I don’t know if everyone understands the gravitas that Filip Sablik holds. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the masses of comic readers put much thought into anything beyond the direct creative roles in comics. It’s like they see anything else and go “office job…meh.”. The truth is a lot of these guys are the true heroes of comics as they wrangle the herds of comic creators. Sablik is the publisher of Top Cow comics. He oversees the vast majority of the Top Cow product, and coordinates with talent on projects. After hovering awkwardly around the Top Cow booth over at the Image Expo for a while, Filip agreed to talk to me about what is up with Top Cow’s Minotaur imprint, and his comic The Last Mortal.
Adam Messinger: So…uh…rumor has it that you’re the publisher who filters all the fun stuff through?
Filip Sablik: Yep, that’s the rumor.
Adam: I see Top Cow is branching out with your imprint, Minotaur. What was it about these black and white projects that made you go “I have to publish this!” since your focus is on the shared universe stuff.
Filip: We’ve been working with some creators, like Joshua Hale Fialkov. For example, he came to us and pitched Echos, and we loved the concept of it. In our minds the Top Cow brand is generally hi-quality, high budget, supernatural, sci-fi, or genre twists, and overall just the comic equivalent of big summer blockbusters. Over the years there have been projects that we passed on because they didn’t fit into that brand because they were more grounded, low budget feel, more nuanced. That’s not to say that the main universe stuff doesn’t have nuance! Echos was really the book that made us think about doing this. Top Cow had this Minotaur years ago that Tony Harris did Obergiest through, and Greg Ruka did Fellon through. When we were looking for a new imprint name, we thought “Oh, we have this great imprint already. Lets re imagine it as the equivalent as our Independent Film Channel. It can be the Fox Searchlight to our Fox Studios.” We were looking for ways to differentiate it and that’s where the black and white came in. We felt like “Let’s really make this feel indy!”. I think black and white also has the tendency to really ground things. Much in the same way in black and white films tend to make things very serious. You tend to sit up and pay attention because everything else is in color. That’s also why when we collect them, we collect them in these digest size hardcovers. We only have plans to do one series at a time, so we did Echos. Echos has probably been our best reviewed series ever besides maybe Wanted, or Midnight Nation. We also did Last Mortal, which as you stated earlier (Yes, he knew that I was going to mention it in my written intro), that I have a little invested stake in. It’s this property that I’ve been developing since I was a teenager, and I’d always wanted to find a home for it. Matt [Hawkins], and Marc [Silvestri] were very supportive, and Minotaur is the right place for it. It wouldn’t fit in regular Top Cow. The artist, Thomas Nachlik, had this very gritty black and white art style. We’re also announcing our third Minotaur Press series, Think Tank, that Matt Hawkins, and artist, Rahsan Ekedal are doing. It’s going to be a four issue series coming out beginning in August. It’ll be coming out August, September, October, November and then a collection will follow.
Adam: Wait! You said you’ve been working on Last Mortal since you were a teenager?!
Filip: Yeah, my best friend and I created the main character in ’93 or ’94. It’s very cool because this is the character and the story that Image Comics inspired out of me. I was telling a friend that if I got kicked out of the industry tomorrow at least I can say to the teenage me, “Hey, this thing you dreamed up when you were 14 or 15 was realized.” I don’t know, honestly, where the idea came from because it’s a really dark idea for a 14 year old to have. It’s about a suicidal immortal. I think it was the oxymoron concept from everyone wanting to live forever and stay young. There is this thing in humanity, a quest for immortality, and it’s like “When would this be a curse or a bad thing?”. That would be if the only thing you wanted to do was die. It’s about this guy that hits rock bottom, tries to kill himself, and that’s when he finds out he’s immortal. So he has to figure out what to do with his life.
Adam: Are you guys taking submissions, or are you actively recruiting for Minotaur? How is the creative process behind that working?
Filip: In general, our submission projects policy is an invitation based thing. With Josh, we really enjoyed working with him on Pilot Season: Alibi and Pilot Season: Cyblade for us. So we asked him if he had anymore ideas and then he came back and pitched us Echos. Last Mortal was, obviously, something I’d be working on internally. It is a pretty straight forward thing. We have another series that we’re working on, and announced at Comic-con, called Cutter. It’s created by Bob Napton and Seamus Kevin Fahey, who was one of the writers on BSG and Spartacus. Matt Hawkins has been friends with Bob for years since they worked at Extreme Studios back in the 90’s. Bob knew Seamus and they had this pitch for an idea and that’s how that happened. It’s been the same thing for Pilot Season, it’s not like a completely open submission policy. It’s a little unmanageable that way. It’s curated in the sense that it’s either creators we wanted to work with, or creators we’ve worked with in the past that know we have an open door for them to throw out ideas at us. Even with just doing that, on average I think we get a couple hundred ideas submitted to us for pilot season every year. I think if we opened it up to everybody it’d be a madhouse. I honestly don’t know how, Eric Stephenson over at Image, how they deal with it. I think he’s made the good point of keeping the open door policy, but the reality of it is that most blind submissions aren’t very good. He said he can count on one hand the amount of submissions that were pulled out of the pile. Nightly News is a great example. Every once in a while you get a Jonathan Hickman going “Here’s my first comics work! What do you think of it?” and it’s brilliant. Most of the time it takes young creators a while to develop that craft. I still think that self publishing is a valuable experience on so many levels. It makes you a better creator.
Mucho thanks this week to Top Cow, Filip Sablik, you for reading, and scoop.diamondgalleries.com for the pictures! Also a big thanks to Spending time at that booth was the most educational, and moment of the convention. Their Minotaur stuff looked really great, and I’m excited to see Think Tank, and I’ll be picking up a Last Mortal hardcover very soon. Come back next week as I interview Invincible artist, Ryan Ottley! – Adam