Games. They decided they wanted to do a transmedia approach to it. So they wanted to do first a game and then they wanted to do a graphic novel and they’re looking into, possibly a film. Who knows? Anything that helps promote the core Hawken franchise.

So Joe LeFavi basically introduced us to Meteor Entertainment and all three of us started talking and it was like “hey we think there’s a great graphic novel here.” So we decided to put together a back-story. So basically, it’s a back-story to what you experience in the game. You know, why the world of Hawken exists, who the different players are or the different characters are in the game or the types of characters in the game. So if you read the graphic novel, you’ll get a better understanding of the Hawken universe as you’re playing the game.

Now there’s a trick. Eugene, you say you love video games, you love comic books. But we cannot assume all comic book readers are gamers and that all gamers are comic book fans. They’re actually two separate groups even though there is some crossover there. So the challenge was to make a graphic novel that not only appeals to players who are playing Hawken but also to anyone who’s never heard of the game and just want to look for a cool, sci-fi graphic novel. And I think we’ve achieved that. We have some great artists on the book and I think it’s a really, really awesome product. So I think if you love the game or even if you’re not playing the game, I think you should check out Hawken: Genesis.

I think there’s definitely a lot of appeal to the project altogether, so I wish you guys much success with the book and whatever you get from the game as well.

Appreciate it. Thank you, Eugene.

I have one last question. So you’ve been in the industry for a while, mostly in editorial and marketing. Are there any plans to ever get on the more creative side?

You know, that’s a funny question. Our Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Christy, keeps asking me “So Mel, when are you gonna write your graphic novel? Mel, when are you gonna write your graphic novel?” He makes fun of me because he says I know a lot of people in the industry. He goes “If you announce a graphic novel, I bet I get 1000 preorders right away, without you even starting to write the story yet. If you just announce it, you will get a thousand people who will want to buy that graphic novel.” So yes, you know, I think there is a story in me. I don’t know what it is yet. Eventually I will want to write my own graphic novel. I don’t want to automatically assume that anyone will want to publish it.

I’m enjoying myself thus far. Like you said, I’ve worked with Wizard for seven years, I worked for Top Cow for a year and now I’ve been working for Archaia for four. So I’ve been in this industry for about a dozen years. And it’s a great industry; if you love comics, if you love the medium. The people are great. You know, at the end of the day, if maybe you have a stressful day, you realize “man, I still work in comics.” So, how bad can it ever get? So yes, I do have that creative itch. But I’m not sure. We’ll see. We’ll see when I have the time.

Well I’m sure a lot of people will be looking to see your name on any projects ever announced.

[Laughs] I wish. I can only hope. From your lips to God’s ears.

Well again, thank you for your time. Hope you enjoy the rest of the show and we look forward to what Archaia has planned for 2013.

Fantastic. Don’t forget, Archaia is online at Archaia.com. You can follow us on Twitter at @Archaia. And we also have a Facebook page, Facebook.com/ArchaiaEntertainment.

All right, thank you very much.

All right, thanks Eugene.

Hawken: Genesis is available now for $19.95. You can purchase this book as well as Archaia's other titles from their store here. Visit Archaia's site for more information on their upcoming comics.