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Misadventures in the World of Contract Killing

Gene Turnbow reporting

Trigger Men is a dark comedy that revolves around the lives of two friends who make a living as hitmen. The series follows the misadventures of Matt and Jason as they navigate the absurd world of contract killing. Their exploits range from setting up their high school bully as a fall-guy to saving their favorite Chinese buffet from bankruptcy. While the comic is dark in nature, it is not gratuitously violent and it focuses more on the characters’ wacky chains of dialogue and interesting relationships than the actions at hand.

Kyle Winters and Mike Andersen formed Triptych Books, frustrated with the apparent opacity of the comics industry and determined to break in – even if they had to do something unorthodox like create and publish their own comics series to do it.  They took their first project to Kickstarter.com and got it funded, and Trigger Men was born.

I met with Kyle Winters, the manager and producer  Triptych Books at their booth at the Long Beach Comics Convention on October 30, 2011:

Trigger Men, a bromantic dark comedy from Triptych Books

Trigger Men, a bromantic dark comedy from Triptych Books

Gene Turnbow: I see a great big banner here for a book called “Trigger Men”!  Hi, Kyle!  Can you tell me a little about Trigger Men?

Kyle Winters: Trigger Men is a light-hearted dark comedy about two best friends who are hit men and the kind of misadventures they get into along the way.  We like to say it’s a bro-mantic comedy with guns, because it really is about their relationship and their relationship with other people with some action and drama tossed in for good effect.  We started our company about a year and a half ago.  We went to last year’s Long Beach Comic Con and had our first issue.  Now we’re three issues in, and getting down to a monthly schedule with our book, so it’s really starting to take off.

GT:  That’s pretty impressive stuff.  It’s very difficult to pull something like this off.  I run an internet radio station, and it’s like pulling teeth to get any traction.   How have you been managing all this?

Kyle Winters: It is like pulling teeth, you have to enjoy – you have to stop enjoying sleeping and start enjoying coffee more than anything else, but you know, it works. Persistence is how you gain traction in the industry, and if there’s one thing we are, it’s persistent.  This is the seventh convention we’ve gone to, and we’re building up a really nice fan base.  People are respecting what we’re doing.  Everything keeps building with every convention and every book we put out.

GT: How many books do you have in production right now?  Is it just Trigger Men so far?

Kyle Winters: Trigger Men is the only one we’re actively publishing right now, but behind the scenes we have three other series that we’re working on that will be coming out between six and eight months to a year from now.

GT: So those are in preproduction now.

Kyle Winters: Yes.

GT: What genres are you going after with these?  Trigger Men is an unusual “break the mold” sort of book.

Kyle Winters:  It’s dark action comedy, which is less common than one might think.  The other genres – we have a war book, we have a drama book, we have some sci-fi – a dystopian thing we want to work on.  We want to do anything and everything, so we have our fingers in all these different pies.  Probably the next thing we come out with will be dystopian near-future book.  We’ve done funny.  Now we need something depressing.  (laughs)

GT:  This is so refreshing – this is a really different take on the comic book genre.

Kyle Winters: Thank you – you know, there’s room for that.  In independent comics, the market share is growing, and it keeps growing. And there’s room for people to do good stories that aren’t superheroes or whatever, and still coexist with the whole superhero ecosystem. So we have a place here, and this was just the perfect time for us to do it.

GT:  So how much would you say the market has changed over the last five years.  What made you decide that this was a good time to get going with Triptych Books?

Kyle Winters:  I think the biggest thing is we saw how popular comic book movies were, and how those were driving people into stores and into comics as a medium, but they’d see “Iron Man” and not want to read Iron Man – they’d see Iron Man and want to read what they like, just as a comic.   And so we thought there’s potential here.  We like telling these stories, and this is a growth period even in a down economy.  And also we’re kind of stubborn, and we’ll make it work even if we’re wrong on that aspect.  Oh, and digital – the explosion of digital makes independent comics a thousand times easier.

GT: So you can do a lot more distribution because of publish-on-demand?

Kyle Winters: Actually we go to a traditional printer, a small printer in San Francisco for our print work.  We don’t send it to Canada or China like a lot of bigger companies do.  But we have a digital distribution system hooked into our web site.  So you can download a DRM-free PDF from our web site, and read it on your microwave while you’re cooking your dinner, assuming your microwave could read PDF’s.  We don’t feel we should stand in your way.  And if you share it, it just means more people are gonna buy it down the line.  So that helps us.

GT: That’s really the way it works with a lot of the publishers, a lot of the bigger ones.  One of the landmark publishers has been Foglio Studios with Girl Genius, and they were sort of floundering around until they started putting the comic online.  People said they were crazy until they started selling the physical books. People wanted the physical paper versions so they can sit in bed or on the couch and flip through the pages and have that comic book experience.

Kyle Winters:  Yep – one thing I think is that the people who are afraid of digital comics and are afraid that their stuff is going to be stolen, the people who download your comics for free somehow and like it are going to want to support you in the future.  There was this guy who was giving away free EP’s for his album, and I loved his music and I buy a T-shirt.   And T-shirts are great profit for bands, you know – it’s the same with comics. You give away the first issue for free, and maybe people will buy the trade, to support you.  And it’s all about building community and trusting your fans.  They’re good people, just like us.  They’re gonna make the right decision.  People will support you if you make something they like.

It was great talking to Kyle, and the Trigger Men book is stylish and way off the beaten path.  Look for a review of the book itself here in the pages of SCIFI.radio in the near future!

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