It’s been quite a year for the comics industry, and few places are offering as many unique pieces of storytelling and creative opportunities within the comics space as AfterShock Comics. The company has defined itself as a place where creators can go to tell different types of stories that others don’t always embrace, and recently had the chance to speak with AfterShock CEO Jon Kramer, Publisher and CCO Joe Pruett, and Editor in Chief Mike Marts all about their vision for AfterShock, what it brings to the table, and what the space could use more of.

“As a company, AfterShock focuses all of its collective energy on creating a safe, fun and productive area for creators to come and tell their stories,” Marts said. “In our five years of operation, we’ve accepted pitches from writers which were rejected at other companies, which then went on to become extremely successful brands for our company. We’ve also accepted ideas from creators that they’d been afraid to pitch to other companies—fearing rejection based on content being too daring or risqué. Rather than turning creators away or creating too rigid a house style, AfterShock has instead found ways to cultivate talent and ideas to a point where we’re getting the absolute best from their stockpile of ideas.”

“The great thing about AfterShock is that we aren’t tied to any particular type of storytelling or story as other publisher might be,” Pruett said. “We encourage creators to take chances (how many other mainstream publishers offer that luxury?) and build worlds and characters that they would want to read as a fan. Mike Marts and I have over 50 years of editing and creating comics between us, so we have a wealth of experience discovering and nurturing emerging voices, as well as working the “biggest” names in the comic book business. That’s a lot of experience and value that we both bring to the table.”

AfterShock has been able to build its publishing around those creative premises and stories without much in the way of big events or crossovers, and that’s not by accident.

“We want stories that push the limits and are not just cookie-cutter corporate directives,” Pruett said. “We want something fresh, something unique. Something exciting on its own merit.”

“It’s a pretty simple equation, really. In a world where story is all that matters to us, words like ‘event’ or ‘gimmick’ hold very little importance,” Marts said. “We understand that both readers and retailers are tired of endless crossover events and seeing their favorite titles start over with a new #1 every year…what we provide is the alternative to the big event. Why trick a reader into buying more copies when you can simply tell them a great story? Isn’t that why we’re all doing this in the first place—to tell great stories? Our approach and strategy doesn’t rely on the formula that decides how to string along readers for endless months, milking their wallets along the way. Instead, we focus on delivering high quality product with relatable, relevant stories that fans of ALL genres will enjoy—not just superheroes.

Amongst AfterShock’s current umbrella lies titles like Babyteeth, Animosity, Dark Ark, Knights Temporal, and A Walk Through Hell, which are all quite different from each other in both tone and scope. That variety helps AfterShock’s lineup stand out, but we wanted to know how they go about evaluating a series and figuring out if it’s right for them, as well as the challenges in that process.

“It depends on each individual creator…some writers might bring us a pet project they’ve been nurturing for years, or other creators might turn to us to help develop their next big idea,” Marts said. “But at the core of each creative decision and greenlighting of projects rests the simple notion that We Want To Tell Great Stories. Some might end up in the horror realm, others in sci-fi, others in true crime, but at the end of the day it’s about the stories themselves—the ideas transcend whatever genre they end up in.”

“It all starts with the story. Without a unique, captivating story then you don’t have a chance at success,” Pruett said. “There are certainly creators that we target because of their track record of crafting fantastic ideas, but we’re always open to being approached by emerging talent. We gather together twice a month and go over the creative pitches that have come in recently. We read them individually and we voice our opinions and then vote. Sometimes one of us may be more passionate than others for a certain project, so we present our cases about why we should or shouldn’t accept a submission. Sometimes there’s a project that we all agree is a sure fire hit. Those are the ones that generally go on to fulfill that prophecy.”

There have been some challenges along the way of course, but there has also been some extremely rewarding milestones and moments that the team is immensely proud of, and for Marts one of those is “Winning Diamond’s Small Publisher of the Year award in 2018.” As for Kramer, it’s “Having the retailers recognize through higher orders the value of the AfterShock brand and the quality and sales potential of our individual books.”

As for the next milestone the team wants to hit, it’s about being recognized as a publisher that isn’t going anywhere. “Being treated and accepted as a quality publisher who is here to stay and not just another independent publisher,” Kramer said.

Over recent years fans have become use to seeing some of their favorite characters, stories, and universes expand outside of comics, whether that be in films, TV, video games, or other mediums, and that is definitely a goal of AfterShock as well.

“AfterShock is all about story and if it turns out that our stories travel to other mediums, that means they deserve to,” Kramer said. “It is important to us in many ways. Firstly, to help see the vision of the creators presented in another medium with a broader audience is fantastic. Secondly, it demonstrates AfterShock is good at working with creators to create good stories that travel. Thirdly, presently the way in which the retail market and Diamond work, all the cards are stacked against new publishers so getting wider fan and financial recognition is essential to a publisher’s health. Seamlessly, we have great skill sets in our company, from the comic publishing team to the team that helps transition the comic with creators to film and TV. We have executives in our group like myself, Dan Shires, Ryan Carroll, Jeff Ford, and Lee Kramer, who know how the TV/film world works, knows how to pitch a comic story and can produce our own shows.”

So, we’ve looked at where AfterShock is now, but what about the future? We asked Kramer to take a look forward, and at this same time next year to envision what he hopes to see from the industry as a whole and AfterShock’s place within it.

“For an industry, I hope Diamond has made a concentrated effort to streamline processes and become more service-oriented,” Kramer said. “I hope retailers move out of the past and move forward and give independent publishers a chance to flourish.”

“AfterShock will continue to be the most consistent independent publisher of quality, varied story because of our creative relationships with those we have worked with in the past, and we will continue to grow our roster of new creators,” Kramer said of the company’s long term strategy “AfterShock will have worked with Diamond to serve our retailers more efficiently and effectively. Retailers will embrace the AfterShock Army and in concert with AfterShock, will promote our books to fans. AfterShock will announce its first comics making their way to a theatre near you and to TV’s around the globe, helping to expand the world on the AfterShock brand.”

You can find out even more about AfterShock Comics on their official website, and let us know what your favorite AfterShock series is in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @MattAguilarCB for all things comics!