Richard: How was Red Flag Publishing formed?
James: In 2002 Joe Williams and I decided we wanted to do something different with comics. We began working on a variety of ideas to push comics beyond simple action tales, and introduce concepts from sociological, political, and economic theorists. While we were playing with ideas, we happened upon a contest for a short horror story, and the idea occurred to couch our socio-political cautionary tales within traditional comic genres. I sat down and wrote a story that explored whether deeds themselves could be evil, or only the motives behind them. The result was "Mr. Smith," a story of a hit man who, upon death, is sent to a Hell where he roams the earth as the angel of death.
It didn't win the contest. But it gave us motivation to continue, and we decided to self-publish it, along with another story, and see what response it received.
We were searching for a name for our company, and came across a reference to "red flags" in the work of economist Peter Drucker. We decided it would be a good name for a series of comics exploring the dangers of our post-modern world.
Richard: What is the goal of Red Flag Publishing?
James: We hope that our comics provide an enjoyable reading experience, but also make our readers think about the subject beyond our stories.
Ultimately, we would like to plant that little subconscious bug that hits you in a completely different context, and makes you look at something completely unrelated, in a different light.
Richard: What pre-and post-press services do you provide?
James: Joe and I have spent our entire careers in the publishing industry, and can offer a full range of pre-press services including writing, editing, graphic design, digitizing, coloring, and file preparation. We also provide post-press consulting on marketing and alternative distribution, specializing in low-cost "guerilla marketing" ideas that are essential for the low-budget self-publisher to get his or her work noticed.
Richard: What is "What would Biff say"?
James: "What would Biff say" is a parody of the plethora of advice columns in media today. It seems you can't turn around without bumping into a new advice column for some new problem people face. Biff is an old-fashioned, hard-drinking writer whose attitudes gelled in the 1950s, and haven't moved much since. He's the perfect antithesis of the post-modern advice columnist.
Some of the entries are "ripped from the headlines," but we do actually receive questions from readers, whom we remind the advice is for entertainment purposes, and not to be followed in real life.
Richard: What does an editorial director do?
James: Since Joe is a graphic artist and I'm a writer/editor, we decided to split up the responsibilities into visual and written components. As editorial director for Red Flag publishing, I'm responsible for reviewing submissions for the quality of writing, including everything from analyzing the plot to correcting grammar. I also perform much of the marketing and PR functions for the company as well as general operations.
Richard: What is "Red Flags" all about?
James: Sometimes it seems like we are standing on a railroad track, waving red flags at an oncoming freight train, trying to warn it about the collapsed tunnel just beyond the bend.
The economist Peter Drucker, in his book Post-Modern Society, described the development of civilization not as a linear progression, but a series of steep slopes as society absorbs new technology, followed by plateaus where the human race runs into a wall that demarcates the limit of those current technologies. A breakthrough in technology then sets off another steep slope of social advancement.
Drucker pointed out that these breakthroughs so completely change society that those at the beginning of the change cannot imagine what life will be like those at the other end. We feel we are in the midst of one of those changes - or perhaps a series of changes placed back-to-back - that will dramatically change society within our lifetime. We are trying to find the warning signs - red flags, if you will - that tell us, if not where to step, at least where NOT to step as we make that transition. Then we are trying to point them out to everyone else along the way.
Richard: "Literotica" is an interesting title name why is it fitting for this comic?
Literotica is a generic term describing erotica that goes beyond simple wank-mag pictorials. We decided it was a perfect name for a comic that explores not just human sexuality, but the psychology behind it. We were working to turn on the mind, rather than just the body, by looking at how humans emotionally react to sex, not how they perform it.
Richard: Why do some people prefer anthologies?
James: I'm not sure about other readers, but for me, anthologies offer a snack when I'm not hungry for a full meal. Or, if I am really hungry, it's like eating tapas, where the diner may try a number of dishes instead of having to decide on just one. And, if I taste something that doesn't sit right, I can must move on to the next dish, without feeling like I've wasted a lot of investment.
Richard: What is next for Red Flag Publishing?
James: We are currently working to expand our idea of "socio-political cautionary tales couched in traditional comic book genre into themed anthologies. Our current book explores several genres within one anthology; our next project will be an entire anthology of horror - but the stories will go far beyond traditional blood-and-guts comic book horror. After all, I find Dick Cheney much scarier than any zombie, vampire, werewolf, or deranged slasher out there.
Richard: What do you think of Diamond's role in the comic market place?
James: Diamond's role in the comics market place is, pure and simple, to make money. They have decided the best way to do this is not to grow the industry into a newer, stronger model for providing visual entertainment; instead, they are working to maximize profits today by milking the moribund direct market model from the last century. Like the recording industry, they will soon find that the producers of comics, and the consumers of comics, have simply sidestepped the bottleneck Diamond placed between them in order to generate profit.
Right now we are in a free-for-all "wild west" stage of self publishing that has creators struggling to find a way to monetize their work without traditional publishers and distributors. But I think we will see an entirely new, more democratic model for the delivery of comics, literature, music, and other art develop in the near future that allows creators to still make a living doing what they - and their fans - love.
Richard: What comics other than from Red Flag Publishing would you recommend?
James: Rather than recommending specific comics, I would recommend attending comic’s conventions, and haunting artists' alley. Talk to creators, take a look at their books. You will find some of the most thought-provoking works you've ever read, and meet lots of interesting people at the same time.
Richard: Do you write and draw comics at all?
James: I wrote two of the stories in the anthology we are currently printing, and have a huge stack of scripts waiting to be drawn. The problem is, there are so many good creators out there, I'm having trouble justifying using my work in our next project. I'm thinking for now that I want to concentrate on publishing, and I'm putting my work on the back burner for the moment.
Richard: How can someone contact you?
James: I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Richard: Any words of advice?
James: As with any creative endeavor, there will always be people that don't like what you do. Especially if it is not easily pigeon-holed by the decision-makers in the industry.
Instead of relying on the opinion of somebody who doesn't know how to market a character that doesn't wear a cape and tights, seek out like-minded creators at conventions, and ask them to critique your work. Don't offer excuses for what they criticize, just listen. After several different critiques, you will probably notice a pattern. If everyone has a problem with the same element in your work, it probably needs improvement.
And don't quit your day job.