Richard: How did you feel when you first found out you had this new position?
Mel: I was thrilled, for several reasons. One, because I was going to be able to stay in the comic book industry. Two, because I was going to work at Top Cow, a company I have long admired and whose staff I knew very well. And three, because I was going to move to Los Angeles, where Top Cow is based, after having lived all my life in New York City.
Richard: How do you plan to make Top Cow even better?
Mel: Top Cow has persevered despite the ups and downs in the comic book industry, which is a testament to its business model, the quality of the books they put out and the people that work there. That being said, I think one way I can help take it to the next level is by striving to increase our core readership audience while at the same time sparking curiosity in casual fans.
Richard: What exactly are your job duties?
Mel: It’s my job to help Top Cow sell as many comic books as possible. To that end, I keep in touch with retailers (both online and the brick-and-mortar kind) so that they’re satisfied with selling our product. It’s also my job to interact with our readers to make sure they’re kept happy and coming back for more. It is also my responsibility to create both print and online ads for our upcoming products, to write and distribute press releases, and to coordinate coverage of our products by print and online journalists.
I am also responsible for coordinating Top Cow’s appearance at such conventions like San Diego Comic-Con and Wizard World Chicago. At these shows, we can personally interact with the fans and give them access to our creators for signings and sketches. At the end of the day, it’s the fans who are king, so I have to do everything possible to make them happy.
There are other things I do (we all wear many hats in the office) but you get the idea.
Richard: How did you first find out about this job opening?
Mel: I didn’t find out about the opening until Top Cow President Matt Hawkins called me up and asked if I was interested. I said, “Sure, I’d like to check out what it’s all about,” so I flew to LA and had a nice meeting with Matt. This was just before the holidays. By the time I got back, Matt had called and officially offered me the position.
Richard: What aspect of being VP of Marketing & Sales do you think you will enjoy the most?
Mel: That I get to tell people I’m a VP! No, just kidding. Really, I think the aspect I’m going to enjoy the most is all the traveling I’m going to get to do, meeting with retailers and fans alike while spreading the good word about Top Cow! Now, if I can only get Top Cow to attend a comics convention in Hawaii and Australia, I’m all set!
Richard: Does Top Cow have any big projects coming out this year?
Mel: Yes, indeed! In the core Top Cow universe, there are 13 artifacts, not all of which have been revealed. We’ve only shown half of them, the core three being the Witchblade, The Darkness and The Angelus. Our big project this summer is going to reveal a new artifact, and it’s going to be awesome!
Richard: Why and how does Top Cow produce quality product?
Mel: It really boils down to the talent we hire, the writers and the artists. An engaging story coupled with some fantastic visuals equals a good comic book! Also, I really have to give credit to the underappreciated editorial and production staff here at Top Cow. They are a small group but they’re the core of everything we do here.
Richard: What advice do you have for people trying to get into the comic business?
Mel: If you’re a writer or an artist, the best advice I can give you is to keep practicing your craft. Take the constructive criticism you get and use it to become better. If you’re aspiring to become a reviewer or a journalist, try contacting some of the comic book news websites out there and pitch them an interesting story to write for free. They’re always looking for fresh voices, and who knows? You may become their next star reporter. But the best way to get into the comic book business in general is to get an internship at one of the publishers. I know we’ll be looking to hire more interns in the coming months as convention season rolls around, so check the Top Cow website for those opportunities.
Richard: What are some of the things you learned at Wizard?
Mel: I worked at Wizard for seven years and the most valuable lesson I learned coming out of there is that the readers are the boss. Now, in this business, it’s impossible to please all the people all the time, so that’s a tricky proposition. Wizard taught me how to cater to the highest common denominator as much as possible so that you keep the core fans happy and the casual ones from ever leaving for good.
Richard: What do you think of the comic industry today?
Mel: I am excited to be a part of such a vibrant and talent-filled industry. We are the new tastemakers, as evidenced by all the new movies, TV shows and video games that can find their roots in comic books. Our writers and artists have crossed over into those other mediums, and vice versa, and the industry has benefited greatly from that. I love the quality of the books that are being put out, from the Big Two to the smallest of independent publishers. I think it’s an exciting time.
Richard: What comics did you read as a child and do you read now?
Mel: I like team books. The Uncanny X-Men, G.I. Joe and The New Teen Titans were among my favorites in the ’80s, then during the ’90s, I read a lot of the Image and Valiant books like WildC.A.T.S. and H.A.R.D. Corps. Nowadays, my taste varies, but I still like the team books like B.P.R.D., JLA, The Authority, Noble Causes and Cyberforce.
Richard: Whom do you admire?
Mel: Outside the comic book industry, I really admire my parents for raising three, well-adjusted kids in the wild streets of New York City, especially during the trying times of the 1970s. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
Within the comic book industry, and I’m not just saying this, but I really admire Matt Hawkins. He’s a survivor. He’s been in comics since the early ’90s and he’s been through a lot, and during that time he acquired some keen business acumen that has kept Top Cow above water. I know there are a lot of people in the industry who are survivors, but Matt has always been the guy I looked up to. To be working side-by-side with him now and learning from him is just great.
Richard: How can someone contact you?
Mel: I’d love to hear from the fans! I can be reached at mcaylo[AT]topcowent[DOT]com.
Richard: Any last words of advice?
Mel: Quoting one of my favorite films, “Make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.” Moving here to Los Angeles from New York to take this job was a big step for me, but the juice was definitely worth the squeeze.