Is Dauntless Stories the very model of a modern new publisher? The Yeti asks founder Marcus Jimenez for information mathematical and categorical.
They claim to Be Brave. Be Bold. Be Dauntless. Sounds like every publisher stepping up.
After talking to Marcus, I learn the sound may be the same, but their voice may be different enough to stand out. Their model of the Graphic Novella, ambitious books with a 50-90 page count, reminds me of the European/French album format.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Why jump into publishing? In a time that self-publishing/crowdfunding is rising, the market is unpredictable, and other small publishers are popping up.
MARCUS JIMENEZ: A great first question. I asked myself the same question after I first announced Dauntless as a publisher, and after pondering about it, my answer was simple: I love comics.
Even though I haven’t made much the public has seen, I have been making comics off and on for over a decade, whether it was fan comics and zines or just creating a universe of characters with my friends. After submitting Deadly Living around and not hearing much back, I decided to try my luck with Kickstarter. And [it was] while prepping and launching that I discovered this world of self-publishing and the amazing creators that occupy that space, and realized that they’re all people like me. Striving to tell the best stories they can, but just waiting for someone to give them the chance to do it. So, instead of wishing upon a star for my chance, I decided to do the thing and jumped in head-first, hoping that I can start something that can be the spark of a new generation of awesome books that everyone should be paying attention to.
To answer the second half of your question, the market is unpredictable and [there are many] other small publishers, but that is a GREAT THING! The more competition, the better.
It takes a lot of things to make comics, but the three important ones are:
A creative team
The finances to back it up
I know that the people in the Dauntless crew are some of the brightest stars waiting to launch. If you don’t believe me, let me rattle off a few of our headliners:
Eastin DeVerna has run two successful graphic novel Kickstarters and has several books published with various publishers.
Frankee White, an incredible writer who ran a successful Kickstarter that managed to bring together 30 artists for one book. 30 artists!
Lastly and certainly not the least, writer Son M. They are an amazing writer with a very successful digital comic on Webtoons, the writer of a very successful short film that raised over $100k on Kickstarter, and has a book coming out with Harper Collins.
These are just three of the amazing people we have on our crew at Dauntless. With most of the people in Wave 1 Dauntless being Kickstarter vets, I knew there was an audience there.
Lastly is the finances, which we at Dauntless offer great royalty rates and page rates, but we also built [an] in-house crowdfunding feature on our site called "Greenlight" that now allows the readers to directly support these new creators, they also get to be a part of the process and see all the hard work that goes into making comics with live Q&As, page breakdowns and so much more.
So why did I jump into the stressful world of publishing? Because I believe in these people and I believe that we can create a shift in the comics world that will leave an impact.
"...we also built [an] in-house crowdfunding feature on our site called 'Greenlight' that now allows the readers to directly support these new creators. They also get to be a part of the process and see all the hard work that goes into making comics..."
CBY: Besides the people, why do you believe in this format?
MJ: I should first state that I love floppies. I still buy heaps of monthlies every week from my LCS, but I think one of the biggest deterrents new readers have is that they rarely can pick up a couple of issues of Batman or Spider-Man and get a full story. People want to read comics, but get scared because they want to dip a toe in and [not] get swept up in either a wave of 80-year continuity history or the fact that they have to read a 144-page graphic novel to read a full story. As much as I love that for myself as an avid reader, it's just not [a] warm welcome for the new ones. So, I think that's where the 48- to 96-page graphic novella comes in.
Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido is a perfect example of what beauty the novella has to offer. Each novella is a short 50- to 60-page mystery that leaves you both wanting more but also satisfied being able to read a complete story in a Sunday afternoon. Each feels like it can be a standalone story and also something that can be continued into the next one.
CBY: TKO is doing something similar, and has had success. Are they something of marker to strive and measure yourself?
MJ: Absolutely. What Tze [Chun] and the team at TKO are doing is absolutely amazing and serves as a gigantic inspiration for what I strive for at Dauntless. I think their diversified line of books should set an example of what every publisher’s line should aspire to. Not in the sense of mimicking each book they put out, but in terms of creators and the freedom to tell any story for every type of audience and genre.
At Dauntless, we have an open-door policy for any type of story because we believe there is always someone looking for the story you are trying to tell.
"...we believe there is always someone looking for the story you are trying to tell."
CBY: Will you publish other creatives' books/anthologies? Something like [publisher,] A Wave Blue World does?
MJ: Absolutely! Frankee White’s Starless Daydream was a Kickstarter pick-up which we hope to do more of. We are also launching a series called Wildest Dreams that will be a 24- to 36-page book that features both new and already-published short stories from various creators along with a creators' spotlight in order to put a face to all these creators. We think that last part is super-important because we believe that all of these creators deserve to have both their work and themselves recognized and praised. As a creator, a big part of your job is being the biggest and the loudest salesperson you can be for yourself – it's the only way you get work. So putting a name to the face/work is just a small way we can help them on their paths.
CBY: You have three books for your launch. What’s your model for operations? Do you have a yearly goal of book totals? Do you plan to have a certain number come out quarterly?
MJ: Another great question. Not to give too much away, but for our first year/year-and-a-half, our goal is to have 5-6 novellas out. We are operating less as a traditional comic book publisher more as a traditional book publisher/film studio. I am a video director and editor by trade and, like any studio, they release their handful of big projects a year that showcase and highlight their best talent. We are adopting that model because we think it gives more time to creators to push their work to their creative limits, and also as a financial model to make sure we don’t overextend ourselves.
Along the way though, we plan to introduce other forms of stories from our publisher, such as one-shots and what we call "serials." Serials will be a monthly subscription platform that will give new creators a chance to work on short-form stories over a 3- to 6-month period. Each month, a 5- to 10-page chapter of any given serial will be released for $1 a month and, at the end, the whole series will be collected into a digital one-shot and, on occasion, it will also be released in a physical form, as well.
"Serials will be a monthly subscription platform that will give new creators a chance to work on short-form stories over a 3- to 6-month period."
CBY: I think it's necessary to let people know what foundation you are going to stand on. I believe that the medium of comics is in a serious season of change, that the next two years are going to shape its next 25. I want everyone’s passion to thrive, so I believe we need strong change leaders. Can Dauntless Stories be that?
MJ: I believe we can, but not alone. We are here to help that change in [the] status quo and even be a leader of that change, but every evolution needs a group of people who stand together. These people will have to be both new creators and legends in the industry who want a better future for everyone else. Look, when the Image [Comics] boys got started, you heard them talk about their stories, and [Todd] MacFarlane and the rest of them were going to leave no matter what, but they got someone like Jim Lee, the golden boy, to believe in what they wanted, what they were doing. That shifted the tides of change forever. We will help build the foundation, but all we need is one person big enough to want that change as well.
"We will help build the foundation, but all we need is one person big enough to want that change as well."
CBY: Your books. Deadly Living; Starless Daydream; Through the Shadow of Titans.
Great intro to the Dauntless Stories model. Each one is distinctive to the brand you are hoping to produce. There are many names I see associated with those titles, names that I would consider the new wave of creatives. I see the potential there.
What do you think it is about these three books that represent Dauntless? These are your flag bearers, so they lay the groundwork that the public and creators will say “I want to work with this brand" or "Not for me.”
MJ: Each of these books [is] important to the brand because they represent what we want for the future. Deadly Living is the starting ground for a new expanded Dauntless universe of characters that allows anyone to fulfill their creative potential and their most insane ideas. Nothing is off-limits, and that world and those who do get to play in it can run wild with new characters and creations which represents the freedom I want within the culture of the company.
Starless Daydream is an epic culmination of some of the brightest new talent in the industry, and what Frankee [White] and Danny Lore did bringing them together is incredible and it signifies that, as a community, there is nothing in our paths that isn’t accomplishable.
Dauntless Stories wants to be a pillar in the community that gives voices to everyone. Lastly, Through the Shadow of Titans represents the change I see in the future of comics. There is always talk about comics coming to an end in which I say not today and not ever. Comics will always survive as long as there are people willing to allow it to evolve with the time. Through the Shadow of Titans is an illustrated novel that will include prose [and] illustrations but also full-on comic pages and spreads like the one below. And that’s how we evolve, by realizing that there isn’t just one way to make comics. I hope that’s what makes people want to read and work with Dauntless.
CBY: I don’t see any submissions or FAQ on your website. You know this will come up, so how do you look to incorporate creatives? Do you want to play in only a few sandboxes? Do you have specific genres in mind? Put emphasis on diverse creators? Stretch the familiar, making it fresh, or create something that feels so unique, it's difficult to describe?
MJ: So first off, I want to say that as soon as I pressed "Send Tweet" on the first Dauntless announcement, I knew what I was getting into, and it only took 4 minutes to get my first question asking. At the moment, we’re riding a line between accepting submissions and handpicking who to bring on. This [is] for various reasons, but right now, like you said above, we are building a brand, and I want this first and second wave to really say who we are.
So, to answer the second part (I know this is a cop-out, so don’t hate me), I also want to say "all of the above." When handpicking our creatives, I look for those who are hungry to make what they want to make. I want people who want to make comics for the sake of making comics. It also doesn’t matter if it's your first comic or your 20th; if I can see your passion in your work, I will do my best to make your dream come true in some form or another. I will also say this: [hiring] diverse creators is super-important to me as someone who is Latinx. Seeing someone with your background, your philosophies & beliefs, your heritage, or even just the same last name will inspire the hell out of you, so finding those voices is extremely important to me.
As part of our indie publisher audit, I checked back in with Marcus Jimenez back in August to cover off on questions we didn't know we needed the answers to until later. These questions mainly revolved around whether their submissions were open or closed, and if creators retain IP rights. And, because your favorite yeti is too busy for his own good, I am just updating this interview now. Jimenez's answers are below:
On their submissions:
Currently, our submissions are closed. We have seen dozens on dozens of amazing pitches, and we have a list of awesome books coming from now until 2023. Like Ghosts of the Carousel, Eat My Flesh Drink My Blood, Judas Complex, Technoknights and several other unannounced titles that we want to get into the reader's hands first. Once that first wave is done, we will be reopening our submissions. We are truly grateful for all the support we have gathered so far, and we will do our best to make you proud.
On IP rights:
We let each creative team own as much of their creators rights as possible. We ask for the right to reprint in order to keep their books in print as long as possible and keep the royalties coming for them as long as possible, and sometimes we ask for a percentage of first option rights. Other than that, we believe even when we are funding every stage of production that these creators deserve all the praise that comes to them and the perks that come with that.