Bucking Trends Has Worked Out Very Well for Alterna Comics

by Jamison Ashley
|

Alterna Comics was founded in 2006 by publisher Peter Simeti and has gone on to help produce over 100 titles since that time. Alterna is also the home to New York Times Best-Seller ‘FUBAR Empire of the Rising Dead ‘(2012), multiple film adaptations, and has gained attention for their modern newsprint initiative, getting comics back on newsstands, and their affordable cover prices. Alterna is a creator-owned company with an open door submissions policy.

 

 

Alterna’s lineup has been an eclectic one over the past ten years. Last summer, Peter Simeti not only aimed to replicate the feel of yesteryear’s comic books, but also the pricing, by making comics affordable and bringing back the practicality to single issues. Alterna is not in the business of making collectibles. They don’t do variant covers or variant issues. They just do basic comic books. While they use premium paper stocks in their graphic novels, they launched their comics line with most issues priced between $1.50 to $1.99. This was unheard of in an era when Marvel and DC are putting out issues for the average price of $5 and the occasional $10 special issue.

 

We spoke with Simeti recently so see how his newsprint experiment has been working out and what we can expect in the near future from Alterna Comics:

_______________________

BF: It’s been a year since Alterna embarked on the “bring back newsprint” initiative and you had brokered a distribution deal with PDG to distribute your comics to newsstands across the world. How is your experiment going and what have you learned?

 

PS: It’s been an interesting year to say the least. We’ve been gaining traction on newsstands the longer we’ve been there. Sell-through numbers have been steadily building and I’ve noticed that the newsstand market really seems to be supportive of ongoing titles that are truly all ages appropriate. Titles that kids, teens, and adults can enjoy.  So that’s what we’re going to focus on putting in the newsstand market in 2019.

We’ll be continuing our $1.99 horror, sci-fi, fantasy anthology ongoing called IT CAME OUT ON A WEDNESDAY and introducing a new title called ICYMI (in case you missed it) which will sport a .99 cent cover price and will feature reprinted all ages and teen-rated stories from our line. ICYMI will be a newsstand distributed release and will not be available through Diamond, though comic shops can order direct from us at alternaaccess.com.  The only reason we’re not going to offer this particular title through Diamond, is because it just wouldn’t do well there.  I don’t want Diamond to cancel the series at issue 7 or 8 because sales are low but I don’t want comic shops to feel like they’re being left out, so that’s why I’m going to encourage interested shops to order the title directly through us.

BF: Your first newsprint offerings were Adam Wreck, Amazing Age, Lilith Dark, and Croak. Did you get any unexpected feedback on those titles and are there plans for more adventures with any of those characters?
PS: A lot of people enjoyed those titles and we received a ton of messages asking for them all to be continued, but with Alterna being creator-owned, sometimes the creators just want to tell that specific story. In the case of AMAZING AGE though, that story will be continuing with another mini-series in Spring 2019.

BF: I’ve heard that Dollar General is interested in putting Alterna Comics in their stores across the U.S. What can you tell me about that?

PS: Yeah it’s some exciting news. We learned that they’re interested and that’s all I can say at this moment.  We have almost two dozen other major chains that are interested as well. We’re in the process of getting things out to them so they can evaluate whether or not we’d be a good fit.

“everything we do at Alterna tends to buck the trend. I like to “zig” when others “zag”‘

BF: The current state of the comics industry seems to be in flux and inconsistent, with sales trending downward. Several titles at Image are going on hiatus or switching to trades, and Bongo Comics may be shutting down for good. What are you trying to do with Alterna that can hopefully buck that trend?

PS: I think everything we do at Alterna tends to buck the trend. I like to “zig” when others “zag”. Chasing trends isn’t something I try to do because then you become known as a copycat company and you’re just pumping out more of the same. We were almost strictly publishing just graphic novels and digital comics from 2006-2016 and everyone called me crazy then, haha. We were one of the first publishers on comiXology and Kindle, for example. Now that market is flooded and publishers are pumping even more into it while single issue prices are going through the roof.  So we’re coming into that market with cover prices that are a third of most comics because we’re printing on newsprint and as a result our readership is up 700% and our sales are up 250% from 2016. And still, that’s with only about 15% of comic shops carrying Alterna. Their support has been wonderful and we couldn’t do this without them and the readers that have all been so great. We’re on pace for 2018 to be our best year ever and we owe it all to their support.

 

“our readership is up 700% and our sales are up 250% from 2016”

 

BF: What is your favorite thing about the comics culture today and what is your least favorite thing about the comics industry?

 

PS: I love the fact that comics are accepted now more than ever before. But here’s the irony of that, haha. Comics are more accepted now, yet we have comics in less places than ever before. Sales should be through the roof! We’ve got more comics out than ever before and not enough readers getting them.  Comics need to be in more places and I don’t mean entire lines of comics. But top ten, top twenty ongoing titles — there’s no reason that these things aren’t in more places.  Like I said earlier, if we have around two dozen chains that are interested in evaluating our comics for placement in their stores –imagine if we were a top 5 publisher? Stores want comics. There’s so many reprinted dollar comics out right now — why aren’t those in Dollar Tree or Five Below or a slew of other places?  In a time when comic characters and stories are more mainstream than ever, the books themselves are becoming increasingly more difficult (if not downright impossible) to see outside of a comic shop — and it’s through no fault other than our own. If the comic industry wants to thrive (not just survive), then we have to make a serious effort to get comics to where people are. Comic shops will benefit too because they offer a broad and deep selection, so it’d be a win-win for everyone.

BF: Are there any Alterna trades in the pipleline yet? What’s your pricepoint goal?

 

PS: We have a TON of trades. That’s what we put out for our first 10 years, haha.  In the past year alone, we’ve had AMAZING AGE, FUBAR ALL-STAR, TRESPASSER, SCRIMSHAW VOL.1, IF ANTHOLOGY: CRIME, FUBAR EMPIRE OF THE RISING DEAD 5TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION, UNIT 44, and CYKO KO! A Comic Book Adventure You Can Color! Over the next few months we’ll see more come out like GO WEST, SCRIMSHAW VOL.2, CROAK, DOPPELGANGER, MR. CRYPT, THE WICKED RIGHTEOUS, IF ANTHOLOGY: HORROR, THE XII VOL.1, ZERO JUMPER, and TINSELTOWN. Prices range from $9.95 to $14.95 — our trades are printed on a premium matte coated interior stock with a sturdy UV coated cover stock (as opposed to newsprint).


BF: What else can we look forward to from Alterna in the coming year?

PS: We’ll be launching a simultaneous Kickstarter and Indiegogo (launching on both to provide an option to those that would rather just use one instead of creating an account on the other) called ALTERNAWEEN which will help raise the funds that we need for expanded distribution. The reward focus will involve using our comics as trick ‘r treats for Halloween. What will probably turn out to be a very popular tier, we’ll have a reward that will contain 50 assorted all ages appropriate comics like MR. CRYPT, AMAZING AGE, LILITH DARK, etc. and it’ll be $25 and will include a Halloween treat bag filled with all kinds of goodies for little kids and big kids. We’ll have a bunch of other rewards as well and each tier will also include some silly putty too, since our comics are silly putty-friendly.  I think it’ll be a lot of fun, which is what we try to focus on here at Alterna.  Look for that campaign to launch towards the end of August and rewards will go out to everyone in time for Halloween.

 

“Creators retain all of their IP rights for merchandise, film, TV, etc.”

 

 

BF: I’ve seen you on social media offering to work with eager, talented creators. What is a typical arrangement you make with comic creators to publish with Alterna?

PS:Creators retain all of their IP rights for merchandise, film, TV, etc.. Alterna only owns publishing and distribution rights of the specific comics and graphic novels that are published through us. I’m always looking for creators that not only have great stories to tell, but are great with interacting with readers, retailers, and do as much as they can to promote their work. I want to publish comics from creators that are excited, passionate, and professional about what they’re creating. If a creator isn’t excited about their work, chances are a reader or retailer won’t be either. It’s so important to have that drive. At Alterna, I always aim to sign on creators that want their comics read by as many people as possible.

“indie and self-published creators can piggyback onto our newsprint print runs and get their single issues printed for extremely affordable prices”

Also at the end of August, we’ll be launching our Printing Partnership Program so indie and self-published creators can piggyback onto our newsprint print runs and get their single issues printed for extremely affordable prices. Quantities start at 500 and the unit price is 50 cents for a full color 32 page comic. There’s a flat fee of $50 to have us do the prepress work needed so they print great (because printing on newsprint is a bit different than printing on coated stocks) and then creators pay shipping at around $15 to $20 per box of 100 comics depending on their location. For those familiar with the costs associated with print on demand, they may want to give this program a shot.

BF: Thanks for your time, Peter. We are rooting for Alterna and hope to see you around in another 10 years!
Creators, more information on Alterna Comics’ Printing Partnership Program can be found on alternacomics.com/ppp
Jamison Ashley

Jamison Ashley

Comic geek, movie nerd, father, and husband - but not necessarily in that order. Current captain of this ship o' fools who is rapidly training everyone's computers and snarkphone spell-checkers to misspell 'supposebly.'