An Interview with Tom Peyer of AHOY Comics

A little while back, I posted about a new comics publisher getting ready to open up, AHOY Comics. As I mentioned at the time, I am pretty excited about what AHOY brings to the table, and I'm very happy to share this interview with Tom Peyer, the Editor in Chief of AHOY. Tom and I did this via email recently, and I will tell you right now, this is one of the funniest interviews I've ever conducted!

Rob McMonigal: For those who may not be familiar with you, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your comics past?

Tom Peyer: I always loved comics. I broke in as a writer in the late '80s, through the good works of writer Roger Stern and, later, editor Mike Carlin. That led to a job at DC Comics, working for editor Karen Berger before and during the launch of the mature readers' line VERTIGO. I went freelance after a few years and enjoyed a long run writing Legion of Super-Heroes and a fun time on Hourman. More recently I wrote stories for Batman '66 and an AfterShock series with my buddy Mark Waid, Captain Kid.

Rob: How did you get involved with the founding of AHOY Comics?

Tom: Our publisher, Hart Seely, is one of my oldest and dearest friends. After a long, bruising career in daily journalism, he was looking for a way to turn his retirement years into one long stressful ordeal (my theory). I don't think he thought, "comics!" and then pictured me and our co-founder, the cartoonist Frank Cammuso; I think he looked at Frank and me and thought, "comics!"

Rob: Part of what interests me so much about AHOY is the idea of a larger reading experience, incorporating prose, poetry, backup stories, and other things that haven't been seen much since what, the Marvel horror mags? What led AHOY to the idea of broadening the contents of their single issues?

Tom: It started simply. We were thinking about old & new comics and what worked and what didn't. Before the dawn of letter columns, they used to run these little prose stories, for a business reason: they needed text to fit the Post Office's definition of a periodical and thus qualify for cheap mailing rates. In fact, Stan Lee's first published story was a text piece, "Captain America Foils the Traitor's Revenge!" Most of these stories, of course, were written very quickly by writers who were paid peanuts. So we thought, what if we had these, and what if they were good?

From there it kind of took on a life of its own. Some really excellent writers sent us stories, but also poems, and snatches of memoir, and non-fiction humor pieces. We didn't ask for that, but we loved it. Grant Morrison contributed a few of what William Burroughs used to call "routines," these over-the-top sketches that would kind of kick the reader in the crotch and run. Cartoonist Carol Lay wrote some very short, punchy and effective stories; 2000 AD writer Kek-w sent some hilarious stuff; and on and on. Pieces are rolling in all the time, and it's a delight.

Rob: Along those lines, do you think the blended format could expand interest to readers who might not normally be interested in a standard comic book?

Tom: We'll see, I guess! We'd love that, obviously. But as Hart is fond of pointing out, nobody loves stories more than comic readers do. And nobody supports them better.

Rob: Though there have always alternatives to the Big Two, there are more publishers than ever within the direct market. What, beyond the additional material, will make AHOY stand out on the rack?

Tom: On the rack? I think the covers by Richard Williams, Jamal Igle, June Brigman and Roy Richardson are all arresting and very well done. I'm proud to say that the great Todd Klein designed all of our logos. John J. Hill designed the line, so the trade dress looks beautiful. And I think the series concepts are clear and fun and pull people in quickly. Cats in space! Loser in Heaven! Mixed-up hero universes! Poe is drunk again! So I feel pretty good about the rack right now.

Rob: Tell us a little bit about the launch titles. How did you come up with these books to begin the line?

WRONG EARTH: It makes me laugh that comic book heroes change so much from decade to decade, but keep the same trademarks. Think of a chest-symbol; it stands for one set of values or another, depending on the age of the person looking at it. Wouldn't it be funny to mix it up? I had this idea in my head for a year or so before AHOY came along. I'm glad I waited, because there could not be a more perfect artist for this than Jamal Igle.

HIGH HEAVEN: My partner Mary Siau and I had a series of jokey conversations where we cooked up the idea of a cheap, disappointing heaven. It was fun, so we kept going and sketched in a lot of details. So many, in fact, that a comic had to be written because so much of the writing was already done. Alas, nothing could save artist Greg Scott from the challenges we threw his way. He defeated all of them.

CAPTAIN GINGER: Stuart Moore says that he cooked it up after working on a previous job with artist June Brigman where she filled a background with a zillion lovingly drawn cats. Stuart, in his genius way, looked at it and thought, "There's something here..."

EDGAR ALLAN POE'S SNIFTER OF TERROR: Who is famous that we don't have to pay?

Rob: The upcoming creator list is really phenomenal: Ann Nocenti, Roger Stern, Ryan Kelly, Mariah McCourt, Peter Milligan, and Linda Medley are all favorites of mine and very familiar to Panel Patter readers. What drew you to these creators and how did their collaborations with AHOY come together?

Tom: They're all very good at what they do, and very different from each other. I understand the appeal of a house style, and why some companies bind themselves to one, but as a reader I always preferred the possibility of surprise over consistency.

Rob: On a personal level, I really appreciate Mr. Seely's comment that the goal is to make comics and not movies. It's great to see a comic book movie, but the two are not one and the same or interchangeable. Over time, I can spot a failed movie or TV pitch when I'm reading. What makes comics-as-comics something different from comic-I-hope-to-get-adapted that makes it so easy to notice the difference?

Tom: I think a reader can tell when the creators love a story for itself and not what it can do for them. And we can tell when they're just not into it. I think, too, that if you plan out every last detail of a story before you write it, you're going to get bored when you do the writing and your boredom will show.

Rob: Wrapping up: If someone were to ask you for one reason to add AHOY comics to
their pull list, what would it be?

Tom: It's 2018; couldn't you use a laugh?​

AHOY Comics launches this fall. If their stories are as much fun as this interview (and their FAQ), we as readers are in for a treat! Keep your eyes peeled!