Scott Cole: Michael, congratulations on meeting all the Kickstarter stretch goals. I’m enjoying the novel, it is a good read. Which is your preferred medium, novel or comic? I remember your Bears of 1812 piece in Cirsova so I’m guessing you are comfortable with both.
Michael Tierney: I’m comfortable in any format — comic, novel or short story. I still remember that the first words I learned to spell were Stop and Go, and drew a comic of military tanks crossing rivers and hills.
SC: For your writing, which author(s) have influenced you the most?
MT: Really enjoyed Edgar Rice Burroughs when I was in grade school and junior high. From there I moved on to Robert E. Howard. Read a bunch of stuff by other writers, a fair amount of Michael Moorcock and a smattering of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, but as I got older it became harder to find stories that entertained me. The last series that grabbed me was the Casca, the Eternal Mercenary series by Barry Sadler. The longest novel of the Wild Stars that I wrote back in the Seventies concerned an immortal named The Ancient Warrior, so I enjoyed reading a military and historical take on a similar, yet still very different type of character.
SC: In our last conversation I remember you were releasing your Edgar Rice Burroughs Art Chronology. How was it received?
MT: Customers gave it an overwhelmingly positive reception. Beautiful seems to be the word most oft repeated. The only negative customer review I’ve gotten was from a fellow who was angry that he hadn’t received his set yet. The publisher had $124,000 in advance sales and new orders keep pouring in, Amazon places new orders every day, so they’re having a hard time getting everything shipped out. As of this writing they estimate it will still be another week before all their current orders are shipped. They’re already talking about making a second printing.
SC: How is the local comic store business in Arkansas coming along?
MT: Had my original store for 37 years now, and my second location has entered it’s 30th. But if you add the two together, that’s how long it feels like I’ve been doing it. After Marvel made an change at the Chief Editor position their sales have picked up considerably, plus customers seem to have a lot more spending money these days. So things are really good right now.
SC: Will Wild Stars continue?
MT: Work on Wild Stars continues as we speak. Throughout the series I’ve touted how the basic concept is that mankind made a migration into the stars 75,000 years ago, and recently scientists discovered that Earth’s population crashed to just a few thousand people back then. In Volume Four you’ll get to see that migration and the reasons for it.
SC: Will the next in the series be a novel or will you go back to comics?
MT: Volume 4 will be a novel. It’s funny, when I was writing all those novels in the Seventies, it was like trying to break through a brick wall to reach the marketplace. Then in the Eighties direct sales comic stores like mine starting springing up everywhere and offering new access to customers, so I started doing comic adaptations of one of my novels. Another novel in the Nineties was adapted into the the 2001-2002 series. But now Marvel and DC have saturated the market with so many comics, it’s hard to find retailers willing to shelf independent comics. Plus, there are so few stores left compared to the heyday of the Nineties. By contrast, the novel market has completely opened up, so the market situation has completely reversed.
SC: How about your stores? Are you able to support independents or does market saturation make it infeasible?
MT: I built custom shelving for my stores, where the racks all have four shelves tilted so a passerby can easily see the faces of the titles displayed. We run Marvel alphabetical on the top row and DC on the second. All the other publishers are grouped together and displayed alphabetically on the third and fourth rows, so half my shelf display promotes independent publishers.
Being an indy myself, I’ve always strongly supported independent publishers. Eisner-award winner Nate Powell got his start by selling his first ashcan comics on my shelves. Whenever he’s back in town he always does at signing at one of the stores, and says that the turnout is better than anything he’s ever had in New York City or any of the other bigger markets. Beyond homegrown talent, the way I choose what independents to stock is based on customer feedback. If a publisher wants to be stocked on my shelves, get customers asking about your book. With so many titles to choose from I go with a multiple of my customer feedback, and a multiple of zero is still zero.
SC: Thank you Michael. Good luck with the final stages of the kickstarter.