Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Interview: 2D Cloud

2D Cloud is a small press comics publisher based out of Minneapolis. They recently announced their Spring Collection featuring works by Blaise Larmee, Andy Burkholder and Émilie Gleason. I talked with publisher Raighne Hogan over email about 2D Cloud and what it's like to be a publisher in 2015.

Shawn Starr: As much of a hack question it is to start off with I haven’t been able to find out much about how 2D Cloud came to be.So I'm intrigued about what made you want to start a publishing company and what you see your place in the comics community is?

2D Cloud: I think more of what has driven me, personally, is the prospect of reactive and collaborative play - something publishing affords easily enough.

We started with a little local comics anthology, Good Minnesotan. Meghan and I led it initially, with our friend Justin assisting - ensnaring fellow art kids we went to school with. Annie Mok, as a young student at MCAD sought us out and brought with her a bunch of other talented MCAD’ers into the fold. We’d later end up doing mini comics and books with several of them. In fact, we’re doing another book (Selfie) with Anna Bongiovanni this winter.

An anthology is a great place to begin a collective or publishing outfit. By the time the 3rd issue of Good Minnesotan came around, Nic Breutzman, a regular of the series, told me about a story he had cooking. It would be a little larger and a little longer than what might comfortably fit within Good Minnesotan. Naturally, Meghan and I decided to have this be our first full color (which i handpainted) graphic novella. Funding is always a funny and difficult thing - so Meghan and I decided to use our honeymoon money to fund the printing of Yearbooks. It debuted at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in 2009.

The following year we were designated a limited liability status - we became a bit more legit. Around that time, Meghan decided she had enough of 2dc as an editor / co-publisher. She stepped down to focus on her own her art - something she was far more passionate about. At the same time, Justin Skarhus, an old friend and long time collaborator that had been working behind the scenes with us throughout our formative years stepped up in a co-leadership role.

We’ve continued to dive head first, experiencing hiccups and headaches a plenty. Our focus right now is largely on having a greater peer group for our authors. Giving them a safe place to try new things, to grow their craft, and hopefully flourish. I’m not sure if that answers your question…

It more than answered it!

Your 2015 Subscription seems much more restrained than your 2014 numbers wise. Two of your books from 2014 even reappear on this years slate. After your recent expansion did you find your 2014 slate overly ambitious or are you simply focusing on fewer works this year.

Well, yes. 2 of the books being offered from our Spring Collection were a part of our 2014 subscription offerings. They reappear because we think timing is crucial. How books are presented is important. We pair our books and authors together. As we did not get into CAB last year we decided to push out the titles to this year, for the MoCCA/TCAF/CAKE circuit.

These are essentially curated book bundles that also have something maybe unusual or rare finds accompanying the main body of work. It’s a bit about discovery.

Also, we are not doing an all year offering with our collections - we are breaking the year into 3 distinct offerings. Each collection will have between 3-4 large spined works + limited extras. We have 11 large spine backed book-length coming out this year, which is more books than we’ve had the during the last 5 years combined.

Well I guess my reading comprehension needs some work!


Artwork by Andy Burkholder

Are each of these bundles linked thematically, as in the case of 3 Books and Qviet, or was that just an organic outgrowth of the two works for this particular bundle. Also do you find having a thematic link, or maybe more so a general “feeling”, across your line important. In other words, is it important to you that a 2D Cloud book feels like a 2D Cloud book, similar to the way a PictureBox book felt like a Picturebox book, even when the subject matter varied so wildly.

Yes, when plotting out the year, generally we are trying to have books match each other in a way that would be good for touring partners and that books feel like they fit each other in some way or at the very least are interesting companions to each other.

I’d like to think so, yes. Yeah, it’d be nice in some ways that 2DC books look like 2DC books. But at the same time, I don’t think we’d want our titles or authors to feel confined to what they can create with us. Nor what we can create.

Artwork by Gina Wynbrandt 

Theirs not many mini-comics offered in this years subscription drive. Do you find yourselves pulling away from that format as a publisher or is it solely a way of highlighting the more lengthier works you’re publishing?

Big Pussy by Gina Wynbrandt is a limited edition mini that comes with most orders of The Spring Collection (all orders thus far are guaranteed a copy). We are moving away from minicomics to some extent - not completely, but the focus will be more on larger longer works going forward. Though, you will see quite a few mini’s from us this year. Around 6 mini’s or so I would expect. Several of them are at the printer right now.

The ad-copy for you new releases seem heavily focused on the art of the book as an object. How much emphasis do you place on the physical books you make as a publisher.

It’s really dependent on the book I guess. I mean, for all the books we do, we work hard for them to look and be there best in all ways that a book can be. As such, it makes sense to put some focus on them as physical objects as it is a vital differentiator for them as an experience. I mean, when deciding what sort of container will house such content, we really want to get that experience right.

You’re doing weekly bonuses for subscribers, starting off with a Blaise Larmee print. I haven’t seen this idea done before in comics, outside of Kickstarter tiered rewards, how did you come up with it?

Right. Well, the comics community seems to have some misgiving regarding crowdfunding through legitimate and established platforms (which personally I think is bonkers - it’s a proven way to gauge and manufacture interest; works as a distribution platform; as a way to engage directly with your audience. It strikes me as more than odd that the alt comics industry would have the desire to turn away from all the things that would aid us in becoming a more sustainable industry. But there it is).

With that diatribe out of the way - as you can imagine, this is our way around that. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that.

You recently underwent a staff expansion, particularly in the PR department. What was behind this and why the focus on PR?

From my perspective there are 2 major things alt comics need to succeed - for labels at our size to become sustainable: MARKETING & DISTRIBUTION are major stumbling blocks. They are bigger issues than financing, and solving them I believe can fix the lions share of any financing problems.

To make ourselves attractive to the appropriate distribution partner, we feel this necessitates us doubling down and expanding our mindshare in a major way. Having Melissa and Blaise on the team - it’s really exciting! They are both brilliant additions to the team. And truly necessary. We have some heavy lifting ahead of us this year yet.

You launched your subscription drive on valentines day and at least two of your three books seems explicitly sexual in nature. How much did the idea behind the holiday play into choosing to launch on that day, as opposed to the more traditional January launch?

Tying the titles to Valentines Day was definitely the plan from the start. A unique way to capitalize on the holiday and our titles.

So can we expect a bundle of war comics to be announced on July 4th then?

lol - I hope not! 

Haha, no. I mean, I don’t think our books will generally coincide with holidays exactly, but sometimes it works out that way and we just try to take advantage.

The Larmee book seems to have mutated from a stand alone work into an omnibus, how did the decision to expand that title take place?

I can’t speak for Blaise, but from my perspective, this decision grew organically. We initially  reached out to Blaise regarding a separate project, but when we landing Qviet (Andy Burkholder) it made sense to want to push a more sexual work from Blaise forward. When we didn’t get into CAB, we used this as an 11th hour opportunity to revisit what this book would or could be. As a result, I think it’s a far stronger book because of it.

Looking through your site I was struck by your interview series with other publishers. I know 2D Cloud and Uncivilized Books recently co-published MariNaomi newest work, so what are your thoughts on interaction within the publishing community and how important is communicating with other publishers is to you.  

We absolutely admire and wish to work with and learn from our peers (and hopefully provide something in return as well). For this industry to truly grow, we really believe that we have to work together. I really do not see any other option. I mean, if we want to become sustainable, we have to stop reinventing the wheel and actually learn from one another, work together to nurture an expanding audience.

I didn’t know until recently, following one of my friends moving there, that Minneapolis has a fairly well establish alt-comics scene. Do you find having a local scene important?

Yes, we have a killer scene here. It’s definitely nice to have a local scene. In some ways, maybe having a local scene is less important in this internet age, but it still is nice to visit, hang out with, ‘network’  or whatever w/ folks in meatspace vs a digitalspace. Autoptic is one way we are trying to cultivate this, alongside our local peers. There’s really too many amazing talents locally to list them all, but yes, an awesome awesome scene. A lot of artists we’ve published are based here.

On your site you do wrap ups of each convention you attend and based on the photos they all seem like fun affairs, how do you view the rise in importance of conventions as a publisher.

Super important and super fun. They are an excellent spaces to meet other creatives who we might wish to work with down the road, to really get to know our publishing peers, share insight, bs, and just have a good time. Also, most obviously, it’s a place for sales. The growth of all these regional shows serves as a great outpost for comics and it is neat to see a look at other local scenes. It’s nice.  

We need more spaces and ideas that can help grow the alt comics industry. If we don’t keep pushing for these things, this industry’s audience will atrophy and instead of bringing new fans into the fold we’ll end up cannibalizing each other sales at shows and in bookstores. I think it truly is necessary for the health of the industry.

Is the idea of growing the audience one of the reasons that pushed you to help organize Autoptic. Do you view that show as a natural outgrowth of the mission behind 2D Cloud?

Oh absolutely. These shows are vital to the growth of the industry as a whole i think. We really need a multi-pronged approach when trying to expand our audience. Comic festivals are probably the easiest and most obvious step towards that. That Autoptic taps into a lot of neighboring mediums and caters to artists in varying fields for sure is something that ties into 2d Cloud’s mission, absolutely. But I also think it is something that a lot of our fellow organizers at Autoptic also feel. I mean, the basic idea from the outset was seeing Zak Sally running his much smaller La Mano Fests and the demise of the Minneapolis Indie Xpo. Like, perhaps there was room and synergy to bring these ideas together and toss in some other ingredients into the fold.

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