After the dust of Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con, we sat down with one of the people behind Squid Black to discuss more about their business.
Squid Black is an independent company that partners people, who have concepts, or screenplays, to artists in the field. The end goal is to help the client get their ideas from just inside their head all the way to printed and inside local comic book stores.
We first have to admit we were unaware of their company. To be fully honest, we could stand to learn more about he comic book industry and how one idea goes from thought all the way to comic book. In an effort to learn, and teach out to our viewers with decided to contact Squid Black and see if they could shine some light on how this awesome company works.
Nerd News Social: Hey Michael Duggan, thank you for joining me today.
Michael Duggan: My pleasure!
NNS: To get things started, where did you get the name Squid Black?
Michael: It’s a reference to ink. On certain technical pens they will say what kind of ink it is, and it will say on the side of the pen, Squid.Black.
NNS: Your company offers a total of three packages for creative parties to choose from, but there isn’t any prices. Is this due to which artist style they choose?
Michael: Yes that is correct, Usually what happens is, a client will want to go for a variety or someone very famous or experienced. They may have a lower budget? So we find what they need, or what they can afford.
NNS: It looks like your talent pool is very full of multiple different types of artists. I know it states that the creator gets to choose their art style, can they choose the artist specifically?
Michael: Usually what happens is, we talk to them about what the project is or how it will impact them. So we kind of do consulting with them in that way, and then help guide them through a style if they have no agenda themselves. Usually it starts with a stylistic approach, before the artist. So we are clear on what they are really after.
NNS: Is it possible that due to the projects of the artists, their work might become postponed?
Michael: Before we get to the stage of the artist with ascertain their availability and get a timeline. We have not had any problems with that yet, but because we stay very open with communication between the artist and the client. So they always know where they are. If the client is in a great deal of a hurry we may find ourselves reworking things. But that’s how business goes. Like if we need an artist to come off a project to help us instead, the will retailer their price to us and we will talk to the client and see if it works for them.
NNS: On the site, I see it mentions a lot of the process of creating the book, and not as much after it’s completed. I see mention of Publishers, Distribution, and Retailers. Does your company also help with those facets?
Michael: They do, we have deals in place with a number of independent publishers. It’s one of those things where publishers require a level of discretion. So we try not to focus so much in the short run on that, in the hope that we can suss out how to deliver that effectively. So at the moment we don’t have a lot about publishing listed, but we do have deals and we do make them happen but they are all different.
NNS: Considering the idea of publishing, distributing, and retailing going forward. You guys charge for the creation of the project. Once it goes forward and it’s being distributed and to retailers, do you guys take in an apportionment of the money brought in from that or a handling fees?
Michael: We have two basic models. First is a turn key. The client would pay us a specific fee to handle the entire thing. Negotiate prices per artist, and more. It would just be a flat fee. We have no ownership after that. We don’t keep an ownership of the IP. We don’t take a percentage of the backend later. We arrange the deal with the comic book company and the client moves forward with them. We assist later in an advisory position if needed. It’s pretty much a straight forward deal. They keep their own intellectual property. We help them develop it into a format, they pay us and we get out of their way, unless they need us. The other way we do it, sometimes we help develop a property and we have an investment in some way. We have three of those right now. We will see how those work out. It’s a very straight forward deal.
NNS: The packages offered mentions 4, 6, & 12 comic book run options. If the parties involved wanted more, is that possible?
Michael: Yes absolutely, we kind put that on the website to give people an idea of how we can approach it. Some people like to see some type of configuration in order to have a place to begin. We have a couple prospective clients who want to do a year long run of several books at once. That has turned out to a longer run term deal if it all works out. We are good with that too. We just need to make sure the talent pool we work with stays consistent through it. As long as we keep everyone in the loop, and informed. As long as everyone is open about communication and doesn’t take other jobs without telling us it would be fine.
NNS: For a bit now, Kickstarters have been cropping up with people who want to make their own comic books. Would you recommend that people who want to produce should go to our company instead?
Michael: Actually what I would suggest is go to Kickstarter to raise money, and then go to our company. The whole Kickstarter is awesome. If they want to do a development deal then maybe we can help them in a different way then Kickstarter would.
NNS: Would a party, that wants to fund their project through Kickstarter, be able to work with you for a smaller fee to get concept art so they could put it on the kickstarter?
Michael: Absolutely! We do that all the time.
NNS: If someone wants to do a Kickstarter, if they need to have concept art to show the audience.
Michael: The thing about doing early stage development in general, the idea is to pay less for one component so you can build out an investment in the larger project. That’s why someone would come to us to get a comic book made. Say you are an indie film producer. You are trying to get an investment in your screenplay, but investors keep telling you ‘if only it was based on a pre-existing concept or property, some proven metric could be in place before we can invest in it. A lot of screenplays end up dying on the vine. But a lot of investors say if it was based on a comic book like ‘Men In Black’ or something like that, then we would take a chance on it. So for a significantly lower price we can make it happen. Then we would kick it back to the investor and then they might be more inclined to do it. We have already done two of them in that exact model, and it has worked out exactly like that. They did get the investment later for their movie.
NNS: If a person wanted to do a 12 comic book run, and it was successful, people liked it. They came back another year later, they wanted to continue the work again? Would they be able to for the most part pick up with the same artist, or may they have to wait?
Michael: It would depend on the availability of the artist. They could in theory. The issue with some of these illustrators, if it’s a year later it’s often difficult to tell if the artist will still be there, or if they might be on another project. But we could open a line of communication with the Artist. Calendar with them, and see what they are up for. As long as everyone stays in the loop on it and informed, we can probably get them back.
NNS: On your larger package, you guys mention world building, and talk about it more in-depth as, helping build the world for larger scope of projects. What made you guys want to include that as part of the package?
Michael: We kept getting people asking us about it. We were talking about the comic book thing, and then people would come back with a Video Game concept and we need help coming up with the backend of a couple story logistics. So we brought in two guys who were awesome at it. That’s been good and a surprise.
NNS: You have a lot of talented artists, and people who are already accomplished. Would you be willing to hire independent people who haven’t really done a lot of work or are trying to break into the industry as long as they have the talent?
Michael: Absolutely, there are so many great artists that have had no chance. I worked in the comic book industry as an illustrator for many many years and I tell you, I know that hunger. To be the best you can, and to build that out into something. We definitely would, could, and have already. We on the website feature people with more name recognition, but we have a whole pool of other illustrators affiliated with us that we can contract.
NNS: Are there any other things you’d like to point out about the site, or options available for people willing to work with you guys?
Michael: We also are investigating going into coloring too for other companies and comic book publishers. So we are going to be launching that soon.
NNS: Well thank you for your time Michael!
Michael: Eric, Thank you!
NNS: Keep making art happen!
Michael: Thank you so much!
Well we didn’t want to just stop there though. While we are on board with Squid Black, and I hope you creative types out there think about them when you want your concept to be brought to life, we had to see what others think.
That being said we contacted a friend of the blog who actually works within the industry to create comic book art.
Here is what he had to say about the Squid Black company, and process:
Nerd News Social: Are you already aware of what Squid Black is?
Dennis Calero: No.
NNS: Squid Black is an organization in which a company pooled together multiple writers and artists to form a Comic Book Production company. People with Ideas or scripts for comic books can come to them and pay them to go from inception to completion.
NNS: They also have relationships with publishers to get the comics out in the world as well. So as an established artist who works in the field, how do you feel about the business model?
Dennis: I’d be open to any service that put me in touch with potential clients.
NNS: They also comment a lot on using the format as a stepping stool to get people to take Screenplays for movies, and get them into a format in the market place, so that it might be a safer investment for a movie franchise. Would that impact your interest to work on the project at all if that was the reason it was being made?
Dennis: It would depend on the model. The fact that it was being made in order to get a movie off the ground wouldn’t impact my interest.
NNS: They stated that they keep in contact with their artists, and work between their clients and the artists, to build a time table to produce the work for the client. Is this process similar to how the process works in the industry, or how does it differ?
Dennis: The editing process is part creative, in which the publisher and editor advise on where they think the project should go creatively. But there’s another equally important component where the editor is creating a schedule that takes into account creation of the work and a publishing timetable especially on a monthly book.
NNS: When discussing the idea of a client wanting to come back and work on more comic later, they mentioned they couldn’t guarantee the schedule of artists if they came back, and while they would work with them to see if it was possible they may be attached to other projects and may not be able to come back right away. Have you ever been on a situation where one company is hiring you to work on a project, and an older project comes back looking for more work?
Dennis: Not exactly but I think every artist or writer gets into a situation where one project isn’t quite finished when another project needs to begin because of a forecasted publication date. Sometimes that means doubling up, and for a brief period, working on both projects. Often though new projects entail a period of preparation such as concept sketches, etc. This can usually be done even while fully engaged in another project.
NNS: They say they work with independent artists and accomplished artists, would you be interested in joining their project?
Dennis: I’m always interested in different projects, keeps things fun.
If you’d like to know more about Dennis Calero, you can find his works here.