SDCC 2015 Spotlight: Darin Henry

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You may not know his name, but you certainly know the things he’s worked on. Darin Henry has been writing for shows like Seinfeld, Muppets Tonight, and most recently – K.C. Undercover for the Disney Channel. Henry’s real passion lies in his venture into comics. His line of books is called Sitcomics. They’re TV you can read. Henry has produced 2 books with stellar creators. It’s always amazing to see people do what they’re passionate about. Such is the case with Henry. His books are worth checking out. Let’s hear more about what Henry has in store and where you can get your first books!

Emily McGuiness: You’re a TV writer by trade. How hard has it been to transition into writing in a new form?

Darin Henry: I used the same writing muscles for the most part.  In fact, my writing process hasn’t really changed since Seinfeld: think up a really strong premise for a story, structure the individual beats of that story and then dialogue it.  I may come up with a few lines early on, or a new plot twist may jump out later but things generally happen in that order and the same has held true in writing for comics.  The biggest difference is on the production side. When you write something for TV, you meet with all the different department heads on Monday and their job is to bring to life what you imagined by Friday.  In a comic book, all those departments are done by the artists.

Emily McGuiness: What does the comic book form do for you that TV writing can’t?

Darin Henry: I’ve been writing professionally almost half my life and I still love it but becoming a publisher has given me an opportunity to try something new.  In the space of two minutes I go from breaking stories like a showrunner to making copies like an assistant.  Plus, I get to greenlight the projects that excite me the most so it’s like I’m president of the Sitcomics network.   And what writer doesn’t dream of running a network?  I also get to hire amazing artists and collaborate with them like an editor would.  And I’m financing these comics like a studio executive so I have to force myself as a writer to keep the entertainment level high enough so that people will actually buy the books and come back for more.

Emily McGuiness: Writing about heroes, super or otherwise, is a tough business to be in, in comics. What does Sitcomics do differently to help compete with the Big 2?

Darin Henry: Well, for one, there’s humor in all our titles.  With a name like Sitcomics, that’s a given.  But it’s not broad slapstick and we don’t break the fourth wall to get easy laughs.  In fact, our superhero titles aim to take the fun of classic Silver Age comics and place it in a totally modern setting, populated with totally modern characters.

Secondly, Sitcomics are not re-selling, re-branding or re-booting the same two or three dozen characters created 50 or 75 years ago.  There’s a dearth of new heroes at the Big 2 and Sitcomics offer 21st century heroes for 21st century readers.

Third, our format really sets us apart.  Sitcomics look and feel like comics but they read like trades. We live in an era of binge-watching and that means when people spend money on entertainment, they expect to get a complete story.  Charging four dollars for 1/6th of a story is ridiculous.  If a movie theater charged you four bucks to watch just the first 20 minutes of a two-hour movie, you’d find another way to spend that four bucks.  But Big 2 publishers somehow expect to attract new readers doing exactly that.  Every Sitcomic is self-contained and contains nearly 60 pages of story which means there’s room for plots twists and character development that you just can’t do in a 20 page comic.   And to buy a complete arc of a Big 2 comic, you’re asked to buy a 20 to 25 dollar trade collection which, again, is not a formula to grow new readership.  But our 64 page comics have a complete arc in every issue.  And at only $5.99, our price per page is half of what it is for most Marvel and DC books.

The Cast of Super ‘Suckers #1

Emily McGuiness: What books do you have currently and when are they being released?

Darin Henry: There are nine Sitcomics titles in various stages of production but I’m launching the company with two books: The Blue Baron #1 and Super ‘Suckers #1.  The Blue Baron is a bodyswap comedy with super-powers that shows what happens when an iconic, 300 year old hero switches bodies with a 13 year old zero.  Super ‘Suckers is a vampire series about two very different female college students who discover they’ve been two-timed by the same guy.  Not only that but after this two-timer leaves town, the women learn he was a vampire and his parting gift was to turn them both into vampires too.  The Blue Baron #1 and Super ‘Suckers #1 will be released in print July 13th.  The first print editions will be sold exclusively in South Central Pennsylvania (where I grew up) as part of a six week test-marketing campaign.  The books will be distributed to coffee shops and pizza shops as well as comic shops and I will be doing a big publicity blitz in that market including signings, local TV and radio interviews and running Sitcomics commercials on local TV for two weeks during Big Bang Theory repeats.  Digital versions of both Blue Baron #1 and Super ‘Suckers #1 will be released July 15th on sitcomics.net and ComiXology.com.

A Page from The Blue Baron #1

Emily McGuiness: Who are the creators you have chosen for your first two books and what have you liked best about working with them?

Darin Henry: Marvel legends Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema do the pencils, inks and covers on The Blue Baron.  And besides the fact that they are total pros artistically, I love that they are both extremely nice, extremely smart and extremely fun people!  Honestly, it’s all I can do not to make up an excuse to call Sal Buscema because I enjoy talking to him so much.  Regardless of whether Blue Baron succeeds or not, the fact that I know and get on well with Sal, who was like my gateway drug for comic art, is a special thing that I’ll always treasure.

Jeff Shultz, who does the pencils and inks on Super ‘Suckers, is an amazing collaborator.  He knows how to make visual humor which makes writing funny dialogue that much easier.  He’s a wonderful person too and easy to talk through story problems with.

Rounding out the team are Glenn Whitmore (colorist) and Marshall Dillon (letters).  Both of these guys are absolutely incredibly integral to making every single page of Sitcomics.  They are helpful and patient with me as a new publisher.  They get what I’m going for instantly, they deliver great work quickly and Glenn’s a die-hard Phillies fan so I now have someone besides my wife to moan to about their poor management.

Emily McGuiness: You’re releasing digitally they same day as your book release. What do you think that brings to the table for creators like yourself?

Darin Henry: Well, sadly, not everyone is lucky enough to live in Central Pennsylvania where the print versions are being sold.  And since a way exists to instantly get the books into the hands of paying customers around the world, it would be kind of foolish not to use it.  I buy digital comics too which is why all Sitcomics are DRM-Free.  If someone pays money for a digital edition, they should be able to play that digital file however and wherever they choose.  Otherwise, you’re just encouraging piracy.

Emily McGuiness: Why have your world premiere at Artsfest in State College, Pennsylvania? And what’s planned for the event?

Darin Henry: I don’t have many plans for the festival beyond learning how to talk to people about my books.  As for why I’m launching the books in Central PA.  Well, there are two reasons.  First, no corporation would ever test a new product nationally, yet small press comic publishers are expected to do exactly that on a minuscule budget in a market that’s already over-crowded with other titles.  So instead of trying to get the whole country to notice me, I’ve chosen to do a promotional blitz in just one market where, with my local ties and my sitcom-writing background, I have a halfway decent chance to stand out from the crowd.  If I were to launch Sitcomics nationally, I could air a zillion TV ads on the release date but that won’t be much help if retailers weren’t inspired to order the book 3 months earlier.  By self-distributing on a returnable basis, I can be sure my 25 retail partners, including coffee shops and pizza shops, will keep Sitcomics in stock until I run out of copies or they run out of buyers.

Reason #2 is that the timing is perfect.  I didn’t finish writing the books until mid-June so the printer is shipping them to my Mom’s house two days before the festival.  Plus, I start writing season 2 of KC Undercover on July 20th.  If I submitted my books to Diamond now, they wouldn’t even go on sale until November when I’m deep into production and I’d have no time to promote their release.

Emily McGuiness: Will you be at SDCC at all?

Darin Henry: I will be there on Preview Night, to see old friends, discover new artists and generally enjoy the con as a fan.   5000 Sitcomics promo postcards will also be handed out over the weekend to introduce our first two titles to SDCC attendees and to spread the word about our Comixology release on July 15th.

Emily McGuiness: What’s the future for Sitcomics?

Darin Henry: My longterm goal for Sitcomics is to make a publishing home for fun, quirky, comic book-friendly sitcom ideas by all different types of comedy creators.  I’d like to grow the line to around twelve to sixteen quarterly, ongoing titles.  With the super-hero titles, my goal is to create a new, shared universe of characters in stories that are fun, exciting and accessible.  And I hope to reward creators in a way that makes them feel invested in characters they didn’t create while inspiring them to create something new.  It should be much easier to see what I’m going for once the next two super-hero titles, Startup and Headhunter, are released.  But none of that will happen unless readers try and enjoy these first two books and spread the word about them to their friends.

Emily McGuiness: You have many resources in the TV world will you eventually bring the Sitcomics stories to TV?

Darin Henry: Nowadays so many publishers are making extreme changes to their characters in hopes of making them more appealing to Hollywood.  I’ve been writing and producing TV for two decades and I love it, but transferring my comic books to TV is not my goal.  My priority with Sitcomics is not Hollywood, it’s the reader.  And if anything were to happen with Sitcomics beyond comics, whatever money I make would go right back into making more comics.

Emily McGuiness: What’s in your SDCC Survival Kit? Food? Hand Sanitizer?

Darin Henry: A stroller.  I know they really annoy other people but large crowds and small kids are a scary combination.  The stroller keeps the stress level down plus it’s great for carrying heavy stuff without killing your shoulder.   You might see me pushing my kids around in a stroller at SDCC until they graduate from high school.

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