On this week’s MECCAcon Weekly, I am somewhat reuniting with a friend, lol. I’ve admired Bill Campbell since i first discovered Rosarium Publishing. The thing that made his publishing company so grand is the fact that it is about as well-rounded of a company as you can get. To say the selections are balanced would be an understatement. Rosarium’s selections of literature would be any vendor’s dream (that’s the Detroit in me, the hustler mentality 24/7 lol). There is something…. for EVERYone, ladies and gents. From novels to comics, youth lit to crime, vampires to anthologies, there is no child left behind, so to speak. Campbell has been around for quite some time, and has a long list of credentials to put inside of alligator skins and fedoras. Recently, I was lucky enough to have him as a featured vendor in #MECCAcon2015, as well as both of us vending recently at #SOLCON. I realized both times that Bill Campbell was far sweeter of a person than i originally took him for, lol. He is a private man, but also severely well spoken. Passionate about todays massacre of black youth, he is just as knowledgable and experienced in speculative fiction. Without holding you up any further, let’s dive inside the mind of the man with the master plan.
Myself with Bill Campbell at #SolCon! Oct 2015, Ohio State University
Owner of ROSARIUM PUBLISHING
What was your favorite comic book series as a child, and did it influence your art into adulthood?::
Well, the very first comic book I stumbled on was when I was seven, and that was THE TEEN TITANS. I loved it so much, I wanted to turn it into a play, but it was impossible to wrangle a bunch of seven-year-olds to do a play.
Later on, I fell in love with THE X-MEN because the “Phoenix Must Die” issue was given to me by one of my aunt’s boyfriends. I was instantly hooked. After that, I’d say, THE NEW TEEN TITANS, BLACK PANTHER, THE CREEPER, WARLOCK, SWAMP THING. At that time, anything John Byrne, George Perez, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore touched. God, I’m dating myself.
As far as influences go, I’m not sure. I’m first and foremost a novelist, so I’d like to think my influences run more towards other novelists. However, I’ve been told that comics have obviously influenced my writing. I tend to agree, but I don’t know who exactly among the comics writers would be influences.
What made you decide that it was important to start a publishing company?::
Karl Marx. Ha! But seriously, it came down to who owns the means of production. We can demand, cry, scream, protest for diversity, but, as long as somebody else owns these publishing companies, etc., we’re at their mercy. It’s as I often say, “As long as you’re asking for a place at the table, all you’ll get is table scraps. You have to build your own table.”
“This was for the trailer for my book, Koontown Killing Kaper. We ran around DC at dawn taking pictures around the monuments, praying that nobody would see us. It didn’t quite work out that way, but nobody beat us up. So, it was a success.”
You and John Jennings seem to have a very strong and thriving business relationship. What title of his were you most excited about adding to Rosarium?::
Yeah, I guess you can say that John and I are kindred spirits, of a sort. It’s weird, considering how weird people often think I am, how often we’re on the same page. Not all the time, of course, but it’s an extraordinarily high percentage.
John is an idea machine, so it’s kind of hard for me to remember which things are currently Rosarium projects, which ones will probably be Rosarium projects, and which ones are being done with someone else. I should probably make a chart. As you know, he’s doing KID CODE with Damian Duffy and Stacey Robinson. I think he’s working on BAAAAAD MUTHAZ with Ashley A. Woods and me. His big solo project, though, is BLUE HAND MOJO. It’s a “hoodoo noir” set in 1930s Chicago about a black private detective who’s sold his soul to the Devil. The graphic novel will be coming out next spring. I’m really excited about that one. It’s a lot of fun.
Rosarium is widely known for having a multifaceted array of cultures as far as the creators, as well as the subjects. How important is it to you to support all aspects of race and gender?::
The mediated white gaze is extraordinarily confining and detrimental to all of us. They do their best to cram us all in our “proper” little boxes and padlock that shit. To put it bluntly, it denies everybody their own humanity. And, frankly, it makes culture pretty damned boring.
On top of all that, I’ve come to the conclusion (either rightly or wrongly) that whoever controls the culture controls the political debate. If a society through its culture–its arts and entertainment, its news and history books, through its very language–can get its citizens to vilify and/or fear a group of people, that group of people is in for a world of shit because we’ll just want them gone. Black folks have been victims of this for centuries, but so has a lot of people. So, on that level, I find supporting all aspects of our society imperative.
Also, culture, in general, thrives when it includes new and disparate voices, different viewpoints, even unpopular ones. It’s dependent upon it. America’s corporatized “culture” is simply stifling. Art needs to breathe. I’m happy to provide this tiny respirator for as long as I can.
Bill Campbell with Rosarium Publishing author, Micheline Hess, one of my fellow Women In Comics International members!
What is your take on the current hottest topic in the comic book world: DIVERSITY? Does it effect what YOU are doing?::
In all honesty, I don’t pay that much attention to it. As far as I’m concerned, we’ve been here before. The barbershop quartet, jazz, rock and roll, the Harlem Renaissance, the list goes on and on. People are clamoring for diversity; these companies throw us a few bones; and, when the coast is clear, things will go back to normal. There are demographic shifts that would suggest that they’d want to actually increase their diversity, but I don’t think it’s ever been about that or the money. Disco was incredibly popular. Blaxploitation was, too.
It’s sort of like what Matt Damon said, they want diversity in front of the camera but not behind the camera. Because behind the camera is where the true power lies. Even though people of color make up 32% of the country, I’m thinking 5% representation (a handful of comics titles, a few movies, maybe a half-dozen TV shows) is their “diversity” ideal.
To me, if you want truly representative diversity, more companies like Rosarium have to pop up and do our damnedest to survive and thrive. Hip-hop would’ve been a trend if it hadn’t been for the Def Jams, Cash Moneys, No Limits, etc., popping up and making millions and those independent artists like Ludacris or Hammer selling hundreds of thousands of dollars of albums out of the trunk of their cars.
It’s funny for me, being an anti-capitalist anarchist like I am, to be saying this, but the key to true diversity is really ownership.
Give us a quick synopsis of KOONTOWN KILLING KAPER. What what the process of coming up with that title?::
All the rappers in Koontown are being killed, and everybody thinks it’s vampire crack babies doing the killing. So, it’s up to ex-supermodel/ex-homicide detective/private eye Genevieve Noire to save the day.
The novel came about from a discussion I had with my agent at the time. He accidentally let it slip that publishers didn’t think I was “ghetto” enough. It got me to thinking about how black people are constantly being portrayed by mainstream culture, how we’ve always been portrayed. So, I said, “You want ‘ghetto,’ I’ll give you ‘ghetto,’ m——-s.”
Do you or do you not feel that culturally driven comic book conventions are necessary?::
They’re an absolute necessity. I wish there were more of them. In a lot of other conventions (and I do a lot of them), there are pockets of support but mostly you’re met with anything from indifference to passive-aggressive hostility. Cons like your MECCAcon , ECBACC, Onyxcon, etc., feel like home. People are there for you. You don’t have to explain what you’re doing because they already get it. And they want you there. They actually thank us for doing what we’re doing. It’s a beautiful thing.
You have been very supportive of women creators, and that is why I admire your company so much.
Thanks. You can blame my mother. I don’t know what she did exactly. I just don’t think that talent inherently has a sex, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc. There are just tons of talented people out there, and I do my best to not let these culturally-produced prejudices cloud my vision. And when I suspect they are, I ask other folks just to make sure.
I was also raised in an all white neighborhood, as well as many predominantly white schools. Those many experienced helped strengthen me into who I am today. How did that effect your choices of literature you created or published?::
As I joked with you before, I was probably born code-switching. My mother’s African-American and my father’s Jamaican. One branch of my family’s AME, the other branch is Seventh Day while I ended up going to Catholic school. And I grew up in a white town in Pittsburgh which was incredibly white ethnically diverse.
I think being “half-immigrant” has probably affected my literary choices more than anything else. Especially as a child, one is rooted in the concept of “home,” but when one of your parents is an immigrant, your “home” is your immediate surroundings and this other place. Your “people” are here and there and what you’re identified as often depends on what group you’re with at the time. Sometimes, I’d be hanging with African-Americans and they’d be dogging Africans or Caribs, and I’d be like, “Yo, I’m right here.” Then I’d be hanging with immigrants dogging African-Americans, and I’d be like, “Yo, I’m right here.” Then, there were times when white and black folks would be like, “But you’re not really black,” and I’d have to hand out Fuck yous like party favors.
The one thing that would save me in all those different situations was the stories. It was only by listening to people and their stories and trying to understand where they were all coming from that I could survive all that. Ultimately, I just became interested in hearing all the different stories this world has to offer. I think that’s what mostly dictates my philosophy with Rosarium–and the weirder the story, the better.
Do you think that sexism exists in comic book industry? (I will ask this every week, America, so deal with it, lol)::
Hell yeah! As you know, I also work in the science fiction/fantasy field, and it definitely feels like comics is worse. I don’t get it, and I do. I just do my best not to perpetuate that mess.
What do you feel needs to be changed in order for the advancement of women in your industry?::
I think it really comes down to ownership. You really can’t ask people to give up their own power. Women are just gonna have to take it away from these clowns. I don’t know how, exactly (obviously), but that seems to be the only way.
Will you all be adding to your comic book catalog?::
Oh God, yes. My brother actually thinks Rosarium will ultimately become a comic book company. I doubt that. But on top of what we already have out, I already mentioned BAAAAD MUTHAZ and BLUE HAND MOJO. There’s also THE LITTLE BLACK FISH by Bizhan Khodabandeh, which is just beautiful. We’re already digitally distributing THE LITTLE RED FISH that Bizhan’s doing with James Moffitt. THE ADVENTURES OF WALLY FRESH #1 by Turner Lange is coming out in November. A single brother in Brooklyn with a ninja best friend and a beaver familiar who get high all the time. The shit’s crazy and funny as hell. We have this British Lovecraftian horror comic by David Tallerman we’re still looking for an artist for. And, of course, our biggest recent news was the comic book adaptation of Tobias Buckell’s ARCTIC RISING. It’s such a great, action packed novel, and Keith Miller and Tommy Nguyen are turning it into a phenomenal comic. I can’t wait.
We also have two new women creators coming on board, but I won’t be able to officially talk about them for another week or two.
DayBlack Comics also has a short film, both created by Keef Cross. Make sure you check them out!
How did you come across Vern E Smith’s THE JONES MEN, and what made you decide to publish? I would love to feature it here in Detroit, being that he was from here.::
Vern used to be my friend and MOTHERSHIP co-editor, Edward Austin Hall. Ed gave me the book, and I loved it. I thought, since it was so heralded, why not do a 40th Anniversary Edition of the book. It still holds up to this day. It reminded me a lot of THE WIRE, which makes sense, since two of the show’s writers, Richard Price and George Pelecanos, have named THE JONES MEN as one of their favorite books.
What was your most difficult book to write, and how did you push thru it?::
I don’t know. I think about books for years before I write them. Then, I write them in a flurry. The writing isn’t really the difficult part for me. It’s mentally processing through the entire book before putting it down to paper (I write longhand). So, maybe the first one, SUNSHINE PATRIOTS, since it took seven years from original thought to finished book.
Ok, less serious stuff – if you could have ANNNNY two characters be your homies in REAL time, who would they be and WHY?::
Hm … I think Cyborg would’ve been the perfect rolling partner back in the days when I had rolling partners. You’d never have to worry about getting your ass kicked with him around. And, as David Walker has pointed out, he has no genitalia, so you don’t have to worry about him stealing your woman. Ha!
Are you working on any new titles of your own at this present moment?::
Comic book-wise, there’s BAAAAAD MUTHAZ with Ashley A. Woods and John Jennings. After that, I’m set to co-write a “ghetto noir” supernatural thriller set in the 19th century shtetl with Benjamin Rosenbaum. Then John and I are working on a secret project that’s near and dear to my heart.
After that, I’d really love to carve out the time to write a novel again. It’s been a long time since KOONTOWN. I really miss writing.
Where can we find you online? Links, Handles, Hashtags, Bribes::
Rosariumpublishing.com, our comics can be found on Peep Game Comix, ComiXology, and Amazon. We also have a Facebook page, of course. Folks can also follow me on Twitter @RosariumBill
Any last thoughts, screams, rants, praises, etc?::
No, I think I’m thought out. Ha! Thanks for all you do, Crown. Keep up the good work.
Customers reading a Rosarium publication this year at #MECCACON2015 🙂
MECCAcon Weekly is a weekly series of features, interviews, and highlights, all focused around comics and art, mainly centered around the AFRIKAAN diaspora community. We focus on the upliftment and advancement of arts thru various mediums. #MECCAconWeekly can also be found on our sister site, DARK MATTERS.
MECCAconWeekly is also a division of Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts – MECCAcon. MECCAcon is an annual convention every SEPTEMBER, located in Detroit, MI.
“BLOOM WHERE YOU’RE PLANTED”
…This is my motto. Whatever environment you come from, whatever your surroundings or financial circumstance, there is ALWAYS room to grow, flourish, and BLOOM.
Maia Williams, also known as “Crown”, is executive assistant to many different businesses, artists, and events in the Metro Detroit area. Crown is also CEO and founder of
Amonyet Enterprises, Cooking Ciphers, MECCAcon, and Crown’s Royalties.