The Adelaide produced horror anthology Decay suffers the usual complaints of anthology comics, a mixed bag of talent with varying results. Decay does impress though with fifteen issues in the can and an active publishing schedule that shows no signs of slowing down. Amongst Decay’s strongest material are contributions from significant Australian comics creators like Jason Paulos, David DeVries, Glenn Lumsden, Frantz Kantor, Steve Carter, and Antoinette Rydyr. Decay’s content harkens to the Australian reprints of Warren and Skywald material from Gredown and Murray in the 1970’s, without concern for politic correctness or any of the ‘highfaluting’ trappings of modern graphic novels, just sleazy sex, violence, blood and gore, all the things that make exploitation films questionably great. Darren Koziol is the editor and driving force behind Decay, I asked him a few questions via email in late April 2013.
Decay online here.
What is your background in comics, when did you first read them and what were they?
Background – I’ve been reading comics since I was a kid. My Dad had comics and I read them from the time I could read, probably even before that when we’d just look at the pictures. There were all sorts from Donald Duck to Eagle and all the super heroes. In the late 80’s I started buying a role playing magazine called Proteus and when that stopped I spotted 2000AD in the newsagent. It rang a bell in my memories and sure enough I found the 1981 Judge Dredd Annual at home. Those big tyres on his bike and the fantastic futuristic city had stuck in my head. So I started buying 2000AD from then and have been collecting comics ever since. Having parents who encouraged reading and collecting was always a big bonus. I’ve had so many fantastic images stick in my head since I was a kid, science fiction and horror, War Of The Worlds and so on, it’s always lead me on to look for more.
What inspired you to start publishing Decay?
For a long time I’d always wanted to work in comics. Even back in school I was writing notes for stories. I still have many of them. Then one day, back at the start of 2009, I had some time on my hands and decided to make it happen. 2000AD and Judge Dredd was my favourite comic, along with the short lived Toxic!, but also the older Warren comics like Creepy and Eerie. I also have a great collection of independent Aussie comics like Phantastique, Ink Spots, Issue One, Pulse Of Darkness and many more. I love horror anthologies and so decided that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve never been a big super hero fan. I like them but I prefer horror, science fiction and violence. So DECAY has ended up a lot like Creepy and Eerie. I was also very lucky, at the time I decided to make my own comic, to know Dave Heinrich, a fantastic Aussie artist and brilliant designer. With him on-board putting the comic together for me, ready for print, I started DECAY. I was also able to contact SCAR (Steve Carter & Antoinette Rydyr), whom I’d been big fans of with my collection of Aussie comics, and they were super keen to supply material for another Aussie horror comic. Once the first issue was out, after a year in development, the ball was rolling and more and more contributors have joined on since.
Did you have any background in publishing or editing before starting Decay?
Prior to DECAY I had no experience in publishing or editing. With my other jobs in managing and running a large company, down to the smallest detail, I had picked up many skills that I transferred to both editing and publishing. It’s a constant juggle, working on a dozen things at once (actually, probably over twice that many). There’s always several issues on the go at once, many at different stages, over a hundred contributors to work with, etc. It’s busy.
What are some of the difficulties you’ve faced with publishing?
The biggest problem is the expense, since it comes out of my own pocket and the sales don’t even cover the printing costs let alone everything else. There’s also been a few random problems with various printers. If you look at different issues of DECAY, for instance #1, #4, and #15, you’ll see some variations in the printing quality. Issue #4 was printed on too thick a paper, a mistake, which made the issue very heavy and hence difficult to post, increasing postage costs and so on. There’s been some other glitches along the way, that have been ironed out.
I always use local printers so I can visit them personally to check the ‘proof’ copies and discuss any problems, and I like to keep it ‘Australian made’. No matter how many times you proof read the issue you always miss something and it goes to print with an error in it. Some errors so small no one notices, some so big that no one notices. There’s also always lots of little hiccups along the way when you’re dealing with so many people. Sometimes I’ve still been ‘designing’ an issue the day before it goes to print and only 3 or 4 days before it’s released at a convention. It gets very stressful.
Darren Koziol at Melbourne Comic-Con 2012
Do you have any plans to publish collections of Decay material?
A DECAY ‘best of’ collection has been a long time dream. With 15 issues out now there’s some fantastic material for a ‘best of’ collection. I’ve had the idea for a long time and every man and his dog has told me I should publish one. I like to think of DECAY as a ‘showcase for the incredible talent that Australia has to offer’ and so a ‘best of’ would feature many of Australia’s top creators. There’s been over 100 creators featured in DECAY so far, and many more coming. DECAY is not ‘my’ comic, it’s just something that I publish. DECAY is a comic by and for all the people who work on it and a ‘best of’ collection would be the same. I don’t want people to think of this as my comic, it’s everyone’s comic. And by buying it you’re supporting everyone who’s contributed to it. If I do a ‘best of’ collection I want it done properly, by a big publisher with good distribution. It’s not something I could do justice to myself. Though I’d still want to be the editor.
What have been some of the highlights of publishing Decay?
Every issue of DECAY is a new highlight. Every time a new creator comes on-board that’s a highlight. Every story and every piece of art that’s ever been in there is a highlight. 15 issues in 3 years with over 100 contributors and now with over 50% colour, that’s a massive f**king highlight. Going to all the conventions, to parts of Australia I’ve never been to before, meeting and working with so many fantastic people, meeting all the fans and different people who pass through the conventions, it’s all amazing. Checking my emails to find new art coming in or a new story, really exciting. Working with some of Australia’s top creators, people who’ve worked for Marvel, DC and others, and working with some incredibly talented people from here and overseas, awesome. So many great stories in DECAY, so much more still to come, can’t wait.
Horror comics were prevalent in Australia during the seventies with reprints of American work commonplace on the newsstand, do you feel there is still an audience for this sort of material?
There is an audience, it’s just contacting them is the problem. Lots of people love horror, there’s just so much of everything out there these days that it’s hard to be seen. Especially with a zero marketing or advertising budget. But the people who do see it love it. If we can all spread the word about DECAY then I know more people will buy it.
You have mentioned in conversation last year scaling back your production of Decay due to expense, what do you currently foresee for the future of Decay?
I’m going to keep DECAY going no matter what. It’s here to stay. There’s more writers coming on board now too, more artists contacting me all the time. There’ll be no shortage of material. It would be nice if sales picked up so maybe we could all start to earn a little from it, and even produce more issues per year. DARK OZ, the publishing name behind DECAY (at www.darkoz.com.au), would publish more comics and graphic novels than just DECAY if sales covered it. We have some incredibly talented creators here in Australia and we could easily support our own comic book publishing business, if we just all get behind it and support it. Don’t buy it just because it’s Australian, but because it is damn good stuff. A great read with some excellent art.
Issue #16 of DECAY will be launched at Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne in July. Issue #17, an “Ozploitation” special, will be released at Supanova in Adelaide in November. Issue #18, a “Retro Sci-Fi” special, will be launched at Oz Comic-Con in March 2014, either in Perth or in Adelaide (hopefully at both). The ‘Sisters’ one-shot comic is progressing nicely. Some other one-shot comics and mini series’ are in the works. Other future issues of DECAY will also include an ‘All Zombie’ issue, an ‘All Vampire’ issue, a ‘Romance’ issue (with stories of husband and wife serial killers, couples dying or being murdered together, that kind of stuff), and a ‘Post Apocalyptic’ issue. Plus there’ll always be issues of DECAY just full of random tales of horror. The ‘Sci-Fi’ issue in March is gonna be big.