Adam Staffaroni is a member of the class of 2007, CCS’s inaugural class. Like all his classmates, Adam took a gamble by enrolling in a college that hadn’t existed yet. I venture to say the gamble paid off. Since graduating he has worked for two major comics publishers, while publishing and cartooning himself. I took some time to catch up with Adam, and learn about his latest adventures (which have recently taken him to sunny California).
What have you been up to since graduation?
“Right after graduation I spent about 3 months driving around the good old U.S. of A with everyone’s favorite Joe Kimpel… financed by my work on the TMNT gig — thank you, Mirage. There were a few highlights, including The Corn Palace, Glacier National Park, a visit to the Schulz Museum (got a Pig Pen t-shirt!), and a bonfire with Ross Wood Studlar at Crater Lake where he was a park ranger (Ross wrote The Raven and the Crawfish about the lake). But the best part came when we were able to hitch a ride on a container ship on a loop from Tacoma to Alaska (Anchorage, Kodiak Island, Dutch Harbor) and then back to Tacoma. We went salmon fishing, saw flocks of golden eagles, saw wild Kodiak grizzlies from under 100 feet away. Easily the most amazing trip I’ve ever been on.
After I got back I started applying for jobs, and, with a little help from Andrew Arnold, was able to land a spot in the Licensing Department at DC Comics. So I packed up and moved my things from the Hartford House* down to NYC, and joined the mainstream. But eventually DC decided to “restructure.” I saw the writing on the wall and started looking at editorial jobs by hitting the floor at C2E2 and SDCC. I got an editorial spot at BOOM! Studios, and on Halloween I moved all my furniture out onto the street in front of my apartment (under the 7 train tracks in Queens), sold it all, and with 2 suitcases and a 1-way ticket set out for Los Angeles.”
(*The Hartford House is the name given to an apartment, located in Hartford Village, Vermont, that has housed CCS students from 2005 – present – ed).
What kind of work did you do at DC? What was it like working there?
“I worked in the Licensing Department at DC, which was basically an art/design firm for DC Merchandise. We didn’t go around selling the licenses, but we created all the art that appears on every T-shirt, backpack, and pair of underoos with Batman or Superman on them. I handled a lot of the administrative duties and record-keeping for our art directors, which means I handled mostly contracts and payment. But we worked with a lot of great artists, so it was occasionally my job to handle Jose Garcia-Lopez’s original pencils or an original Alex Ross painting. My #1 highlight was helping to scan Jerry Robinson’s original art to Detective Comics #69… that piece of paper recently got a $213,000.00 bid at auction, and I touched it.
But, ultimately, it was my job to fill out paperwork, and that got boring pretty quickly. But I put in my time, met a lot of great people — fellow employees, writers, artists, licensing partners — and overall it was a very, very worthwhile experience. There is a rule against publishing your own comics while you’re employed there, which is an interesting fact. I know because they sent out a memo about it. So anyone trying to get a job there should keep that in mind.”
Can you tell us about some of your comics projects?
“After moving to NYC I finally completed some work that I can look back on and not be embarrassed about. I had a weekly newspaper-style comic strip that was part of my thesis, called “Roosevelt Park.” While I didn’t continue the strip, the character designs and world I created resurfaced in the “Monkey Bars” story I had in the first 4-Square anthology, and in the ongoing The Marsh series of stories (2 parts are finished; Chapter 3 is being written; I think that may end with Chapter 4). I eventually hope to have enough short stories and strips from that world to collect in a book.
Besides that, I got pretty good responses from two stand-alone minis, Prune Hands and Girls Don’t Poop. The latter was by far my biggest seller… esteemed minicomic salesman Tony Shenton has moved well over 1,000 copies of that book over the past two years, and the orders keep coming. It’s been a while since my last book due to some illustration work that helped me pay off my CCS-incurred credit card debt, and it may be a little while until my next book (working overtime at the new job), but rest assured there is some stuff in the works.”
I heard that, due to a policy at DC, you had to draw comics under a pseudonym while you were employed there. What happened to Mario Van Buren, now that you’ve left DC?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My good friend Mario (he’s about my height, my weight, brown eyes, brown hair) had some very unfortunate luck: He seems to come down with the flu right before every convention he’s scheduled to table at. I feel so bad for him that I’m compelled to appear in his place and represent his work. He told me he’s felt great lately, and he’s planning to be at MoCCA. If you see me, though, it means he’s probably got the black lung, so fell free ask me about Mario’s books.”
What is I Know Joe Kimpel, and how has it evolved over the years? What is it’s current status?
“I Know Joe Kimpel was a joint venture by several cartoonists from CCS Prime (can we institute this as the nickname for the first class? Or “CCS Alpha”) to help us jointly market and sell our books. After a while, IKJK signed up with Tony Shenton to help get our books out to comic shops as well, and that’s been a great relationship for us. We also eventually figured out we could use the pooled resources to print and sell a series of 4-Square anthologies (4 artists, square-format, all proceeds go to IKJK conventions). We’ve put out some great titles in that series, including Sorry, No!, Trivial, Dark Corners, and Future, with a lot of great artists and a different editor for each volume. Morgan Pielli is in charge of the next installment, Trouble, so keep your eyes out for that at SPX this year!
IKJK also buys shared convention table for the members, to try and make conventions a bit more affordable for everyone. IKJK usually chips in enough so that each of the artists only needs to toss in $40 or $50 bucks for their table space, and I know I wouldn’t have made it to a lot of shows without that help.
With my new job I was no longer able to help out with the site, but it’s been taken over by the very capable Bryan Stone. So if you want to join up, sell your books, and are willing to lend Bryan a little help with the many responsibilities he’s taken on, give him a shout! I also have to mention that the site has been alive for over 5 years now, so congrats to everyone who made that happen!”
Now you’re with BOOM! Studios, and an Assistant Editor. How do you like your new job, and your new employer?
“Working at BOOM! Studios is great so far. I’ve been here about two and half months and I’m absolutely loving it. I’m helping out some of the more experienced editors as I get my feet wet, learn the job, and get to know our writers and artists. My first published Assistant Editor credit will be on the new issue (#8) of The Amory Wars, created and co-written (with Peter David) by Coheed & Cambria’s frontman Claudio Sanchez.
The goal is for me to eventually take over BOOM!’s indie imprint, BOOM! Town. We’re working on finalizing our Fall 2011 slate right now, so I can’t say anything about the projects, but we’ll hopefully have some big announcements to make soon. BOOM!’s a smart, aggressive company that knows comic shops and bookstores… and that wants to do alternative comix. That’s exciting. Though we largely publish kids books (Roger Langridge’s Muppets) and mainstream/genre books (Mark Waid’s Irredeemable), the staff here read and are fans of indie comics, and they’re stoked about the work that’ll be coming out under the BOOM! Town label.”
Thanks Adam! Good luck in LA, and keep those comics coming.