Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the success of your Kickstarter campaign! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you share with us about the premise of this collection, as well as its inspiration?
Ryan Higgins: A few years ago, we started talking about doing a small anthology for my store's 30th anniversary, Comics Conspiracy. Just with myself and some employees and friends. After talking with Kevin once or twice about what we could do with it, we started to think, “What if we reached out to actual comic professionals and tried to get one or two to do something in the book?” Through the years, we’ve both met and kept in touch with a wide range of creators, just with being a retailer, and Kevin being a journalist. I thought it would be fun if we got one or two…
Kevin Sharp: The whole project was planned out with a ballpoint pen on a piece of printer paper while sitting at the store counter. We basically made our “moonshot” list of people we’d like to have involved, both because we’re fans or them and their work, but also to give a broad cross-section of voices inside the book… just like inside the industry overall. To say we were flattered by the response is an understatement. Some people couldn’t commit due to scheduling conflicts, and others had exclusives with certain publishers, but by and large everyone seemed to fully buy into our shared vision.
BD: This project is a collaboration with a Murderers’ Row of comic book talent! How would you describe the process for bringing these creators together, as well as your shared creative process in bringing this collection of stories and pinups to life?
RH: Honestly, we just asked! I think a big selling factor was just letting the creators run wild, do whatever they wanted. We had almost no editorial influence over stories or content, with extremely minor situations that popped up.
KS: As Ryan says, my intent was to stay pretty hands off other than sometimes guiding the material to hew to the prompt… while still giving everyone the creative freedom to find their own ways in. One thing that really came to light as the pages kept arriving is that the anthology itself is almost like browsing a comic store, with such a variety of material. I’d love to say that was by design, but, in actuality, it’s an added bonus.
BD: Brick-and-mortar comic book shops hold a special place in the hearts and minds of many comic book readers and creators. Can you share with us some of the nostalgic themes and experiences that may be touched on by the stories in the collection?
KS: It’s probably safe to say that anyone who chooses comics as a profession has at some point experienced the world of comic shops — the good, the not-so-good, and everything in between. Whether you’ve worked behind the counter or are “just” a shopper, we probably all remember our first store, or our favorite store, or have some special memory tied to the milieu. Of the stories in Meanwhile…, I know that some are reflections of actual lived experience, while others channel the feeling of actual experience into something more fanciful.
RH: That’s the fun part of this anthology — seeing how every creator interprets their own experiences with comic shops. Some are very literal, setting directly in a comic shop and their experiences with being an employee or customer. Some are much more fantastic, or looking at just a part of the industry and doing a story around it.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you would like to share with readers?
RH: 2023 is the 30th anniversary of Comics Conspiracy, a no small feat in this industry these days. We’re so thankful to all our customers and regulars who have come by the shop or bought from us online the past 30 years. I’d love to say I have “more” in the works other than the shop, but the one thing I learned over the past two years working on the anthology is how much work goes into making just one comic book! I’ll never say never, but no other comics are being worked on right now, doing one on top of the day-to-day store duties has been a lot of work.
KS: Hot take: It turns out this whole “editing comics” thing isn’t easy! This book has been so all-consuming for the past two years that right now we’re mostly focused on bringing the plane in for a landing. We’re so grateful to everyone who’s helped make the book and to those who have backed it that we want to put out the very best product we can at the end of the day.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Meanwhile... A Comic Shop Anthology Kickstarter campaign and your other work?
RH: They can check out the shop if they’re in Sunnyvale, CA (913 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087) or go on our website and place orders for pick-up or mail order (comicsconspiracy.biz).
KS: And for anyone who’s reading this on Fanbase Press, please click over to my “Between The Panels” series to meet some of these creators — and many, many others — more in-depth.