For the last 15 years, William Geradts (or 'Bill' as he's more commonly known) has been the mastermind behind New Zealand's biggest popular culture convention, the Armageddon Expo.
From a humble beginning as a comics swap meet in a suburban meeting hall, the Armageddon Expo has grown to accommodate a wide variety of popular culture interests over the years, from comics and manga, gaming and sci-fi film and television guests. As it's grown in popularity, it's also increased in size to match; from a floor of Auckland's Aotea Centre to the entire building, it's now so large the ASB Showgrounds is the only venue in Auckland with enough room to contain it. The Expo now hosts up to six events a year, held across New Zealand and Australia in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Melbourne and Adelaide.
You would think organising this rotating line-up of events would be enough to keep Geradts busy, but over the last year or so he's being dropping curious hints on his Twitter account about plans to broaden his media empire in a more creative direction...and he's now ready to share the results.
From this Friday he'll be making the move from promoter to publisher, with his new online comics company, Beyond Reality Media. Launching with four new comics (and one reprinted), they will be available to read online for FREE with daily updates of two new pages from each title every week. To produce these titles, Geradts has recruited local and international talent to bring these concepts to life.
He's a breakdown of the titles on offer:
Attica: Launching July 1st
Written by William Geradts & Christian Gossett
Art by Darick Robertson & Richard Clark
Synopsis: What if the ancient world’s bloodiest conqueror walked the modern world as its greatest prophet?
Warden: Launching July 4th
Written by William Geradts & Christian Gossett
Art by Alan Robinson, colours by Cristian Gonzalez
Synopsis: What if the world’s greatest superhero is actually something else entirely?
The Inspiration Duncans: Launching July 5th
Written by William Geradts & Richard Fairgray
Art by Michel Mulipola & Gonzalo Mertinez
Synopsis: Patrick discovered the missing link…then killed it. He’s REALLY sorry.
The Red Star: Launching July 6th (previously published by Image Comics)
Created, written & drawn by Christian Gossett, produced with Team Red Star
Synopsis: One of the most celebrated graphic novel series of the decade is an epic mythology inspired by the art and history of the Soviet Union.
Robert Rankin's Empires: Launching July 7th
Written & drawn by Robert Rankin
Colours by Coleen Littleford-Allen
Synopsis: A girl adventurer, a monkey butler, alien invaders and the darkest magic on Earth. The year is 1895 and the world is coming to an end.
It's certainly an interesting and varied line-up of titles, and he's what we know about the creators:
Christian Gossett (co-writer of Attica & Warden, creator of The Red Star): This artist & writer came up through the film industry as a concept artist for Lucas Film, his main claim to fame was his design for Darth Maul's double-sided lightsabre. His comic series The Red Star was originally published through Image Comics in 2001. After several appearances at Armageddon Expo in the early 2000s, I believe he caught the eye of Weta Workshop's Richard Taylor, and was soon providing concept art for King Kong and other film projects for the effects company. The most recent project he contributed to was Alice In Wonderland for Disney.
Robert Rankin (creator of Empires): Is a cult British fantasy/humour author of 33 novels, including Necrophenia (2008) and Retromancer (2009). He originally trained as an illustrator before becoming a full-time writer, so this will be the first project he's fully illustrated himself in over thirty years. The results should prove interesting...
Richard Fairgray (co-writer of The Inspiration Duncans): Richard is best know as the local creator of Blastosaurus, which was published monthly in New Zealand before catching the attention of film producer Jeff Katz, who enlisted Richard and his comic for his American Original publishing company. While Katz has proved to be 'all talk, no walk', Richard has continued to produce his own comics and animation projects, including this new collaboration.
Michel Mulipola (artist of The Inspiration Duncans): Joining Richard on The Inspiration Duncans is Michel Mulipola, a local up and coming Samoan comic book artist. By day he is a comic store clerk at Gotham Comics in Onehunga, and by night he is living the dream as a wrestler AND comic artist (a deadly combination of creativity!).
Alan Robinson (artist of Warden): Alan Robinson is a Chilean artist, responsible for the Weekly World News comic series for IDW. His work can also be found on the Terminator: Salvation Prequel, some Star Wars books, and as co-creator of Lost Squad.
Darick Robertson (artist of Attica issue 1): An A-List talent, Darick is best known for his artwork on such best-selling comics titles as The Boys, Transmetropolitan and Punisher. Taking time out from his busy schedule to provide the artwork for issue one of Attica is a real win for Bill and his team, a move that's guaranteed to turn industry heads.
Richard Clark (artist of Attica issue 3 onwards): Richard Clark has worked for a wide variety of entertainment clients, including: HBO, Playboy, The Wall Street Journal and Marvel & DC Comics. He recently providing finishes over Darick Robertson's breakdowns for The Guild:Vork for Dark Horse.
I think Bill's making a very savvy, smart move here by providing the comics free online before collecting them together as print collections. I've talked about this before, but New Zealand has never had the population to support a print network for comic books they way the US has, despite some noble efforts in the past. As it stands today, it can barely support local magazines and newspapers as the real move towards digital media has truly begun in earnest.
I was curious to see if Bill would attempt a print run, as he does in fact have a very strong and potentially profitable network of distribution set-up through his convention circuit. It would have been an interesting experiment, but the smart money is really online, where his books will be able to reach a much larger audience than our limited print population. Plus his network will still be in place to distribute the online material in collected editions, with the first paperback of Attica due in time for the Auckland Armageddon Expo in October.
So for the first look at these books, visit the Beyond Reality Media website HERE on Friday for the launch of Attica, and witness one of the biggest moves in New Zealand comics for some time. It will be interesting to see how this develops, check back here for creator interviews in the coming months ahead.
All images and logos in this story are copyright Beyond Reality Media 2011, except for The Red Star copyright Christian Gossett 2011.