Love Of The Game
A Look at Red Eye Press
help you with that?" I asked A. David Lewis as he struggled
with a big box of comics. We stood on the street corner across
from the San Diego Convention Center, both of us girding ourselves
for ComicCon Preview Night.
we had different agendas that night. Him to sell as many comics
as he could, and me to snag as many as I could. But
that didn't mean we couldn't be friendly, so as we waited
for the trolley to pass, the light to turn green, and the
traffic cop to tell us we could walk, I caught the paperwork
Lewis had been about to drop.
our conversation turned to comics. And it turned out, though
I hadn't known it, that Lewis was one-half of a publisher,
Red Eye Press, with his partner Dan Cooney. It also turns
out that Lewis considers himself a comics scholar, which intrigued
serious about it, which should come as no surprise when you
realize that he quotes Proust in his own comic book writing.
books are a medium, plain and simple," he commented later.
"In my opinion, it's the responsibility of academia to consider
all media objectively. The time is ripe and overdue for American
institutions to accept comic books with open arms and mine
them for all the rich, fascinating content they can provide."
doesn't mean that Lewis' work is dry and stuffy. Far from
it. Instead, his book, Mortal Coils is rather dark
and creepy. An anthology of tales that cover fantasy, science
fiction and horror, the writer promises that there's a grand
prepared several of the initial stories, I grew increasingly
intrigued by how, potentially, they could be linked together,"
Lewis explained. But it's not overt, and picking up any single
issue would not make it obvious.
can either read the stories alone," Lewis continued, "or you
can watch for clues and names, guessing at their connections.
I didn't want this to be a gimmick…it gave me one more challenge
and one more way to tell the Mortal Coils stories."
own, each of the stories draws the reader in to situations
where things are just not quite right. Though the temptation
is to call them Twilight Zone-ish, the resolutions aren't
really "shock endings;" instead, they're logical but not obvious
from a variety of contributors, varies, and I'll admit I'm
not a huge fan of it. But the writing makes the book worth
close reading. That is what it's about, isn't it?
is actually the more recent partner in Red Eye Press. The
company was actually started by Cooney a few years earlier,
to self-publish his book Valentine. It's the tale of
a female assassin, at this point in her arc on the run from
the government. If that description sounds a bit like Alias,
writer/artist Cooney shrugs it off with good humor.
Dana Valentine has been in print October of 1996, Alias
he says. "I don't mind the comparison. In many ways, the stories
are similar but the characters are very different.
embraces the work she does, a hired gun who kills for money,
a woman who lives life on her terms."
ComicCon, Cooney's most recent issue was #9, which turns out
to be a great jumping on point. Not a breezy read, it's rich
in both character and action. Though there's clearly a back
story, Cooney never lets Valentine's history get in the way
for new readers.
the superficial resemblance to Alias (or maybe because
of it), the book seems ripe for translation to another medium.
"I've had interests from Hollyweird, but no solid offers,"
Cooney nods. "I would consider it if the studios would kick
down the dough. Are you listening, Hollywood people? Kick
down the dough!"
such a strong concept, and female leads seeming the trend
in pop culture right now, why self-publish, and not go with
a bigger company? Cooney has an easy answer.
having creative control, final say and the responsibility,"
he offered. "Yes, at times I've thought how nice it would
be that someone else handle all the work but to me, it's part
of the process. I'm very proud of what I and everyone else
who is a part of Red Eye Press has done."
they're doing is some solid work, especially impressive since
Red Eye Press runs from two different coasts. Lewis works
out of Washington, D.C., while Cooney lives in the other
center of political looniness, Sacramento, California.
on opposite coasts keeps us out of each other's hair, while
still representing the overall Red Eye Press enterprise across
the country," said Lewis.
the industry struggles (ComicCon's size notwithstanding -
a lot of that space has been taken over by movies, toys, and
videogames), outsiders have to wonder why anyone would fight
along with it.
love it for a variety of reasons," Lewis explained. "For me,
it's the chance to orchestrate and participate in the creative
act of storytelling and then getting to share that labor with
an audience. It's an electric feeling, truly, that certainly
can be aided in financial recompensation, but is by no means
only fulfilled that way. We get to do comics, man!"
went on, "Though I was raised purely on Marvel and DC, my
years since working in small press has unveiled just how essential
this venue is for even mainstream comics to stay alive. If
nothing else, small press is the field in which tomorrow's
mainstream superstars are grown - where they're cultivated
and matured and nourished. But I also think, separate of the
mainstream, the small press world keeps comics both accessible
and fresh." "Not to disparage small press in the metaphor,
but the Big Leagues need the Minor Leagues in local communities,
enriching it with both talent and purity. For love of the
game, man, for love of the game."
a sentiment we can completely agree with here. If you're interested
in Red Eye Press' work, check out their
website here. And of course, if you're going, stop
by their booth at SPX in Bethesda or (I'm guessing) APE
in San Francisco.