The comics portal at UGO has published an interview with Spencer Lamm, editor of Burlyman Entertainment’s forthcoming line of comic books. If the Burlyman name rings a bell, that’s probably because it was the codename used by the Wachowski brothers for their two sequels to THE MATRIX, and the name continues on as the moniker of their comic book publishing company.
Burlyman’s first two titles will be SHAOLIN COWBOY, by Geof Darrow (BIG GUY AND RUSTY THE BOY ROBOT) and DOC FRANKENSTEIN by Steve Skroce (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, the two conceptual designers and storyboarders that worked with the Wachowskis on all three MATRIX films.
In the UGO interview, Lamm reveals that the Wachowkskis will be writing DOC FRANKENSTEIN, with Skroce providing the artwork as well as co-plotting the book. SHAOLIN COWBOY will be handled completely by Darrow.
Lamm and the Wachowskis started their company to serve as an outlet for the stories that Skroce and Darrow wanted to tell. While everyone associated with Burlyman wants to see the company take root and grow, the team isn’t interested in making comics solely for the sake of a quick buck. “No one involved in this is out to get rich from these books,” Lamm tells in the interview. “We hope to continue to grow; it has to be self-sustaining. Happily, our goals are modest and hopefully realistic: we grandly aspire to break even.”
The first issue of DOC FRANKENSTEIN will be released in November, followed by the premiere issue of SHAOLIN COWBOY in December.
SPENCER: I don’t think any of us have a strictly business background. That said, I think the past five to six years have schooled us. When you are talking about film production versus comic books there is a big difference. On the films, or even the relatively smaller project The Animatrix, I often had to stop to realize how much money was being spent. I come from comics where the economics are far different, so I was not prepared for the difference in scale. There is a learning curve, but the core remains the same: storytelling and people and the myriad of small dilemmas that come up day to day, these are the fundamentals of both worlds.
We’ve also really tried to be smart about it. In the back of our minds we have always wanted to create a company to launch Steve and Geof’s books. What we didn’t know was if we could pull it off. We’ve all worked for other comic book companies and been paid, but we had to realize what doing it ourselves would mean. We put out The Matrix Comics trade paperback last year, doing all the distribution and the marketing. It was kind of an experiment to see if it was something we could do, and it ended up being immensely successful.
UGO: How well did it do?
SPENCER: We printed about 80,000 copies, and we had the luxury of putting it out at the right time when the second and third movies were released. However, it can still be scary. In the book market shops can order 1000 books, and if they do not sell they may return 950 of them. Something like The Matrix was even more dangerous because many stores were willing to take a chance since it was The Matrix. We sent 45,000 copies of The Matrix Comics to the book market, which scared the hell out of me because it was 45,000 comics that could be returned — which would have tanked us — but it worked
UGO: When people talk about Larry and Andy, they always seem to say that they are of one mind. This question may seem silly, but you know them both well — do they have their own distinct personalities separate from one another?
SPENCER: Absolutely, but this comes from them being so in-sync when it comes to the projects they work on together, as in The Matrix. To my memory, they have never contradicted one another, no matter how complex the idea, in regards to The Matrix. Of course, they worked on The Matrix for so long and together have explored the concept so deeply, that they have answered many of the questions themselves well in advance of anyone asking.
I am sure that when they were laying it out they were back and forth with one another, but now when you throw a question at them, they’ve an answer, the same answer, which if you don’t know how they work, might seem supernatural.
UGO: There was a lot of backlash from both fans and critics about Reloaded and Revolutions. How did that affect you?
SPENCER: Not at all.