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Awakening Interview - Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn

writers - "Awakening"
Interview by: 
Catwalk

Good evening, Horrorviewers!

Catwalk here to talk zombies and the great unknown with writers Nick Tapalansky and Alex Eckman-Lawn; the creative minds behind Awakening.  For those not in the know, this series is a minimalist take on a zombie manifestation set on the pages of film noir, comic style. The protagonist is a Derrick Peters, along with a cast of townsfolk and researchers thrown together by unlikely circumstances. (Get caught up here: http://www.horrorview.com/book-reviews/awakening).

The goal of this interview is to corner Nick and Alex and hear about the current state of Awakening, the goals of the team and the progress they’ve made so far, including the whirlwind tour expected in October.

Welcome, guys!  Give me a first read on how things have been going for you since we hooked up in Baltimore.  You’ve consolidated the book into a First Act sort of graphic novel.  What led to that decision?

Nick: Thanks, Cat! Things have been pretty intense since Baltimore last year (jeez, has it been a year already?!) with Archaia concluding its publishing hiatus, restructuring, and emerging as the beautiful butterfly we all knew Mark Smylie (publisher at Archaia and creator of the epic series, Artesia) had inside of his soul. I think the two biggest factors which led to releasing the book as two-hardcovers exclusively rather than releasing issues THEN hardcovers, were comic shop viability for the floppy issues and making the book available to as many readers as possible as soon as possible. The thing was, how could we ask comic shops to order a fourth issue from a relatively little known book (at the time) and put it on a shelf in place of, say a Marvel or DC book after we had an 18-month publication hiatus? It wouldn’t make sense for them and, if readers who were picking up the book didn't get Previews or missed the news story, they'd never know about the book. We appreciate the support on the issues more than you know, but ultimately to make the book viable financially we had to make the decision to go to hardcover and also make it available beyond comic shops.  The hardcover is a pretty sweet deal too, even for those who already picked up the first three issues. At $19.95 it's only $2.45 more than if you purchased all the content individually, hardbound with a dust jacket, and has 15-pages of supplemental material including 10-pages of extra story material (two-page journal entries between chapters) and five pinups from artists like Mark Smylie and Patrick McEvoy, not to mention two unreleased chapters which round out the first half of the series. And, if the sting of picking up those individual issues is still too strong, there are sites like Amazon.com which are still offering the book at a new release discount (although we’d much rather you bought the book at your local comic shop!)

Alex: Wow, Nick said it all and then some! Things have been nuts since last year. Honestly, we’ve just been working pretty much non-stop, either on Awakening things or some other top-secret projects, but there’s been plenty to keep us occupied. Hopefully very soon we can start talking more specifically about these things. Just seeing the book printed in hardcover was really great though. It’s been a long time coming!

Okay, Awakening became one solid, sledgehammer series of events.  Was there a decision made between the creators that the series was best served by delivering what you had so far versus what you had planned?

Nick: I think it’s more of a two-hammer series, really. The book has always been planned as a two-volume series, each volume 5-issues long, so it’s not TOO much of a drastic change. Volume One was always planned for release a year ahead of Volume Two, it’s just that now there won’t be floppy issues in between releases now. It wasn’t a decision we made lightly but, ultimately, it was the best choice for the book, for us, and for readers. Volume Two is being constructed as we speak, with plans for the book to release next summer.

Alex: It definitely was a tough choice to abandon the bi-monthly floppies, but as it turns out the story really reads better this way anyway, and the printing is really beautiful. If you look at it that way, the new format is a blessing more than anything else!

Nick: It’s true, Archaia puts out some killer hardcovers. I can’t even tell you how exciting it was to see this book in person and as something more than the PDF we’d been looking at for a year – it made the wait absolutely worth it and, hopefully, readers think so too.

Alex: And trust me, Volume Two is only going to be better. I’m hard at work on it now and it’s INTENSE.

Nick: Oh yeah. In fact, folks COULD get a look at the first chapter sooner rather than later…

Enough about the past, let’s chat about next steps for Awakening.  Tell me about the October tour!

Nick: Sure thing! I think we’re both pretty stoked about this – it’s been two-months worth of planning, with phone calls and emails flying trying to put everything together. The plan is simple enough – spread the word about the release of Awakening Volume One, which hit stores at the end of this past July, by giving all of our readers, new and vets, something to get excited about: art and comics. Anybody who comes by one of our four signing stops and either picks up a copy of the book or brings theirs to be signed is going to get an exclusive signed print created by Alex just for this tour. That’s just the beginning, too. Folks who sign up with their email addresses at one of the signings are going to get a special email on Halloween morning – one which contains a link and login info for an exclusive look at the first chapter of Awakening Volume Two!

Don’t worry if you can’t make it to one of the signings though. Just send a picture of yourself with your copy of the book, preferably in front of your local comic shop with their info so we can pimp them out on the Awakening blog for carrying the book (or just you with the book if you bought it online or out of somebody’s trunk) by October 30th to AwakeningComic@gmail.com and we’ll hook you up with the link too. If you’re down to the wire on the order, don’t panic – a screen cap of your completed order, an invoice, SOMETHING(!) will be enough to get you the info.

Dates and stops for the tour include the following:

Oct. 10, 10 a.m. -6 p.m.; Oct-11, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Artist Alley, Baltimore Comic-Con
The Baltimore Convention Center
One West Pratt Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
(Separate admission fee required for entry into Baltimore Comic-Con)
 
Oct. 17, 1-5 p.m. [Nick Tapalansky only]
Upstate Comics
Freedom Business Center
1097 Route 55
LaGrangeville, NY 12540
(845) 432- 3320
 
Oct. 24, 12-4 p.m.
Brave New Worlds Comics
45 North Second Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 925-6525
 
Oct. 28, 4-7 p.m.
Jim Hanley’s Universe
4 West 33rd St.
New York, NY 10001
(212) 268-7088

The full press release with all the details can be found here: http://www.brokenfrontier.com/headlines/p/detail/archaia-awakening-hallo...

Alex: Just looking at is giving me chills! I’m itching to get out there and sign some books!

Nick: I’m just hoping somebody shows up in costume as one of the characters from the book. Hear that, world? I challenge you to manifest my fiction in reality.

Well, we’ll see you at Baltimore Comic-Con, since I’ll be there promoting my band, Division. You’re hitting stores on the East coast.  I think it’s a great move to expand the audience of Awakening.  Can you comment on the comic industry or even the print industry in general? Do you see comics or graphic novels as a sustainable asset in the current market?

Nick: Oh, it’s absolutely sustainable, it’s just a matter of learning how to present the products. For instance, we opted to bow out of the serialized issues in order to make the book more accessible to readers, and just as importantly, easier to recommend for comic shops and booksellers. Why? Because the opportunity for success was greater for everybody involved – fans, retailers, the publisher, and us. And just because the book is also available in book stores doesn’t mean the comic shop market is going to be hurt. Comic shops are specialty stores where people go to find the newest thing, talk about the industry and the books they love, heckle the ones they hate, and most importantly, hear recommendations from people whose opinions they value. Likewise, by having the book ALSO available in book stores we’re making it accessible to those without a local comic shop, browsers who are maybe just dabbling in comics, and so on. All that said, there is a distinct move away from floppy books that I think you’ll see continue. I hope I’m wrong, but I’d guess that ten-years from now comic spinners are going to look more like the newsstand racks of yesteryear, with Marvel and DC books almost exclusively, and comic shops are going to transition to more of a specialty book shop role, with walls of bookshelves for hardcovers and trade paperbacks. As long as shops stay ahead of the curve and watch for that transition, I think comics will continue to enjoy the success it’s been having for the past few years. I don’t buy what anybody says – digital is not going to overthrow print. Its fun, it’ll probably be the way you get your indie comic single-issue fix in a few years (with trades/hardcovers released after digital issue serialization), but the comic industry, comic shops, and comic creators, are in no danger of losing their love or their livelihood.

Alex: Yeah, the industry is obviously changing, but I really doubt it’ll die. Even if the format changes, and Nick’s right it very well may, I’m confident you’ll be able to find comics in some form or other for a long time to come.
It’s seeming like the books that still sell in single issue format are the HUGE guaranteed sale books like X-Men, Batman, etc, and even those sell better in collection. Still, I actually can’t think of any comic shops around me that have gone out of business lately. In fact what I’m noticing is that they’re becoming hubs of nerd culture. Lots of the shops I go to carry model kits, action figures, old cartoon series collected in semi-legal DVD packages, that sort of thing, in addition to comics. It’s a niche that actually isn’t being stolen by any other big chains. While more and more places carry DVDs, videogames and music (Blockbuster now has CDs on the new release rack. What?) it seems to me that comic shops have their target market pretty much all to themselves.
 

Okay, True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries…the vampire backlash can’t be too far behind.  What has the convention circuit been like for you in 2009?  Have you found audiences willing to open up and invest in Awakening, or is there too much market saturation in the undead?

Nick: As it turns out, you can never have too much undead. The books been incredibly well received, especially at conventions. We debuted the hardcover in Philly with a small advance-shipped carton of books and they were gone by the end of Day Two. San Diego was, well, amazing. Intense. Overwhelmingly cool. I guess the short answer is that people are stoked which is incredibly heartening.

Alex: Yeah, we’ve gotten a lot of really great support from people at conventions! More than I ever expected, though I’m totally the cynic of the two of us, Nick will back me up on that. People have been open to giving our book a shot despite the enormous amount of zombie media of late, and that might just speak to the strength of Nick’s ability to write a really new and unique story, regardless of the specific genre he’s working in.

Nick: I’m only what you make me, poodle. It’s no surprise that people are drawn into the book and, at conventions, over to the table, by Alex’s artwork. It does that, sucks you in, and makes the story real.

Tell me how Awakening overcomes the odds and becomes the prize horse in the stable for Archaia Studios Press (www.aspcomics.com).

Nick: Wow, that’s incredibly flattering! I don’t know about prize horse – more like a black horse. Or maybe a Trojan horse, poised to strike. The biggest part, hands down, is our readers. They’ve stuck with us through all the waiting, supporting us the whole way through and cheering us on. We wouldn’t have a book out right now, with more on the way, without them. I guess the rest is just about sticking with it. During the publishing hiatus we could have lost all the great momentum we’d been building but we stuck it out, kept pushing the book, and most importantly, kept thinking about ways to get more people in the know about it. Being an indie creator doesn’t always afford you the best opportunities to let people know about your book so it’s all about creating them, hence the October tour.

Alex: Haha! I’m going to tell everyone else at Archaia that we’re the prize horse and that they’d better shape up. Petersen especially needs to hurry up and make something of himself already. I say this a lot, but what Nick has done promoting the book, keeping interest alive, and keeping me focused has been truly amazing and I think a lot of our current momentum can be attributed to his tireless efforts. So thanks, buddy. Beyond that, we’re just doing what we can to get the book finished and as kickass as it can possibly be. And God bless all of you who actually read it!

Worst case scenario: if Awakening has seen its last days on the printed page, what’s next for Nick and Alex?

Nick: What?! Last days on the printed page?!! Perish the though! Unless you got a memo we didn’t, we’ve still got Awakening Volume Two due out next summer! Aside from that though, we’re far from a cleared schedule. We’ve got an awesome two-part back-up story appearing in Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau’s Perhapanauts this spring, a short story that should be appearing in an anthology soon, though we can’t quite talk about it yet, and at least two new graphic novels we’re ready to pounce on once Volume Two is in the can. We… We don’t sleep anymore.

Alex: I’ve actually never slept. I’m so stoked on our top-secret short! I really hope people like it and I wish we could tell them more. Until then, the Perhapanauts backups were a blast to work on so don’t miss them or I’ll cry.

Final question:  Free forum.  What can readers expect in the near future from the creative team behind Awakening?

Nick: In the immediate future? More zombie noir love, followed by a brief stint in the world of cryptozooilogical paranormal adventuring (those Perhapanauts back-ups I mentioned). Beyond that? I’d say you’ve got a pretty decent spread – some post-apocalyptic soul searching, an existential adventure, and a return to some supernatural noir to name a few.

Alex: I’m always working on freelance stuff, mostly for bands these days. I’ve got a few really exciting things that are very near finished. If any of you keep up with metal, the new Circle of Dead Children album is coming out soon with my art all over it. Also, if you live in Philadelphia, there’s a Day of the Dead show opening on October 2nd at Proximity Gallery in Fishtown. I have a piece in there, and the show should be awesome!

Nick: Folks who want to keep up with us can find us online at the following haunts:

Follow Awakening on Twitter: http://twitter.com/awakeningcomic
Trailer for Awakening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qJQB68NkP0
Nick Tapalansky’s website: http://www.nicktapalansky.com/
Alex Eckman-Lawn’s website: http://www.alexeckmanlawn.com/
 

 

You heard it here first, folks.  Stay tuned for more updates from Nick, Alex and the distorted team behind Awakening. 

Till next time,

Cat