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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Interview with Fiona Avery

Currently working on Marvel’s "Arana: Heart of The Spider," Fiona Avery has already made comics history with a Latina heroine as a leading character in a comic. Now, she is starting up her own publishing company, through which she hopes not only to produce great comics, but be a special help to young talent, as well. Suspended Animation was fortunate enough to speak to her a bit on this new endeavor.

Mark First, how in the world did you arrive at the name "Lucky Bamboo Productions," and how, if at all, does it relate to the attitude or personality of the company and it’s product?

Fiona The name Lucky Bamboo Productions is a story in itself really. A very good friend of mine used to sketch little cartoons for me and send them in the mail. One day she put a little joke "disclaimer" on the bottom of the envelope that said something like ©© Innerspace something-something, a subsidiary of Lucky Bamboo Enterprises. And I said 'Oh! That's perfect! One day when I'm able, I'm going to use that as my company name.' She was tickled about it. I remember vaguely that she used it because we had joked around about my only plant in the house being lucky bamboo which you simply cannot kill. But it fit so well as a company name, because I do so much Japanese artwork and storytelling and have become known as the 'resident samurai" in several places, it just made sense to use it.
If you're not familiar with it, lucky bamboo is a plant from (at least if not more places than) Japan. It is a small, potted plant and is not actually related to Bamboo but looks just like it. It is kept indoors. The name is just a marketing tool, and the plant is unrelated to bamboo. It is a form of dracaena, to be specific. Lucky Bamboo is a plant often used by Feng Shui Masters. Feng Shui philosophy believes that the positioning and physical characteristics of a home affect the fortunes and happiness of its inhabitants. The Taoist take on this practice, involves the pursuit of harmonious and balanced juxtaposition of objects, furniture, buildings and surroundings. Lucky bamboo is considered an effective way to attract positive "chi" energy, thus bringing good fortune and prosperity to those in its environment. So, in the end I hope the name Lucky Bamboo Productions brings me as much good fortune as the legends say.

Mark You have stated that the company is looking for young or established artists who are "open to the collaborative process of creating a comic book under one unified vision." What does that mean, exactly? Will the vision of the company "stunt," or override artists’ creativity, at all?

Fiona Since I'm not an artist, I can't override any artist's style with my own, you know like the horror stories I hear of people's drawing board work being pencilled over by their superiors in the comics field. That said, Lucky Bamboo Productions will have an LBP house style. In this respect, I choose artists whose original style (or styles) matches what I had in mind for Lucky's line of books. What this means is that I work with young artists on how to become commercial artists as opposed to fine artists. I can't teach an artist how to draw but I can teach them how to become a professional business-person that other companies will want to hire. And word-of-mouth is huge in the comics field. What is a commercial artist compared to a fine artist? Fine artists get paid (if lucky) to do what they want, commercial artists get paid to do what their directors want. Also, there is a large skill-set necessary in the commercial art field, namely mastering non-negotiable printing deadlines, as just one example.
As a professional writer in not just comics, but novels and TV-film, my own business skills for deadlines, page-rate per day, and other factors are very similar to an artist's. There's a lot of information to impart; information that hopefully will get an artist another job at some point and let their career take off.

Mark Is there anything Lucky Bamboo offers young "up-and-comers" that other comics publishers don’t?

Fiona All comics companies will teach a young artist what they need to know over the course of working on a comic book from start to finish, so Lucky Bamboo Productions obviously doesn't stand out there. But you would be working solely with me as the creator, "editor" and "art director" (I use those terms pretty loosely because if I don't I'll be required to wear a suit and calf-skin pumps to work) so you would have a one-on-one, independent experience with less cooks in the kitchen. There are times, working at large companies, where you get input from about six people at once and your head can explode. That wouldn't happen at Lucky Bamboo Productions unless the cats pick up the fax and start mischief. You've been warned.

Mark From what I’ve read, it sounds like getting work out on a regular, dependable basis is important to you, and is going to be a priority of the company. Would you talk about that, a bit, as well as any trends in comics today which affect that decision?

Fiona I "grew up" as a writer in both journalism and TV-film boot camp. That taught me how to write on deadline and write effectively without missing any assignments along the way and that has shaped the kind of writer and creator I am today. I guess it's old-school, but I believe work should be turned in promptly, people should be paid promptly, and comics should be put out promptly for readers to enjoy regularly. I rarely like looking at the product side of art, because it's hell on the writer's block, but in this context it's vital to understand: we are creating a product for people to enjoy and people want to rely on getting it on time and for it to be entertaining. When you're that serious about the work then your readers can enjoy it. It's no different than being a carpenter -- my job is to make someone a chair for them to enjoy. I wouldn't dream of denying someone the service once I set it up. Continual excuses that the wood cutter wasn't working, that the paint took too long to arrive, that just won't cut it and business will close. It's no different in comics.

Mark Can you reveal anything about the comics Lucky Bamboo will be producing?

Fiona Lucky Bamboo Productions will be putting out mini-series that act as short stories in specific universes and they may one day become long-running series. It depends on how far we go and how far new investors are willing to take it. I like to think of the four-issue minis as short stories. Currently there are three LBP universes: Hellfire, The Way of the Sword, and Sam Falcon. Hellfire is a modern day, dark magic adventure series, Sword is a period adventure set in Japan 1570, and Sam Falcon is a noir meets fantasy combining 1940's detective fiction with traditional elements of fantasy in a painfully funny way. You can see artwork and information about each of these titles at our web site.

Mark Being the writer for Marvel’s Arana: Heart of the Spider, and Top Cow’s "Rising Stars: Voices of The Dead," you obviously aren’t opposed to the super hero genre. So, any genres you would like to see Lucky Bamboo steer clear of, or is the sky the limit, where imagination is concerned?

Fiona The sky is the limit. Lucky Bamboo Productions is really about telling stories and not so much about genre. Already in the first three minis, we've got an urban fantasy feel, a period piece and the mother of all hybrids noir-meets-fantasy. I really enjoy all genres so who knows what I might think up and play with a few years down the road.

Mark What do you envision for the company, say, five years from now; where would you like it to be?

Fiona My goal is to create this preview issue to show readers what's coming from Lucky Bamboo. It is also to interest potential investors in Hollywood, as they have an interest in optioning adaptation materials. This current comics-to-movie craze is not just a fad but a new and opening avenue for a wider audience. And investors help keep quality high so that readers are getting the best art, on the best paper, for the best price. In five years, I'd like to be telling these and more stories through Lucky Bamboo Productions and building our fan base, while collaborating with a pool of great artists, and sending our new ideas up the ladder for first option rights on TV-film adaptations.

Mark So, is your main goal to help grow the comics fan base, or to get more comics creators into TV and film?

Fiona My main goal is to give Fiona Avery fans a place to find more work from their favorite author, as conveniently and direct to the source as possible. Getting investors insures that the company can expand and keep providing this service. But that can't directly affect the comics fan base as a whole. And the investors like having first rights on optioning any materials for film and TV so both fans and investors win in this situation.

Mark Without naming names, comics fans have seen quite a few promising companies go bust, over the past several years. What are some of the perceived mistakes made by those companies that Lucky Bamboo won’t be making?

Fiona I try not to compare Lucky Bamboo Productions to other companies because in the final analysis, it's not like any other company out there. I think any business can be successful with a conservative, five-year business plan and slow and steady work.

Mark Thanks, Fiona. It was a pleasure.

Fiona The pleasure was all mine.