New Canadian Indie Comic Company, Under Belly Comics, Aims to Tell Lots of Stories

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Adam Jacks has always wanted to tell stories.

Under Belly Comics is a new Canadian company that was founded by Adam Jacks and Kyle Joseph McEwan. They specialize in graphic novellas, literary stories, superheroes, and web comics. Jacks originally went to film school in LA with the goal of writing and directing for film and television.

“My whole life I just wanted to tell stories. When I was really young, I just thought actors made up the stories and I didn’t get it. And I wanted to make movies because of it,” Jacks told me in an interview about his thriving publishing company.

After being encouraged by his cousin to try a different medium to tell stories, Jacks jumped in feet first and partnered with long-time friend McEwan to work on their first project, which would be the graphic novel, The Merciful. The initial idea was to do an ongoing series, but they have put that on the back burner as other projects arose.

“The idea of doing a graphic novel where budget wasn’t a concern, casting wasn’t a concern. Not just as a writer, but essentially when writing a comic, you’re essentially directing,” Jacks said.

The next step for Jacks and McEwan was funding, which led them to Kickstarter. Initially, Kickstarter wasn’t available in Canada, so they had to get help from a friend’s mother, who had a valid U.S. address. The campaign was a huge success and provided the duo validation that creating and running a comic company could become a reality.

While the majority of Under Belly’s Kickstarter campaigns have been funded, there was one that was a passion project for Jacks that remains close to his heart, and he hopes to one day revive it. Hunting House Cats was based on a personal story in Jacks’ life—a dark coming of age story, reminiscent of Donnie Darko.

The overwhelming success of Under Belly’s campaigns led Jacks and McEwan to do something they were originally uninterested in: accepting submissions. That’s when the company’s mandate changed and really became what Jacks and McEwan now consider Under Belly Comics. “We kept getting submissions; we didn’t take submissions at the time, but the submissions started to get so good we thought we should really be putting out other people’s books,” Jacks said.

One of those submissions was the well received-graphic novella, Celestial, written by Scottish author Nick Gillespie and illustrated by Ulyises Carpintero. Celestial is the story of Jean Emanuel, a rich socialite who is intent on purchasing a Mermaid to fill a haunting emptiness inside him. When the mermaid has other plans, his life turns upside down.

One thing that has surprised Jacks the most about the comic business is the comic-cons themselves. He explained, “It’s a very interesting experience—it’s actually the lack of interest in graphic novels. People are there to see cosplayers, get signatures or collectibles, but to actually buy independent graphic novels is not on people’s list. I actually thought our sales would be a lot higher.”

Going forward, there are three things Jacks would like to expand on: major distribution, an animation studio, and digital distribution. For that major distribution, Jacks is being careful and weighing options, as he’s hoping for something both traditional and accessible. “Most people in the comic industry go through Diamond, but most of our books are more literary and super hero. We have so many books now that we need that distribution wing to get it out to the masses,” Jacks said.

Meanwhile, Under Belly Animation is particularly important to provide a new medium for some of their web comics. Besides obtaining a major distribution label, Jacks also wants to expand digitally. A few of their titles are on Comixology, but Jacks is assessing other options before he commits.

Currently, Under Belly’s latest Bickstarter, Rattle Trap, is  a children’s space odyssey and opera created by actor Robin Dunne. They’re also working on a graphic novel based on one of Dunne’s previous  films, Space Milkshake, that will expand the universe and mythology of the film. You can support the Kickstarter here.

Under Belly Comics can best be contacted either on their website or their Twitter, @mradamjack.

“We really want to put that mom and pop shop feel back into published comics. We want to have a one on one relationship not just with our creators but with the people buying our books and with the stores that put our books,” Jacks told me.

(image via Under Belly Comics)

Ezekiel McAdams is a freelance writer, and just finished his first novel, a YA fantasy fiction. When Ezekiel isn’t writing, he can usually be seen eating pie, gushing about Mars or cows, and being an obscure geek in all things Zak McKracken, Earthworm Jim, Bucky O’Hare, Sliders, and Over the Garden Wall. Ezekiel can be reached on Twitter @PocketFullOFish.

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