By Kevin Agot
Ace Masters is the Publisher and Writer of an up-and-coming comics publisher, Masterpiece Comics. He’s received critical praise for futuristic, pulp-noir FireBlast and other titles. You’ll find that Ace is a man who wears many hats and has many creative talents.
Kevin Agot of ComicsCritique.com: Please give the readers a little background about Ace Masters. Who got you interested in comics? The type of comics you generally followed and currently are a fan of today? Can you also provide an overview of your publishing venture, Masterpiece Comics?
Ace Masters of Masterpiece Comics: My father is who got me into comics, reading them to me before I could read myself. Usually Archie books, then moving on to the superhero genre, mostly Spider-Man. My taste in comics has always been varied, from superhero, to horror, sci-fi and I basically follow the same type today. Collecting everything from Spider-Man to Jonah Hex, Conan, etc.
Yes, I do read comics.
The overview of Masterpiece Comics is simple, to produce quality comics in every genre.
KA: Who inspired you to become a writer and why?
AM: No one person really inspired me to become a writer, if I’d listened to most people I would have given up a long time ago. Besides favorite writers, I would say the people that inspired me were my parents. They saw the creative side of me when I was very young, always creating characters and stories. They encouraged my creativity and writing to the point where I had my first published short story at 8 years young.
“One of my life-long goals was to have my own comic company, and Masterpiece Comics is it.”
KA: Given your writing skills, why did you choose to venture into writing and publishing comic books? In today’s market, many perceive this industry as a very tough one to break into. What keeps you going?
AM: I don’t exclusively write comic books. I try to write in every format and genre. From comic book scripts to screenplays, prose, verse I like them all equally. The reason for doing comics is two fold: first, I love comics. Second, one of my life-long goals was to have my own comic company, and Masterpiece Comics is it.
What keeps me going is simple: my love of comics; writing; desiring to succeed and the fact that I never give up on anything.
KA: Given the futuristic, pulpy noir feel of Fireblast, does much of your creative inspiration stem from this era? What books inspired your career?
AM: Fireblast definitely is inspired by that era, but, in general, not all my writing is. Right now only a sample of my writing in comics has appeared and one might find my other works dramatically different. I tend to write just about anything.
There are a lot of books and comics that inspired me. The books: The Odyssey, Three Musketeers, The Red and The Black, Lord of the Rings, Lensmen, Great Gatsby, and Doc Savage Books. The comics: Flash Gordon, Magnus: Robot Fighter, Spider-Man comics, Phantom Stranger, Jonah Hex. That’s just a small sampling; there are a ton of others I could probably list.
KA: What genres does Masterpiece Comics build its comic line around?
AM: Most of our books have a sci-fi bent right now, and that is what we are getting known for. But in the next few years, especially as other creator titles start coming out, I want Masterpiece to become a “cross genre” company. That means we’ll publish in any and all genre.
So, short answer, I want Masterpiece to be built on any variety rather than one or two genres.
KA: Are there other genres you’d like to expand upon and explore?
AM: Of course, Full Moon Craze is a horror title, so we’re expanding into that genre. There are a ton of others too, mystery, thriller, comedy, drama and everything sub-genre in-between. There are so many genres and styles out there to explore it would be ridiculous not to. I don’t believe in limiting oneself.
KA: Given the propensity of superhero-type comic books in the market today, are there any plans to create these books in your line of titles?
AM: Of course. I love the superhero genre and have a number of characters of my own. Plus, I’m talking with our people concerning their own characters. In the next couple of years, Masterpiece will delve into the superhero realm. Just can’t tell you where exactly.
KA: Do you have any immediate plans to market any of your titles for movie rights, software gaming, etc.? If so, which titles and in what type of product?
AM: Of course, I would be remiss if I weren’t. But to be honest, while I would love to option and license stuff off, that’s not the reason I’m doing the comics. Right now, we’re just putting things out there and see who (if anyone) is interested.
We had some interest in Fireblast as an animated show, which is where I would really like to take that. I personally think Full Moon Craze and Rushmore would transfer over cinematically the best and maybe Wild Boys as a video game, being the most action-oriented. Of course, action figures would be nice too. We just have to wait and see right now.
KA: What is most difficult about comics publishing today?
AM: Getting the exposure, without any doubt. Not just to readers, but to retailers. And getting them to buy into the fact that we aren’t a fly-by-night company.
KA: What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment about comics publishing today?
AM: See someone buy one of our titles and having people tell me that they enjoy them.
KA: How do plan to reach out to an audience that tends not to experiment with newer titles on the racks and keep them motivated to continue buying? On many occasions, buyers have bought what are generally considered "experimental" or "risky" books in comparison to most titles out today, that tend to push the creative edge only to have its publishing stop in mid-swing. I’ve seen this happen too many times with comics I’ve personally and faithfully followed. You’ve recently experienced this with the premature interruption of Fireblast’s publishing schedule.
AM: Just to advertise, market and expose yourself every way you can. Conventions, advertise on websites, do store signings, post and interact on forums. You have to let people know you’re out there, otherwise they will never know about you.
Another thing is, as my friend and inker of Full Moon Craze, Jimmy T, would say “Killer Covers.” The biggest selling point of any title, whether listed in Previews or seen on the shelves is the cover. It’s the first, and sometimes only, thing people see. You need to have a cover that is dynamic, killer, stands out from the crowd and gets the gist of your book across.
No matter how you get someone to know and buy your title, the only way to really get someone motivated to continue buying is to put out a quality title that has what they want, art, characters, stories, that will keep them coming back. No matter how good your promotion is, if the book isn’t good, or they don’t like it, they won’t continue buying.
Fireblast just ran into a number of issues and set backs, but it isn’t over. The trade of the issues that did come out is being prepared for publication. There is a possible trade of the next three issues that didn’t get out. It will be back as a graphic novel next year and more stories after that in the future.
I want to thank Ace Masters for taking the time to do this interview with ComicCritique.Com.