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Keith Champagne Enters The 5th Dimension
Launching a new publishing company and returning to Armor X
Where's Marilyn McCoo?

On November 20, Keith Champagne announced that he would be a majority partner in a new publishing venture, 5th Dimension Comics. The long-time comics writer (JSA, Countdown: Arena and Titan's WWE line) and inker (at some point, just about every DC book) joins Dev Madan (the much-missed Young Heroes in Love), Steve Dobiejko and Joe Podvarney in launching this new company devoted to graphic novels, starting with a revisit to one of Champagne's earliest works, Armor X.

Shortly after his announcement, long-time friend of the site (full disclosure: he bought me dinner once) Champagne submitted to some questions about this exciting new venture.

Derek McCaw: The first question that has to be asked – why start your own publishing company in this market?

Keith Champagne: Either I'm a fool or a visionary (and 4 out of 5 dentists choose the former), but I actually think it's a great time to start a publishing company. If you squint, you can see the business model of comic books slowly changing, moving away from monthly books and towards supporting original graphic novels -- which is what we're going to be putting out. And if you squint a little harder, you can see the digital tidal wave roaring up in the distance.

Digital comics are going to be the new perennial the way that trades have always been in book stores: always available, always in stock. But without the cost of actually printing the books.

Digital is going to be the great equalizer for small press and independent companies.

Derek McCaw: Are you considering yourself solely a publisher, or are you planning on being transmedia?

Keith Champagne: 5th Dimension will focus solely on publishing. There's a larger entity behind 5D that will look at cross-platforming properties to different media. That's a wonderful thing to think about but selling a property as a video game or movie is very speculative. We really worked hard to make sure the actual publishing of the books makes business sense and won't lose money.

Derek McCaw: What’s the significance of the company name, 5th Dimension?

Keith Champagne: Mainly, it has a cool 70's vibe that I like. Aside from that, we just thought it was catchy.

"They were the easiest ones to dupe in this mad charade..."
Derek McCaw: Why were Madan, Dobiejko and Podvarney the right partners for you?

Keith Champagne: They were the easiest ones to dupe into going along with this mad charade.

Seriously, these are all people I like. That's important to me: dealing with people who don't make me feel like I'm scraping my nails against a blackboard. Steve and Joe, although there's a gap of time in between, I've known for most of my life. Dev Madan and I clicked, both creatively and in terms of being friends, back when we worked on Young Heroes In Love together. They're all cool cats and I'm lucky to be associated with them.

Derek McCaw: What will be the criteria for a graphic novel to come out through 5th Dimension?

Keith Champagne: Quality, primarily. In terms of genre, style, or tone I don't care if you've been working in comics for 50 years or you're trying to break in: if you're good, there's a home for you in the 5th Dimension.

Our publishing deal is VERY fair and I'd encourage creators who want to pitch to contact me at keithchampagne@gmail.com, at least until our website is up and running at fifthdimensioncomics.com.

Derek McCaw: Why not do the monthly format (in for a penny, in for a pound)?

Keith Champagne: I'm never going to say never, I was actually presented with a property last week that I'm considering publishing as a monthly mini-series but at the end of the day, I'm a numbers guy. If the numbers don't make sense, we're not going to do it and it's very hard, especially on the independent level, to do the kind of numbers on a book where you're not bleeding money by the third issue of a project.

What we can do, and this is something I'm going to start talking more about, is that if creators have a property they feel is best served coming out on a monthly basis, I'd suggest we list it digitally first (through graphic.ly, our digital portal), and let the money accrue to eventually put it into print.

A blast from the past...
Derek McCaw: You announced that first out of the gate will be Armor X – but it sounds like you’re revising it somewhat. What was it like to revisit that project and why revise?

Keith Champagne: It's pretty simple, really. I just want it to be as good as possible. It's hard to look at early work and not cringe at some of the choices made. I'm really proud of the original Armor X series but that doesn't mean I can't make it better. And anything that comes out through 5D has to be as good as we can possibly make it--especially if we expect people to buy it a second time.

Derek McCaw: What types of changes are you making on it?

Keith Champagne: Brand new color by an amazing studio named Le Cirque. New pages of art by Andy Smith. Completely redialogued and relettered; in fact, the story itself kind of bridges off and becomes a brand new series about halfway through.

I actually considered putting it out under a new name, as a new property because it's so different from the original. But after consideration, it felt like something that might be perceived as a bait and switch. So we're just calling it Armor X: Remastered. It'll be in Previews in February.

Derek McCaw: Will you still be keeping your work for Titan on the wrestling book?

Keith Champagne: Absolutely, and Nick Landau and I have spoken about Titan and 5th Dimension working together in some capacity.

I'll also still be busy at DC where I continue inking and have projects lined up to write in 2011. I'm not taking any money from 5th Dimension. Anything earned on goes back in to make the company stronger.

Thanks, Keith, for taking the time to answer our questions, and we look forward to 5th Dimension's first offering in the February 2011 Previews Catalog!

Derek McCaw

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