Welcome to British Showcase, your portal to the best up and coming British talent working in comics and hidden gems, just waiting to be discovered. In this week’s edition we talk to publisher Ed Murphy, one of the founding members of Rough Cut Comics and the current Editor In Chief. When looking at the titles and company profile of Rough Cut, you could be fooled into thinking they sound more like a film studio rather than a comic publisher. This is in no small part due to their strong background in the film industry and film based properties such as Brian Yuzna’s Society. So let’s jump straight into the deep end.
- Hi Ed, thanks for talking to us today, can you start by giving the readers some background information about the formation of Rough Cut Comics and how it all started?
Well, I’d been working with London-based Film Development Corporation, who planned to produce a £1million horror-thriller called The Surgeon – the story of a time-traveling serial killer whose vehicle is constructed from living human bodies. When one of the film’s financiers dropped out, I devised a plan to put together a comic-book based on the film script. My business partners (music promoter David McBride and artist Colin Barr) and I, set up a new publishing company to release the comic-title. Rough Cut Comics was established 2001. The success of The Surgeon allowed the company to purchase the rights to Brian Yuzna’s horror-satire Society and produce a spin-off title based on the 1989 film. As well as The Surgeon series, we have built up a collection of titles including Rose Black, Freedom Collective, and its anthology Rough Cuts.
- You started out as a film journalist and wanted to move into film production. This seems like a natural progression. When this didn’t happen, why did you decide to bring your story to life as a comic?
Two of my friends had written a horror film script called The Surgeon, which I passed to Harvey Keitel after interviewing him in the mid-nineties. He was very supportive and I started to develop it into a viable production. We attracted former Human League musician Adrian Wright (who was directing pop videos at the time) into the director’s chair and I started working with producers Alan Latham and Vic Bateman (Dog Soldiers).
We were going to be shooting the £1.5million film in the Isle of Man with Richard E. Grant and Peter Capaldi in 2000. But one of the financiers fell through. I decided to turn the film script into a comic-book purely as promotional tool to get more backers from the Cannes Film Festival. I knew producer Milton Subotsky did this in 1980 to raise money for The Monster Club, and he brought in Dez Skinn to write and John Bolton to do the art. I wrote the script, using Skinn’s House of Hammer-style “adaptations” as a template and I contacted a friend called Jaeson Finn to do the artwork. He now provides storyboards for Neil Marshall’s movies, so he was the right pedigree for our project.
When the film finance didn’t materialize, I eventually released the comic as a two-issue mini-series under the Rough Cut Comics banner and it all just grew from there. It had never been my intention to do this as a comic-book, or set-up a publishing company. I just hoped we’d get the movie made and Dark Horse Comics would eventually do the adaptation.
- So with the first book doing well, other projects soon followed. How many titles are currently available on your label?
At our height, we produced a dozen titles including our anthology quarterly. Today, we concentrate on re-printing the ones we’ve built up to the 10,000 sales mark over the years – The Surgeon, Rose Black, The Freedom Collective and The Siberian Six. We recently completed a new character called Amanda Swan, a project built around a British model and styled by the James Bond art director Mark Harris. The Rose Black spin-off character Eloise, who featured in Demon Seed, will be also continued in a new book series.
I’m very excited about collecting the Rose Black stories and re-issuing them. I’m told it’s the most original take on the vampire genre; something which hasn’t been done before in either print or on film. We really set-out to “re-imagine” the whole mythology and infuse some kind of religious conspiracy theory into the pulp elements of Blade and Vampirella.
At the other end of the spectrum, The Freedom Collective has built up fans that include Grant Morrison and Alex Ross. This is our Stan Lee-Jack Kirby tribute which imagines the kind of comic-book produced if The Man and The King had worked in Russia during the sixties, and it’s a title I’m most proud of publishing, and we’ve been working on new stories for the last year.
- Being based in the UK, do you find it challenging reaching a more international audience?
It’s definitely challenging, purely down to postage charges and travel costs. Most of our business comes from the United States, and we do a fair amount of online business from there. We used to be regulars at San Diego, but it’s now so expensive that we consider this event be to be “a special” for us. Certainly, we’d be in a much better position if we we’re based there, purely for the ease of doing more conventions and meeting with our biggest fan-base. But we’ve managed to reach our international audience fairly easily over the last ten years. We’re translated and sold in Germany and France, and we’re just making in-roads into Russia on the back of our Freedom Collective title.
- With the cost of print and postage being so high, do you think the digital download market is important to reach a much wider audience?
Postage and courier prices are high, but it’s important to point out that today, print prices are lower than they were five years ago. I don’t know why that is. Writing and art costs are still the big one for us. We don’t do ‘back-end’ deals, where the talent is paid at the end of the line. We still pay ‘up-front’ on a page rate, and I’d like to maintain that even if the market diminishes further. I’d always felt moving into digital downloads was crucial, if only to offer more diversity to the comic-book buyer. How wide that audience is, I’ve yet to discover as we’re only just moving into that area. But any new distribution avenue for the small and independent comic-book publisher has the potential to reach a wider audience. Unless you’re The Walking Dead, there’s always going to be readers in every part of the world who HAVEN’T heard of your titles and could potentially snap them up in a minute.
- Other than bringing your existing titles to a new audience, do you have any other original books or new license deals in the works and what are your plans moving forward for the future?
We’re finalizing the contracts on two new movie-related projects, which I hope to announce in January, but I don’t think they’ll be out until June 2013. Our next original title will be The Compulsory Freedom Collective which features brand-new stories on the exploits of “Communism’s Mightiest Super-Heroes”. We’re branding the book like one of The Essential series further reinforcing our tribute to Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. That should be released early 2013.
My plan for the future is to continue to build our audience at home and abroad. If there are people out there who haven’t heard of us, it would be great if they could check us out at. We’re offering some great online deals to accommodate any interest. If anyone orders Rose Black: Demon Seed throughout November, we’ll send them the first book for FREE with their order. I hope to be running more offers like that throughout 2013 and we’ll be announcing them on our FaceBook page.