Beyond investigating and critiquing a wide range of comic books — from classic super-heroes to modern indies, styles ranging from western to the Far East of manga, new and old — Comicosity is committed to its core in promoting an increase in diversity and inclusion across the industry, and indeed, across genres. It is with that in mind that we are pleased to have had the opportunity to sit down with Frederick Jones.
Jones is the founder and publisher of Saturday AM, hosting “the world’s most diverse manga anthology.” With creators from all over the world, literally — from Africa, the Middle East, to the United States, Latin America, Eastern/Western Europe, and so on — their entire mission statement is to create what they hope will be the next evolution of manga, via his parent company MyFutprint Entertainment.
Sean Z: How was Saturday AM founded?
Frederick Jones: I was a video game executive and had been an executive for a few years. I worked on the marketing side of things with some major properties like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, 4×4 Evo, and Railroad Tycoon for a variety of companies.
I had been a lifelong fan of manga. When I was a kid, my parents were connected to a private school, and the librarian there was a Japanese-American citizen. She would bring Shonen Jump issues over and place them in the library.
I just can’t describe to you what that was like in the ‘80s to see something so incredibly different than the comic books from Marvel and DC at that time. So, having been a longtime fan of the medium, I felt this was something to try my hand at after video games.
So many young people have been influenced by the art style in the past decade, and they have become quite proficient at it. Of course, traditional Japanese manga does not feature a great deal of diversity. People who are Black and Brown tend to not be major characters in the space, so we started the brand to really try to change that, evolve it, bring more voices, more perspectives, and of course, more representation to the art style and the medium that we love.
As I saw the medium of manga starting to expand thanks to social media and the Internet, and having come from intellectual property and video games, I thought, “This is the future.” But, I did not want to see a lack of people of color and a lack of different voices and visions in the space and to do that, I felt I really needed to get involved. I came from that thought process to create a company that would speak to those concerns.
The reality, of course, is that I was doing it for two reasons.
First, for a personal desire to see it happen. I created the company from that standpoint to help young creators make connections that maybe they would be unable to on their own.
Secondly, I was inspired from a business standpoint. I saw the growth of the industry, the number of global fans from different backgrounds, and I thought, “Why is no one speaking to these people? This was a huge opportunity for a profitable company if done correctly”. So, we started [Saturday AM] in 2013, first to be an artist management company, and then from there, it became a brand.
SZ: How did you go from initially managing artists and intellectual property to your first publication?
FJ: It happened very quickly. I had determined that first and foremost, I wanted to create some content that would help people see that they could do this.
You have to remember — it seems like such a long time ago, and it’s obviously not — but diversity has always been a tricky conversation in general, as we know here in the United States. Particularly so when discussing the relationship between Japanese anime and manga. I found that a lot of people are very hesitant to have those conversations. I’m a person of color. I’m African American. At one point, I was one of the higher-ranking African Americans in the video game industry, so it’s always been something I’ve been very vocal about. I’ve always been very passionate about representation.
The first thing that I knew was that diversity is one of those things where we start having the conversation, and it’s hard for people to wrap their brains around it until they see it. I decided to first create an intellectual property myself, that would play off of what I knew from the video game industry and do it with characters of color.
The first series Saturday AM had was Massively Multiplayer World of Ghosts, which is kind of like a Yu-Gi-Oh! type title, but it featured an Indian-American protagonist. Immediately upon releasing it, we got a lot of interest.
At that time, DeviantArt was really big, so we had a lot of artists reaching out to us saying, “Hey, this is really cool. You know, this is amazing, you’ve got an Indian character in here. I never thought different characters can be a part of manga like this.”
We began to get the notice of a lot of other artists — which was the intention — but then what we realized was that the internet, at that point, was so Wild West that it was really hard for individual creators to stand out. While there were creators that I knew instantly could succeed — like Whyt Manga is one of our star artists, you know, I saw this kid and knew he could be a superstar — but there’s a million of him!
SZ: When was your first issue published?
FJ: We were determined to be online or digital-first. Having come from the video game industry and corporate retail, carrying inventory was not something I was interested in doing. Keep in mind, digital back then was not where it is today. Most of the things we did back then now seemed like common sense, but they were not. That was not the norm back then. We had to create a Frankenstein monster in terms of how to take people’s money and get them the magazine. There was not a simple process for that. Now, there’s Gumroad and things, but back then, there really weren’t many of those sorts of opportunities.
We released a preview issue online in November 2013. We had everything in it. It was a PDF that you could access online. Once we saw the reaction to that, we then introduced the actual business model, which began in January 2014. The first issue was reprinted with a brand new cover, cleaned up content, and an actual payment mechanism.
SZ: The payment mechanism was subscriptions?
FJ: Correct. So at the time, the average webcomic experience was: You go to a website, you get 1,000 ads thrown at you all over the page, and the first thing you’d see would be like the last page of a comic, right? So you’d be like, what is this? Then you’d have to click the start button to go back to the beginning of the comic, and then you had to hunt for the thing to tell you who the character was. It was such a process, but they did it because obviously, they wanted you to go to every single page because every single page will serve you ads.
We wanted an experience that felt like a comic book, where you read page one to page 10 or 15, and you had to wait till the next issue. The magazines would have several comics inside, so you felt like you were always getting something interesting, even if you didn’t care for all the series. We determined the average ad spend that one would make for an ad is between $3 and $4, so we put together a $5 a year subscription model.
We thought, “You know what, this way, we don’t have to have any ads on the page, and we can generate $5 per head.” Obviously, the $5 subscription begins with the issue you start at, so if you missed the first five issues, you could go back and buy a pack that had all the issues together. It was never dramatic, but it started out showing us that there was definitely both an interest and a business model there.
Things have changed gradually and while we’re not generating Big Two comics revenue, we’re finding more ways to leverage our business for all involved. Considering many webcomic portals don’t offer subscriptions or creator payments, we’re genuinely excited at how we’ve grown and what we hope to do in the future but we’ll always try to price ourselves accordingly for our youngest or most remote fans. You can’t champion diversity if you only play to the wealthy elite customer.
SZ: Once you started raising awareness, once you had your initial business model, how did you continue to get stories? Was it mostly you seeking out creators and reaching out to them, or were people submitting? How did that process work?
FJ: It was a combination, but the first thing that happened was that we created a private Facebook group. That was the rage back in those days, so we created a private Facebook group to provide a community where people could talk. The idea was to be able to communicate with our fanbase directly, like a message board or community forum, and at the same time be able to vet and look at upcoming content. Of course, people were pitching stuff all the time, and it got overwhelming, so we put together a program that could make it more formal. I come from corporate America, so I need things to kind of work in a more consistent way.
We put together this thing that became a kind of like a monthly contest, where people would prepare their pitches, and they would have a variety of assets for us to review. We reviewed them publicly. We would actually have closed video chats or YouTube chats where we talked about the content directly. A lot of creators really, really loved that! With the internet, people do not always get the level of legitimate critique that they seek. Likewise, kids on the internet are looking for two things: validation and legitimacy. They rarely get either. A lot of the big websites that host artist content do not care what you put on the site, as long as the comic add pageviews for them. We took a different approach. We were like, “No.”
First of all, we cater to artists who care about diversity and support our mission statement. If you are not prepared to actually do the work of trying to inspire, educate, and try to mature the talent that is out there, then we are not for you. Both our fans and artists are going to come from different places, have different perspectives, different access to the Internet, and to art supplies.
So we started putting together these contests. We would have our artists like Whyt Manga and other folks opine about their works and provide critique, and people really started to enjoy it. It became this formal thing where we began to discover creators specifically through this event called ‘Summer of Manga’. In fact, we still do it to this day. It is an annual program where we solicit lots of short story pitches and review them. The submissions then go through another level of review with our editors. We then interview the creators directly, and we throw all sorts of things at them to see exactly how robust their idea is. If the concept is really strong and does not seem to be derivative or copied, then we give them a page count and publish it in the magazine. Creators who participated have gone on to do comics for other people while others have gone on to work with us directly. So, the result is that now people know that there’s a process to join Saturday AM, and more importantly, that they are going to get real, legitimate feedback from doing it.
SZ: So even people who don’t necessarily make it into the manga can still receive feedback on their work.
FJ: Absolutely! Not only that, but one of the best things is that Summer of Manga has a sister event called March Art Madness, which is a giant fan art tournament. During the March Madness tournament, we give away money, iPads, and art supplies. We gave away actual art contracts with a company called Jabberwocky Toys this year. We give away things to try to inspire and provide an opportunity for these up and coming creators, in addition to feedback.
Let’s be clear: It’s not always going to be pleasant feedback. I was in New York once and someone said, “Man, I love listening to your critiques. Man, you’re brutal.” I’m like, I’m not here to be the Simon Cowl of comic discussion, but at the same time, I think — again, being a person of color, I just think it’s important to not try to sell these kids on fantasy and silliness. We have to be honest about a medium that is, at best, a lucky draw scenario. You can be the best artist in the world and have a comic book that keeps getting canceled. If you are at Marvel or DC, you may not be the greatest artist but work on a great comic book (with established popular characters) that just happens to catch on at the right time, and you could have a career for the rest of your life. So it is what it is. We try to have our event provide something for the fans who are artists — if not a critique, then art supplies, prizes, money, so on and so forth.
SZ: Are most of the writers that are submitting first-time comics artists?
FJ: Yeah, absolutely. Not all, of course! JeyOdin is one of our more popular creators, and he is a legit comic creator. He’s worked for USA Today, Antarctic Press. He’s got a graphic novel coming out in the spring from Oni Press. So Jey’s a legit, dyed in the wool American comic artist, and he is amazing!
We think we’ll be getting more of these types of artists as our profile continues to grow. He joined us about two years ago, and it feels like he’s been with us forever. But for the most part, I would say that 99 percent are first-time creators.
SZ: Are you still creating your in-house brands as well? Do you have staff writers, or are you mostly working with freelancers who are submitting ideas?
FJ: We’ve yet to have a comic writer who has come in alone and pitched us a comic that we’ve agreed to publish. The reasons for that are simple. Y’see when we say 99% of the people who apply to work with Saturday AM are first-time creators, that means that they are also first-time writers.
One of the things I make clear to a lot of young creators is that if you are a writer then you write. Oftentimes, we get notes from young people who are writers in name only. By that I mean, they had an idea. They’ve never written it down. Never written a script. There is no written plot. They’ve never written a play or a short story but they’ve got an idea. They’re a fan, and this is the Internet and therefore they feel as if, “Hey, well, then I can do this too.”
Some of them might, but we are not at a point — and I don’t think any company should be at this point — where we reward the idea that someone who has never taken this medium seriously just all of a sudden gets to be treated as if they are some world-class talent. You’ve got to earn it. Writers write.
No artist says, “Hey, I can draw a comic book, so give me some money and I’ll see if I can draw it.” We say, “You got a picture we can look at?” And they say, “No, no, no, but trust me, I can draw.” That’s not how it works. From that standpoint, we’ve not found a position for that yet, but I will say we’ve definitely had a number of our writers who have contacted us. I personally am a huge fan of novels and so it is most likely in our future that we will have a program where we can do that, that’s more controlled than the current setup.
On the article side though, yes. The first issue of Saturday AM had articles in it, and we’ve had articles in almost every issue since then. Saturday AM, Saturday PM, and Saturday Brunch. I take it very seriously. We have articles and we have a growing team of core writers. They’re all freelance or volunteers or freelance. We’re re-developing our team for 2021 so creating a virtual bullpen where we can hash out more global stories and offer payment if selected.
Comic creators are a bit different. First of all, 99% of our comics are creator-owned properties. We provide editorial, marketing, and support and offer revenue sharing for various products unless we own it. We’re different in many ways, but we’re no different in terms of the way that most of the webcomic world works. Saturday AM is a platform ala Webtoon, Smack Jeeves, Tapastic — unless it’s content the artists themselves are actually initiating or some licensed product they’ve selected in a specific way, which — we have some of those creators who are exclusive with us fully — then it’s their property and they own it, so they can do whatever they want to do. We reward popular content via rev share.
We’re growing and evolving (especially with the pandemic) but what is ironclad is that you own your property with us.
SZ: Saturday AM has spawned additional publications as well. Can just tell us a little bit about the different lines?
FJ: When I started Saturday AM, the idea was to create shonen content. It’s obviously the most popular. Everyone knows Shonen Jump; most people in America are aware of the properties from Shonen Sunday, like Inuyasha. I’ve always been a big fan of that genre, as most people are, so Saturday AM was built to reflect that type of content. We were very clear to say — even to some of our top creators like Whyt Manga — if they want to maybe do something that was extreme, we’d say, “That’s not Saturday AM material. You can’t have the character say something over the top excessive in terms of their foul language or have violence or sexual situations that were just above the pale.” They have to make the choice if that works for them but I think we keep so many creators because they know we’re supporting them with the best strategy to help them grow their brand.
SZ: For people who aren’t familiar with the terms, Shonen sounds like it would be the equivalent of PG-13 type writing?
FJ: Absolutely. It should be no different than your standard American superhero comic book. That’s what Shonen is, so Dragon Ball, Naruto, you know, even thrillers like Death Note and The Promised Neverland. I would consider them PG-13. You can have some excessive content in there, but those are really the exception, not the rule. Typically, it’s more superhero-oriented content. We wanted Saturday AM to reflect that, with diversity at its core.
Saturday PM is our second publication. Saturday AM came out in 2013, and Saturday PM came out in 2018. That is an adult brand, not in the sense that we show sexual penetration or graphic sexual content. It’s not anything like that. There might be nudity. There will possibly be harsh language and violent content in it. We try to steer clear of over the top violence, but there is violence in it.
The general idea is that these are characters in a situation that tend to be more mature, and the consequences are more personal and intimate. Therefore, you know, it’s got a different feel to it than Saturday AM. That is a really great magazine, mostly male-oriented.
We just recently launched Saturday BRUNCH, which is a magazine devoted to female fans, as well as LGBTQ fans. So, in Japan, this would be called a Josei manga magazine. Brunch is a title that we’re really excited about. Now, it’s very fluid. Again, it does have male creators, it does have characters who are not LGBTQ. It does have characters who are not female, but for the most part, this is content that is meant to specifically be attractive to a largely female demographic. We do not shy away from LGBTQ content. We have LGBTQ characters in all of our magazines, but in this one, it’s more prominent.
Having done this now for eight years, and having gone through all these creators, I’m so proud of the group with Saturday Brunch. We have a young girl who’s followed us for a long time, and I’ve kind of seen her grow up a little bit. Her name is Kristina, and she’s doing a series called Grimmheim. What I love about Grimmheim is that it was a Summer of Manga title that we published a couple years ago as a short story, and it had a lot of promise. She stuck with it, came back to us, and has grown so dramatically as an artist! A feminist in her real life, she was really big on the series protagonist (Wulfhild) not being your standard female character. This is not a dainty woman. This is a big physical woman, so body positivity will be a theme.
We then likewise have Henshin, which features a standard superhero drama but with an LGBTQ protagonist. Some really cool things are going to happen with that series. Killshot, a series inspired a bit by Haikyu!!, the big volleyball manga that came out in Japan not too long ago. The difference is that it’s got an all-female, international cast of characters trying to succeed in American college volleyball. There will be a lot of self-discovery and action. I’m just incredibly proud of the folks involved with this new magazine, including new creators (a young woman from Denmark and a young man from the Bahamas)! I think all of our Saturday branded magazines are going to attract a lot of new fans.
SZ: I was really impressed with the first issue, and I really loved the opening remarks about how the reality is that a lot of Josei works still feature all-male protagonists?
FJ: I’m 46 years old, and I feel that as an African American man, I’m used to people, you know, feeling very agitated and taking potshots towards me whenever I try to do something big. I remember when someone got into it with me on Twitter about the idea that we called BRUNCH, Josei manga. And I was like, “Why?” They’re like, “Because you’ve got yuri and yaoi content in there.”
So number one, I’m not worried about those types of labels; I’m worried about people feeling safe with the content. We don’t want to follow those labels, because like you just said, when I look at Japanese Josei manga, they feature male protagonists, largely, the women are all skinny, there are zero women or people of color. We don’t stand for any of that. The term applies in general, but we will take it to the conclusion that we feel is most appropriate.
The example I use when I speak publicly about our approach to manga is real simple, and as a Black person, I feel pretty confident to talk about this. I compare manga to hip hop. I have traveled around the world and I remember when hip hop got started. I remember when hip hop first had its major breakthrough as being a backup to the Blondie song in the early ’80s. Then you start going from there with various acts from Kool Moe Dee and the whole era of the ‘80s with LL Cool J, then obviously getting into the ‘90s and of course where it is today. I know very well about hip hop. It’s steeped in my culture, steeped in my community.
Manga has a very similar relationship with the Japanese, but the funny thing is that if you go see a kid in Pakistan, in Israel, in Nigeria, in Poland — and there are hip hop artists in all those countries and beyond — they’re going to take many of the attributes of the Black culture that spawned it.
Like, you’re gonna see them with their hat maybe turned backward or sideways. In some cases, obviously, it’s very ridiculous, regular stuff that Black people don’t generally do, but is maybe a look that came from a certain rapper years ago. You’re going to see their pants will sag, you’re gonna see the look. They’re going to try to embody the look and the feel of hip hop, but it’s still going to be their version of hip hop. And if you tell them, “Well, that’s not real hip hop,” they’re gonna laugh in your face and say, “This is real hip hop. I make hip hop.” Their fan base, they’re gonna say the same thing.
I’ve always tried to tell our folks internally and I’ve told Japanese partners that we have and journalists that we’ve spoken to that to me, this is very similar. We don’t let the fans try to define what manga is. We try to do what we think is right for manga. We make our version of the manga artform. We stick to what we believe are the archetypes of the successful manga. But we’re still focused on doing it the way that we think is appropriate.
I’ll be damned if I’m going to create content where every character has to be super thin or super pale. I don’t live in that world. I’m not going to reflect that, I’m not going to let that happen, I’m not going to let my creators let that happen.
We try to push the envelope. We try to produce content the best way that we see it. That letter from the publisher in issue #1 of BRUNCH was very much the mission statement for that magazine. We wanted to put that out early. We want people to understand that if you come into this thinking that you’re going to see titles like Vampire Knight, which is a Shoujo manga, or that you want to see Cocohana style manga then you will be disappointed.
We’re not that group. This is Saturday brand manga. Global manga. You know? Our job is to try to bring as many people to the party as possible.
SZ: As a diversity focused publication, do you also have a focus internally about hiring diverse creators?
FJ: Of course. Absolutely. BRUNCH wasn’t launched until we had more LGBTQ voices. It’s an idea I’ve had for years, and it’s a place I’ve wanted to go for years but being an ally is not good enough. We needed more people who could speak authentically from that position. So once we got that, we moved forward with producing the magazine.
SZ: In conjunction with having diverse hiring, when you’re taking on freelance work, like comic submissions and other stuff, do you have sensitivity readers as well?
FJ: That’s a good question. So I would say no, we do not have that yet. That’s certainly an area that we’d like to get to. One of the things that I’ve been both very, very determined, and very vocal about is always asking my creators, “Why”? Really challenging them on the decisions that they make. We had some Black creators the first couple of years who didn’t have diverse characters, and I kept thinking, “Why? You’re not Japanese. Why would you not have characters who look like you or who are from your environment?”
That was a challenge that we had to push back on quite a bit. If you can’t be comfortable telling the story of characters who look like you and think like you, who you understand intimately then that’s a problem. And this is the damning part: [When we would ask,] the answer was “Because I don’t want it to seem forced.” Think about that…
Comics are fiction, and you write good fiction based on what you understand. So what’s forced about that? Is it not forced when the Japanese have characters who are white Europeans? You know, we see that all the time. Fullmetal Alchemist — is that not forced? That bothered me a great deal, but that becomes part of the problem, when you’re not asking why, when there’s no one in the room simply saying, “Let’s dial back a little bit and ask why we’re doing these things.”
We certainly would like to get a sensitivity reader in, someone who could actually look at the content. But obviously, you can imagine you start getting to a place where there are a ton of those issues for very different things. We feel very confident right now with the singular notion that we stand for diversity. Every creator coming into Saturday AM (or our spinoffs), every staffer coming in understands that this what we’re about. That we expect them to go beyond what they think of as obvious.
For example, we had an article that came back recently, and there were no women interviewed. I asked, “Why?” It’s a very basic question: “Why were there no women interviewed?” By creating a culture where our folks get asked why, where they have to start thinking about inclusivity, I think that’s a good thing. It’s a good place for us to be at the time being.
SZ: It’s a weird moment when that lightning bolt strikes, like, why am I not the default?
FJ: You know, good editing is all about playing Devil’s advocate.
You’re not there to force someone to do something. You’re there to make them THINK about why they’re doing something. To really question their choices so they can learn from that experience and start to look for things beyond what they initially think. At the end of the day, the focus is on the self, and I think everybody cares about diversity. We don’t want to change the playing field, we just want to level the playing field and keep it so that no one can disrupt it. We want everybody who wants a chance and is willing to work for it to get a chance.
I’m not here to say that one [type of] content is better than the other. I am here to say that there’s no character better than another, there’s no personality that’s better than another. It’s all about everyone having a chance to shine and be in a position to do so. Whether that character is gay or straight, Black or white, religious or not, skinny or not, we’ve got to get to this place to where we start seeing beauty and value in all people, and therefore all of them have a stake in the conversation. We need to advance so we can challenge perceptions, like, “Why are we just basing what we do off of one group?”
When we have artists who say, “Well, I don’t want [the story] to seem like it’s all Black.” Why are you worried about that? Nobody questions if it’s all white. Why are you worried about it if it’s all Black? We literally just had a series in Summer of Manga that was this exact same thing, where I said, “You’ve got these Black characters, but why are they not all part of the same team?” They said, “Well, we just thought it would seem forced.” Really? If this was all white kids or all Japanese kids, no one would say a word about it.
SZ: What are your hopes for publication going forward?
FP: I’m in this to win. I have no intention of playing games with this especially in the era that we’re in.
We’re a small company and we’re still getting our finances straight but our ambitions are high. No one’s given us a dime. We started this company out of my pocket and then off the backs of what we could put into it. People may not know this but our company is owned by a handful of our creators. Unlike many others, Saturday AM is being built from the ground up, and we’re doing it for long-term stability. We want to be the best at this and we want to challenge Marvel, DC, Viz, Kodansha, and so on.
More importantly than that, one of the reasons I made the company creator-owned is because I want there to be a legacy. I want creators to create something that stays with them, that they can pass on or, at the very least, have their children be proud of what they created in the future. Their grandchildren, you know, like the Estates of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the HP Lovecrafts, except hopefully, creators who are telling more inclusive stories. I want that to be the reality, so when you want to win and you want to see and create this sort of legacy effect for a variety of diverse people who have traditionally been locked out of the system, then what you want is a dynasty.
Right now, we have two or three series that make us competitive. We can go toe-to-toe with some bigger companies. We have a series called Apple Black by Whyt Manga, which is outselling a lot of content from some of the big guys. We have Clock Striker, which is Shounen manga’s first Black female lead character. It’s a huge series. We then have a series from Saudi Arabia for Saturday PM called Codename: Villain. That thing could be massive. It’s very popular in the Middle East.
Any publisher getting started in this space has to have the ability to compete. You’ve got to have something that can at least keep you in the game, whether it’s because you discover a diamond in the rough, like The Boys from Dynamite, or you have a title that just explodes from nothing, like Image back in the day, with their launch. For us, we’ve got some titles we truly feel allow us to compete. What we’re looking for right now is a dynasty. We’re looking to build those properties and get them the maximum exposure they can get, have them continue to be sales successes, and continue to push the envelope of what we can do as a brand.
We have creators like three or four years out that, I’m telling you, they’re going to be the next shoe to drop. Attracting talent is crucial and we’ve been constantly developing generations of artists. That’s my objective. Obviously, we want to have more things out there. We’ve got a physical magazine coming, which will continue to push the envelope, called Super Saturday. We’ve got a lot of licensed products, which is something that very few publishers at our size have. We’ve got these collectible toy toys launched called BLOWNUP PUNCHES, we’ve got apparel and we’ve got more stuff coming as well. We hope to have an anime announced relatively soon, as well as video games.
We’re pushing and pushing and pushing. Again, the biggest thing for me is a dynasty. If we can have that, it just proves there was definitely an appetite and a need for diversity. There are creators around the world whose voices need to be heard, who will inspire other creators from those regions. I mean, can you imagine inspiring more creatives from Senegal, and from South Africa and from Romania and Hungary and France? Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico? We have the opportunity to do that if we play our cards right. It won’t be easy, and we’re definitely not guaranteed or owed any success necessarily but, we want it and are willing to work for it.
I and so many of our team have sacrificed for this for so long and I don’t think we’d be satisfied with not achieving our ultimate goals. So we’ll see but we’re going to give our best.
SZ: My last question is kind of straightforward: Of the various publications and series you’ve done, do you have a favorite?
FJ: No. I think of what I do at Saturday AM as if I’m a coach. I’m a big sports guy and I view our business like sports. We have creators who are the Kobe Bryants and the LeBron Jameses of our company. These folks put us on the map. Then we’ve got creators who are maybe never going to be as big as Whyt Manga, but they are talented and consistent and professional. They do the things they’re supposed to do and they care about doing a good job.
Then we have folks who have raw talent and you know they can be exceptional creators, who can be really inspirational, but they’re still a ways away. Some could leave for the proverbial greener pastures elsewhere and you hope that those decisions are right for all sides. Ultimately, the artist relationships that we have could go any way, so you kind of enjoy the project of developing them and seeing where they go with it.
For me, when you have that sort of view of all the different artists and staff members who make up the company, you have a tough time choosing one, because you care that all of them can succeed. Someone said the other day, “What I like about you guys is that you see artists drawing fan art of other people’s characters in your company. I see people wishing each other Happy Birthday on social media. I see you guys making fun of each other, like razzing each other on various things.” Some of our designers get together and play Among Us. When you see that we’ve built this culture and this community of people who genuinely care about what we care about, and they care about the wellbeing of what we’re doing, then there’s no favorites in that, man. It’s beautiful. We’ve created something beautiful. And so we just want to see it through now.
SZ: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
FJ: Three things:
We have our first physical magazine coming out. It’s called Super Saturday. We are incredibly proud of it. It has a bunch of exclusive content that’s not available in any of our digital magazines, including a giant crossover with all of our manga characters called Saturday WARS. It also has an interview with Karen Berger, who I think your readers will know very well, and it has an exclusive interview with DJ Steve Aoki.
So we have a ton of content in the magazine. It just won an award. The Pop Insider does like a Today Show saying, these are the hot items for Christmas every year. Well, they selected the magazine as one of their Best Geeky Gifts of 2020. We were surprised as hell. We didn’t even have anything up on a website to support it when we found out about it, so we had to scramble this weekend to get something up, but we’re really proud of that.
It’s going to come out in December (we hope!), and we hope that people will go to our website and preorder it now. We are really excited to get this out. We had plans to have it in retail and we still have a chance to get it into UK retail, but with COVID and with Diamond being all over the place, it’s been… you know. We just said, “Screw it. We’ll just do it via e-commerce.” It’s been really tough but it WILL COME OUT soon.
It’s an activity magazine. It’s not just a magazine, it’s a magazine that speaks to the culture of comics. So you’ve got how to draw tutorials in there, you’ve got product information to help you create art, there are some contests where you can create art and then snap it with your cell phone to be entered. It’s a physical product that involves digital and it’s content that’s only exclusively in the magazine, but there’s so much stuff in there that kind of goes in between digital and physical, that we feel like that’s the future of printed material. You’ve got to bridge that gap.
That’s what makes us so excited about it. That’s why we think The Pop Insider recognized it.
Likewise, we’ve got some toys coming out from a new company called Jabberwocky Toys.
They’re going to feature three of our biggest characters with artwork cues from some of the artists who drew them and created them, so the artists are really excited about this. At the end of the day, we’re a creator-owned company. So in the world of the Internet artist who doesn’t have comic book stores to rely on, social media is everything.
Kids are following our folks through YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and they really see themselves in Saturday AM, because they see so many different faces, different ethnicities, different genders, who are part of our community. So when our artists have victories, when just a few years ago you were a teenager or coming out at the end of your teenage years, and Saturday AM discovered you and now here you are a couple years later and you’ve got a toy that some company paid a lot of money to make, of your character? That’s a victory for all young, independent creators who want to see themselves have the next great product. The company is called Jabberwocky Toys and it’s the Saturday AM collection, so we hope people go check those out, as well.
And the last thing I’ll just say is that we’ve got some more things happening with the app.
We’re gonna be debuting a brand-new APP and we have some information in the app for people who want to submit their content for our new magazine, which is coming out next year, called Saturday AFTERNOON. It’s gonna be another digital magazine focused on shōjo and shonen content, hopefully for young readers. We’re really excited about getting more young voices into the mix because Saturday AM is packed, Saturday PM is getting packed, and Sunday Brunch has a very specific vision.
We’ve seen some very toxic behavior online. Young artists are being swayed by cowards on hidden profiles to attack and harass women, minorities, and others. We feel this new app will help to stem that by giving young creators a positive new community to engage in where their differences are CELEBRATED not ridiculed. So we’re excited that in 2021 our existing app, Saturday AM – Global Comics, and our new one will speak to young readers.