Hart Seely, Captaining AHOY Comics
Hart Seely, Captaining AHOY Comics
by Angelique Fawns
You know what I find as satisfying as a bite of chocolate cake and a comfy couch? An hour spent with an AHOY Comic. In these pages you’ll find a place where the weird and the sublime rule. Created and promoted by industry experts, (Marvel, National Lampoon, etc) these professional, imaginative, and highly artistic offerings are the perfect bite-sized reading material. Some of the series include: Acid Chimp vs. Business Dog, Second Coming, Justice Warriors, Ash & Thorn, Billonaire Island, and Edgar Allen Poe’s Snifter of Terror.
I met Hart Seely when he purchased my comedy short “The Dead Seller’s Market” which you can find in Project Cryptid #4. In a past life he was an award-winning reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard and sold satire and articles to The New Yorker, The New York Times, National Public Radio, and National Lampoon. Now he publishes AHOY Comics, and you can buy these mags on Amazon’s Comixology, or find them in some local comic stores. He agreed to answer a few of my questions about his comics and career journey.
AF: Why did you create AHOY Comics? Is there a genesis story or specific event that motivated its inception?
HS: Five years ago, more or less, I had long ago retired from the newspaper – (Note: I’m older than dirt) – and was eating an “Everything Bagel” with Frank Cammuso, my friend and collaborator. While chewing, I pondered the “everything” of my life, and reached an epiphany: We should launch a comic book company! So, we did – Frank, Tom Peyer and myself.
Peyer, a veteran editor and writer, recruited Stuart Moore, with whom he worked back in the day on DC’s legendary Vertigo line. We sought to launch a line that could be described as “Funny Vertigo,” and we soon co-opted the image of Edgar Allan Poe, who is a) Dead, b) In the public domain and, thus, c) Unable to sue. We created Poe’s Snifter of Terror, with humorous horror stories introduced by a drunken Poe, sort of a mix of the Cryptkeeper and Mickey Rourke. The series ran four years, and we may someday bring it back to life, like some of Poe’s characters.
We realize that this is the worst time in history to be launching a comic book company. But it’s a great time to be in the business of telling stories. If I’d known the drudgery – tax forms, payrolls, Workman’s Comp, etc. – I probably would have spat out that “Everything” bagel and talked about the Yankees, but it’s been five years, and here we are.
AF: As a journalist myself, I am very curious about your career as a reporter. Can you talk about your writing journey?
HS: I worked 33 years at the Post-Standard, covering everything. I had a running joke about the seasons. One spring, I wrote a news story about the grass growing. (And it was!) One hot summer, I tried to fry an egg on a downtown sidewalk. (Didn’t work, but drew a crowd.) One October, I described the fall foliage as “radioactive Fruit Loops.”) One winter, I listed the 50 words that Syracusans have for snow. (Suck on that, Eskimos.)
It was a great ride. I did investigations, didn’t get sued. I once interviewed Timothy Leary in a restroom stall, and asked what the color blue feels like; he said, “Ask Blue.” I embedded with the U.S. Army during the Iraq war. I wrote a few books, some of which made good money. In the end, when the Post-Standard self-immolated, I took the buyout.
AF: How and why did you make the transition from journalism to comics?
HS: To be honest, I have yet to transition. In our weekly staff Zooms, while they all drone on about the Batmobile, or who’s hooking up at Marvel, and I’ll check ball scores. I’m like The Goonies mutant in the basement; they hide me from the world. They know if someone asks me about comics, I’ll be exposed as a poser.
Nevertheless, I believe my lack of comics experience is a strength. My questions may come from the Idiot Gallery, but they are often questions they don’t otherwise ask. (To be honest, they are usually about money.)
Also, as an old reporter, I hate being told what can’t be written. In AHOY’s first year, DC Comics abruptly punted on a planned series by Mark Russell called Second Coming. It envisioned Jesus Christ returning to Earth and rooming with Superman. The Christian Right got wind of it and saw blaspheme. An online petition garnered 235,000 signatures – this, before anybody had read a word. We took the series and have never looked back. Second Coming is a brilliant, funny and very insightful look at the ethos of deities and superheroes. We’ve heard from many people who originally opposed the series, then changed their minds after reading it. We’re heading into year four.
AF: Do you have any advice for writers hoping to sell you a story?
HS: Keep it short. I believe two things in America have become too long: Baseball games and short stories. We draw a hard line at 1,500 words and prefer fewer. Build a character. Maybe two. Make them real. Make them funny. Tell a story. End with a punch. And don’t ask for more space. When you die, they’ll carve your epitaph onto one stone. You won’t get an extra 25 characters.
At AHOY, we take humor seriously, and short stories are our secret sauce. Every comic includes one, often two. We’ve published first-timers and best-selling authors. We recently ran a 12-part story, initiated by Grant Morrison, with 11 other writers separately continuing the plot line. It was wonderful chaos. We titled it “Partially Naked Came the Corpse,” a take-off on a famous 1969 literary hoax. (Reminder: I’m old.)
AF: One thing I’ve learned while interviewing is that publishing tends to be a labour of love and not very profitable in the anthology world. Is it different in comics?
HS: Right now, the comics industry is a train wreck. You can spend $90,000 on a five-book series, and you’ll be lucky to break even. Then again, the next book might just be The Walking Dead. We haven’t had a blockbuster hit yet, but we’re closing the gap. A book called Justice Warriors has been a huge surprise, thanks to word-of-mouth and podcasts. A new series, Project: Cryptids, brings tales of mythical monsters, such as Bigfoot and Florida Man. We’re extending it into a regular monthly schedule. We’ll just keep going with it.
I’m proud of every book we’ve put out. Wait, did I mention that I’m old? Because to me, it matters. In life, you get one final act – one last shot at making an impression. AHOY is my everything bagel. I’ll be damned if we’ll print a clunker.
AF: What’s in the future for AHOY Comics?
HS: We got this. Marvel and DC? They’re toast.
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Angelique Fawns writes horror, fantasy, kids short stories, and freelance journalism. Her day job is producing promos and after hours she takes care of her farm full of goats, horses, chickens, and her family. She has no idea how she finds time to write. She currently has stories in Ellery Queen, DreamForge Anvil, and Third Flatiron’s Gotta Wear Eclipse Glasses. You can follow her work and get writing tips and submission hints at http://fawns.ca/.