If you are a comic creator or a fan of Independent comics, no doubt ALTERNA COMICS has come up on your radar. Home to a collection of great independent books, from Michael Lent and Marc Rene’s THE MACHINE STOPS to Michael Kogge and Dan Parson’s EMPIRE OF THE WOLF and Jeremy Massie’s ALL MY GHOSTS, ALTERNA offers a home and voice to a great deal of talented creators, looking to showcase their works to the comic book world.
An entrepreneur, Peter Simeti founded ALTERNA COMICS at the age of twenty-two. A writer and artist, Peter created the hit independent comic, THE CHAIR, along with artist Kevin Christensen, a compelling story about an innocent man on Death Row, who is tormented and terrorized by a sadistic warden, and pushed the very brink of his own sanity. It is a dark story, exploring the sadistic nature of humanity, and the desperation a man will go to escape his past.
Soon to be a movie starring Timothy Muskatell and Bill Oberst Jr, alongside the iconic Rowdy Roddy Piper, THE CHAIR is set to jump from the comic page to the big screen. Check out the TRAILER!
Recently Comic Crusaders got a chance to sit down with Peter Simeti and discuss comics publishing, what it’s like having a comic being made into a movie, and the nonsense that went on in Death of Superman.
LETS START AT THE BEGINNING, WHEN DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER AND WHAT LED YOU TO PURSUE COMICS IN PARTICULAR?
I really don’t think there’s any particular moment when I “decided” to be a writer or an artist. It’s just something I’ve always done and I think it progressed into a career. I think it works that way for most people in a creative field.
THE CHAIR IS A REALLY COOL, PSYCHOLOGICAL HORROR GRAPHIC NOVEL. CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT WHERE THE IDEA FOR THIS STORY CAME FROM?
Thanks! The CHAIR came from a bunch of different inspirations; I always liked the idea of a villain that you felt sorry for. You really shouldn’t feel that way towards a villain, but that complexity is what makes them interesting and sometimes sympathetic.
WHICH CHARACTER IN THE CHAIR IS YOUR FAVORITE TO WRITE?
The Warden was probably the most fun to write. He’s a bit over the top at times and has a flair for the dramatic.
THE CHAIR IS BEING MADE INTO A MOTION PICTURE, SCHEDULED TO BE RELEASED IN 2016. CAN YOU TELL US HOW THAT CAME TO FRUITION AND HOW HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN FOR YOU, AS THE CREATOR, SEEING A PROJECT GO FROM THE PAGE TO THE SCREEN?
It’s been interesting and surreal. A lot of ups and downs as I’ve been involved in every step of it so I haven’t really had time to sit back and soak it all in, but in the end it’ll probably be more rewarding because of it. Hopefully it’s something that people will enjoy!
ONE OF THE STARS OF THE CHAIR, THE LEGENDARY ROWDY RODDY PIPER, RECENTLY PASSED. CAN YOU SHARE WITH US SOME OF YOUR EXPERIENCES WORKING WITH SUCH A CHARISMATIC FIGURE? WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION WHEN YOU LEARNED HE WOULD BE INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT?
I never got a chance to be on the set while filming (I was snowed in, in Massachusetts at the time) but I did have a few long conversations with Roddy on the phone. Often times when you meet your childhood heroes, they really don’t live up to your expectations. Roddy surpassed them. He was a really sweet guy, loved his family, and always gave everything he had to everything he did. I’m honestly still devastated by his loss… it’s a tough one.
CAN YOU WALK ME THROUGH YOUR PROCESS? HOW DO YOU BREAK AN ISSUE AND HOW DO YOU WRITE THE SCRIPT? IS IT MARVEL STYLE OR FULL SCRIPT?
It’s a full script with panel direction and character descriptions. Facial expressions for characters, clothes, backgrounds, placements, etc. There’s definitely room for artistic interpretation but you need to provide some guidance for the artist (unless you REALLY trust that they’ll nail it or you have no vision for the scene you’re writing). Publishing duties have forced me to take a step back from writing but I’ll get back in there one day.
YOU FOUNDED ALTERNA AT THE AGE OF TWENTY-TWO. WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO FORM YOUR OWN COMPANY AND WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES YOU HAD TO FACE BEING THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK IN THE WORLD OF COMICS?
Alterna came about from self-publishing my own work under a label/alias. So it wouldn’t just be “Peter Simeti Comics” or something like that. People started writing to me about submitting and eventually I started seeing a lot of really talented folks writing in, saying how they just couldn’t break through at any other indie publisher. It was a bit unnerving to me how so much talent was being overlooked and I started Alterna as a full-fledged publisher. We had some bumpy years in the beginning but I’m happy to say that we’re coming upon our 10 year anniversary in 2016.
I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE TO INTERVIEW AND READ A NUMBER OF ALTERNA TITLES. SOME GREAT BOOKS FROM TALENTED CREATORS ARE PUBLISHED UNDER THE ALTERNA LABEL. SOME OF OUR READERSHIP MIGHT NOT BE AWARE OF ALTERNA, BOTH AS A HOME FOR TOP QUALITY COMICS, BUT ALSO AS A POTENTIAL PUBLISHER FOR CREATOR OWNED WORKS. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT ALTERNA MEANS TO YOU AS A PUBLISHER AND WHAT IS IT THAT SETS ALTERNA APART FROM THE OTHER COMIC PUBLISHERS IN THE MARKET?
Alterna’s 100% creator-owned so you won’t find licensed comics here. They’re great and all but it’s just not the point of Alterna. We’re here to provide an outlet for talented creators with original and unique stories to tell.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A COMIC BOOK WRITER AND PUBLISHER? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU HAVE LEARNED OR PERHAPS A MISTAKE YOU MADE THAT YOU WOULD SUGGEST ANOTHER CREATOR ENTERING INTO INDEPENDENT COMICS DO DIFFERENTLY?
Hmmm… I’d suggest learning as much about the business BEFORE you decide to enter into it. The business side of comics is very different from the creative side and it’s important to understand how to successfully merge the two. It’s an ongoing process so you’ll always be learning, but it’s important to know as much as possible before it becomes too costly. Ignorance is NOT bliss when it comes to business.
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE IN THE RECENT SURGE IN THE POPULARITY OF COMICS IN TODAY’S POP CULTURE AND HOW DO YOU SEE IT AFFECTING THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY IN THE FUTURE?
We definitely live in a time where comic book properties are at their most popular. But with that awareness comes a great disconnect between people who see the movies and buy the merchandise and those that read the books. Outside of the top 5 publishers (Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, Dark Horse) everyone else sells about 20% of the market share. Outside of the top 20 publishers, everyone else (all independent) sell 1% to 2% of the market share. There’s a very large disconnect here as Marvel and DC even struggle to sell a book past 100,000 units. It’s odd when you take into consideration that millions of people see the movies and own the merchandise. The problem is even greater at the independent comics level as most publishers and creators struggle to sell 1000 copies of a book. Maybe digital comics are the answer to the exposure problem? I’m not sure – but a digital copy definitely does not replace a physical one. There’s a magic that exists when you see the art on the shelf. It’d be great to see comic books (even the top 10 or 20 best-selling ones) in grocery stores, 7-Elevens, Target, Starbucks (might be great for indies!), Hot Topic, Barnes & Noble, etc. Any place that stocks magazines or has room for people to sit/read/etc. should have comics in ’em. But that’s just my humble opinion.
GROWING UP, DID YOU READ COMICS, AND IF SO WHAT COMICS APPEALED TO YOU?
I loved the X-Men and Spider-Man. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and was spoiled with cartoons, trading cards, video games, etc. It was a great time to be a comic book fan (to me, a better time than now, even with the movies that are out) and there was something so real about the stories and the characters. It wasn’t until the Death of Superman, that comics started to have a bit of a corporate taste to them; that the stories started to unravel a bit and got gimmicky. I loved the Death of Superman storyline, but even as a kid, I was always wondering where the other heroes were. There are hundreds of them! They were all at Superman’s funeral but not there to help him before he died? It was a bit odd to me. But the sales were huge. And because of it, Marvel and DC started going into “event” overload and it seems like they haven’t stopped since. It ended up turning me off to reading books from those companies and I started reading Image and Dark Horse titles and then I got further into other independent books.
YOU ARE STRANDED ON A DESERTED ISLAND. YOU CAN HAVE ONE MUSIC ALBUM, ONE MOVIE/TV SHOW/ AND ONE BOOK TO READ. WHAT WILL IT BE?
The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. The entire Car 54 Where Are You series. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker.
ARE THERE ANY UPCOMING CONVENTIONS OR EVENTS YOU WILL BE ATTENDING YOU WOULD LIKE OUR READERSHIP TO BE AWARE OF?
Yup! Friendly Neighborhood Comics in Bellingham, MA from 1-5pm on 11/14 for the release of the IF anthology. Double Midnight Comics in Manchester, NH from 1-5pm on 12/12 for the release of THE CHAIR special edition graphic novel.
I hope to see some of you there!
Follow me on twitter @petersimeti and say hello!