Ron Richards was the co-founder of and frequent contributor to iFanboy.com. We discussed his recent transition from the site to the Director of Business Development for Image Comics, his hope to expand on digital comic sales, and his thoughts on the industry today.
Colin Hollister: After twelve years with iFanboy.com, how difficult was the decision to move on from such an intergral part of your life? Is there any chance of a future Ron Richards Pick of the Week at iFanboy?
Ron Richards: It’s funny, it was at the same time an incredibly difficult decision and a super easy one to make. Helping start iFanboy and doing the site with Josh [Flanagan] and Conor [Kilpatrick] has been one of the best experiences of my life, and that’s because we were open to trying something new and working hard at it. When an opportunity to work at Image Comics came up, I had to really think it over, because it would cause so many changes, such as walking away from iFanboy. But, it was that same feeling of trying something new that was in the spirit of what we had been doing. When I got to talk to my partners at iFanboy and told them of the opportunity, they were incredibly supportive, and both their reactions were along the lines of “you gotta do it!”—so that definitely helped to push me over the edge.
Unfortunately there is no chance right now of a Pick of the Week podcast from me at iFanboy. Now that I work for a publisher, I don’t think it would be appropriate.
CH: How has your time at iFanboy prepared you for your role as Director of Business Development at Image?
RR: It’s been infinitely helpful, because I’ve been on the media side watching and responding to the publishers. I’ve watched countless initiatives and publishing approaches by all the publishers and, probably like many others, thought oh man, if I worked at a publisher…and now I get the chance to do that.
CH: As you move to the publishing side of the industry, how will your experience as a comic book journalist influence the level of communication you keep with the public?
RR: I don’t really see my level of communication with the public changing now that I’m at Image, but I don’t chalk that up to being a journalist, rather how the world has changed in social media. I’ve been very lucky to have built a following during my time at iFanboy and have chosen to be a public person, and hopefully that following will continue to enjoy what I’ve got to say and what I’m doing at Image.
CH: You’ve also spent several years working in the technology industry, focusing largely on eBook publishing and distribution. Now, as Image’s Director of Business Development, one of your duties will be paying close attention to digital comic book sales and implementing strategies for its continued growth. In what ways do you feel digital comic book distribution is currently falling short, and how do you picture that changing?
RR: Without a doubt, there has been massive growth and adoption of digital when it comes to publishing, especially within comics. Over the past few years, we’ve moved from an environment of fear and trepidation to adopting and embracing digital. I’ve been lucky enough to see if from both sides and see actual numbers, and it’s clear that the worries that digital would hurt print sales are not valid. Print sales are doing great, as are digital sales. It’s become just another way for people to get their comics. Now, I think there’s still a ton that can be done in terms of reaching audiences with a digital product. It’s not enough to just show up on one application. With so many options and marketplaces, it really behooves a publisher to be everywhere, maximizing the potential to find and build their audience.
CH: Image has without a doubt seen an increase in popularity over recent years, both critically and in the public eye. What do you feel Image is doing better than any other comic book publisher right now?
RR: With so many options out there from all the various comic book publishers, I think it’s pretty clear that Image is the future of comics, in terms of both talent and ideas. Whether it’s new writers and artists who are making up the next generation of star creators or new ideas from established creators, I don’t see any other place that’s exploding with creativity and innovation as much as Image.
CH: How will topics such as diversity and gender play a role in the future of Image’s marketing strategies? Do you feel the industry as a whole is doing enough to cater to readers of different race, gender, and sexuality?
RR: Well, it’s still early in my tenure at Image, so we’re still working to layout our strategies, but I can say without a doubt that we hope to embrace everyone in providing comics that entertain and they enjoy. What’s great about comic books is that there really can be something for everyone, regardless of gender or race or sexuality and part of my role will be helping to get that message out and reaching as many people as possible.
CH: You’re editing Image’s Hell Yeah [read Jeff Hayes' review here]. I know you’ll be plenty busy with your D.B.D. duties, but do you see yourself editing any more titles in the future?
RR: Right now my plate is pretty full on the business side of things, but I’ve had a blast working with Joe, Andre, and the rest of the team at Hell Yeah. I think understanding and being a part of how a comic is made is integral to being able to work within the company and help drive business for those comics, so I definitely would like to keep a toe in those waters.
CH: A fun question for your pals back at iFanboy.com, Josh Flanagan, Conor Kilpatrick, and Paul Montgomery. Kill one, marry one, get drunk with one. And go!
RR: I’ve already gotten drunk with, wanted to kill and pretty much been married to each of those guys for years, so I don’t think I could single one out!
CH: Ron, thank you very much for taking the time from your busy schedule to do this interview with me. Your work at iFanboy.com truly helped pave the way for what we here at Capeless Crusader are trying to accomplish, and all of us wish you well with your future at Image!
RR: My pleasure—thanks so much for enjoying what we did at iFanboy. I have all the confidence in the world that Conor, Josh, and Paul will do amazing things and iFanboy will continue to be one of the best places to enjoy comics. Further, thanks for your support and checking out what we’re up to at Image. These past few weeks have been spent planning for 2013 and beyond, and I can promise you, Image is going to continue to bring some pretty awesome stuff!
For more on Ron Richards and all your Image comics news, keep it pinned to Capeless Crusader!