Nothing quite says “indie” like a small family business. With the rise of indie publishing, plenty of husband-wife duos have started companies, but there aren’t a lot of old-school father-and-son companies. It’s something that sets publisher Creative Mind Energy apart. Well, that and their outstanding stories. Our annual INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards attract the best in indie publishing, including some bigger, more well-known names. So it is particularly inspiring when a publisher who is not (yet) a household name takes the gold, as was the case with this year’s Comics & Graphic Novels Award, when The Gifted, from CME, took first.
Congrats on the gold INDIEFAB! How does it feel to beat out big names like Dark Horse Comics, John Carpenter, and the comic follow-up to Joss Whedon’s cult classic Firefly?
It’s unreal. Looking over the finalists a few months back, we were shocked to be in competition with such incredible books and creators. Then we won gold, and we all started calling each other in this total state of disbelief saying, Did we just beat some of our biggest idols?
Can you talk a little about CME and how it came into being?
CME started in basements, studio apartments, and campus study lounges. For a long time, the four of us (Damian Wassel Sr., Damian Wassel Jr., Adrian Wassel, and Nathan Gooden), had this crazy dream of building a family business that published comic books. To make it real, we all started cramming our spare minutes with work. We started with The Gifted. We didn’t sleep much, especially Nathan (the artist). We had no idea how people would react to our books or our sudden lack of social lives. But we pressed on, got The Gifted on shelves, and won this award, which was so affirming.
Why’d you decide to go the route of the family business?
I’m not sure we could have gone any other route. Even as things grow and change, the incentive will always remain the same. We want to help each other build something that lasts, in an industry that has given us more than we could ever give back. We cherish comics. Everyday we read dozens of them and talk, endlessly, about our favorites. So, in a sense, there was never much of a decision. We were either in it together, or we weren’t in it.
Having kept it all in the family, does that make it easier because you all speak the same shorthand? Or do you drive each other crazy because nobody is as annoying as family can be?
Both. Half the time, we’re handing each other script notes, or concept art, or coffee before the other guy has even asked. The other half, we’re contemplating grudge matches. Grab a paint brush. Grab a keyboard. Fight to the death. Thankfully, we always get it out of our systems over beer and video games, or some abusive basketball.
You guys have a really diverse catalog, a little something for everyone. How do you choose what to publish?
Damian Wassel Jr. heads up our publishing, but there’s a lot of dialogue before any final decisions get made. We try to balance our instincts, as readers and fans, with our desire to offer the market something new. We have to be aware of sales and viability, but none of us would compromise our vision for making beautiful books. In the end, that’s what matters most.
What do you have forthcoming that you’re excited about?
Behind the scenes, we’re turning some rather hefty gears, planning our next step forward into the comic book market. And a huge part of that is Alien Bounty Hunter with Leverage’s Stephen Levinson and Silver Fox Entertainment’s F.J. DeSanto. They have this genius property that’s absolutely electric, and we get to help build it and bring it to market. To say we’re excited is an understatement.
What’s the secret to a great story?
First, candor. Then, editing. Be honest with your story, your characters, your reader, yourself. And be prepared to write five drafts. Sometimes, we get gifts. Those stories that seem to come in on the wind, and our only job is to scribble as fast as possible. But don’t wait for those. Because they’re rare, and even they need editing. Get used to banging your head on your desk. Great stories, like great food, or relationships, or innovations take work. Just about the time you’re ready to throw it away, you’re making progress. And when you’ve finished the whole thing, read it again, then rewrite it. That’s how you put a story to the test.
Anything you’d like to add / our readers to know?
Comic book fans are incredible. I can’t think of a more supportive group. Or, for that matter, a group more consistent in their efforts to be good to one another. You guys rock.
Also, the four of us at CME are short, and hairy, and we grow beards far too quickly. When you buy our books, you help us afford razors. And for that, we are eternally grateful.
Allyce Amidon is the associate editor at Foreword Reviews. You can follow her on Twitter @allyce_amidon