2018 has already seen its fair share of massive shakeups within the comic industry. With Marvel all but assured to acquire Fox properties and days after the announcement of the acquisition Valiant’s controlling share by DMZ Entertainment, it seems as though 2018 will be a year of major changes industry-wide. The same holds true for Scout Comics.
In the wake of success with Flash Gordon and Ardden Entertainment, Brendan Deneen aspired for more. Joining forces with artists, writers, and numerous industry vets, James Pruett, Tennessee Edwards, and Rich Emms, Scout Comics is turning heads. Launching an impressive catalog of titles such as Smoke Town, Mindbender, Long Lost, Graveland, Heavenly Blues, and top seller Stabbity Bunny, Scout’s endeavors have been met with critical praise and commercial success. That success positions the company to foray into an aggressive development plan to bring these same titles into development for television and movie adaptations, coupled with digital, mobile, and video game offerings.
Creator and Author James Haick is savoring his own share of success. Recently promoted to the Head of Marketing for the rising company, Haick throws his own creative hat in the ring with Solar Flare, a tale that explores the days after a massive (CME) coronal mass ejection cripples the electrical infrastructure on a global scale and the effects of social fallout in the aftermath. Introduced in April of 2017 to an already bloated and fickle market, Solar Flare quickly garnered a diehard fanbase and after a worldwide release, the title was a bonafide hit, selling out in every major market. Released in a series format as opposed to volumes, Solar Flare only continues to reach new readers and is quickly being stocked in local comic shops throughout the country.
There’s no doubt that Haick’s creator-owned title is a labor of love and most personal project. With similar labors shared by our own ambitions at Comic Watch, both relative newcomers share a great deal of common ground and we are thrilled to bring you into the world of something truly new and unique.
Fully committed to Scout’s overall success as a brand, James was gracious enough to time out of his jam-packed schedule to provide an exclusive to Comic Watch with the dual purpose of increasing exposure to Scout’s current line as well as upcoming initiatives in the multimedia realm coupled with an in-depth look at his own tale of a world reeling in the aftermath of a Solar Flare.
For those of you who are discovering Scout for the first time, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered and by the end, you may well find yourself scrambling to their online store to get your own exclusive copies!
CW: James, I’m always interested in the how and why behind something. So how did Scout start?
James Haick: Brendan Deenan started it 10 years ago by starting with publishing and writing Flash Gordon. He himself is a writer and has been in the film industry since the late 90’s. He is now the head of the film and television division at MacMillan publishing and Tor books. He brought aboard James Pruett to be Scout’s publisher in September of 2016 and it’s been growing rapidly ever since.
CW: Was the motivation and decision to do something self-driven and independent as opposed to signing on with a preexisting publisher with a pre-established model the objective behind the formation of Scout?
James Haick: I think what happened was that Brendan had investors who believed in his vision. At the time, a lot of people were submitting their ideas when he was at NY Comicon. He started seeing some real potential and ideas that he wanted to get out there to the mainstream. One of those books was Henchgirl, which was a runaway success. I believe it was optioned and is fast-tracked to become a TV Show. We’ve had such huge success on a small scale and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger from there. It was time for a name change too. Brendan said, “Yeah, Ardden doesn’t really roll off the tongue the way that Scout does.”
CW: Do you think part of Scout’s success is due to readers looking for something new? A lot of readers have been saying both online and with their dollars from the returns on the market share that they’re just looking for something new and different.
James Haick: Yeah, they’re hungry for content. That’s what made me want to become a part of Scout. I’m a creator at heart and I wanted to tell a story. My background is in sales and business, so I wanted to do it properly. I’ve been doing the convention circuit for almost 3 years now doing the grassroots advertising. There’s a lot of quality stuff that creators are doing out there doing on their own. There’s some incredible art and stories being told out there but don’t get the opportunity to be seen by the masses. I think that’s where a lot of the bigger publishers are missing out on and where Scout really fills the void. Other publishing companies are leaning on their established ties, where Scout is giving a lot of new creators a chance.
CW: One of the things I’m hearing over and over is that big initiatives are being launched and then suddenly they do a complete turnaround and retract which leaves the reader on this constant frustrating yo-yo. Comic fans have been really vocal about how the stories we get from the major market aren’t the same ones we were reading in the late 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, years ago before the boom. Back then there was a lot of groundbreaking stories being told with originality by some fantastic artists and writers, all masters of their craft. Now the readers get offerings based on a formula that revolves purely around sales and profit margins. Do you think that readers who are buying alternative titles and publishers who are taking risks?
James Haick: Absolutely! That’s where Scout has a real opportunity. What I found out from dealing with the direct market is that it’s struggling. Technology has made things instantly accessible. Back in the 80’s and 90’s the only place that you could get a comic was at a comic store or newsstand. There were very few mail-order opportunities around. So, breaking into the direct market is very difficult and it’s something that we’re trying to do. We don’t have the advertising budget that the big boys have so we get put in the back of the catalog. Retailers only have a certain budget every month, so are they gonna risk purchasing power on a little-known name /title or go with proven success like Batman, Superman, etc. It’s a really difficult challenge, but we’ve been having great success in the limited time we’ve been here.
CW: When you quantify success, where is that happening the most for you?
James Haick: Direct orders through the website and through the direct market. Despite those obstacles we just talked about, we actually are having some success there. Retailers are taking a look at us and opting to diversify their catalog of books with our brand, which is pretty amazing for an independent comic company. Where we really want to focus our momentum aside from direct sales is the digital market which is the wave of the future. The best form of sales, in my opinion, is at conventions and in-store signings. This way the readers and retailers get to know you personally. Even before I was with Scout that’s where I had the most success.
CW: What sets Scout apart from the other books being sold and the other publishers in the market and what is Scout looking to achieve in terms of its primary goal?
James Haick: Television and film development. Scout isn’t looking at our titles from just the comic publishing aspect. Of course, if you’re in this industry you have to love the comic aspect, but we want to go beyond the comic itself like into merchandising, multimedia, and things like that. As far as what’s different about us specifically, I mean, I’m biased but I feel like the difference is the quality. We’re so dedicated to the quality of whatever book we’re distributing both in terms of storytelling and art no matter what type of genre or demographic it’s targeted. We want to always produce the next book better than the one that came before it. That means taking risks on almost every level both in terms of content and by taking on new launches and creators. That’s where I think the graphic novel has gained tremendous popularity in the comic industry as a whole. Quality older stories that new readers never knew about because of the expense of buying the out of print books have now become easily available thanks to graphic novels.
CW: What are some of the upcoming Scout titles that you’re excited about and you want the readers to be aware of?
James Haick: One that’s being released soon called Welcome to Paradise by AC Medina and Morgan Sawyer. AC wrote one of Scout’s first titles called Elasticator which is one of my favorites. The other is something that I co-wrote with Don Handfield, who is a partner with Jeremy Renner with the film and production company called The Combine. The comic is called The Mall and is going to be Scout’s first Free Comic Book Day offering. It’s going to be a 16-page original story and solicitation for issue #1 will also be in May with the released date scheduled in July, the same week of San Diego ComicCon. Don, myself, and hopefully our artist Rafael will be there to do signings and a giveaway. The Mall takes place in the 1980’s at the height of the popularity of the mall, where a criminal organization is run out of the few stores. The head of the family dies, and his three illegitimate kids inherit these stores. I’m a huge 80’s fan so this is my love letter to the 1980’s. I’m personally very excited about this one and it’s been an honor to work with Don, Rafael, Courtney, DC, and Dijjo on this! There’s a lot of TV/Film potential thanks to Don, and hopefully, this becomes a TV Show in the next year or so. Another great title is Mindbender that’s wrapping up this month with issue #6. The trade is coming out shortly after, which I think is going to do gangbusters because it’s such a good story and Federico’s art is incredible. Long Lost is another great book for us.
“The Mall” will debut on Free Comic Day: Saturday, May 5th 2018! Ask your local comic store how to obtain a copy!
CW: So, what are your top comics currently in Scout’s portfolio?
James Haick: Stabbity Bunny! It’s our all-time bestselling book right now. It just came out and both issue 1 & 2 sold out a week before its release. Mindbender followed by Solar Flare, Long Lost and then to round it out is Heavenly Blues which has been optioned and will probably end up being a movie or TV show very soon. One of my favorite titles of all the ones we’ve produced is Smoketown written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson with art by Scott Van Domlean. If you have not read that yet, please do!
CW: What is it about Stabbity Bunny?
James Haick: Well the cover and art are amazing. The creator Richard is also amazing. He’s the nicest, give the shirt off his back type of guy. He’s done a huge grassroots campaign and has reached out to retailers giving them packets and has been doing this for about 3 years now. It’s so nice to see hard work pay off. And bunnies! Everyone loves the bunnies! People are hypnotized by it! It’s a great story too. The tagline is one of the best I’ve ever heard. It takes place somewhere between Nightmare on Elm Street and Sesame Street where a 100-year-old plush bunny and his current little girl Grace battle evil. The world that Richard’s building is fantastic. The artist on the book Dwayne is unbelievably talented. He’s doing the covers for Don and I on The Mall. For every issue, there’s gonna be a John Hughes 80’s poster homage modeled after certain 80’s movies like Pretty in Pink, Uncle Buck, and others.
Stabbity Bunny’s 3rd Issue is available Mar 28, 2018
CW: What’s your personal favorite comic book of all time?
James Haick: Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan. I remember looking at the solicitation and thinking “what!?” This was a huge influence for me on Solar Flare and I highly recommend it. Brian is one of the best writers in the industry.
CW: Solar Flare is your own book and your first creator comic in the industry. What’s it about?
James Haick: The concept started when I was in North Carolina on business and I’ve always been a science nerd. I was watching the Science Channel and they had a documentary on Solar Flares and the power of them. That’s where the idea popped into my head and I started thinking, “What would I do? How would I get back to my daughter right now if nothing works?” Before I started writing, I read books and did a lot of research to make sure I was getting my facts straight. Jim Zub and his blog Zub Tales was a huge inspiration and motivator for me. He’s one of the nicest guys in the industry, I highly recommend aspiring writers and artists go to his website and check out his blog. He helps people break into the industry and of course, he writes Avengers No Surrender now which is an amazing success. He did his own book, Skullkickers, I can’t say enough about the guy. Basically, Solar Flare takes place as society unravels as the main character travels from Florida to Tennessee to reunite with his daughter in a world with no electricity or technology. We self-published season 1 through 6 on Kickstarter before we got picked up by Scout, which is called Fort Myers and is where the story starts. It’s a tribute to my hometown.
CW: How did you meet your collaborators?
I took the advice of my local comic shop and posted an ad on Deviant Art. My new editor Courtney I met at a comic store signing. She had worked in the Young Adult Fiction Novel field for a few years prior.
CW: Is there anyone you based the character designs on?
James Haick: When I first gave the character profiles to Branko I gave him photo references of actors I envisioned could maybe one day star in a TV show based on Solar Flare. For example, Jake is loosely based on the actor Chris Zylka who was in HBO’s The Leftovers.
CW: What made you decide on the setting?
James Haick: Write what you know. I’ve grown up and lived in FL most of my life. I also wanted to give tribute to my hometown.
CW: Is there anything you can tell us about the new villains introduced in issue 3?
James Haick: I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I can tell you that I named two of the villains after my friend of over 25 years Glenn and his adorable dog Digby. Glenn owns an amazing comic shop in the Tampa are called NerdOUT Comics. If you’re in the Tampa Bay area check his store out!
CW: Of all the natural disasters, why a solar flare?
James Haick: Honestly, it’s the after effect of the aurora borealis that really hooked me on doing a story involving a solar flare.
CW: Why the decision to adopt the numbering style of multiple seasons?
James Haick: I envision Solar Flare one day being a TV show and each season of said TV show would take place in the city they are in as they make their journey north. After discussing things with the Scout team, we figured this format would be the easiest way for readers to jump onto the series. You might’ve noticed that we placed a continuous number on the cover as well so people can track the overall numbering sequence. (I.E. Solar Flare Season 2 #1 is also Solar Flare #7)
CW: Any plans for Solar flare season 3 you can share?
James Haick: Here’s a couple hints. It takes place in Sarasota and there’s a Medieval Fair going on. Also, a major new character is introduced.
Scout Comics titles including Cyber Spectre, Elasticator, Fish Eye, Flash Gordon, Girrion, Graveland, Heavenly Blues, Henchgirl, InferNoct, Little Guardians, Long Lost, Mindbender, Once Our Land, Sabretooth Dan: A Talent for Danger, Smoketown, Stabbity Bunny, Solar Flare, Solarman, Tinkers of the Wasteland, Terminal Protocol are available now on scoutcomics.com
You can also get an in-depth look as well as news and updates about James Haick and Solar Flare on solarflarecomic.com
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