2018 Year End Review From Josh Blaylock
Hello everyone, and Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all of you!
2018 was an extremely busy year for my little family of companies, and I wanted to share some highlights of what we accomplished this year. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've done one of these recaps! After 17 years of full-time publishing and entrepreneurship, I'd say it's long overdue. The truth is our nimble team does a LOT, and we get so busy we never stop and take time to toot our own horn, so most people only see a small piece of it.
Hence this high level humble brag to close out the year.
Most of you know Devil’s Due, my comic book publishing company. Some of you know us specially as the affiliated PopCult Solutions / PopCultivator creative services business. Some of you may just be readers or followers of our brands. This is one of those rare opportunities to share a bit of everything with you, and show everyone how and where each business feeds the other, enabling us to pull off some pretty cool stuff.
New Year New Logo New Titles!
New Titles & Products
Devil's Due Logos Through the Years
With a new logo in effect it's fun looking back on how it's evolved over the years. What began as a quick sketch at a Javits Center trade show in '99 eventually became the logo most G.I. Joe and early 2000s fans would know us by, quickly replacing the short-lived devil-in-a-suit design. Three years later Mike Norton would refresh it for our exodus from the old Image Comics regime (pre-Eric Stephenson & the Walking Dead craze), and I'd personally create the "cute" update for our 2012 relaunch. For our 2018 version, I wanted to capture a grittier indie feel but still keep it fun. Thanks to Nick Accardi for taking my design and cleaning it up!
The Hollywood Comeback!
We've been around long enough to know that the headline above should probably end with a question mark rather than an exclamation, because anything goes in Hollywood, but what better way to end the year than with a fantastic announcement about my very own creation Mercy Sparx getting a film development deal with the amazing folks at Jack Heller's Assemble Media. Assemble is the outfit behind the Craig Zahler directed, Vince Vaughn starring Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Western thriller Bone Tomahawk (starring Kurt Russel and Matthew Fox).
Ironically after dropping “Entertainment” from our name to embrace “Comics,” this year has been our most active for film development since our Beverly Hills satellite office closed in 2008. With several projects in development, the only other one we can talk about at this time is the superhero prison drama Solitary, announced in October in development with Adam Ripp's Vega Baby, the production company behind the super fun Selma Hayek action flick, Everly.
Chicago Fire Cameo
A fun bonus this year was having one of our graphic novel collections appear in Chicago Fire. Anyone who's read Dirk Manning’s Love Stories [to Die For] would wonder why you'd give this book to someone in a hospital who needs cheering up, which seems to be the same thing these characters are pondering. Still, super fun, and a total badge of honor, as anyone who lives here in the city is bound to have their parking disrupted at least once a year by some randomly appearing film crew for one of these local NBC soaps.
Record Crowdfunding Year
2018 was our biggest year for crowdfunding yet, exceeding $100,000 in pledges, the winning title being K. Lynn Smith’s supernatural Western Plume, which raised over $60,000 for its nearly 500 page hardcover “Omnibus” collection. Since 2012 we've embraced crowdfunding as a way to directly reach our readers, and more than any other traditional publisher, interwoven the distribution and marketing with the traditional legacy infrastructure for a win-win best of both worlds system.
Promotional video made for Plume: Omnibus edition.
Other 2018 crowdfunded successes included the Lord of Gore vol. 1 trade paperback, Tales of Mr. Rhee vol. 4 hardcover, a major hit offering new oversized Squarriors hardcovers, and fulfilling late 2017's campaign for Mercy Sparx vol. 4!
Yours truly signing a bazillion books for Kickstarter backers.
In the Field - Tour Life, Comic-Cons and Experiential Marketing Wins
2018 was full of Comic-Cons galore, but we didn't stop there!
Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo: C2E2
This year saw our largest presence ever at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2), the largest comic-con in the Midwest. In conjunction with our co-publishing partner 1First Comics and sponsor Slim Furniture, the Devil’s Due booth doubled as a pop-up shop and photo-op where fans could sit on a giant Throne of Comics and declare themselves ruler of the geeks. Meanwhile, several of our creators were spread out in the Artist Alley section of the event, drawing commissions and signing autographs all weekend.
For exclusives this year we partnered with local favorites for the ultimate series of street-meets-comic art prints, featuring work by Shawnimals, Rawooh, Elloo Elloo, Ashley Witter, Junkyard, Revise, and myself. Also on hand was a Ninjatown collaboration, and official Devil’s Due Brew coffee sourced and roasted by Metric Coffee.
If that wasn’t enough, we also threw our 7th Comic-Con afterparty (third at C2E2) in conjunction with nearby Motor Row Brewing, the Illuminerdi Loft Party, featuring DJs Maker, Pickel and Intel hosting a top floor dance party, local Chef Won Kim serving up Korean / Polish mash-up food from his own Pilsen spot, Kimski, and the purveyors of Shady Rest Vinyl spinning punk and metal on the second floor.
Just in time for the event we recollected our political satire / homage Barack the Barbarian #1 which became the best selling book of the show. No surprise in Chicago.
North Coast Music Fest
Since 2011 the new year has meant that it’s time to begin creating the newest batch of “Coasty” characters for Chicago’s favorite late Summer music festival, which occurs every September. I’ve been curating the art for that entire time, and for the past two years have had the privilege of personally illustrating it.
This has grown to become a massive festival, and seeing something I created on buses, trains, and posters all over town is almost as rewarding as seeing the thirty foot tall banners that frame each stage. Stages where attendees can see the likes of Primus, Wu-Tang, Snoop Dogg, Lil Dicky, DeadMau5, Post Malone, Primus, and Atmosphere. I wasn't able to attend this year due to a trip out of the country, but here are some of the highlights. Many thanks go out to Pat Grumley, one of the show founders, for bringing us back each year.
Some of this year's "Coasties" for North Coast Music Fest
Adventures in Blockchain
The Bitcoin Comic Handbook
Anyone that knows me well knows I can't keep my interests contained to just pop culture. Since 2013 I’ve been heavily engaged in the the cryptocurrency space (even if on and off), and this year I finally released the educational The Bitcoin Comic Handbook. What I knew would be a niche seller in our usual distribution circles, this one-off project would lead us on a wild ride at breakneck speed, and I'd find myself becoming a recognized cryptocurrency expert.
The comic (which reads more like an illustrated educational pamphlet), was met with awesome reviews from the crypto space.
CEO of Critical Blink (and former CTO of the MacArthur Foundation Sharon Burns wrote "The Bitcoin Comic Handbook, weaves words and images to illuminate the intricacies of blockchain technology. By Exploring crypto’s brief history and the complicated future in the graphic form, Josh Blaylock cements the role of artists in examining the social impacts of tech in our community and reminds us all of the importance of integrating diverse perspectives in the design of our world."
That validation means a lot when you're coming from the world of sci-fi and punch-em-up fiction.
Within two months of the book's release, and a rapid-fire series of meetings, I found myself personally taking on Chicago Blockchain Project as a client, as a key organizer and manager for their debut Summer event: Voice of Blockchain.
Some snippets from The Bitcoin Comic Handbook
Tech Conference Collaboration
Voice of Blockchain is an event launched in 2018 by Joe Hernandez, focused on propelling blockchain and cryptocurrency forward, with an angle not on pitches and ICOs, but practical applications for the betterment of society. Featuring over two dozen key speakers including:
- former head of the US Mint Edmund Moy
- CME Bitcoin Futures architect Rumi Morales
- Cambridge Analytica (Facebook) whistleblower Brittany Kaiser
- and yours truly.
With guests from, literally, all over the world, endorsed by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s 1871 incubator initiative, our relationship with VoB began when the conference wanted to purchase 5,000 copies of the comic to give away to attendees.
Within a month, after better understanding their needs, and they understanding our abilities, PopCult was brought in to co-manage logistics and branding, source materials, and provide turn-key management solutions for the entire show floor three months before opening. Here our cumulative experience as a team planning comic-con exhibits, trade shows and music performances, merged with my personal knowledge of cryptocurrency, aided in successfully executing Chicago’s first major blockchain conference of this size.
Instrumental in pulling this off was our Publishing Coordinator Kit Caoagas, pulled in from Devil's Due, whose experience in managing our comic-con appearances played a vital role. Alma Silva, my former assistant, and later a lead floor planner for Forever 21 corporate and event manager for Indio, California's Fantasia Comicon returned to Chicago to run point on registration and to oversee the event's downtown VIP pub crawl. Working with VoB design lead Josie Bellini was Devil's Due lead designer Nick Accardi, who ran production for signage and displays for the entire show.
Other Comic-Cons, Store Signings... and Ancient Aliens
While this wasn’t an aggressive schedule for store singings compared to recent years, we can’t seem to stay home for long. As usual the collective Devil’s Due creator squad was found at dozens of conventions this year, while I personally attended 9, exhibited at 6 of them, and squeezed in a few store signings, including a 1,000 person event at 4 Color Fantasies, just outside of LA, in great company with the one and only Garth Ennis (Preacher, The Boys).
In June I decided to commit further to our road-game by skipping our previous Sprinter van rentals and acquiring a pristine, 30 year old classic Ford Clubwagon camper conversion. We’re not riding around in 6-bunk rock star buses... YET, but our new 4-wheeled team member dubbed "Vanos" has already become a favorite.
New Mercy Sparx - New Co-Writer
In July we announced Little Girl co-creator and writer Pat Shand would be joining me as my first ever co-writer on Mercy Sparx, my saga about a Devil Girl secretly working for Heaven, hunting down rogue angels on Earth. Doing all of their dirty work that no one is supposed to know about, in between pounding shots of Jame-o and procrastinating.
Pat's also known for his work on Robyn Hood for Zenescope Comics, Snap, Flash, Hustle for Black Mask Studios, his own Destiny, NY, and several Marvel Comics novel adaptations.
Together we're about to f##* some shit up.
How to Self Publish Comics is Now Required Reading at Savannah College of Art & Design
This year the Savannah College of Art and Design honored me when my non-fiction book How to Self-Publish Comics: Not Just Create Them became required reading for all sequential art majors attending the school.
Originally written in 2006, the book's mentions of MySpace and pre-smartphone era marketing became more comical than helpful, leading to several updates. We released the fourth "Master Edition" Print, Kindle and Audio Book editions in 2015, which is what now finds itself in the hands of SCAD students. Major thanks to instructor Robert Atkins for making the push to get it into the school!
Across the Pond
Okay, this visit was mostly pleasure, winding down after the insanity of planning and executing a tech conference in three months, but you can’t visit the biggest city in the UK and NOT visit one of the most amazing comic shops around. After years of chatting with owner Nick Landau at various comic-cons, the wife and I visited Forbidden Planet Comics where we met manager John Harrison and toured this magnificent (I'm guessing 10,000 sf or more) store, and thanks to good timing, bumped into fellow American creators Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw!
We also fit in some other comic shop visits, including Orbital Comics and a shop in Camden Market, and pulled off several guerrilla-style pin drops along the way. Plans are most definitely in place to attend ReedPop’s London MCM Comic-con as soon as possible.
While in the punk-rock hub of Camden I was also lucky enough to get to leave behind a sketch momento at a local pub. Couldn't get the portal at Platform 9 3/4 to work, though.
Welcome Director of Sales & Snorts, Morty the Chorkie
Enough of this “business!” Perhaps the biggest highlight of the year. We got a new puppy! But not just an ordinary pup. No, the one and only mini-monster, Morty “Snorty” Blaylock, the half-chihuahua, yorkshire terrier mutt that we thought was a 3 month old rescue turned out to be a 9 month old with dwarfism. He’s a beast weighing in at 4.2 lbs, and already has two conventions under his belt.
A Huge Year-End Kudos to Our Crew!
After reviewing everything compiled here, I really must give a heaping amount of praise to our team. I don’t think there’s any other group quite like this in comics or anywhere in pop culture, where the same team of people, in one year's time, not only runs a full time globally distributed publishing operation, but also curates am amazing library of crowdfunded content, executes a tech conference in one of the largest cities in North America, supplies creative assets for music festivals, develops content for film and television, produces educational material, and takes at least three months out of the year to tour the continent for comic-cons and store signings. Shout Outs to Kit Caoagas, Nick Accardi, Kari Smith, Alex Wald, Debbie Davis, Alma Silva, Ken Levin, the SWF Crew, all of our creators, and to Mayra and Snorty Morty for putting up with all of our time away from home and road trips bringing pop-culture to the people!
Holiday Recommendations - For Your Eyes, Ears, and Face Holes
That's a wrap for our annual highlights! I look forward to doing a recap like this again in 2019.
As always, never hesitate to contact me for content creation, brand development, event services, and any other number of projects that we can help pull together in 2019 and beyond. Catch me online at:
www.facebook.com/joshblaylock (for however long we must endure Facebook in our lives)
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will pass your message on to me.