Mad Cave Studios publisher Chris Fernandez talked to us about everything they do and how they do it!
COMIC BOOK YETI: What was the genesis of Mad Cave Studios? Who were the founders and what drove them to enter the scary, exciting world of comics publishing?
CHRIS FERNANDEZ: Mad Cave Studios started off as a passion project by Mark London back in 2014. After a lot of trial by fire, if you will, Mark was able to develop four completely original series like Battlecats and Honor and Curse. By that point, Mad Cave had become a fully-realized publisher and that is what drove us to take the next steps with Diamond. I think you said it perfectly in your question. It was both scary and exciting because it was a complete unknown for us at the time, but the possibilities drove us into a frenzy. From there, we doubled-down and increased our IP development exponentially.
CBY: What is the mission statement of Mad Cave, if there is one? Is there a philosophy that links all your books, and what can a new reader expect when they open a Mad Cave book?
CF: Mad Cave’s mission statement is as follows: Mad Cave is an independent publisher founded in 2014 focused on creating worldwide entertainment in the horror, sci-fi, action-adventure, crime, noir, and fantasy space. Mad Cave works with international creators to develop masterfully illustrated art with a focus on character-driven storytelling.
In reality, that is just a fancy way to say that readers can expect bombastic action combined with relatable characters and gorgeous artwork that work in tandem to take readers on epic adventures across an array of genres.
CBY: How do you find new talent or do you let them come to you?
CF: We find talent in a variety of ways. Of course, we are always paying attention to the industry–the rising stars as well as those that are already shining bright–but an important foundation of Mad Cave is our annual talent search that we’ve been running since 2018.
I sort of alluded to it earlier, but we came from nowhere and we really had to fight to get to where we are today. So, early on, we decided to give others the opportunity to break into the industry. There are so many voices out there that never get the chance to be heard. People like Anthony Cleveland and his work on Stargazer or Liezl Buenaventura and Xavier Tarrega and their work on They Fell From the Sky are prime examples of the incredible books that have come from talent search winners. Not to mention, the sweeping success of Nottingham by David Hazan and Shane Volk.
CBY: What are the hurdles and barriers faced by a comics publisher in the current state of the industry?
CF: I wouldn’t call them hurdles or barriers necessarily, I look at them more as opportunities to adapt. Whether we’re talking about the shifting market or the emergence, I realize this isn’t a new topic, of digital. Readers have more choices than ever before, and it’s important for all publishers to listen to what their readers want and expect from them. Personally, I am looking forward to the next barrier we are faced with. Because, once we destroy them, Mad Cave will have grown into a better place as a result.
CBY: How do you stay competitive in the ever-changing indie comics landscape?
CF: Quality. Quality speaks for itself. There are so many publishers putting out excellent comics every Wednesday, but as long as Mad Cave continues to strive for the best and provide readers with quality comics, we will always be competitive in the industry. The more quality comics we publish, the more readers will expect that from us. And we are here to give it to them.
CBY: Where do you stand on the question of whether the industry can survive on monthly floppies or should a trade paperback be the starting point? Which format do you prefer and why?
CF: I think, from a consumer perspective, there is room for both. There are those who enjoy the weekly, maybe bi-weekly, trip to their LCS. Those who see it as a bastion for like-minded folks or maybe as sort of a respite from everything else in their lives. Then, and I think this is very important, young readers now have grown accustomed to being able to access all kinds of comics from anywhere at any time. While I find myself somewhere in the middle–I don’t think I could ever read a comic on my phone–I know there are people for whom that is the norm. In regard to the original question, I am a big fan of trade paperbacks for a couple of reasons. It allows me to get the story all at once, and there is just so much that I want to read, that being able to wait a little on one title allows me to go back and read things I missed from back in the day. The beauty of it here is that in both content and format, comics offer something for everyone.
CBY: Do you use crowdfunding as a tool and, if so, which platforms?
CF: We do not currently use any crowdfunding platforms. However, we see the benefit it offers to all types of creators. I am personally a big fan of crowdfunding and love perusing through one in particular for all sorts of stuff… from graphic novels to beach chairs with built-in coolers.
CBY: Do you pay upfront or share profits after the book makes its money back?
CF: Mad Cave primarily pays upfront. Every creator has different asks when talking about contracts, however, and we do our best to meet them.
CBY: What IP rights do you retain?
CF: Mad Cave currently owns all of the rights to the IPs we have published to date.
CBY: How much thought do you give to selling your stories into other media like streaming TV, film, or even musical theater?
CF: We are a publisher first and foremost. So, when working on new projects, we do not envision any other form of media from their inceptions. However, once they are released, it can be difficult to ignore the “siren’s song” of film and TV. Once the IP inquiries got to be too much to handle on our own, we began working with Echo Lake Entertainment in regard to film and TV production.
CBY: What does the future hold for Mad Cave? What ambitions currently remain unfulfilled?
CF: The future is bright, for sure. I can’t speak too much about it right now, but 2022 and beyond is going to be filled with jaw-dropping new titles from creators that will make the industry take notice. I really wish I could say more, but, this is not hyperbole, just know that Mad Cave is about to take things to the next level. We are definitely an ambitious bunch, and there are still many things we would like to achieve in comics. Nothing is out of the question for us, and everything feels achievable. Mad Cave is here to stay.
CBY: Thank you, Chris!