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November 15, 2011

Beyond the Pages with Alexander Finbow


Writer, actor, director, and producer, and now heading up Renegade Entertainment, Alexander Finbow has led a diverse and exciting career. Starting up a comic book company, along with a host of other talented creators, is his latest endeavor, and perhaps the most exciting. We talked to him about what it takes to get a new comic company off the ground these days.

How did Renegade get its start? What is the driving force that brought you three together and what are you hoping that this new venture will create?
It all started in a pub. I'd offered to help a friend finish an animated movie he was directing that had hit a bump in the road. Doug Bradley and Alan Grant were both working on the movie too. We'd hook up in the pub after work and swap stories and ideas. We really enjoyed our time together and all had similar war stories of working on movies, etc., where we'd been messed around to the extent that the movie had been distorted beyond recognition or mishandled so it never got finished.
We thought it would be great to carry on working together and create a little company where we could nurture the stories we were most passionate about and get them created without corporate interference. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I had to take over the comics publishing side of the business quite quickly, and we've all been learning about audiobook publishing, marketing, etc. It's been an interesting learning curve for all of us!
Is now a good time to start a new comics company? What opportunities and challenges do you see waiting ahead for you?
Is now a good time? Not unless you've got revenue coming in from somewhere else. We started just months before the recession and banking crisis started, so that was not ideal.
There are so many challenges, growing the readership for comics in general and persuading readers to try our books to start with. The economics of independent comic publishing don't add up, but it is an exciting and creatively rewarding industry to work in. We have other sides to our business that help to keep us going whilst we get the comics established. Relocating to Canada has helped, as we're more focused and able to work in the North American comics market now.
What trends do you see happening in the comics and graphic novel business that you are hoping to build on?
I'm still learning about publishing, and there is a ton more to learn. Digital has to be a big game-changer for comics, hopefully not to the detriment of print, as printed books are beautiful things. But the ability to hear about a comic and buy it and read it instantly has to be a good thing. Especially if you can get it easily in whatever flavor your technology works with.
What are your short- and long-term goals for Renegade? What types of things would you like to see the company doing in five years’ time?
Right now, we've got some really big books in production, Shame, Book 2 from Lovern Kindzierski and John Bolton, and The Loxleys and the War of 1812 from Alan Grant and Claude St Aubin, for example. And despite the fact that we have to turn down 99% of the books we want to create and fellow creators bring to us, we have a full slate of new books, announced and still under wraps, at the moment.
As for five years from now? To still be publishing great comics first off, then to see some of those stories adapted to different mediums where they would work and reach a bigger audience would be great. Whether that's as games, movies or TV shows.
Who are some of the creators working with Renegade now?
Besides myself and Alan Grant, there's: John Bolton, Lovern Kindzierski, Claude St Aubin, Gordon Rennie, PJ Holden, William Simpson (who is also producing all the storyboards for HBO's Game of Thrones TV series), Todd Klein, Tiernen Trevallion, Shane Oakley, John Haward, Al Davison, David Ross, Richmond Clements, Jim Campbell, Ben Clark, and apologies to any I've missed! We've also had artists like Frank Quitely, Mark Buckingham, and Leigh Gallagher produce pin-ups and variant covers for us.
You have the great John Bolton working on Shame. How did that come about?
I'd hired Lovern to produce the color artwork for the War of 1812 graphic novel, and the first thing he did was pitch Shame to me. I'm always ready to offer some encouraging advice and move on when writers pitch me, but the story had me hooked within two minutes, and then Lovern mentioned John Bolton wanted to paint it, which was really exciting. He's been working with us for two years now and is set to continue working just on our graphic novels for at least another two years, if not longer.
Tell us about some of your initial releases. What have you produced so far?
Shame has been the biggest book we've published so far, it has really helped to establish that we can deliver and will be around to carry on publishing first-class books. Besides that, we're putting out Alan Grant and Shane Oakley's Channel Evil; now that Shane is recovered, he's powering through issues 3 and 4. Shades of Grey was a one-shot comic book, but myself and William Simpson are producing more stories featuring the characters. Turning Tiger is our first comic suitable for younger readers, and we're releasing that alongside Arcana in April. We'll be working a lot more closely with Arcana too in future by the way.
With the various ties to Hollywood you all have, do you see a lot of crossover potential in the things you’re working on?
I do. We look at the stories and figure out which mediums they could be adapted to. They are great stories with rich and vivid worlds full of potential. It's early yet, but we'll see.
The company is involved in a lot of multimedia projects as well. What does that help you accomplish?
It's about looking at how a story can reach an audience. If a comic book will also work well in another medium, then it is a way to bring in new fans who haven’t read the comic. With the movie-style adaptations of Lovecraft and Poe stories we've produced under the Spinechillers banner, we were able to stay true to the original text of the writers while bringing in a movie experience. We're looking at what we can do with other stories in our roster too. I was at AFM (American Film Market) with Sean O'Reilly, CEO of Arcana, and he showed me the tests that his animation division, Luximation, have produced for some X-Men motion comics and they looked like cartoons you'd see on TV, not the stilted halfway-house motion comics I've seen before. That's quite exciting as an avenue to explore with our comics.
You obviously have a personal connection to 24 Hours in London, which was made into a movie that you wrote and directed. What made you want to revisit it in comics form?
It actually started before Renegade. I'd persuaded William Simpson to be my storyboard artist on the movie as he was one of my favorite comic book artists at the time. From there Will went on to be the storyboard and concept artist on Hollywood movies like Reign of Fire. We'd been talking about doing something together to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the movie coming out and the way our careers had crossed over since. The comic seemed like a great way to do it. Shades of Grey was the original title for the movie and I changed one key event in the story which changed the focus of the story onto two different characters and completely altered the way the story unfolded. It was fun to do and we've been really pleased with the feedback from readers, hence the new stories coming.
What would you most like fans to know about Renegade?
That we are publishing a wide range of quality stories from different genres. We won't be putting out lots of event books just to make cash; the stories we publish are the ones that get us excited and passionate about comics. If you like a good story, try us out.