Back in the nineties, Chaos! Comics were as popular and prevalant as any publisher not named Marvel or DC. Between comics starring the company's signature characters like Evil Ernie and Lady Death, WWF comics starring Attitude Era wrestlers like the Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and even comics for the heavy metal band Megadeth and other licensed properties, Chaos! seemed like a permanent mainstay of the comic book world. But in 2002, the company filed for bankruptcy, and the rights to publish comics starring Chaos! mogul Brian Pulido's characters were dispersed to other publishers. Dynamite currently publishes Chaos! comics, but flagship "bad girl" Lady Death was most recently being published by Boundless, an imprint of Avatar Press that launched with great fanfare in 2010 on the back of Lady Death's popularity. According to Pulido, a falling out led him to ask Diamond Comics Distributors to stop distributing Avatar's Lady Death (how shocking that Bleeding Cool didn't cover this). Pulido created a new publisher, Coffin Comics, and he's launched a Kickstarter to produce Lady Death: Chaos Rules #1, a 48 page graphic novel presenting Lady Death in what is perhaps her purest form since before the bankruptcy, and the first Lady Death comic published by Pulido in twelve years.
What happened to create the split with Avatar? How does Pulido feel about Dynamite handling his other creations? Is the world ready for the return of Lady Death to prominence? Can "bad girl" comics survive in a 2015 that's way more politically correct than 1995? We asked Brian Pulido about all of this, and in true Outhousers fashion, he didn't hold back in any of his responses (except, you know, where legally obligated).
First and foremost, check out Pulido's Kickstarter. It's already funded more than twice its goal, but there are 26 days and plenty of rewards left. Then, check out our interview below.
There was a point in the nineties that Chaos! Comics were everywhere. Certainly, they seemed to be as big as any non-Big-2 publisher. What happened?
In August 2002 Chaos! Comics filed for bankruptcy. I made a bunch of financial mistakes and they finally caught up with us.
I was under the impression that Lady Death was being published at Avatar Press under its Boundless imprint. In fact, they have a book out this week. Where does your new project fit into that? Is there some drama?
To answer this question completely, I have to go back in time a little bit. When Boundless Comics pitched me on the idea of a new Lady Death monthly series, there were certain promises put in place by the publisher to me. Then, the series was launched and not long thereafter, we started having problems.
Initially, by agreement, I was providing “scriptments” from which writer Mike Wolfer would provide scripts. Around #18, I was cut out of the writing process all together with no notice.
To world at large, the book was coming out on a consistent monthly basis, but in my opinion, their promises to me were not being kept. Several of these promises were critical to the bottom line of my household and my family.
I attempted to resolve the matter directly with the publisher over a long period of time. Ultimately, we could not come to an agreement. So, I requested that Diamond Comics Distribution halt distribution of the Boundless series until we could resolve the matter and they did.
Months went on and we still could not reach an agreement. I filed a lawsuit against Avatar Press and Boundless Comics here in Arizona in June 2013. Avatar/Boundless launched a countersuit against me personally and against my business in November 2013.
We then spent from November through the following October resolving the matter. We finally reached a settlement on October 8, 2014. While I am not at liberty to discuss the details of the settlement, what I can say is that I am now the sole owner of the intellectual property Lady Death, all of her stories, all characters related to her stories, her logo, etc.
Did you have any say in the decision to let the rest of the Chaos rights go to Dynamite? If so, why keep Lady Death and let, say, Evil Ernie go?
I didn’t. Those characters were owned by Chaos! Comics, Inc. and when the business went under, those characters were company assets. A company called “Tales of Wonder” first acquired them. After they ran the titles into the ground, I assume Dynamite swooped in to get them.
What do you think of Dynamite's Chaos! comics? Have you read them?
I don’t think they are the right company to publish the titles. Not a good fit. It’s like Mumford & Sons fronting Guns ‘n’ Roses. Two tastes that don’t taste good together.
The landscape of comics has changed in a lot of ways over the years, and the cheesecake/bad girl art that was very popular and I think is fair to say is a part what made Lady Death so successful is frowned on in a lot of circles now, even seen as controversial. Do you plan to address that in any way, or have any thoughts on it?
I don’t. I have another view of how I move in comics. I’m not here to adapt to trends. I’m here to put out hard rockin’ comics that outsiders like. If you are a biker, punk, Goth, metalhead, horrorfan -- any kind of outsider, I make comics for you. Though my stuff is on the edge, please know that 50% of my readership is women. We don’t appeal to the “good” girls and boys, we are here to make good comics for the “bad” boys and girls.
How can I put this... Your comics were prolific enough that there is likely a sizable portion of adult men today in the comic book audience who choked the chicken to some of your comics. Now look, I'm not judging. But have you thought about that? How does it make you feel?
It’s gratifying to know I’ve provided the type of entertainment that causes a reaction.
Are there any lessons you learned from the demise of Chaos! that will affect how you do things this time around?
Oh sure. Keeping an eye on the money is the game.
In many ways, it seems like mainstream comics are hellbent on reliving the 90s, with a huge focus on variant covers and speculators boosting sales, crossover events, and number one issues. Does that worry you at all?
No. It’s the name of the game. The comic book industry has been run as an “event” business for the last three decades, maybe more.
I recently learned that you're from Long Branch, New Jersey. I used to live there too, so let's go local. Who has the better hot dogs: The Windmill, or Max's?
Windmill. They are the best. Cannot be beat. Let’s me tell you a story. In 1991, I was driving crosscountry. I was in New Mexico and I stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. I get to talking to the guy who works there, an army Vet, stationed near Long Branch back in the day. Within two minutes, we were raving about Windmill hotdogs.
Let's talk about the new graphic novel. What's it about? Is it a reboot?
Not a reboot, rather, it is the next chapter in her undead life. Our story is set in the present, in a vision of Hell that is extraordinarily treacherous. Think of it as a new chapter in her life. Hell has been re-envisioned as a teeming megalopolis of all architecture from all time, crashing upon itself, festering with all the vile humanity you would come to expect. In this environment, Lady Death wakes from a 20-year spell-induced slumber. Who among her despicable enemies is responsible? How long until she exacts blood vengeance?
Why Kickstarter, and how much are you trying to raise?
The freedom to connect with readers with no middleman. We are looking to raise 15K. As of this writing, two days in, we are at 33K.
What does Lady Death bring to the comics universe in 2015 that's currently missing?
Our company Coffin Comics and Lady Death bring a hard edged, rock ‘n’ roll sensibility to comics. We’re here to tell dark, brooding stories of anti-heroes kicking ass, but have a fun time doing it.
Are you targeting your existing fanbase, hoping older fans who've kind of left comics might come back for Lady Death, or are you looking for a brand new audience? Why should a casual comic reader who didn't read Lady Death back in the day give her a chance today?
We are taking on all comers. New, old and existing. Casual readers should give Lady Death a try if they like reading about a scantily clad death goddess who fights evil. If not, no problem. It’s not for them.
Does Lady Death ever get cold?
She exists in the twilight between life and death. She’s stone cold.
Where can we find the Kickstarter?