Joshua Phillips

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    TFAW Presents: An Exclusive Interview With Darby Pop CEO Jeff Kline

    If the name Darby Pop doesn’t sound familiar to you, don’t feel bad — for years, the company partnered with IDW and then Magnetic Press to get its books to market. However, thanks to the success of comics like Indestructible and Side-Kicked, Darby Pop is ready to fly solo. In an unprecedented move, Darby Pop is breaking away from IDW and selling its books directly.

    Jeff Kline

    To celebrate this momentous occasion, we interviewed Jeff Kline, the esteemed CEO of Darby Pop. Even if his name isn’t familiar, you’re likely familiar with Kline’s work, which includes Transformers: Prime, Jackie Chan Adventures, Extreme Ghostbusters, and much more!

    Read on for an in-depth look at the origins of Darby Pop, the trials and tribulations of the comic industry, and a glimpse into the life of Jeff Kline.

    TFAW.com: For our readers who may not know about you and your company, tell us a bit about yourself and Darby Pop.

    Transformers Prime

    Jeff Kline: I’ve been a writer/showrunner in TV for more than two decades. Although I’ve worked extensively in both live-action and animation over the years, my cartoon series – i.e. Transformers: Prime, Jackie Chan Adventures, Men in Black: The Animated Series, etc. – tend to stay on-air much longer than my live-action ones. Much to my Mother’s dismay (‘cuz, apparently, bragging rights at the salon are limited when a son’s output airs in the daytime vs. nighttime). Anyway…

    When my daughter, Darby – yes, that’s where the name of the company comes from – turned five, my Wife and I opted to leave Los Angeles and move to New England. For the better part of the next six years, I commuted between the coasts every 7-10 days to develop/produce the last three Transformers series, G.I. Joe Renegades and some other bits and pieces for Hasbro. But when my Wife finally grew tired of idling in front of airports, I moved “home” fulltime.

    Simultaneously, and as a lifelong comics fan, I had been considering self-publishing a book (which eventually became Indestructible), and made the mistake of telling others re: my plans. Immediately, I learned that a whole bunch of my writer and artist friends in L.A. also dreamed of making comics. Which may strike some as strange, since many people use comics as a stepping-stone to movies/TV. But, the truth is, it can be very hard to “break into” the comics industry even if you have substantial credits in other art forms. Long story short, I decided to revise my plans, and create an entry point for friends, old and new, who are as passionate about sequential storytelling as I am. And Darby Pop Publishing, Inc. was born.

    We partnered with IDW Publishing for distribution, becoming their first creator-owned imprint (I believe). Announced our intentions at SDCC ’13. Dropped our first floppy (Indestructible #1) in December ‘13. And have released some 70+ separate issues/trades in the ensuing three and a half years.

    “Both IDW and Magnetic proved invaluable insofar as both expertise and credibility were concerned.”

    Indestructable

    TFAW.com: Speaking of IDW, why did you choose now to separate from them?

    JK: Actually, we spent about two years with IDW, and then moved our distribution over to Magnetic Press. We were always wholly independent when it came to editorial, but with my experience with the business side of the comic book industry being limited to purchasing floppies from spinner racks, I really didn’t want to fly solo at the start. Both IDW and Magnetic proved invaluable insofar as both expertise and credibility were concerned. But, when Magnetic became part of Lion Forge, I realized that Darby Pop now had a team in place that had been together for a few years – Renae Geerlings, Managing Editor; Kristine Chester, Director of Marketing; Michael Berreth, VP of Promotions, etc. – and deserved the opportunity to go it alone. (Well… with the help of Diamond, of course).

    TFAW.com: A new start is going to bring a lot of new fans who want to check out your books. If someone wanted to check out Darby Pop, where would you recommend they start?

    JK: Start with our website: www.darbypop.com. There you’ll find information re: all our titles to-date and those “coming soon.” There are also “talent” bios, random musings, our webstore, a brief manifesto, submissions policy, etc. etc.

    After that, read Issue #1 of whichever book sounds the most interesting to you. If you hate it, you’re probably not going to like most of the other stuff we publish… ‘cuz while we cover a lot of ground when it comes to genre and art style, there is a unifying aesthetic – built largely around the triumvirate of high-concept, surprising, and fun.

    If you like what you read, then please dig deeper. Visit our Facebook (facebook.com/DarbyPopPublishing), Twitter (@DarbyPopComics), and Instagram (@DarbyPop). Then ask your local retailer to order you one or many of our books. And come see us at any of the 20 or so Cons we set-up at each year (ECCC, C2E2, NYCC, to name a few). Honestly, we like the whole face-to-face thing best, but we understand that not everyone wants my teenage daughter screaming at ‘em: “Hey, YOU in the Deadpool t-shirt… what’re you reading???”

    “I truly believe every one of our books is well-crafted, well-produced, and well worth your time/money.”

    TFAW.com: Who knows, that just may work! You’ve mentioned this a few times before that the comics industry is definitely a challenging one. What’s the single most challenging thing about the comics industry you’ve discovered?

    JK: I think, for us, the most challenging aspect of the comic book industry is “selling” to two different markets simultaneously. On the one hand, we need to convince comic book retailers to take a chance on us… to stock us even though they might well be dealing with limited resources and even more limited shelf space. On the other hand, we’re desperately trying to reach out directly to readers; if they don’t go their local store and ask for one of Darby Pop’s titles (or order same on Amazon or through ComiXology, etc.), it’s nearly impossible for us to compete with the established players and their well-known franchises.

    Bottom line: we’re a small company with limited resources. I truly believe every one of our books is well-crafted, well-produced, and well worth your time/money. But, chances are pretty good that even some of the folks reading this interview have never heard of Darby Pop Publishing or any of our titles, so…

    Indestructable

    TFAW.com: Hopefully we’re able to help spread the word to our customers, as we definitely think your comics are worth reading! You mentioned earlier that you’ve worked on numerous Hasbro properties, including being executive producer on the Emmy Award-winning Transformers: Prime. How has your experience in that industry helped you in the comic industry?

    JK: Storytelling in television and storytelling in comics is often strikingly similar. In both, you’re planning for long-term and short-term story arcs simultaneously… the characters are the bedrock… and the visuals need to work in conjunction with the whole. And being a showrunner in animated TV definitely gave me a leg up for my work as an editor in comics: reworking scripts, collaborating with artists, making choices re: color palette and graphic design, even plotting marketing initiatives.

    TFAW.com: What advice can you give to other independent publishers who are trying to make it in the comic industry?

    JK: The comics industry is incredibly challenging. As I mentioned, there are some very big, very established players hogging the ball. And having a great idea, or even great execution, isn’t enough; you have to find a way/ways to get your work into the hands of those who can and will appreciate it. In my experience – and in comparing notes with other creators/publishers/professionals – you have to be prepared to put in A LOT of unpaid hours, and pay a lot of bills with your own credit card. Honestly, if comics isn’t something you’re very passionate about, there are probably better, “safer” ways to scratch a creative itch.

    ““Breaking Into Comics” is a very important initiative to me…”

    Side-Kicked Vol 1

    TFAW.com: One thing you and your company have committed themselves to is helping others break into the industry, such as frequently running contests with the objective of getting undiscovered writers and artists noticed. Has there been any major successes, i.e. someone who won and went on to work in the industry in a larger capacity?

    JK: We’ve run three of our “Breaking Into Comics” contests thusfar; the labors of our most recent winners will be featured in the expanded, reprint edition of the Side-Kicked TPB (Vol. 1.5) we’re dropping in July. (The first print run of the Side-Kicked TPB has completely sold out).

    “Breaking Into Comics” is a very important initiative to me because I was fortunate enough to have a couple of insanely supportive mentors when I was beginning my TV career, and I firmly believe in paying same forward. While the barrier to entry in comics is low, the barrier to distribution is high. So, if Darby Pop can help some deserving but (relatively) unknown talent get a bit of national or international exposure…

    As far as a “success” story: Jeff Marsick won our first “Breaking Into Comics” contest with his script for the Indestructible: Stingray one-shot we published. And we liked working with Jeff so much, we published the trade paperback of his next effort, Dead Man’s Party. And we currently have him working on something else for us right this minute.

    TFAW.com: Let’s say the field is open for you to work with anyone. Who is the one writer and artist you’d love to work with at Darby Pop?

    JK: There is no one writer and/or artist I’m dying to work with. We strive to partner with anyone who’s passionate… who believes in the value of collaboration… and who won’t drive Renae Geerlings absolutely insane when it comes to hitting a delivery schedule.

    “…if Simon Pegg and Nick Frost would consider reuniting for Indestructible… my Mother might finally be satisfied.”

    TFAW.com: Let’s dig a bit into Jeff Kline. Outside of Darby Pop comics, what are you currently reading?

    JK: When I’m not reading comics, I’m pretty obsessed with biographies. (No, I’m not sure why). Right now, I’m listening to the David Letterman bio in my car while I read Michael Nesmith’s (of the Monkees) autobiography late at night.

    The Adventures of Martin and Lewis

    TFAW.com: If there is one cancelled comic series that you could bring back (from any publisher) what would it be and why?

    JK: Dean Martin is my idol; has been (I’ve been told) since I was a little kid wandering around our micro-townhouse in a bathrobe singing “Everybody Loves Somebody.” So, if DC was willing to trust Darby Pop with the license to “The Adventures of Martin and Lewis…” (Are you listening, DC?)

    TFAW.com: Comic book movies are huge at the moment. Which Darby Pop title would translate best to a film and who is your dream cast?

    JK: I truly believe that any/all of our titles would – and should be – translated to movies and/or TV. But, from a wholly selfish perspective, if Simon Pegg and Nick Frost would consider reuniting for Indestructible… my Mother might finally be satisfied.
    (And since the Deluxe reprint edition of the sold-out Indestructible: Not So Much… Vol. 1 Trade Paperback also drops in July it would be pretty painless for ‘em both to get up to speed…)

    TFAW.com: Pegg, Frost, and Indestructible sounds like a recipe for success! We’re excited for the future of Darby Pop and we know you’ve got a lot of great things on the horizon. Any good teasers that will get our readers excited?

    JK: In August we’re dropping a sci-fi/horror TP titled Things You Shouldn’t Remember. In brief: random people across the U.S. suddenly recall random things – song lyrics, events, minute details – that seem to have been erased from both collective memory and recorded history. Unfortunately, those same people start turning up dead.

    In September, we release Bastard’s Waltz, a gritty thriller about an aging supervillain and the young Secret Service Agent assigned to protect him. As with all of our titles, Bastard’s Waltz both honors and reimagines some classic comic book tropes. And, from an art perspective, it looks like nothing else we’ve published to-date.

    Bottom line: Darby Pop Publishing is a labor of love, not just for me but for nearly everyone who’s chosen to work with us. We aren’t the biggest. We probably aren’t the best. But, I do promise that we care deeply about every, single thing we put our name on. Mostly ‘cuz I can’t be slapping my daughter’s moniker on just ANYTHING. I mean, I’m not a Kardashian.

    TFAW.com: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Jeff!

    Do you want to check out Darby Pop’s comics? Check out our selection and let us know what you think!

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    It’s Jean Grey’s Time to Shine in Jean Grey #1

    This week for New Comic Book Day, we’re kicking things off with Jean Grey’s long-awaited solo series and a return to DC’s Injustice universe. Only two books this week because we’re busy prepping for our biggest Free Comic Book Day yet!

    As always, this is just a sample of the new books out this week; you can check out everything that came out this week on our website.

    Check out our other blog articles so see our thoughts on other books. Be sure to comment or share our post on Facebook or Twitter if you like our articles!

    SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.

    Jean Grey #1
    By: Dennis Hopeless, Victor Ibanez, David Yardin

    I’ve always thought that Jean Grey should have her own solo series. Out of all the X-Men, Ms. Grey has always dealt with a host of issues that were generally underexplored in the core X-Men books. In Jean Grey #1, writer Dennis Hopeless gets the chance to give Jean Grey the spotlight and a story that dives into her mind.

    Throughout the book, we see Jean Grey struggle with the legacy her older self left behind, namely in terms of the Phoenix. We also see her other struggles, such as being the only female on a team of men and what it means to be a hero. The inner monologue of Jean Grey presents the character in a new light, and Hopeless captures her voice perfectly.

    The book isn’t all narrative, as Jean Grey faces off against 3/4 of the Wrecking Crew. The art from Victor Ibanez captures the action perfectly.

    If you’re a fan of the X-Men comics, Jean Grey #1 is a must-read book. Without spoiling anything, I’m positive that this book is going to end up being a game changer for Jean Grey and have repercussions for the larger X-Men books. Without a doubt, this is my pick for book of the week. [Josh P. at TFAW.com]

    Check out all of our other Resurrxion books!

    Injustice 2 #1
    By: Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, Juan Albarran, Jim Lee, Scott Williams

    The Injustice series by Tom Taylor was one of DC’s biggest surprises in recent years. Writer Tom Taylor took a simple video game tie-in series and turned it into one of the greatest Elseworlds stories that DC has ever told. With Injustice 2 on the horizon, Taylor is back to pen the tie-in series of the same name.

    The Injustice 2 comic tells the story that takes place between the first and second games, which means Taylor is free to explore characters and ideas that won’t show up in the game itself. One such idea is Amanda Waller and Suicide Squad, an idea that quickly turns violent much earlier than you’d expect.

    Tom Taylor and a collection of artists such as Bruno Redondo are off to a great start with Injustice 2 #1. If they can keep this pace up, DC will have another huge success on their hands. [Josh P. at TFAW.com]

    Check out all of our Injustice comic books!

    What did you think of these books? What should we review next week? Let us know below!

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    Alien Day Kicks Off With Aliens: Dead Orbit #1

    This week for New Comic Book Day, we’re kicking things off with the fantastic Aliens: Dead Orbit, just in time for Alien Day! However, that’s not all we’ve got for you as this week also brings us Old Man Logan fighting through space and time and a coming of age Supergirl story.

    As always, this is just a sample of the new books out this week; you can check out everything that came out this week on our website.

    Check out our other blog articles so see our thoughts on other books. Be sure to comment or share our post on Facebook or Twitter if you like our articles!

    SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.

    Aliens: Dead Orbit #1
    By: James Stokoe

    Gonna be upfront and honest here. I’ve been looking forward to this before any artwork was shown. Knowing James Stokoe from his other works, like Orc Stain and Godzilla – Half Century War, I knew this was going to be a fest for the eyes. I love Stokoe’s style. That high color and tiny scratchy detail make it a pleasure to look at. It’s also good that he’s an excellent storyteller.

    This is a new cast of characters on a new ship above a new planet, which makes it an easy jumping on point for anyone. Even if you’ve never seen Ridley Scott’s classic Alien film, you can still buy this comic and enjoy it. Although watching the film will help in understanding the horror of these creatures, it’s not a necessity.

    From this first issue, Dead Orbit looks to be an exciting slow-paced thriller. We all know what the Xenomorphs are capable of. We know what they can do, but can you watch while someone else finds out? [Martin M. at TFAW.com]

    LOVE THE ART LIKE I DO? CHECK OUT ALL OF JAMES STOKOE’S OTHER WORK

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<p style= Old Man Logan #22
    By: Jeff Lemire, Eric Nguyen

    Jeff Lemire’s final arc of Old Man Logan has been a fantastic read so far. Old Man Logan #22 continues that streak by providing another solid story. In this issue, Logan finds himself transported back to his first fight with Hulk and Wendigo. The setting gives Lemire an opportunity to present some new twists to this story that any Wolverine fan will love.

    The art by Eric Nguyen is impressive and you’ll have no problem following the action. His run on Old Man Logan has been a treat and I’d love to see him on future Marvel books.

    The Past Lives arc has been one of Lemire’s best stories and you won’t want to miss an issue. I can’t wait to see how it all ends. [Josh P. at TFAW.com]

    MISSED AN ISSUE OF OLD MAN LOGAN? WE’VE GOT A WIDE SELECTION OF OLD MAN LOGAN COMICS FOR SALE!

    <!--Book Title--> comics at TFAW.com” width=”145″ height=”215″ /></a></div>
<p style=Supergirl: Being Super #3
    By: Mariko Tamaki, Joëlle Jones

    It’s not easy being super, as Kara Danvers can likely attest to. In this third issue, Mariko Tamaki continues to tell a brilliant coming-of-age story. In fact, the story feels like it would make the perfect vehicle for a new Supergirl movie.

    Surprisingly, the book asks more questions than it answers. However, I’m confident that Tamaki can pull off a solid landing in the final book.

    The art by Joelle Jones is still fantastic. Jones and Tamaki make an amazing team that I’d like to see tackle more DC books in the future.

    It’s a shame that Supergirl: Being Super is only four issues long, as this miniseries is one of DC’s best. If you’ve yet to check out this comic, you’re missing out on one of the hottest books DC is currently putting out. [Josh P. at TFAW.com]

    CHECK OUT ALL OF OUR SUPERGIRL PRODUCTS!!

    What did you think of these books? What should we review next week? Let us know below!

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    SECRET EMPIRE BEGINS

    secret empire

    When Marvel first announced that Captain America was a Hydra sleeper agent, I, like many of my fellow comic book fans, was a bit shaken. It seemed like another tactic to quickly boost sales for yet another big crossover event that would “change the face of Marvel as we know it.” How many times did we hear that in 2016? Too many.

    But as writer Nick Spencer started laying the foundation for Secret Empire in Captain America: Steve Rogers, I began to get more comfortable with this bold new idea. Spencer wrote Cap’s new status in a believable way and watching Cap’s plans come together was fascinating. The buildup to the event was a slow burn and was akin to watching Rogers play chess on a global scale, as pieces were slowly sliding into place right under the noses of our favorite Marvel heroes. After a few months, I found myself enthralled in the tale that Spencer was telling, gobbling up every issue the minute they hit the comic shop.

    “Cap simultaneously at his best and his worst.”

    After a solid year of buildup, Cap’s plan is finally coming to fruition in Secret Empire #0. While most event books start with a bang, this one sees Cap remain calm and collected throughout the entire book. In Secret Empire #0, we see Cap take swathes of Marvel heroes off the playing field group by group as each of his three plans come together. As the book itself tells us, Cap has always been a master strategist; now no longer shackled by morals, this is Cap simultaneously at his best and his worst. I can’t wait to see how far he will go when he needs to get his hands dirty and handle the heroes personally.

    The art by Daniel Acuna is as excellent as Spencer’s writing. Each character’s face conveys a broad range of emotion, which is fantastic since there is a lot of emotion on display in this issue. You can feel the fear and despair dripping off the faces of every Marvel hero as they realize the grim reality that awaits them.

    Issue #0 is a must-read comic if you’re planning on reading Secret Empire. Even if you haven’t read any of the issues that precede this event, this still serves as an excellent starting point and quickly gets new readers up to speed. If every issue in this event can match the writing and art of this one, Secret Empire as a whole will end up as one of Marvel’s best events.

    After nearly everyone called this storyline the worst thing to ever happen to Captain America, it just might end up being the best thing to happen to the Marvel Universe in years.

    PRE-ORDER SECRET EMPIRE AND SAVE!

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    Find out the truth in Daredevil #18

    Every week we review a select few comics for New Comic Book Day. There are so many that come out each week it’s hard to choose. This week we take a gander at Batwoman, Punisher and Daredevil. Check out our other blog articles so see our thoughts on other books. Be sure to comment or share our post on Facebook or Twitter if you like our articles!

    SPOILER ALERT — We try to keep from posting spoilers, but one may sneak through to our reviews now and again. Read with caution, true believers.

    Batwoman #1
    By: Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Steve Epting

    Finally, Batwoman is back in her own solo comic! I’ve immensely enjoyed James Tynion IV’s work with Batwoman and the voice he has given her in Detective Comics, but I’ve longed for Kate Kane to be the star of the show instead of a member of an ensemble. Batwoman #1 is everything I hoped a Batwoman comic would be and more.

    It fully fleshes out Batwoman, giving her a base of operations, a method of transportation, and even her own Pennyworth butler. However, the writing duo of Marguerite Bennett and James Tynion IV have made sure Batwoman isn’t just a female Batman. Part of that is due to her unique voice and globe-spanning mission while the remaining part is due to her unique past that the issue starts to touch on. There are many layers to Kate Kane, and the issue starts to peel them back one-by-one. Complementing the story is the beautiful art by Steve Epting.

    Not only is the issue a great jumping on point for new fans, but it also serves as an excellent book for longtime Batwoman readers. Batwoman #1 is highly recommended and is one series to keep an eye on in the future.

    GET CAUGHT UP WITH KATE KANE (AKA BATWOMAN) IN DETECTIVE COMICS

    Punisher #10
    By: Becky Cloonan, Matt Horak, Declan Shalvey

    Punisher’s one-man war on Condor continues in Punisher #10. Becky Cloonan continues to delight as she writes a Frank Castle that is tough-as-nails, resourceful, and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. This comic has never been shy about showing violence, but what Punisher does with a bear trap takes this comic to a whole new level. Punisher #10 lives up to its parental advisory notice.

    As the story starts racing to its conclusion, this is turning into one Punisher tale you don’t want to miss. Due to the unfortunate passing of Steve Dillon, artist Matt Horak fills in for art duties. He captures Dillon’s style almost perfectly and allows the book to fit in stylistically with the previous issues. If you’ve yet to check out this series, you’ll want to make some room on your pull list as it’s worth reading. Punisher #10 is an excellent read and shows that Marvel can still pump out mature titles that are on par with the rest of the industry.

    FIND ALL OF BECKY CLOONAN’S AMAZING WORK.

    Daredevil #18
    By: Charles Soule, Ron Garney, Matt Milla

    One of the burning questions since the beginning of Charles Soule’s Daredevil run has been “How did Matt get his secret identity back?” After over a year, Charles Soule is finally ready to answer that question. Daredevil #17 was told entirely by flashbacks and bridged the previous series to the current one, and Daredevil #18 picks up right where #17 left off.

    Soule introduces readers to The Purple Man, who promptly gives us a display of his powers in a downright horrifying fashion. In fact, the story ends up being more about him and his offspring than about Daredevil. The twist at the end brings about more questions, and we’ll see more than a few fan theories as a result of this issue. I’m excited to see how Charles Soule ties it all together.

    If you’ve yet to check out Charles Soule’s Daredevil, #17 and #18 are a fantastic place to start. I know I’m planning on checking out the previous issues of this series; if the writing is as good as this issue, I’m in for a treat.

    PICK UP ALL THINGS DAREDEVIL

    What did you think of these books? What should we review next week? Let us know below!

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