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Thursday, 18 October 2012

Creating Aces Weekly: Behind the Scenes with editor Bambos Georgiou

Interest in Aces Weekly, a new weekly digital comic conceived by David Lloyd, has accelerated now the title is up and running, with the project attracting plenty of press attention at last weekend's New York Comic Con.

downthetubes caught up with Aces Weekly editor (and comic book inker) Bambos Georgiou and creator David Lloyd to get the latest on the project.

David Lloyd

As the co-creator of V for Vendetta and creator of the graphic novel Kickback, David Lloyd should need no introduction to regular downthetubes readers. He originally trained as a commercial artist in an advertising art studio before becoming a strip cartoonist in 1977 and his numerous credits include Night Raven and Doctor Who strips for Marvel UK, Hellblazer, Slaine, War Stories, Global Frequency, Aliens, Marlowe: The Graphic Novel and much, much more. Aces Weekly is his latest project, breaking new ground in the digital comics field.

Bambos Georgiou

A comic professional for over 20 years, who has read comics since age of 5, Bambos Georgiou worked as an editor for Marvel UK and has a string of creator-owned projects to his name.

"This project is fairly unique, as it's been set up by a couple of creators to benefit their fellow creators," explains Bambos of Aces Weekly's origin.
"The whole thing was David's idea and he asked me what I thought back in October 2011. I looked at his basic premise, put in my two cents worth and we took it from there, gradually laying the ground work.

"Fairly early on, we established that it should be weekly and available on home computers as well as on an iPad."

Progenitor © 2012 Phil Hester and John McCrea
It's an ambitious project that has attracted some top line creators across the globe, including Phil Hester, John McCrea, Kyle Baker and many more. "I don't think creators will get too many opportunities like this," Bambos enthuses. "They get to keep their copyright and the majority of the revenue is paid to the creators.

"The pages are all landscape," he says of the title's format, "as Aces Weekly is tailored for the screen ratio of all digital delivery devices. We want to reach everyone - at home or anywhere else they happen to be.

"Aces Weekly is readable on both home computers and tablets," he adds. "Our web designer has made it compatible with every device. You just need an internet or wifi connection.

"We have gone for straight comics without any technological tricks such as panel to panel progressions," he expands on the project's presentation mechanic.
"David and I both wanted to just make comic strips available exclusively digitally," he adds. It's very much about the strips as opposed to any technological gimmicks.

"I believe in the comic strip medium, I don't think it needs 'improving', he expands. "If you link content with technology, like computer games, the technology moves on and your content becomes old fashioned. You can still read V For Vendetta and it's a very good (make that great) comic, but people don't play Pacman any more because it's old fashioned, the technology's moved on.

"For me, digital media is just another way of getting comic strips in front of readers. It's up to our web designers to make it work – I'm just interested in the comics!"

Talking generally about the move to digital comics, "We looked at what had been done and realised that most comic companies were merely making their print books available in digital formats as well.

"We wanted to produce something that was only available in a digital format, exclusively. To sell that to the established comic market we knew we needed names that comic fans recognised and trusted. We know they'll be taking a leap of faith, but it's a bit easier when you've got well known, popular creators providing the content."

How did were the initial creators chosen for the first issues of Aces Weekly?

"David gathered together the talent, which comes from all over the world," Bambos reveals. "He's been going to comic conventions for years and has met lots of comic creators, many of them wanted to be involved with his project.

"Once people like Kyle Baker, John McCrea, Phil Hester, Mark Wheatley, Billy Tucci, Yishan Li and Alain Mauricet were involved, I knew it had a good chance of success. That was the first wave to say they were willing to sign up, so it really was a very positive response from the start.

Legion Zero, an upcoming story for Aces Weekly. © 2012 Kev Hopgood and Ferg Handley

"We've got creators from all over the world contributing, UK, US, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, China and the Philippines. It's a pretty incredible line up."

As to the title's planned frequency, "we're publishing Aces Weekly in volumes, seven weekly issues to each volume and a volume costs £6.99/$9.99/EU 7.99. There are two-week breaks before each new volume begins - this is to give those creators producing stories across volumes maximum time to deliver, whilst not keeping readers waiting too long for the following volume.

"Each issue has up to 30 pages of brand new comics including extras such as pencils and sketches which builds up to 210 pages per volume - a very good deal.

"In most volumes six stories are serialised through the seven issues, but in Volume 1, and other volumes coming up, we'll also be featuring self-contained three-pagers, that are previews of upcoming stories or comedies, or one-off dramas."

Paradise Mechanism © 2012 David Hitchock
The initial serialised strips are Valley Of Shadows by David Lloyd & Dave Jackson, Shoot For The Moon by Alexandre Tefenkgi & Mauricet, Return Of The Human by JC Vaughn & Mark Wheatley, Progenitor by Phil Hester and John McCrea and Paradise Mechanism by David Hitchcock.

"The self contained three pagers feature some well known characters making a welcome comeback; Combat Colin by Lew Stringer, Thrud by Carl Critchlow, Psycho Gran by David Leach and Gimbley by Phil Elliott. There are also strips by Spanish creator Esteban Hernandez and UK creator Rory Walker.

"I've teamed up with Mychailo Kazybrid to produce a three pager called Dr Queer. Mychailo and I work on the Wallace & Gromit strip which appears in the Sun newspaper."

And will any of the strips be returning in future volumes or will we see a change of line-up?

"Smash Mannix, Progenitor and Return Of The Human are all set to return," Bambos reveals."Any of the strips could make a comeback: it depends on the creators and the reader reaction, but those two strips are already booked in for future volumes. The self contained three pagers will also be appearing semi-regularly, which I think helps to break things up a bit."

Of course, despite the digital presentation of the comics, there are many who still like their comics on paper - so are there any plans for collected editions of the strips that feature in Aces Weekly?

"The title was designed to be exclusively digital, so we have absolutely no plans for print versions," says Bambos. "These creators are involved in the future of comics because the future of comics, and most media, is digital."

That digital new world remains something of an unknown and Bambos and David - and the creators - know the long term eventual success of Aces Weekly is not just down to great comic storytelling but letting people know the comic is available and encouraging subscriptions. But they also know it will be some time before they know if all the hard work they've put into the project so far has paid off for all concerned.

Art © David Lloyd
"In the direct sales market publishers and creators know how many copies they've sold three months before the comic's been printed," he acknowledges. "With digital comics it's a long term proposition, we'll still be on sale in three months or three years.

"It's down to us to get the message out there to the general market, you know the 99.99 per cent of the population that don't read comics in the UK and US. Now that's a prize worth going for and it's not going to be attained by turning a comic strip into a graphic novel and putting it into a direct sales comic shop."

Despite these unknowns, there is one positive for the creators concerned, Bambos reveals.

"The money our creators get from a single sale of Aces Weekly is greater than the royalty from most graphic novels – and that's just on 21 pages of material! "It's a sweet deal," he opines. "David and I are creators – so, as I've said many times, the whole project is geared towards the creators."

Initial reaction has been very positive, the title's creator, David Lloyd, tells us. "I had an excellent time promoting Aces Weekly at the New York Comic Convention over the weekend," he reveals. "There was no quiet moment from the beginning to the end - a dozen interviews with everyone from Canadian tv to the Wall Street Journal and including the trusty Bleeding Cool. Visitors to my table every minute were reacting with enthusiasm to my enthusing about Aces Weekly."

"Readers can subscribe now and get all the issues that have been published up to that point in our first volume," Bambos reminds us. "We're trying to make it as simple and attractive to buy the comic as possible."

• Head over to www.acesweekly.co.uk now and check it out for yourself. Issues 1 - 3 are now available!

Interview compiled with help from 'The Emperor'. Thanks to Bambos and David for their time providing this interview.

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