11 Questions with Mark Seifert from Avatar Press

I was given the opportunity to start up the “11 Questions” interviews with Mark Seifert from Avatar Press who is a man of many talents at Avatar.

Let me know in the comments or at the Bleeding Cool forum what you think.

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  • What initiated your interest in comics?

I’ve been into comics since before I could read.  I grew up in a rural area, and at that time and place it was very common for a household to have a stash of old comics to keep the kids occupied when the parents came over for a visit.  And really, that was a pretty common thing in general at the time around here — barber shops, doctor’s office, etc.  This was growing up in the 70’s, and I read through tattered copies of a large chunk of the Silver Age that way.

Thinking about that just now, I’m a little startled to consider that I might be a huge Kirby fan in part because my barber happened to have a big pile of Silver Age FF’s, but I suppose it’s a little true.

  • Was it always your dream to work in comics or did you somehow ‘fall into it’?

I wanted to be a comic book artist pretty bad in my grade school days — constantly copying Spider-Man off of John Romita poses and stuff like that, trying to learn how to draw.  But by the time I reached jr high school Apple was making their first big push to get Apple ][‘s into schools, and I became a different sort of geek for a few years.

So I went to college majoring in Computer Engineering, and at that time the American direct market was getting into full swing and comic shops were starting to pop up all over.  I suppose my “falling into it” moment was walking into the shop I stumbled across on campustown on a whim — and being blown away at how things had changed since I was a kid.  This was the era of Frank Miller on Daredevil, Alan Moore on Swamp Thing, Byrne Fantastic Four, the Claremont X-empire, and so on.

Shortly after that I started running into William [Christensen, Avatar Press editor-in-chief] on the local scene.  We were both trying to put together our collections of Fantastic Four at the time, I think.  We quickly became best friends, and William has always had this unmatched entrepreneurial drive and the brains to turn his vision into reality, so by the 90’s we were working together on various things — first retail, then a stint writing for Wizard during their formative years, working a little bit with Chaos!, and finally Avatar and its various endeavors.

William REALLY understood the way the indy market was developing during the market’s formative years in the 80’s and early 90’s, he’s got more knowledge of what made that tick than anybody I know, and we used that to carry us forward towards some of the logical next steps with early Avatar.

  • Who do you look up to as influences?

For the most part that list starts with Jack Kirby — explosive creativity combined with an iron will when it came to work ethic.  There’s nothing I can say about Kirby that 500 other people haven’t already said better, so let me just say that I admire the idea that one can continue to grow creatively over the course of decades — a lifetime in his case — in comics.  I hope I can capture just a tiny bit of that.  There’s nothing else I want to do.

  • You seem to do a lot of different things within Avatar so what are the main things you do?

Everybody at Avatar does a little bit of everything.  We’re a small company and you just do what needs doing on any given day.  But on a typical day I’ll do comic production work, some editorial strategizing with William, keep the trains running on our various web endeavors behind the scenes, ad layout and other marketing… just whatever that day brings, really.

  • Have you had ideas for your own book that might come out?

William and I wrote a bunch of the early Avatar company-owned line.  That was a looooong time ago, and eventually I’ll get back to trying it with all I’ve learned about making comics in the intervening years.

  • Avatar has a lot of unusual projects coming out from well know creators. How have you managed to get creators such as Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, Jamie Delano and Christos Gage involved in bringing their titles to the company?


Observers generally chalk this up to creative freedom, and it is that, but there’s more to it also — it’s really the total creative environment that we’ve grown here, bit by bit, since the early days with Mike Wolfer, David Quinn and Tim Vigil, guys like Matt Martin (who did the hit 90’s book SNOWMAN) and eventually of course our earliest stuff with Warren Ellis.  You can’t manufacture the chemical composition of something like Avatar, it’s got to be grown organically.  Avatar is powered by a weird sort of creative electricity that just works.

  • How has the reaction been to the books Avatar has been putting out?

Someone told me on bleedingcool.com the other day that he loved Crossed but felt bad for recommending it to others.  I love that, that sort of can’t-look-away reaction.  Of course, not that all of our books are intense in the particular way that Crossed is, but art is meant to provoke a response.  That kind of response tells me that people understand that we’re not just selling commodity books as part of a line.  When I read a response like that I know we’re on the right track.

  • Have you had any issues with Diamond regarding the cut off point for sales?

None at all.

  • What has been the overall reaction to what Avatar has been putting out?

One of the most important things we’ve done in the past year is put some public faces on the company, which is something we sort of resisted before then.  But now on whitechapel, twitter, flickr, and so on, people are getting to know me and William a little bit and the nature of the feedback we get is infinitely more valuable.  We’re having continuous conversations about what we’re doing rather than just someone tossing off a quick email that disappears into the company server and you’re never quite sure if somebody read it or not.

So yeah… I get a pretty continuous stream of feedback on what we’re doing, and once people see that you’re listening it gets constructive and enthusiastic pretty quickly.  So the reaction is awesome these days, no question.

  • When you have new creators wanting to bring a book out through Avatar, do they have free reign on what they can do?

The foundation of that is trusting the people you’re working with.  When Warren Ellis says, “I want to do X”, we know he CAN do X, and he knows we’re not going to come back halfway through and say “wait… X?  I didn’t know you REALLY meant X, you can’t do THAT!”  That’s part of what makes Avatar work.

  • What has been your favourite project to work on so far?

I won’t narrow it down to a particular project, but let me say this:  I get to work with people like Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and Alan Moore every day.  See their scripts and notes, look inside their brains a bit.  The creative spark is of keen interest to me, and I’ve got a front row seat to the creative process of several of the finest minds in the world.  That’s why I love my job.

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I have to thank Mark for spending the time to sit down and answer the questions above. I’m a big fan of the Avatar books and it’s great where they are going.

So if your looking for something different be it Dark Superhero, Based in a Steampunk Future or about a mad scientist then you owe yourself to check out some of Avatar’s comic books

Mark is can be found over at the Bleeding Cool forums and also is the man behind the Avatar Press Twitter Account so be sure to drop by and say hello to him.

One Response to “11 Questions with Mark Seifert from Avatar Press”

  1. Jason Wright says:

    Nice interview! I’ve only just recently caught onto Avatar with Ellis’ work. But I’m now on-board with Anna Mercury, Ignition City and Absolution.