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[DISPATCH] Meet Hank Kanalz
The longtime comics executive talks about his publishing & operations focus, plus much more!
Welcome back to the latest edition of the [DISPATCH], a weekly direct report from us to you, with news, recaps, exclusive content and more.
If you’ve been loving the prints from Mike del Mundo and Mike Huddleston, we’ve got a great post coming your way this week. But first, we’re stoked to hear from another new addition to the 3W/3M team.
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Today we turn our focus to a comics industry legend, Hank Kanalz. A Senior Executive with over 35 years of strategic and creative experience at DC Comics and beyond, we couldn’t be happier to have him aboard. Below, he talks about what he’s bringing to the publishing and operational sides of the business, as well as his long history with digital comics.
3W/3M: It’s a pleasure to speak with you today, Hank. You’ve been in and around the comic book industry for more than three decades, and you’ve done some amazing work on all sides of the desk. I’d like to dive into some of that later, but let’s start with you joining 3 Worlds / 3 Moons. You’re focusing on publishing and operations. What does that entail?
Hank Kanalz: So far, a little bit of everything. I work with the team to make sure things are running on time, that talent gets paid timely, and figure out how to get some of the new secret stuff we’re working on get made into actual hold-in-your-hands product.
The State of the Universe mentioned growing in the digital space and in other ways. What can you tell us about some of those other ways the company might be moving in?
I can’t say just yet – I’m new to the team, and I don’t want to blurt out something that hasn’t been made public. But one of the things we’ve already launched is Emporia, our store. We hit the ground running, but our launch opened far bigger than we anticipated. 3W/3M isn’t looking to become a consumer products company, but we do want to offer fun 3W/3M-adjacent products that fans can enjoy. Plus, it’s a great way to distribute the print versions of some of our series to those searching for them.
Are there any plans to release printed 3W/3M books outside of Emporia or Subscriber Rewards?
Hmmmm, there’s a blueprint that could take us in that direction, eventually. We’d want to make sure we have enough content ready to go, so that we don’t deliver anything late. We want to maintain the high production standards we set with [FOUNDATIONS] and [SYSTEMS], too.
And will those be available via Emporia?
We’re hoping to test a few things, Emporia being a part of that. But I’d want to stress that community members will always take priority. Anything we make available will be made available to members first (and in some cases, exclusively).
One of the best parts of this whole concept universe is when the community gets a look under the hood or helps us make decisions. If there’s enough demand from them for something – be it turning a piece of art into a print or a piece of clothing, or something more elaborate like figures or other physical products – is that something that’s possible, or is the Emporia “slate” pretty planned out?
It’s absolutely possible and encouraged. If anyone has ideas or requests, we’re open to them. I can’t guarantee the request will be made, but I’d love to know what kinds of things folks are wanting. We have some interesting projects in the hopper, and I’m hoping folks will be surprised and delighted by them.
On the operational side, you spent the bulk of your career at DC, where there’s a ton of people, departments, and red tape. This is obviously a smaller company, but is there anything here that your time DC didn’t prepare you for and you’re having to learn on the job?
That’s an interesting question, as I’ve done quite a bit at DC. There’s a particularly challenging project I’m working on now that I’d not done per se at DC, but I’d say my experience with DC (specifically DC Direct) has prepared me for that one, even if I’ve never “done” it before. But working with a leaner team, things move at a faster pace.
Along those same lines, what’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far?
Catching up with the tech side of things. I try to stay current, but some of the things we’re working on are beyond what I did at DC. I’m not hands on, but understanding the processes and the acronyms and the architecture of things – much of it new and interesting – has been challenging but exciting.
Turning to your impressive past, you co-wrote Youngblood #1, which I believe officially sold “a gazillion” copies, and was the first official Image Comics release. I imagine this gives you more sales on one issue than many creators amass across entire careers. How did you end up involved in the project?
I was pals with Rob Liefeld, having met through an APA (Amateur Press Association) called TitanTalk, back when we wuz young. I moved from Texas to Southern CA in the mid-’80s, and he happened to live in Anaheim, about an hour from where I lived. We both wanted “to do comics” somehow, and the original concept of the book was a Titans West pitch we sent to DC. If you look at some of the early art, it has a distinct Legion of Super-Heroes and Titans vibe, and Rob’s art was very George Pérez influenced. The editor at the time greenlit the series, but said “You need to find a name writer” – at that point, I only had a published comics credit in Flash #19. Then the idea to start Image percolated, and they needed a kick-off series. What ended up as Youngblood #1 was far different than what was pitched, but it started it all.
It certainly ushered in a major sea change for comics. I know from your initial 3W/3M meeting that you were, for a time, Director of Worldwide Theme Park Licensing for Warner Bros., which allowed you the distinct privilege of riding every Batman and Superman-themed ride in the world. What’s the best one, and why?
Ack, I can’t pick my favorite child! It’s hard to beat the original Batman The Ride. I have a fond memory of Superman: Escape from Krypton – it’s pretty awesome, too. It’s one of the early LSM (Linear Synchronous Motor) coasters, and shoots you 100 mph up a track 300+ feet, then drops you backwards back down. I had to shoot a video for a presentation, so I went out to the park at 8 am when they test the coaster. I only had access to one camera, so we set up the camera on the car and rode that ride eight times in a row, plus two more times from ground level, to splice it together. I was… dizzy for a while after that, but I will always ride that ride.
And during your time at DC, you spearheaded their digital program. Joining a “digital-first” initiative like 3W/3M, how do you think the digital comics landscape has changed since things began in earnest in 2010, and are there any unique concerns today that traditional print publishers don’t have to be as concerned with?
Man, the memories, Rob. I remember when we first dipped our toe in digital, retailers were furious. And then when we launched the New 52, they came at us at our own retailer summit with pitchforks. And then again at ComicsPRO. I’m sure the anger came from fear of the unknown, but time proved that digital was additive to the business. We didn’t see a transfer of commerce from the physical space to the digital space. And in fact, it’s proven to be a great way to bring people into the physical comics space. I do think traditional print publishers do need to be concerned with where new readers are trying new things. Fish where the fish are, as they say (don’t ask me who says that, as I don’t know). But you can see the success of many new books that originated as digital series first. Those creative teams build a solid, loyal base of followers, which leads to success in the print space. 3W/3M is well on the way to doing that as well. I’m amazed at the solid core of readers we’ve already established and look forward to ways to build that.
We’re asking everybody to make some recommendations for our readers, so what’s a recent comic, TV show, or movie – or one of each – that you would recommend people check out?
The Great Gatsby: The Essential Graphic Novel, for a faithful adaptation of the novel, by Ted Adams and crisp, amazing art by Jorge Coelho!
Silo on Apple TV+, based on the book (which I have in my pile to read next).
Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning for a summer thrill. And yes, I’m a Rebecca Ferguson fan (she’s in both Silo and MI:DR).
Now for the hardball questions… What’s your go-to dim sum order?
Anyone who has had dim sum with me knows they call me Honey Bun for a reason. Char Siu Bao! And yes, I will also eat them steamed.
Last thing, then we’ll let you go. There’s been a bit of a heatwave in Southern California of late. How’s your garden doing? Any casualties in this year’s harvest?
We’re killing it! The zucchini won’t stop (so neither will the zucchini bread). The plums, apricots, and peaches have ripened faster in the heat. The artichokes are taking over, the celery and green onions have bolted and gone to seed (I look at this as a good thing, as we are now prepared for next season). First time I’ve planted sugar snap peas, and they are popping in now. My tomatoes, though… my poor tomatoes have been scorched.
Thanks to Hank Kanalz for chatting with us, and our sympathies are with his poor tomatoes.
And now, let’s check out the week that was…
[Q&A] We spoke with new 3W/3M addition Rob Levin about lending his talents to the community and content side of the company in a wide-ranging conversation.
[REWARDS] We unveiled the fourth of six images from the Year 2 Deluxe Print Set from Mike del Mundo & Mike Huddleston. Hide your wallets and proceed with caution as you visit THE BANK by Mike Huddleston.
[COMICS] THE VALLARS marched ever forward with Jason Howard and Frank Martin delivering all-out adventure and intrigue in Episode 11. There’s more of that headed your way this Thursday.
Thanks for joining us to start the week. We’ll be unveiling an all-new [PROCESS] post from Mike & Mike that takes you into the creation of their latest prints, and as always on Thursday we’ll be back with a brand new episode of THE VALLARS for the adventurers. See you soon!