We caught up with AfterShock Comics Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Steve Rotterdam at New York Comic Con and asked about AfterShock’s sales during Covid, recent sell-outs, and the company’s key upcoming launches.

ICv2:  What's been happening to AfterShock sales over the last year and a half?
Steve Rotterdam:  Amidst the pandemic, amazingly, we're had our best year ever.  Right now, our sales versus two years ago are up over 37 percent.  Everybody's sales are up, but ours are just up phenomenally well.  We did not slow down during the pandemic.  Some fortunate planning and foresight let us keep publishing and keep paying talent throughout the pandemic.

Does that mean you put out as many issues or books last year as you had originally planned to?
That was plan.  There lately have been some delays, just with supply chain issues.

Do you print in China?
Well, it's Korea, and just container ships sitting in the LA port, but we did put out what we planned to put out.  We had a three‑month hiatus because of the moratorium on shipping, but we pushed everything down the calendar.

We had planned for that and planned on having a light summer, anyway, and it worked to our advantage.  Then right during that, right after that period in September, that's when we had We Live, and that's when we had news of Bunny Mask and Maniac in New York, our hottest‑selling series, and multiple printings, which was not planned for.  It wasn't staged multiple printings, "Let's print this tiny amount, so we can then have…"  We'd much rather have a printing that allows us to be able to respond to retailers when they want to reorder, instead of having to wait three to four weeks.

And our ambassador program, which is very much a grassroots, individual brand ambassadors and individual markets, we've been running it for two years (see "AfterShock Deploys First Ambassadors".  Over the last year, it's really taken off.

We have 43 ambassadors across North America, and they visit stores on a regular basis.  In many cases, they become part of the store, they ingratiate themselves amongst the managers and the staffs to help support AfterShock because our titles do best when they're hand‑sold.  We don't have a shared universe.  We don't have brands, characters that people recognize.  Daredevil's Daredevil no matter what and when. That's not the case for us.

What have your bestsellers been, or what are your bestsellers now?
We Live is our bestseller of all time.

Why is that?
I think it appealed to a broad range of readers because it is very Miyazaki‑esque in its style.  It tells a post‑apocalyptic story.  It's a story of a little boy and his sister who are trying to make their to a beacon point to be saved from a global cataclysm.  The character development, the artwork, and the storyline has just really, really caught on with folks.  We exploit that when it happens.  We made it our Free Comic Book Day book this past year.  We were at the gold level for the first time.

We were at every single shop.  From the reports that we've heard (it's all anecdotal because once you sell in, you don't really get exactly what moves), it was one of the fastest‑moving free comic books out there.

It's really helped cement AfterShock as a viable brand that's not in and out.  This is not a fly‑by‑night kind of publisher.  Nothing against any other publisher, but we're here to stay.

Where are you in your publishing cycle with that property?
We just finished the first series, and we put out the trade.  The trade was a sellout.  We've gone back to a second print on the trade; it's done very well in the bookstores as well.  We've announced that there's a second arc coming early next year.  We're going to announce the details of that next month.  There's going to be some innovative things about it.  The thing I wanted to stress, too, is that everything that we're doing for We Live, the second story arc, and anything beyond that, it's all story‑driven.

We're not, "Hey, we can make this much more money if we do this with the property, or with some of the characters, or the merchandise."  This is all story‑driven, and everything that we're going to be doing for We Live, as well as all of our titles, it's all because the creators have a lot of story to tell, and we're trying to accommodate that as best we can.

That's what people are hungry for, and that's what we find that the retailers are hungry for.  We Live was a sellout.  Bunny Mask was a phenomenal sellout.

Where are you at on the publishing cycle with Bunny Mask?
Bunny Mask just concluded its fourth issue.  It was four 24‑page issues, so they were a little extra size in each issue, a series of four.  We're doing that a lot, moving from five to four issues, but with same total page count.

Then a trade?
Then a trade beyond that.  I'm not sure exactly when it is off the top of head, but we're moving into trade.  We have some plans for it.  We did announce a second arc already for, I believe, end of first or beginning of second quarter of 2022.  Bunny Mask will return. Maniac of New York was another phenomenal hit for us.

When you say these books have been hits, what are the number ones selling?
I can't give you specific numbers, but they're selling better than anything we've ever sold before.  Maniac, which is a weird tribute to the great Jason‑esque slasher films of the '80s, hit a carrier wave.  The interesting thing is Andrea Mutti, the artist, is both the artist for Maniac of New York as well as Bunny Mask.  Bunny Mask is Paul Tobin, the writer, and Andrea Mutti.

Then with Maniac of New York, it's Elliott Kalan, who's known for being a Daily Show writer who's worked on a few Spider‑Man things on the side, but it's all his vision.  Andrea really brought just a chilling sense of dread to it in every issue.  Now, the second arc was announced, and it goes on sale in December, Maniac in New York: The Bronx is Burning.  We're moving to the Bronx.  Our intention is to basically destroy Staten Island.  That's our plan.

What have you got coming out in the next six months or so that you're excited about?
Chicken Devil #1 came out this week, came out on Wednesday.  That's Brian Buccellato and Hayden Sherman.  It's in the vein of Fargo, Barry, and Breaking Bad, or Better Call Saul.  Average guy, makes great chicken sandwiches, has a small chain of Memphis hot chicken restaurants, and it turns out his buddy is into the mob for $2 million, and the mob doesn't like it.  Here's this regular Joe who gets caught up in this scenario, and his family is threatened.

That's a new number one that came out Wednesday, also just phenomenal.  The weird thing is we're finding Bunny Mask, Maniac of New York, Chicken Devil, have these iconic images of masks or costumes, and people are just glomming onto that.  It's just very entertaining and very engaging, and it's gotten great reviews this week.  We're very excited about that.

We've got Paul Tobin, again, who created Bunny Mask, with a new series starting in November called My Date with Monsters, illustrated by Andy MacDonald, who did the art for… Oh, gosh, it was a Zac Thompson, I Breathed a Body.  Again, a weird body horror kind of piece. My Date with Monsters is basically, the world is broken, nightmares are real, and the protagonist needs to discover, to find true love in order to save the universe.  Very engaging, a lot of great character development, very leverageable characters that people could glom onto.  That's coming out in November.

We have another Cullen Bunn, co-writing with Heath Amodio, called The Heathens, which is the devil's brigade.  From hell they came, literally.  Great characters who've been condemned to hell, who are assigned by the administrators of hell to come back up to mortality to catch villains who've escaped.