There’s an old saying in comic books that nobody stays dead except for Uncle Ben. Hell, even Uncle Ben is on shaky ground at this point, but the saying applies to characters, series, and, as it turns out, publishers too. In 2016, writer/artist Eric Powell is relaunching his indie label, Albatross Funnybooks. The original home of critically acclaimed series like The Goon is back in full force, with new series like the fantasy meets Appalachian Mountain people series, Hillbilly and old favorites like Satan’s Sodomy Baby (which will be available in a small, one time print run exclusively at comic book shops).
We had a chance to talk with Powell about running his own comic label, the need to try something new, and his ongoing rivalry with Leonardo DiCaprio. Plus, we have some exclusive promo videos for Albatross Funnybooks’ upcoming line, including Hillbilly and Satan’s Sodomy Baby II, as well as an exclusive gallery of images for your perusal below:
Nerdist: So, what made you feel like now is the time to relaunch Albatross Funnybooks?
Eric Powell: Not sure that’s something I can adequately put into words. A lot of personal reasons. A personal challenge. My grandad, Onie Wheeler, who was a rockabilly pioneer in Nashville, had some lyrics in one of his later songs that went, “I’d rather scratch with the chickens than crawl like a worm on the ground.” I think I inherited a lot of his attitude on the stance of preferring to stand on your own feet and the stubbornness contained in those lyrics runs deep in me. Not wanting to ask for something you can do yourself. I need to do this. See if I sink or swim. At least then I’ll know what was possible instead of wondering “What if?” for the rest of my life.
If it fails, hey, it’s like my patron saint R.P. McMurphey said, “But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamn it, at least I did that.” But I think we have a game plan in place that is going to allow us to succeed. And first and foremost, I believe in the books that we’re doing. It’s weird, but if I had to describe my mentality going into this I almost feel like I have the hippiest little league coach backing me up saying, “Hey, man, try your best and have fun. That’s all that matters, dude!” Maybe that’s what it all boils down to. Just having fun making comics.
N: Running your own comic publisher has to be a brutal amount of work. Why not pitch these series to established publishers like Image Comics and Dark Horse?
EP: Well, when I was self-publishing it was a grueling amount of work for someone to take on alone. I would never try that again. This time I’ve brought someone on to take care of the day-to-day operations and there are a lot of great freelancers out there I’ve met through the industry I’m going to be working with to keep the load of my shoulders so I can focus on creative decisions and making books. I’ve had a good long standing relationship with Dark Horse, and I’ve only done one project at Image, but it was a great experience. I’ve got nothing bad to say about them. But I know what I can do there. I need to know what I can do as a publisher with Albatross.
N: You’ve got some amazing launch titles lined up. Do you see Albatross Funnybooks as primarily a home for your work or will you be taking pitches and hunting down new talent?
EP: I’m starting out with my own material, but I definitely want to publish other creators. Of course, that will all depend on how successful we are. We do have a couple of projects already in the pipeline by some other creators we’ll hopefully be announcing this summer. I have been a longtime vocal advocate for creator-owned comics, and that’s what I want to push. I feel they are vital to growing and sustaining our industry. I love the art form of comics and want to see it grow instead of eat itself in rehashed gimmicks and regurgitated ideas! *kicks over trash can* LET’S RIOT!
N: Obviously, anybody with any taste at all will be excited about Satan’s Sodomy Baby. What made you decided to go with the one-time printing, comic shop-only model for this book? No love for digital sodomy?
EP: One, I’m saying to the retailers, “Here’s something just for you!” You’re welcome. Two, I want a set limit of physical copies. This is gonna be like a Mondo print. Get it now, because that’s it. One and done. And it’s about being punk rock. When I wanted to do the first Sodomy Baby, I was told it would ruin my career. And keep in mind this was at a point when I was just starting to get some heat from The Goon and I was in no way secure with my position in the industry. I gave a lot of thought to wether I should release the book or not. But I vividly remember the moment I decided to do it. And it was basically me saying to myself, “Are you f–king punk rock or not?!” Not putting out the comic was backpedaling in fear. This comic is punk rock. It’s no bullshit. I’m not making it to put it in the hands of everyone. There’s nothing punk rock about being McDonald’s. And trust me, it ain’t gonna taste like a Big Mac, either. More like a fistful of broken glass.
N: Is there a plan for the digital release of Albatross Funnybooks’ other titles? Are you planning on going through popular readers like ComiXology?
EP: Absolutely! Even though SSBII is not being released digitally, I want everything else we publish to be. I was very down on digital comics until I got to see what they looked like on an iPad. Since then I’ve been a fan. I think they’ve become an indispensable way for for creator owned content that has to constantly fight for shelf space to reach a wider audience.
N: Hillbilly looks amazing. Are their any plans to let other creators play in the world you are creating if it goes past that first 12 issues?
EP: Thanks! I’m really excited about it. It’s been on the back burner for a long time. I’m thrilled to finally getting around to releasing it. I’m writing and drawing the first 12 issues for sure. If I don’t get burned out, I might go for more. If I can’t continue past the first year, and it’s pretty successful, I’ll bring on another artist to take over. I feel it’s definitely going to be a flagship book for Albatross.
N: On a scale of one to ten, how much is Hillbilly like The Revenant and have you talked to Leo DiCaprio about playing a character in the big screen adaptation of this or Satan’s Sodomy Baby?
EP: Well, one, there’s a bear in it ( But mine is a saber toothed bear the size of a house named Lucille. ), two, he’s scraggly and got a beard. So on a scale of one to ten… Two. I don’t know how Leo would feel about playing Sodomy Baby since I haven’t spoken to him since the Eisners when he elbowed me in the crotch as I went up to receive my award. All those memes floating around afterward were really embarrassing. HE RUINED MY TIME TO SHINE!!
N: Any chance of a Pug Davis reprint or perhaps new issues? Seems like that Rebecca Sugar has become pretty popular.
EP: I approached Rebecca about doing a new book for us, but obviously she’s really busy right now. It would be great to do a new edition of Pug Davis now that she is such a success. To put out a nicer edition. That would all depend on if Rebecca wants to do another. It’s way too early to make any announcements but, like I said, we do have some stuff by some amazing creators in the pipeline.
N: Your run on Godzilla was amazing. Are their any giant monster books on the horizon for Albatross Funnybooks?
EP: Aw, thanks, man. Some people really liked that run for the social satire take we did, others not so much. But I love giant monsters, so I’m sure they’ll be popping up here and there in Albatross books.
N: Are you planning on keeping The Goon at Dark Horse? Seems like you havea solid relationship with those folks.
EP: Yeah, The Goon has a happy home at Dark Horse. The Goon library remains there. And I’ve still got new projects coming out through them. Lords of Misery and The Goon spinoff among them.
N: What’s your long-term plan for Albatross Funnybooks? Do you see it growing into a big indie publisher or are you looking to keep it small?
EP: I don’t have an unrealistic ambition when it comes to this. I have a belief in what we’re capable of and where it can go, but my goal with this company is quality over quantity. Make some great comics, make some money, and have fun doing it. I want to take pride in everything we do and build a relationship of trust with retailers and readers. So they know when they put their money into an Albatross comic, they are getting a quality book that is entertaining and fun.
So, we’re not out to take over the world. At the end of the day, if we’re a really successful and respected publisher that helps other comic creators make their own comics, that wouldn’t be bad. I’d take that.
If you want to learn more about Albatross Funnybooks you can visit the links below: