One of the more exciting pieces of news to come out of this year’s New York Comic Con was the announcement that a group of six creators – Christopher Sebela, Curt Pires, Ed Brisson, Ryan Ferrier, Fabian Rangel Jr and Tini Howard – had decided to band together to form Two-Headed Press, a brand new comic book collective based around the group self-publishing their own stories.
The initial announcement caught our attention immediately, but the actual details were perhaps a little vague, and we found ourselves instantly wanting to know more about the project, how it came about, and – most importantly – why it came about.
Fortunately, we were able to sit down for a chat with all six creators about just how 2HP became a reality, and what readers should expect to see from the project as it moves forwards.
BIG COMIC PAGE: When the initial announcement was made prior to NYCC, everyone kind of took their own interpretation of what you guys were trying to do and ran with it. So before we go any further, let’s nail it down. What is 2 Headed Press? A publisher? An imprint? A crowdfunding support network?
ED BRISSON: Essentially, we’re a collective. We’re not a publisher, nor are we an imprint in the tradition sense. The idea, though, is that we’d hopefully see the 2HP stamp on some of our books with other publishers. But, mostly we’re here to support and promote one another, while sharing resources and information. Comics is a tough biz, we’re doing our part to help each other navigate those waters a little easier.
RYAN FERRIER: I think Ed nailed it on the head with the term “collective.” All of us in 2HP have self-published comics before, it’s not our first venture in that regard. But all of us now have gone on to do bigger work, and are building our own audiences. Establishing 2HP as an entity can not only solidify our efforts with our readers, but just having that team to lean on is a big support. We can build each other up, and with our collective efforts, hopefully connect more with those readers.
FABIAN RANGEL JR: 2HP is six friends self-publishing comics and doing it under one name.
CURT PIRES: I’d definitely say imprint. I know some of us have been shy to say this at the risk of ruffling the features of print publishers but yeah, I’d say imprint.
CHRISTOPHER SEBELA: I call it an imprint, but that’s more of a nebulous touchy-feely description for me. It’s a collective more than anything. A support network is part of it, both in terms of helping each other with funding our books but also as a way for us to build a collection of books where we’re sharing our readers with each other. So if someone likes Fabian’s book or someone likes Tini’s book, we can say, well hey, you might like all these others.
TINI HOWARD: I like ‘crowdfunding support network.’ But let’s say ‘support group’ instead. Support groups get to meet in church basements and nervously slurp free coffee, and if it weren’t for the fact that I’m no longer allowed in churches, we might do that.
That’s a joke, about me and churches, but support is the key here. We all have a little collective to produce our own work, and the wisdom and guidance of the others. I’ve never crowdfunded a book, but dudes like Fabian are the masters of it. I’m grateful to be able to draw from their advice.
BCP: Let’s talk origin stories. How did the six of you uniting as Two-Headed Press come about? Was it someone’s idea in particular, or did it all come together organically?
BRISSON: I’m trying to remember how it all came together and for the life of me can’t. We’ve been talking about it since earlier in 2016, I think part of the initial push was talking about how great it would be to exhibit at shows under one banner — like a lot of artist collectives due — so that we don’t always have to be at our tables.
I’ve known Fabian since 2010, I think I met Ryan and Curt the following year and Chris the year after. Tini I only met fairly recently, but I know that her and Chris have known each other for a bit.
SEBELA: Initially several of us were sort of talking about it at the same time but not to everyone else and there was a twitter thread that I think Ed started and then it sort of became a game of double dare and suddenly there was an email thread. It didn’t happen overnight, there was a lot of idle talking about it through the back half of summer and then Fabian had put together a Kickstarter that sort of fell together through chance and we’d just settled on a logo. So the rest was kind of a two week blur where we put the site together and got all our stuff mostly sorted and then we were alive.
HOWARD: I was asked to come along by Chris, who is a pal of mine. Everyone else in the group is either someone I’m already buddies with, or someone whose work I admire intensely. So when Chris rolled up in his Mean Girls convertible and said “Get in loser, we’re crowdfunding,” I was happy to jump in.
RANGEL JR: I remember being asked a lot of questions about Kickstarter and the next thing I know we started a goddamn gang.
FERRIER: We’re all pretty close and our career trajectories have been on similar paths, it seems, while still having very different, unique output. When we first started talking about creating a collective, it became clear really quickly that we all wanted the same thing, to make the comics we want to make, without having to rely on the process of going solely through a publisher.
BCP: What advantages do you see yourselves having as part of Two-Headed Press that you wouldn’t have working alongside an established publisher?
SEBELA: Logistically and practically, we’re probably at a disadvantage because we have to handle the money and the fulfillment and promotion and all the boring but useful stuff that a publisher handles for you. So this is not us avoiding publishers. All of us are doing our own work out there and there’s some stories we just can’t find a fit for. Either they’re too similar to something a publisher has coming out or they’re just not into it and for me, when I get stuck on a story, I’m stuck all the way and I feel weird and itchy if I don’t do something with it.2HP is about scratching that itch more than anything.
BRISSON: From an egotistical standpoint, this is a good way to have it be all about us ;)
Honestly, we’re not looking to be a publisher and are happy to work with publishers when the opportunity presents. We’ve talked to a couple of publishers already who are interested in what we’re doing and want to see the stuff we’re putting together. So, it’s not an either/or, it’s and/or. This just gives us the opportunity to push things that’s not already with a publisher.
RANGEL JR: With Two-Headed, and self-publishing in general, one of the pros is that you can make whatever comic you want to make without having to ask for permission first. Self-publishing also happens a lot faster, which is a welcome change from waiting to hear back from editors/publishers. There are cons, of course, but for me, the biggest draw is getting a book made and into reader’s hands asap.
HOWARD: Really, the only advantage is complete and total freedom. Which is huge, but the disadvantages are all of the extra work it makes for us, and the guidance that publishers offer. Everyone in 2HP has success with publishers, from creator owned work, to superhero books, to licensed stuff, and I don’t think any of us are trying to avoid that life. The kindergarten teacher might love her job, but some days she just wants to lock the door and eat paste. Maybe that’s what we’re doing. Eating paste with no one to tell us no.
In an artistic sense, ‘eating paste’ represents doing things that are satisfying, whether or not they’re marketable or make sense. Making books that we feel we really want to make without permission.
FERRIER: I think it’s safe to say we all want to continue to do work through publishers, of course, but as creators you sometimes can’t wait just for that. There are so many factors that go into getting a book green lit (or rejected), that sometimes—no matter the content—self-publishing would be the only way to realize that book. So this is an avenue to do just that. Not every comic a creator makes is a right fit for a publisher, and it’s a shame to have that be the reason a body of work isn’t made.
BCP: It looks like you have a really interesting slate of books already lined up. Care to tell us a little bit about them?
RANGEL JR: I can tell you about Blood Brothers (Hermanos de Sangre – CLICK HERE FOR THE KICKSTARTER). It’s a supernatural pulp series with some fantasy and mythology throw in. Two brothers, each with unique abilities (a hard boiled detective and a luchador) trying to solve crimes of a supernatural nature, in a city where the wall between reality and magic broke. It’s for fans of books like Powers, Top Ten, and Hellboy.
PIRES: Fabian’s book is a lot of fun and is lighting it up right now. Ed’s got THE VIOLENT volume two coming up. He’s told me a bunch about it and I’m so excited for it. I love that book. Chris has a great cooking/crime hybrid coming up–read some of that too, and it’s great. I’m Kickstarting something early to mid next year that’s an experimental political series. We’ll see how that goes.
BRISSON: I’m currently developing the second arc to The Violent. This is something that Adam and I have been planning since 2014. Because it’s a straight crime book, it’s hard to appeal to larger audience, we’re looking to Kickstart it so that we can attract that niche audience who wants to support the book.
With a publisher, we’d need to sell roughly 8,000 copies per issue, but with something like Kickstarter, we only need a core of maybe 1,000 to make it work. If we can go beyond that, great. If not, then at least we have that chance to connect directly with the readers who want the story that we’re telling.
Ultimately, we want to take this book to 5 or 6 volumes, but we’re focusing on one at a time.
FERRIER: I ran a small, successful indiegogo campaign a few years ago, but my first 2HP book will be my first Kickstarter campaign, and larger in scale than a single issue. That being said, I want my first project under 2HP to be incredibly low risk (and incredibly successful), so I’m planning something (1st quarter 2017) that will please those who’ve read my work for a while, and hopefully connect with those who maybe aren’t familiar with my style. I’m in planning stages, so don’t want to say too much, but it’s something that’s been very close to the heart for a long time.
HOWARD: For my own part of the slate, I’ve got something lined up for next Spring/Summer that’s a book I’ve been planning for years, with an artist who is pure dynamite. People keep getting excited when I say it’s about “fairy mafias,” so I’ll say that here. Fairy mafias.
SEBELA: Mine is a crime/comedy/cooking comic all about food trucks and food carts. There’s some serious bits but the book is a mostly madcap kinda story along the lines of Repo Man. Maybe the most light-hearted book I’ve ever done. No one dies in it at all. This is an idea I came up with with another writer 5 years ago and she got too busy but gave me her blessing to do it on my own. Which I have been, with lots of near misses. Once I found George Kambadais and he was into the idea, we put together a pitch that didn’t get picked up. So when we were putting 2HP together, I had a lot of ideas for books I want to do, but this one seemed like a natural. It’s got a pun title that I’ll reveal when our Kickstarter goes live in mid January.
BCP: In terms of the content, is there any sort of unifying ethos or theme behind the stories or is it just a case of you guys finally having the freedom to tell the stories you always wanted to tell?
BRISSON: It’s really just a case of us telling stories that we want to tell, regardless of whether or not a publisher is willing to carry it. The hope is that the passion we have in our passion projects will carry over to readers and we’ll be able to build core audiences who’re willing to take a chance on something.
RANGEL JR: Hmm. If there’s a theme it is definitely “these are the kind of comics we have to make”. The kinds of stories we want to tell the most.
FERRIER: Exactly what the others have said. There are books that fit with publishers, but there’s also books that won’t, and for a multitude of reasons unrelated to quality. The work coming out of 2HP, I think it’s safe to say, will be fearless and driven by the need to create.
PIRES: The latter.
HOWARD: Absolutely the latter.
SEBELA: Definitely the latter. There’s no unifying theme to our books. Once we reveal the whole slate, it’ll be easier to see that each of us is doing our own thing. Though there are some weird connections, like how Tini and I are both doing books related to the food service industry, but I chalk that up to kismet rather than planning.
BCP: Will there be any kind of cross-promotion between the different stories – cameos, Easter eggs, etc.? You know us fanboys and fangirls love that kind of stuff.
FERRIER: I’d never say never, but it’s not something on my checklist. Though now that you mention it, a Ferrier-Rangel Jr. jam would be fun.
RANGEL JR: Ha! I hadn’t thought of that. That’s some 90’s Image stuff you’re talking about. I’m pretty sure none of our books will lend themselves to something like that. But the future is unwritten, y’all. ;)
HOWARD: It’s not any kind of shared universe, but who knows. I’ve always liked things like Red Apple Cigarettes in Tarantino movies, you know? Little nods like that.
PIRES: It’s still too early to really say. That stuff is fun though, so hopefully.
SEBELA: This sounds like a dare and I always respond to dares. Stay tuned.
BCP: Is this how you see Two-Headed Press being structured long-term, just the six of you working together, or are there any plans to expand and bring other creators into the fold somewhere down the line?
BRISSON: Someone else can probably talk on this better than I can, but the structure is meant to be fluid. We’re going to expand down the line, but don’t want to grow too fast. We want to make sure that those who come in are on the same wavelength as us.
PIRES: I’m sure at some point we will expand. The focus for now is getting everything up and running smoothly. Once that’s done we can find some air and start thinking about expansion.
RANGEL JR: Yeah, we have already talked about adding more members in the near-ish future. I just want to make sure whoever we get has the work ethic to make and deliver their books, and that the books are rad, of course.
SEBELA: We have vague plans to recruit a new member every 6 months or so but right now we’re focusing on everyone getting their first project up and running. Once we do that, our first round, so to speak, we’re going to talk about it more in-depth, but we’re going to focus on recruiting and encouraging people of color, queer folks and non-cis people. We want our collective to be as diverse as comics can be.
FERRIER: I think it would be prudent to expand, bring in more great minds and creators, absolutely. We all connect well because of how we work. There are a lot of creators out there on the same path.
HOWARD: I know I’m certainly here learning a lot from the more established dudes, and I think 2HP could be ideal for doing just that. It was hard for someone like me, who didn’t feel welcome in a comic shop until I was in my twenties, to learn the ins and outs of how comics were made. And I think there are probably a lot of people who want to make comics who are in that same boat.
There’s so much of that ‘if you want to make comics, make comics’ mindset in this business that ignores the simple fact that that is harder than it sounds. When we do look into bringing more folks in, down the line, I’d like to focus on people who want to learn and have amazing perspectives to add.
BCP: And finally, if you each had to sum up Two-Headed Press in, let’s say *five* words, what would you say?
RANGEL JR: ATTRACTIVE UNIFIED COMIC MAKING FRONT
FERRIER: I need to make this.
SEBELA: We’re finally doing the thing.
HOWARD: Get in loser, we’re crowdfunding.
PIRES: We’re doing it.
BRISSON: You can’t tell me what to do.
BCP: Thanks so much again for your time, guys.
As we mentioned, Rangel Jr’s Kickstarter for Blood Brothers is currently still live, and you should totally CLICK HERE and go back it.