Chip Mosher got his start in comics as a creator, writing the miniseries Left on Mission that was published by BOOM! Studios back in 2008. From there he joined BOOM! in a public relations and marketing role, before eventually moving over to comiXology.
While serving in a marketing role for the digital comics provider, he added responsibilities as head of content back in 2016, when the company launched its comiXology Originals imprint. These are original, digital comics created in conjunction with either existing publishers or directly with creators, and are available to buy on comiXology or to read if you subscribe to comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited or Prime Reading.
Since then, the imprint has published comics in conjunction with Archie, Kodansha, Marvel and other publishers, as well as creators like Chip Zdarsky, Kel McDonald, Tyler Crook, Ray Fawkes, Magdalene Visaggio, Claudia Aguirre and many more. Today sees the launch of their latest title, Youth by Curt Pires and Alex Diotto, which will run weekly for four issues. I spoke with Mosher about this latest project, the imprint’s evolution, his approach to finding new content and more.
You’re the Head of Content at comiXology for the Originals program. What is that and what does that mean?
As Head of Content I lead the comiXology Originals program. We have a talented team working on all aspects of comiXology Originals, whether that is reviewing pitches, ideating marketing campaigns or executing all the technical demands of putting the books up for sale. It’s a team effort with a ton of great people throughout our production and marketing groups taking part, with me taking the lead and reporting to David Steinberger, the CEO.
What’s been the hardest part of transitioning from a content role vs. doing PR and Marketing?
That’s been a double-edged sword. Having a background in marketing and PR has been incredibly helpful in coming up with plans for those aspects of the program… but I’ve really had to toss my “PR mind” aside when reviewing pitches. Part of doing PR is anticipating and thinking through all the worst-case scenarios for issues that may come up, and you can’t review content thinking about that.
Take for instance Youth by Curt Pires and Alex Diotta. That book came to us through a recommendation by Ed Brisson. The shorthand way to describe the book is Euphoria meets Chronicle. Curt does an incredible job capturing teen voices today – and there is an“f-bomb” in the majority of the word balloons. The work is really transgressive in the way that HBO’s Euphoria is. I’m desperately trying not to give any spoilers and probably failing. But in any case, the PR side of me was getting a little antsy reading it, but the content side of me loved it. In that case, as the pitch moved through our internal approval process, I had to really govern myself to flag the content issues from a PR perspective that may or may not come up. Of course, everyone else loved it and my alarmist PR “Spidey Sense” wasn’t helpful at all.
So yeah, just putting that part of my brain away took some doing. But in the end, it’s been a blast for me personally using all the skills I’ve obtained over the years working across all aspects of the comic industry on comiXology Originals.
Initially when you came into the role, what were you hoping to accomplish with the line?
We designed ComiXology Originals to bring added value to our customers, whether that is new-to-comics customers, existing customers or the folks that we are working with who are providing content — who we consider another type of customer. With the content debuting for no additional charge across comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading, there is a ton of great reading available to an incredibly large audience of potential readers. It’s great to be able to experiment with different approaches in releasing the content – like directly debuting new content in the subscription services — or weekly in the case of Youth. And when it comes to content creators, it’s fantastic to work with diverse voices from different backgrounds and give them a place to showcase their work.
One of your early successes was Marley’s Ghost, where you worked with the Kurtzman Estate to finish a “lost” Harvey Kurtzman graphic novel. It went on to win an Eisner that year. What was that like for you, getting to bring a project like this to life from such a legendary creator, and then seeing success at the Eisner Awards?
Marley’s Ghost was a fun one and long-gestating. Back in 2009, Denis Kitchen and John Lind did The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics book, which was the first time the unfinished thumbnails of Marley’s Ghost were revealed as was the story of Harvey Kurtzman trying to get this graphic novel done in the early 1960s was revealed. Having known Denis for a bit, I gave him a call and asked him how many thumbnails existed, and… there was a lot there. It seemed a shame to have a book sitting there unfinished, this lost piece of comics history. So, when we were starting up the Originals program, I reached out to Denis and John, who represent the Kurtzman estate, and I talked to them about posthumously completing the book. They and the estate brought in Gideon Kendall, Josh O’Neill and Shannon Wheeler to finish the book… and it came out great.
I know Nellie Kurtzman and Harvey’s widow Adele really loved the final piece, and I think that Harvey would have too. Gideon really killed it on the art. And Josh and Shannon paired down the script to something that is really emotionally impactful. I teared up the last couple of times I read it. That whole team did a lot of heroic heavy lifting. I knew when I saw the final product it was going to win an award; it was great when it did and I wasn’t proved wrong. (Laughs.)
With a lot of those earlier projects, you worked with publishers, like Marvel, BOOM! and Valiant, rather than directly with creators, which seems to be the norm now. Was there a conscious decision in this shift, to work directly with creators?
The first year of comiXology Originals we did some fun projects with established publishers, and we are still working with Kodansha, Archie and Editions Delcourt on current projects – The Drops of God, Josie and the Pussycats in Space, Promethee 13:13, respectively. Working directly with content creators gives us a bit more latitude to experiment with different aspects like print. We take every project on a case-by-case basis.
How are you finding new content, or creators to work with? Do you reach out to them directly, or is there a pitching process for comiXology Originals? How many pitches do you get in a given month, and has that changed at all in the last month or so?
Unlike Submit, comiXology Originals is curated. Creator-owned projects find us in a variety of different ways: from word of mouth, recommendations, and outreach to creators. We definitely see a spike in inquiries about working with comiXology Originals whenever we have a high-profile announcement, like with Youth.
What do you look for in a pitch? What sorts of projects do you think fit in best with the overall Originals line, in terms of genre, format, etc.?
Whenever a creator asks me that, the thing I reply with is, “What project are you most passionate about?” ComiXology Originals is an internal start up, and we have been able to scale up by working with creators who can package their own work and deliver issues, collections and trades complete and ready to be read. Each creator we contract with is, in reality, the publisher. So not only are we looking for the stories that creators are passionate about telling, since they have to do all the legwork putting the books together, they need to have that passion to drive them through the process.
Looking at the library of content you’ve been responsible for on comiXology thus far, what are some of the highlights or big successes? Are there any projects, in addition to Marley’s Ghost, that you’re particularly proud of or had fun working on?
Oh jeez, that’s tough. I mean, it’s hard to pick out just one as the comiXology Originals team is pretty discerning about what we do and we are really excited about all the projects. We were incredibly happy with The Stone King by Kel McDonald and Tyler Crook, especially when it was nominated for an Eisner. Delver is another one that Spike, MK and Clive Hawken delivered on that’s like no other fantasy comic out there. Justin Jordan and Tyasetta’s Breaklands has been a big hit and a complete adrenaline rush of a read. Personally, I’m over the moon to finally get The Drops of God entirely released in English, and working with Kodansha is always a joy. We have so many books now and so many different types, it’s hard to pick just one.
Looking forward, what do you have planned in the short term for comiXology Originals? Is there anything new coming up you can tell us about?
Amazon Studios recently picked up Youth for TV development; they are working directly with Curt Pires on that. It’s fantastically gratifying to have acquired a project of comiXology Originals that other parts of Amazon are interested in working on and to the benefit of the content creators we work with.
Curt and Alex are already working on the comic sequel to Youth and we have two more comic series that Curt is working on, but details on those are still forthcoming.
And finally, where would you like to be in 2-3 years, in terms of number of projects and the types of projects you’re doing?
For content creators, our goal is to be the best home for their project. For new and existing fans, we want to have the perfect book for everyone. Currently, we’ve settled on debuting about 20 new series or graphic novels a year. I think that’s a good place to be and in two or three years, well, to be continued. (Laughs.)