Friday, October 9, 2009

Interview with Steven Frank of 5FINITY

Why did you want to start up a sketch card company?
I felt like a lot of great properties were not getting exposure, so many fans did not have cards to collect of their favorite characters. Also, sketch cards in particular are great, but pretty hard to pull. They usually only come one per box, so you have to bust open 24-36 packs or so and spend a lot of money. We want to guarantee you one sketch card per pack, at the minimum.

What, if any, major obstacles did you have to overcome in the beginning?
There really hasn't been any, except for maybe choosing which properties to tackle since there are so many out there that collectors and casual fans might enjoy.

Are you finding it more challenging than you thought it would be?
Not really. It has been a lot of fun.

If you could start up again, is there anything you would do differently?
The card stock on Archie and Greatest American Hero was slicker than we wanted. Even though both products were popular and the artwork came out great, the glossier surface made it harder for the artists and you have to make the artists happy. We have corrected that issue with our upcoming projects.

What are the current sketch card sets you are working on?
We will be releasing a sketch card series featuring Dean Yeagle's popular Playboy cartoon pin-up character, Mandy. That has a street date of November 15. In December we are releasing Moonstone Maximum, a series based on the iconic characters from titles published by Moonstone Books, such as Zorro, the Phantom, Buckaroo Banzai, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Midnight, Kolchak, and a host of others. We are also releasing Zombies vs Cheerleaders in December, the first series created for our 5FUNity line of sketch cards.

Can you talk about any future sketch card sets in the works?
Our first series of 2010 will be based on Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Voltron rocks. We are in discussions with other licensors, but nothing I can comment on right now.

What do you look for in a potential sketch card set property?
The most important thing is whether or not the property has enough fans to sustain the product. As much fun as it is for us to put these together and for the artists to work on them, people have to buy them. Granted, we run low production numbers, making the product collectible, but we still have to use due diligence.

How do you go about searching for artists/what do you look for in a potential artist?
As you know, being a top artist yourself, there are many artists that work on sketch cards for the other companies. That talent pool, as well as recruiting new artists from online and at conventions (which I love to do; giving new artists a chance to work on a professional product), is where we find many of the artists. We strongly suggest that artists contact us if they think they would have fun and be productive as a sketch card artist. Many of the properties have great artists to work with that have never done sketch cards, Archie being a great example. We were able to collaborate with almost every Archie Comics artist, as well as many from the past. In regards to what we look for, we need artists that fit the appropriate style and feel for a series. Not every artist can do great mechanical stuff, so Voltron might not work, but they might have mad pin-up girl skills, which lends itself well on Mandy or Betty & Veronica.

Have you had any 'bad experiences' with artists?
Hmm, that's a tough one, as artists typically try their best and take massive pride in their work. Except for a couple of very minor incidents, we have been blessed with the artists we have worked with so far and that number is well over 200.

What kind of feedback have you received about your sketch card sets so far?
Very, very positive. Our packaging is one of a kind; serial numbered packs that are 5x8 in size and heavy card stock. I think the packaging is kind of collectible. We have had a lot of great feedback on the packaging, as well as on the cards, of course. The artist line-up for Archie, in particular, was unreal. No where else ever could you have received Archie sketch cards by artists like this year's Eisner winner for Best Artist, Guy Davis, as well as top artists like Al Rio and Billy Tan, legends like Hembeck and Breyfogle, almost every Archie artist including Stan Goldberg and Jeff Shultz, and tons of other veteran and new talent sketch card artists. But, ultimately, we have received kudos for providing the fans with one sketch card per pack at a great price. No other company does that, not even close. Throw in celebrity autographed sketch cards, sketch card commission request redemptions, original comic art redemptions, and other awesome goodies and that makes for a great, fun product. Finally, as I stated earlier, offering the fans more choices for properties besides DC, Marvel and Star Wars (which are all great, of course).

If someone approached you for advice on starting up their own sketch card set/company, what would you tell them?
Enjoy it and think like a collector more than as a business person. I think about what I would want out of a pack. Value and content, no filler. The fans need more bang for their buck, especially these days. But, I would tell someone not to do it, as then they would be competition, ha ha. Just kidding.

What is the goal you have for your company?
We want to release several products a year that core fans of that respective property can go after, whether it is Voltron or the Phantom, and hope the casual fan/collector picks up some packs, too. But, we also want to offer great sketches for the sketch card collector, featuring artists that would not normally do sketch cards, as well as sketch card favorites like Katie Cook and Ben Glendenning.

Where can people reach you for more information?

Thank you so much, Steve!

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