After publishing Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in 2012, Zip Comics publisher Josh Frankel is renaming and relaunching his publishing company. The company will now be called Z2 Comics and will launch in April 2014 with new and revised editions of Paul Pope’s Escapo, originally published in 1999, and Dean Haspiel’s Fear My Dear: A Billy Dogma Book, the first print collection of the Billy Dogma webcomic.
Something of a young publishing phenom, Frankel launched Zip Comics in 2010 with his own comic, The Schizophrenic, while he was a college senior at Drew University. He subsequently published Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland in 2012 in partnership with Top Shelf and with the approval and oversight of Joyce Brabner, Pekar’s widow. Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland sold out its 10,000 copy printing (including about 1000 digital sales) and gained two Eisner Award nominations for artist Joseph Remnant.
Frankel told PW he wanted “a new start” and decided to rename and rebrand the company. “Our focus will be eclectic,” Frankel said, “We want to publish books that make money but also publish genre works that feature fine storytelling and great hardcover production.” Frankel said that he’s a fan of books by publishers like Fantagraphics, Top Shelf, Image, and Drawn & Quarterly, “and while I like some superheroes, I like indie-focused books and those publishers are my inspiration.”
Z2 graphic novels will be distributed by Diamond Book Distributors to the general book trade and to the direct market by Diamond Comics Distributors. The company is based in New York City and currently consists of Frankel and a financial backer, while the rest of Z2’s staffing is done by independent contractors as they are needed. Frankel said he plans to publish “4 to 5 books in 2014 and by 2015 we hope have 10 books and some really big name authors.” Z2 will focus on graphic novels, book format comics. “All of our books are graphic novels. We are not publishing periodicals at this time,” Frankel said.
To kick off the company’s relaunch, Frankel has acquired works by two highly regarded artists. Paul Popeis bringing his Escapo graphic novel, originally self-published in black and white by Pope’s own Horse Press in 1999, back into print, this time in full color and with new material added. (Pope’sBattling Boy, his long awaited kids graphic novel, is out this month from First Second.) Frankel said it’s “the first time [Escapo] has been in print since 1999 and it is in full color for the first time with around 40 pages of additional content including a new 10 page story by Paul.” Color is being done by the creative team of Chris Hunt and Shay Plummer.
Haspiel’s Fear My Dear: A Billy Dogma Book collects his Billy Dogma online strips from the ACT-I-Vate website in their first print edition, Frankel said, and the strips have also been recolored. Initial printings are likely to be 25,000 to 30,000 for Escapo and 5,000 to 10,000 for Fear My Dear, Frankel said though noting “we are not 100% sure” on final print numbers. Frankel said he is in discussion with digital vendors, “we intend to release digital editions of both books.”
While Frankel said marketing plans are just beginning to be formalized, he plans a “full PR blitz and we will have PR assistance on retainer,” in addition to planning a marketing campaign to comics shops when the books are advertised in Previews, Diamond’s monthly ordering catalog. “Lastly we are talking to Diamond about options for marketing to the general book trade,” Frankel said.
Frankel also said he’s open to submissions from artists, “no guarantees but we’re interested in looking.” Frankel described the graphic novel market as “growing, maybe not exponentially but its growing steadily and digital will open up opportunities for everyone.”