INTERVIEW: Speaking Easy With Adam Fortier
Interview Conducted by Jonathan Ellis
Adam Fortier started his comics career in retail at the age of 15 during the boom period, eventually working his way up to assistant manager before heading off to University for Mathematics, studying while working as a programmer for Xerox. Soon afterwards he started a multimedia company with some friends, and moved from Multimedia to computer animation. From there, he met Dreamwave Productions, where he helped the company launch Transformers as a new comics project. From Dreamwave he went on to working with Devil's Due, UDON, and IDW Publishing. Setting up different licences and acting as an all around go to guy. Recently Adam took that experience and opened up his own publishing venture with Speakeasy Comics. Speakeasy has already attracted the talents of Yoshitaka Amano, Andrew Dabb & Sal Abbinanti, Dawn Brown, Brian Augustyn and more and will be debuting with three new titles in March.
ATOMIKA by Andrew Dabb and Sal Abbinanti about an alternate world that gives birth to the first man-made God. THE GRIMOIRE by Sebastien Caisse and Djief about a young girl whose fate becomes intertwined with a book of magic, fantasy and danger. And Yoshitaka Amano's HERO, an original graphic novel series about a man who crosses the world in search of the woman he loves.
With such an impressive line-up on a company that's continuing to grow we decided to take time to chat with its man in charge, Adam Fortier.
PopImage: You began in retail at an early age as the industry was in its boom period but the real break was in working with Dreamwave and snagging the Transformers property, of which you were instrumental in attaining. How did you hook up with the Brothers Lee and begin to develop the Transformers comic series?
Adam: Dreamwave was located in Toronto, Ontario, the same city that I'm in. I was doing some work with movies, and so contacted them to help out with it. The movie stuff didn't go anywhere, but we liked working together, and so tried to think of a different way to do that. I worked on getting the Transformers license, and when that happened we worked out a situation where I handled the business aspect of the company and they handled the creative.
But you also came into this under the gun right? Hasbro wanted to move ahead immediately?
It was also something that we wanted to move quickly on, too. We saw what was happening with GI Joe, and we were interested in capitalizing on that as soon as possible.
How do you feel seeing Dreamwave close up shop as a publisher?
It's unfortunate when any publisher closes, much less one that I have so much history with. I know a lot of good people that have worked there, and I just hope that they'll be able to find good jobs, as they have a great deal of talent.
Following your time with Dreamwave you bounced around from Devils Due to UDON and IDW essentially acting as the 'Go-To-Guy' in various respects. Could you tell us about your time and responsibilities as you crossed paths with these various companies?
I had a number of different jobs with each publisher. Usually I handled certain contract discussions (with printers, distributors, licensors, etc.). Basically, I'm supposed to handle the business end of things, increasing revenues through marketing/promoting, or decreasing expenses. All these things help increase profitability, and enable a company to function well.
When it comes to promotion I see a lot lacking, not just from up and comers who may not be acquainted with the various resources but the big companies lately... have just been failing in a number of ways. What sort of relation did you have with the editors and creators to ensure that word got out about their projects?
It's knowing how to talk to the right people. Just like a store that really likes your book will sell more than your book in a store that doesn't care as much. An editor that likes your book will push it as hard as he can.
You know, a lot of people talk about promotion like it's this magical thing. The simple truth is that promotion is just a quick fix. If you don't have a quality product that will appeal to people, no amount of promotion will help sell your book long term.
Next up was forming your own publishing company Speakeasy comics, when did you begin putting the works together to create this venture?
I'd been thinking about it for a long time, but finally started to move forward on this around August of 2004.
Right now Speakeasy looks to be a company continuing to grow with you currently at the centre of the workload. Who are some of the other staff currently heading up Speakeasy?
The main help I get right now is from Chris Stone, who is our Creative Director. There a lot of business that needs to take place for a book to come out, but if it doesn't look well put together, no one's going to care. Chris ensures that everything looks slick, and the books get to the printers properly. I plan on bringing a couple of others on board, but that comes later.
Will you be setting up office in the T-Dot as well?
Have to! I'm a proud Torontonian, and wouldn't leave for the world.
When you were starting things up were there specific people you had targeted, creative and otherwise, that you wanted involved in Speakeasy?
Yes, I did. I'm happy to work with Grafiksismik up in Quebec City, and of course Sal. There are others coming down the pipeline that I'm very excited to work with, and will be announcing them shortly.
With Dreamwave closing up is there a sort of creative fall out that may ultimately end up as a part of the Speakeasy team?
I don't really see that happening. Mostly Speakeasy is a conduit for other creators to publish, not really myself to get hip deep in the creative process. I do hope, however, that another publisher is able to use their creative talent, as there are some very talented people that work there.
What is Speakeasy's mission statement?
I haven't really sat down and created a mission statement, but I can tell you I'm interested in interesting and professional projects. I was a little worried that I'd be able to find enough good projects, but I've seen a lot that interested me, and had to be more picky than I wanted to be. We're publishing a diverse line of books, and I hope to keep on doing that for years to come.
What does Speakeasy offer to creators as a publisher, are you more hands on in terms of editorial direction or is that something left to the creative teams while you handle the business side?
We operate as a partnership, where we handle the business end of the relationship, and the creator handles the artistic end. We do offer some editorial direction, mainly to assist with selling the product, but by the time that we accept something, we've already seen the writing and art, so are comfortable with the creators.
So as a business model you may be closest to Image where the creative process is left to the creators, except you have connections with a number of studios so you can be active in forming a creative team or soliciting individuals for various duties?
Yes, you could say that. Image is probably the closest to how we operate, but we do try and offer different things from them. This industry is so small that it wouldn't work if you had two companies trying to do the same thing, so we offer a certain relationship whereas Image offers another type.
In the past you've said you wanted to create a super-hero universe that could stand on par with Marvel and DC. Is a superhero line something you still have interest in creating?
I've read superhero comic books since I could read, so it would be very exciting to create something like that. However, it would have to be something that is different from what Marvel and DC offer, and I don't see that anytime soon.
You may actually be on that already with the title Atomika, could you tell us how this project, long in development, had come to fall under the Speakeasy banner?
I met Sal (the creator of Atomika) at Chicago last year, and talked to him about his project. He has such passion, and drive for pushing his project. I really wanted to work with him. That's how Atomika became my first project, and I couldn't be happier.
What does Speakeasy mean in terms of developing your own stories?
There are stories that I want to develop, but I also have to make sure that I don't put my projects ahead of others. In order for Speakeasy to publish other peoples projects, I have to treat everyone equal, even myself.
In addition to publishing creative properties you're also giving attention to these properties viability in other forms of media as well right? Have you already begun exploring outlets in other media for some of the properties you're developing?
Yes, I've looked at other outlets, and am interested in exploring those options, but primarily we are a publisher. It is my job to make the different publishing ventures as profitable as possible, with entertainment being the icing on the cake, not the main goal.
I know you like to explore the mass market for potential development beyond simply being restricted to the direct market. What sort of avenues are you looking towards in increasing attention?
It's not really a matter of different avenues, but about pushing the product properly in the existing avenues. It's about educating the people that buy the books in the mass market as to why they should order our books. It's not only in what you publish, but also in how you present what you publish.
There's a large number of opportunities too, from Scholastic to grocery stores to Record shops but one of these avenues you mentioned in the past was video game stores, which I think was an interesting idea. Is this something you'll be continuing to pursue?
Yes, but only for video game properties. Scholastic is a better opportunity for all ages books, and grocery stores possibly for books about produce... All kidding aside, these are opportunities that need to be discussed, but they can't be relied upon. We were able to get Street Fighter placed in Blockbuster, and that was very exciting. You need to make sure the right product is being sold in the right location, or else you're likely wasting your time and money.
One advance you can certainly brag about was securing Yoshitaka Amano's HERO for Speakeasy. How were you able to secure this property for the North American audience?
It started while I was still with Dreamwave, and I was approached with this project. It had to get stalled, and I had left Dreamwave by the time it was back on track. For a project like the Amano project, it's not just about the proposal that you put together, but also about the energy that you bring to it, and the respect with which you deal with a project like this one. I can honestly say that it's one of the proudest moments that I've had in comics to publish this, and Amano knows that I will work as hard as I can to make it look like his vision. That's how you get a project like this one.
I was really glad to see the price point you put on this book as well, many people would have tried pushing an overpriced hardcover on a project like these. Do you feel being Canadian makes you more conscientious of your books prices?
Nope, nothing like that. I've been working so long for American companies that I don't even really think of Canadian pricing. I wanted to keep the price point low to enable as many people as possible to get the book. I have a cunning plan for my publishing company... provide a low price point and a great quality book, and give people as few reasons as possible not to buy my books.
Take us through some of your other forthcoming productions. The Hunger, Beowulf, etc.
As this is the last question, I'm going to cheap out a bit. For more info on all our projects, go to Speakeasy Comics.com. That not only has the information you're looking for, but also some cool artwork to go along with it.
As always weíd like to remind you that if you like what you see be sure to pre-order, just give your retailer the following Order Codes to ensure these fine books arrive safely in those sexy hands of yours:
For Yoshitaka Amanoís Hero Volume 1 itís Order Code JAN05 2935.
For Atomika Issue 1 itís Order Code JAN05 2932
and for The Grimoire Issue 1 itís Order Code JAN05 2934.
Jonathan Ellis is Co-Editor in Chief of PopImage
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