When you walk into Four Star Studios the first thing you notice are the action figures lining numerous shelves all around the office. Your eyes then pass over the bookcases filled with graphic novels. Then there’s the entertainment center that seems like the focal point of the entire room. You’d think to yourself how cool it would be to work here but then bemoan the fact that you’d never get anything done.
But you’d be wrong because getting stuff done is what Four Star is all about. With a motto like “Deeds Not Words,” you better be ready to bring your A game when you walk in the door. Four Star’s founders Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, Josh Emmons and Sean Dove came out swinging recently with the release of DoubleFeature, an iPad app featuring all ages original comics.
I had the pleasure of asking Josh Emmons of Four Star a few questions about DoubleFeature.
Q: When did the idea of DoubleFeature start to get tossed around?
A: DoubleFeature is really just an embodiment of the “future of comics” talks we’ve always had around the studio. Those talks have been happening everywhere in comics for a while now. The industry is looking down the barrel of the same disruptive forces music, TV, and movies have had to grapple with.
So we were talking about it a lot. What made our conversations different, maybe, were the diverse talents of the people in our studio. We had a guy who’s been running his own creator-owned franchise for six years. We had a Marvel and DC artist who’s been drawing all-digital for a while now. We had the guy doing interesting stuff with webcomics and developing iPad apps…
It really took all of those things — business, technology, and a deep understanding of the industry — to define the parameters of the experiment we’re running now with DoubleFeature.
Q: How does DoubleFeature work?
A: We knew we wanted two things from DoubleFeature stories: quality and originality. To get that, we knew we had to make the risks involved in publishing as low as possible. Really lower the barriers to entry. If creators aren’t worried about making rent, they can really swing for the fences. So we made the decision to distribute digital-only and to keep our stories short. Only 8-pages (plus some fun extras).
We package two of these stories together to give the reader a solid 16 pages of awesomeness for only 99¢. And we want readers to know what they’re getting, so we focus on certain genres for each issue. This first one out April 6th was our Action issue, but we’ll also have issues dedicated to Horror, Fantasy, and Sci-Fi.
Finally, we wanted to add cool “DVD extras,” like commentary and production art views, so we wrote a custom iPad app that readers can use to download issues. But we also wanted to be as accessible as possible, so we sell PDFs of each edition on our site as well.
Q: Why did you guys decide to go all-ages with your content?
A: Equal parts nostalgia, business savvy, and obsessiveness!
First, when we say “all-ages” we don’t mean “for kids.” We mean ALL ages, young and old. Those are the stories we grew up on in the ’70s and ’80s, and that’s the kind of story we really miss most in the current market. And like Stan Lee says, write what you want to read!
At the same time, we see the industry’s undying commitment to fan-service as shrinking the market. It’s come to the point now where, with the exception of a dedicated few, if you self-identify as a “comic fan” what you really mean is you read super-hero comics. We want to make stories that break that trend. We want to shoot for the larger market. And part of doing that is writing for all ages.
But really, more than anything else, we have a commitment to quality. And we think that if your story is just for kids or adults only… well, that’s really half a story. Look at Pixar. Some of the best movies of our time, and what would they have been if only kids could have enjoyed them. Or only parents. Part of good storytelling is conveying truth, and there aren’t many truths in this world that are exclusive of age.
Q: What creators do you have lined up for future features?
A: Some really fantastic people. Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, Ross Campbell, and Dennis Hopeless all worked on this first book. We have upcoming stories by B. Clay Moore, Phil Hester, Ryan Browne, Chris Burnham, Joe Song, Marshall Dillon, and Sean Dove… And that’s just in the next few months. We’re really excited about the level of talent we’ve been able to bring on this book.
Q: Do you have any plans for print editions?
A: Never say never, right? But it’s not a part of our plan. When you sign on to a print run, you invest all sorts of money that you may or may not make back. Once you get in that mindset, you start picking and choosing stories. You start making the safe bets. We want to keep DoubleFeature as free from that kind of constraint as is humanly possible. We want to provide as much freedom to our creators as we can.
The debut issue of DoubleFeature has two fun, action packed tales starring The Answer by Norton/Hopeless and Jack Kraken by Seeley/Campbell. You can purchase PDFs of DoubleFeature off their website or download the app via iTunes.