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Shelly Bond: Famed Editor Continuing to Push Boundaries

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

Shelly Bond is a comic book editor, who is best known for her two decades at Vertigo (DC Comics imprint), for which she was executive editor from 2013 to 2016.

Having started a month after Vertigo formed, she helped usher in a new wave of comics that helped change the industry.

After leaving Vertigo, Bond went over to IDW where she curates a line of books under the BLACK CROWN imprint, where the stories are connected through an English pub.

No matter what she works on, it's always unique and innovative. With her latest project, HEY AMATEUR!, she has put together a book that teaches people "how to go from novice to nailing it". She's running it through Kickstarter and has put together an insane collection of creators. I backed the project day 1, I suggest you all go and support this project, it's one of a kind.

COMIC LOUNGE: You've been in the comic industry for years. What was your first job in comics?

SHELLY BOND: Editorial Assistant at Comico the Comic Company in Norristown, PA. That meant I answered phones, mailed out comps to freelance talent, and sent out rejection letters to writers and artists. My favorite memory is of when I had to send a rejection letter to a young artist named M. Dalton Allred, AKA Michael Allred, who was in the army and stationed in Germany at the time. It was clear that he was inspired by music, especially David Bowie, and I told him so on the rejection note. I am both blown away by and feel a connection to his art. We’ve been great friends since that fateful day back in the fall of 1988. Props to my first boss in comics, Diana Schutz, for taking a chance on a young, Bowie-obsessed goth girl right out of college.

COMIC LOUNGE: As an assistant editor, you were pretty much involved with Vertigo from its infancy.

BOND: What was it like being a part of such a massive shift in the kind of stories being published?

It was extraordinary to be a part of the original Vertigo. I was the last editorial staffer taken in before the big launch of January 1993. I spent the 90s working non-stop and cherished every moment. I learned so much from the artists and writers who came of age with me in those glamour years, and also from the some of the elder legends at the time.  

COMIC LOUNGE: What are some of your fondest memories of your time at Vertigo?

BOND: FABLES has to be my first response because working with Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham for over 15 years was a sheer and utter delight. I worked with Bill a bit when I was at Comico—I was the last official editor on his much-lauded Elementals series. I thought he was a genius back then and was determined to seek him out as soon as I was able to edit my own comics at DC.  Pairing Bill and Bucky was the best bit. They were the kind of collaborators an editor dreams about — they clicked from day one and inspired each other from panel to page. Everyone who joined the FABLES ranks —especially the fans— was considered family.  It’s also worth noting that working in comics throughout the 90s and living in New York City was a magical experience in itself. 

COMIC LOUNGE: After leaving Vertigo, you started Black Crown over at IDW. It has featured a mix of genres, attracting some of the best creators in the industry. What was your initial reasoning behind curating your own imprint?

BOND: Love & Rockets was the comic that made me want to be a part of the comic-book community. I just love Gilbert and Jaime’s bravado and the indie spirit.  BLACK CROWN is where I get to make comics that I want to read, stories that come with their own soundtracks with a strong emphasis in art and design, opulence and alchemy.  I guess it’s not surprising that Gilbert Hernandez and I still manage to work together every few years. His work with writer Tini Howard on ASSASSINISTAS is one our signature titles.

COMIC LOUNGE: For Black Crown, do you seek out certain creators, or do they come to you for the most part?

BOND: BLACK CROWN is a tiny imprint which I liken to being IDW’s indie record label.  And because it’s curated, I get to hand-select the stories and the teams.  My husband Philip not only draws for BLACK CROWN (Eve Stranger and CUD: Rich and Strange from BLACK CROWN QUARTERLY) but he’s also my secret weapon.  He’s the creative genius behind the logo, the graphic design and visual aesthetic of the imprint.  We both design the trades, letter columns, fake ads and editorials that run through the back of the books. I’m even lettering the comics now, which is one of my favorite parts of the job. There is no ligature that’s safe from my obsession with perfect kerning. 

COMIC LOUNGE: As an editor, what do you look for in a pitch?

BOND: Originality is key, something unexpected that I haven’t seen or heard before. Something that rubs me the wrong way or lingers in my head long after I finished reading the title or a few short sentences.  

COMIC LOUNGE: Your latest project is an anthology on Kickstarter called HEY AMATEUR!. Can you talk a little about the inspiration behind the book?

BOND: HEY, AMATEUR! is a how-to book about process and leveling up. I reached out to over 50 comics creators and asked them to pitch me one-page stories about the comics process or their hidden talents and secret hobbies. There were very few duplicate ideas here which tells you a lot about the comics community.  So, you have amazing British artists like Dilraj Mann (Dalston Monsterzz) who will teach us "how to make a curry,” Rob Davis (The Motherless Oven) will show us "how to be unspectacular” and Lucy Sullivan (Barking) will share her secrets on “how to blind or contour draw.” Then we have some peculiar subjects, such as Michael Conrad and Caitlin Yarsky (Coyotes)’s “how to make a talisman (and then destroy it)" and “how to defend yourself from vampires" from Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes) and Martin Simmonds (Punks Not Dead), plus practical knowledge like “how to meditate” by Glyn Dillon (The Nao of Brown), “talk to a celebrity” by Lauren Beukes and Tegan Phillips, and much more.

COMIC LOUNGE: Who are some of the collaborators attached to the project?

BOND: See above and add Gail Simone, Leah Moore, Gilbert Hernandez, Marley Zarcone, Liz Prince, etc.

COMIC LOUNGE: What made you decide to go the Kickstarter route?

BOND: Anthologies are notoriously difficult for publishers. They’re a lot of work because they involve a lot of creators and you end up juggling a lot of plates and fire batons at once. It causes a lot of extra work for the administrative departments at companies too, since there are many contracts/vouchers/comps/royalties checks to sort out with a creator count of over 100.  But I love them to bits.

COMIC LOUNGE: If this one is successful, would you consider doing another Kickstarter?

BOND: This is actually my second Kickstarter. The exclusive hardcover of FEMME MAGNIFIQUE: 50 Magnificent Women Who Changed the World was funded on Kickstarter but I had lots of help from my fellow curators Brian and Kristy Miller of HiFi Colour Design. We raised 96K thanks to 1733 backers.  We released the softcover through BLACK CROWN/IDW last year.  I wanted to follow that model for HEY, AMATEUR! and offer up the exclusive hardcover and even more rewards like original sketches from artists Mark Buckingham and limited-edition signed prints of the one-page stories by Jill Thompson, John Allison and others.

COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any other projects you're working on that you can talk about?

BOND: I’m in the throes of the Kickstarter campaign, and working on the regular BLACK CROWN titles including issue #4 of EVE STRANGER by David Barnett and Philip Bond right now, but watch this space!

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