Tim: Can you give me an overview of Starburns Press?
Simon: We just started it. It's a brand new division of our company, which started out as a way to incubate and develop intellectual properties that we could then expand into television and film, has grown to still encompass and to reach out to our really great roster of artists, comedians, and writers that we work with at Starburns to create really beautiful one-of-a-kind books, graphic novels, interactive material. And because we have a partnership with Feral Audio, the podcasting network, we're also combining efforts to create vinyl pressings, exclusive content, and books that spinoff from a lot of the podcasts we have.
We've got people like Rob Schrab, Dan Harmon, and Dino Stamatopoulos in our family who are creating content for this division. But we're also pulling from our relationships with really great comic book creators in the independent comic book world, as well as the mainstream comic book world. One of our editors is Brendan Wright, who used to work for Dark Horse. He's bringing a lot of these connections that he has in the traditional comic book world. I also have friends who have worked at DC and Marvel.
As you know, there's so many artists and writers that will jump at the ability to do something completely different and unhinged and up to a good standard. It allows them to play. And that's the Starburns brand across the board, not just in this press department. The reason we get to work with really cool people and make really weird movies and tv shows is because we let creators come in and do the things that most places will tell them they shouldn't do it or they're not allowed to. That's why we get excited. So we want SBI Press to be the same thing. We want it to be innovative, fun, and to let the people who we love and create the things we love, to come and play and do things they might have been hesitant to do or have other publishing companies might be nervous to go off-brand.
That's why I like Trent, our first book. It's a graphic novel musical, that is really inappropriate and sad. Very Dino. Very Moral Orel Season Three. Very Anomalisa. But then we've a Dan Harmon story that Eric Esquive.l who is a good comic book writer we've been working with, is fleshing out. It's our superhero story. It's a story that Dan sold to DC, then we got the rights back when we started our own thing. It's kind of a Lex Luthor story that we changed the names. It's kind of the archetypal god-like superhero and a megalomaniac supervillain. It's Dan's take on it, which is great and really exciting. It's going to be coming out this year. We have a horror anthology. This incredible artist that we're working with at Starburns, Einar Baldvin, has this incredible book called The Insect King. The easiest way to dumb it down is it's like the Necronomicon for children. It'll look like a weird old book that you found in the basement of a Scandanavian Airbnb. You're gonna grow up with it and talk to your friends like "You guys remember this weird book? It was written on parchment paper and all hand-drawn. It was really creepy and scary?" Some people will be like "Oh my god! Yes!" That's the kind of thing we're trying to create with The Insect King.
We're doing Comic Comics, which is this big anthology series, which we're working with Kickstarter to kickstart. That's going to be 8-10 comedians per volume telling stories, whether they're ficional, autobiographical, comedy, drama, superhero, or sci-fi. They have carte blanche to do whatever they want. We pair them up with different illustrators ranging from people like Sergio Aragonés, Sammy Harkham, Matt Furie, Justin Roiland. We're reaching out to Matt Groening. As well as people who are more traditional comic book artists. People who have been working on Batman. We're trying to reach out to Fiona [Staples] who does Saga. We want to have people be able to play in every kind of genre. Our plan is to do four of those volumes. We've got people like Patton Oswalt, Paul Scheer, and Karen Kilgariff all writing stories for the first volume.
Tim: What sets SBI Press apart from other comic book publishers?
Simon: At least at this point, we're not going to be making monthly issues and serialized books. This will be more graphic novels, specialty books, and hardcover collections. Books that would be nice to display on a coffee table. It's not just a traditional comic book imprint. It'll be more that if Starburns was going to make comics, it would be the Mondo route. We're going to do something very interesting, special, and fun. I guess the mission statement here is "We only want to make things we want to own. We don't want to own anything that would be superfluous or take up space. We want to own something really cool, that we're really proud about showing off." Everything we do, we want it to have that ability. I love comic books but I'm like "I'll wait for the hardcover to come out." So why wait? Just take the fucking time to write the whole story and then put out the beautiful hardcover.
Tim: Trent came out in March, without much promotion behind it. What was the reason for a soft launch?
Simon: We were still trying to put together the logistics of the Press and the SBI store. And how we wanted to market it because this was one of the first things in our initial incubation phase, which was we were developing this as an intellectual property because we were trying to make this into a stop-motion feature film. So the book was for us to really retain the IP and now we've been working with different companies recording voices. We're doing some soft animation for the Trent movie. But as this division has grown, we're just learning these steps. We're kind of brand new in this world. Even with the tv and film, Starburns is very proud of saying we don't know what we're doing, which is why we get to do what no one else does because we don't know we're not supposed to. There wasn't a strategy behind the soft launch. We had just been taking our time to figure out how to promote the Press as a larger entity and a larger division of the company.
To be fair, I love Trent. I think it's a very different kind of book. I think it's very unique. It has a wonderful blend of pathos, sadness, humor, and strangeness. Those four ingredients we love at Starburns. You've got to make everything funny, strange, sad, and beautiful. But it's also a very niche book. It's kind of hard to promote a musical about a dead baby.
Tim: Trent was originally a musical written by Dino in the early '90s. Was it his idea to turn it into a graphic novel? [I reviewed Trent here.]
Simon: Yes, it was Dino who realized that the story should find a new life in another medium.
Tim: Oni Press currently has the rights to the Rick & Morty comic. Do you see those ending up at SBI Press?
Simon: That's one of the big reasons why SBI Press started is because properties like Harmonquest and Rick & Morty don't really belong to Starburns. They belong to Adult Swim, Turner, and NBC Universal. So we have to ask permission to use the licenses of these characters. But had they been incubated in our department, we would then be able to control that because we would have the original licensing and intellectual properties of those characters. So, ideally it would be great to have Rick & Morty back in our stable, but we also have access to Justin and Dan. Which to me is more interesting to just say let's make a new thing that doesn't just piggyback off of something else because Justin and Dan don't write the comic books.
The comic books are great. I've read all the Rick & Morty comic books. I read all the Simpsons comic books. I'm a big fan of that part of the comic book world, which is the expansion of universes that I love from pre-existing properties. But I also think the best version of that will never be as good as the original. The best Simpsons comic isn't as good as the best Simpsons episode. The best Rick & Morty comic isn't as good as the best Rick & Morty episode. Our goal is to take advantage of the fact that we have Dan and Justin and say, "If you guys can make a book, what would you want to make?" We can make stuff with that.
Tim: Is Starburns' next release is the Dan Harmon book?
Simon: Gregory Graves and The Insect King. Those are coming out, hopefully, by August. Comic Comics hopefully by the middle of next year.
Tim: Are there going to be four Kickstarters for that or one for all four issues?
Simon: We're working with people at Kickstarter to figure it out. We're budgeting out the book right now. The idea might be that we're raising the money for the first two volumes. If we get that, the next tier could be raising money for the third. But we also feel that we've got enough really cool people attached to this project that it won't be that hard to pre-sell all four volumes.
Tim: Some of the comedians and writers you mentioned like Paul Scheer, even Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, have written for Marvel. Do you see Dan or Justin moving onto Marvel or DC and continuing a comics path?
Simon: Yeah, I know they both love it. Justin, right now, is very into the world of VR. So, that's where I think you're going to see a lot from Justin Roiland and his Squanchtendo company. But, Dan is very eager and excited to start playing around in the world of superheroes. Especially now with the way the Marvel universe is elevating storytelling in movies. It's getting him very excited.
Tim: When should we expect season 7 of Community in comic book form? Six seasons and a movie and a comic book?
Simon: Not a bad idea.