May 6, 2019

The Future Is Unwritten: Ryan Carey Interviews RAIGHNE HOGAN of 2DCLOUD About The Publisher’s Recent Struggles And Their Plans Moving Forward

After a long period of silence and speculation, iconoclastic small-press mainstay publisher 2dcloud has re-emerged with their 2019 Kickstarter campaign. I recently spoke with co-publisher/founder Raighne Hogan about matters past, present, and future. Full disclosure: I’m rooting for their campaign to be successful and plan on contributing myself, but there are a number of people in the small-press community who feel that they’d like some more concrete answers as to what’s going on before they make the decision of whether or not to back the campaign themselves. His answers here may or may not satisfy, but after well over a year of shying away from anything resembling the “limelight,” it’s important, I feel, to give Hogan the chance to answer some questions so that people can make an informed decision on whether or not they wish to support his company’s efforts going forward. 

For more information on the 2019 2dcloud Kickstarter, check it out HERE 

Ryan Carey for YCE: 2dcloud has always been known for its unique sensibilities as a publisher, but along with that there's also been, right or wrong, a perception of insularity about your company. I recall, for instance, a general feeling in the Minneapolis cartooning community that you were off in your own corner, doing your own thing, which can be fine, even worthy of respect in a way --- mind you, I say that as a bit of a recluse myself. But lately, there has been a kind of "radio silence" on 2dcloud's part that has given rise to much speculation about the company's future. When word got out about the moving of your base of operations to Chicago, that speculation intensified. What can you tell us about the reasons for the move, your current financial footing, and status of publishing operations going forward?

Raighne Hogan: Have you seen Gattaca? It’s this dystopia, where the populace is split basically between designer babies and those born natural births. The designer babies get the best jobs, and those of natural birth get what’s left.

There’s this scene where these 2 brothers swim in the ocean. One is a designer baby, one is not. They have this regular challenge to see who can swim the furthest before turning back. They would swim in such a way as knowing that they had to conserve some energy for the swim back to shore. And in the film, the designer baby brother always wins. But one time, the brother born of natural birth beats him. And later on in the film, he explains how he did it — he didn’t save energy for the swim back to shore. He gave everything, put everything on the line for this challenge, to defy the fate he was given.

In some ways, that was kinda the model I pushed us to follow. Full of idealist zeal. I viewed my life in service to artists. When I was really young I had this idea that I wanted to help people, I wanted to save the world. But in my twenties and early thirties, I thought, well, if I could just help and support a small group of people, that would be enough.

But you know, that’s a movie. And life is not. Ideas can be powerful tools to motivate people. To give people something to unite behind. They can become totems to life goals, or even totems to life itself. But idealism can be dangerous.

When we were in Minneapolis we were workaholics, and our bandwidth was limited, so we didn’t get out much. Maybe what you are describing as radio silence is 2 people who felt utterly destroyed, completely gutted — after having survived a divorce and the near implosion of their company. Of friendships that broke down, hospitalizations, of being devastated by things that occurred within this community, and just not quite knowing how to navigate all of it.

I initially saw Chicago as a chance for something new, as hope. Full-on idealist vision — after living in my office, sleeping on a yoga mat, I would go on to describe my move to friends as Chicago being the center of the universe. While I love Minneapolis, and a lot of other cities, for the type of comics that excited me most at this stage in my life, Chicago felt like the beating heart of the universe. And I wanted to be there.

My life and the label continued to implode, but Maggie and I are rebuilding now. And this Kickstarter we’re running is a look at what that future looks like.  
Ryan: In response to credible accusations of untoward and highly unprofessional behavior from a former associate of 2dcloud, a new leadership structure for the company consisting of a number of artists from diverse backgrounds was put in place, but it appears the running of day-to-day operations is now being handled once more by yourself and Maggie Umber. Did the board/collective dissolve, did it never quite come together, or is it in place in some fashion the broader public may not be aware of?

Raighne: The structure put in place at that time was not stable, and as such, dissolved almost immediately. Publishing is hard and can be totally heartbreaking. But if anyone were to clean up the label and make things right, it should be Maggie and I doing that. Which is what we are doing. This is our baby.

Ryan: Concurrent with these other situations there have been issues raised in regard to non-payment of artists. Do you have a response to these, or a plan to address them?

Raighne: For the first 8+ years, we paid everyone on time. We’ve been getting caught up with that behind the scenes. It’s been a slow process. Our Kickstarter will get us caught up on these debts at a much quicker rate than if we just stick exclusively with day jobs.

In the interim, we’ve not been touring or publishing new works.
Ryan: How has your view of your publishing mission changed or evolved in light of these various circumstances already addressed?

Raighne: We built this company out of love, and to support the artists we worked with. We gave everything we had for it. But in doing so, we neglected to take better care of ourselves, which has had a pretty direct correlation to the health of the business. Maggie was hospitalized, which she recently wrote about, and I guess I’ve been going through a pretty existential depression. All life lost meaning for me for a good while. I became so delusional for parts of 2018 that I thought maybe I had already killed myself, and simply forgot, and that this was hell (wry laughter).

I recognize that we must go slower, that we have to take better care of our physical and mental health if we are to continue. Sometimes the impossible things we strive for are just survival.
Ryan: You've recently re-emerged from the metaphorical "bunker" with an ambitious 2019 Kickstarter campaign. What can you tell us about the books you intend to publish and the cartoonists you'll be working with?

Raighne: I’m really excited about the artists we’re working with for this Kickstarter. I like that it showcases our history and the artists we’ve worked with over the years, alongside our forthcoming Spring 2019 Box. I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished through our 12 years of running 2dcloud. And while ya, there are a lot of things I wish we could do differently, we can’t travel back in time. But we can learn from our mistakes.

Mirror Mirror 3 continues our flagship anthology series, where each volume gets new editors and a new vision. This one is edited by Plum Press [Haejin Park, Paige Mehrer, Sophie Page] and features only them inside of it. They are one of the most exciting new artist collectives and publishing labels. I love their work so much and am so excited for their future. They are totally going to blow up. Definitely check them out at TCAF this year and buy everything they publish.

Copy Kitty is by Kyung Me. We’ve really loved her work ever since we saw her Bad Korean, published by Space Face. I was super jealous that Space Face got to publish her first lol. She’s so brilliant. Copy Kitty is mournfully gorgeous. A beautiful beautiful, heartbreaking book by a brilliant artist.

Röhner by Max Baitinger, originally published in German by Rotopol. I love this man. He is hilarious and so charming. We met at a TCAF some years back. I knew that I loved his work and wanted to work with him for some time, but I didn’t know what or when that would be. Love love his dry humor and superb craftsmanship. Röhner is a riot, filled with dark and sometimes violent humor.

Tommi Parrish’s book, Yet Here We Are Dealing With The Things We Should Have Ignored is a deep and wide collection of a lot of their out of print works. It’s a mountain, they are such an epic and badass workaholic. Also, such a sweetheart. Love them. Definitely, support their GoFundMe so they can move to the states, be with their sweetheart, and make a living from their art.

Grand Electric Thought Power Mother, by Lale Westvind. I’ve wanted to work with Lale for a bajillion years and have been hustling them to that end for about just as long of a time. But it was Kim Jooha that was finally able to make that happen. At TCAF last year, Kim suggested the project at a brunch thing, and that she would edit it. Thank you, Kim!

Hotel Vibes by Chou Yi is another title edited by Kim Jooha. I think I first met Chou Yi at Short Run a number of years ago now. But this was a title solicited by Kim and we are so lucky to have it in our line up this season.

And lastly, Diary Comics by Tara Booth. Tara is such a brilliant and funny person. Her work ethic and speed of growth as an artist are so damn impressive. And she has such a wonderful laugh. This book charts Tara’s brief time in Chicago, and on the road, dealing with the struggles of sobriety. I’m still scanning her originals for the book — such a beast. Oof.

So, our Spring Box 2019, at the $99 level brings all 7 of these titles into one box. These are going to be astoundingly gorgeous books by artists at the top of their game.
Ryan: In what ways do your proposed 2019 publications carry on 2dcloud's aesthetic tradition and in what ways do they break from it?

Raighne: I really don’t see it as a break from our aesthetic. It’s more of a return to form. So, I guess to me, our 2019 slate is a bold announcement that we are back. It showcases a pretty wide range of colorful and exciting work that fits perfectly within the oeuvre of our label.

Ryan: In years past, your publishing slate has frequently shared thematic links ranging from the oblique to the direct. Are the 2019 books "in conversation" with each other in a similar fashion or otherwise part of a larger aesthetic or conceptual statement?

Raighne: Definitely. I mean, in my eyes, these works fit so well together. This looks like the future of comics.
Ryan: How have your criteria for selecting works to publish changed in light of the numerous changes your company itself has undergone?

Raighne: I wouldn’t say that it has changed exactly. We remain focused on a balance of bold new works by exciting artists. Some of them are maybe more established than others. But they’re all fantastic. We also still have a focus on supporting artists from a diverse set of backgrounds, subject matter, medium.

The main thing now is trying to have a better balance of commercial viability in a given season, being more careful with some of the riskier bets, and in general, to pursue less overall. We’re a smaller team now, and so we need to be more aware of the limits of our bandwidth so that we can do a better job of supporting the artists we work with.
Ryan: What goals do you have as a publisher that remain unmet? How do you see yourselves crossing the bridge from where things are to where you'd ideally like them to be?

Raighne: Well, right now we’re not quite financially sustainable. This Kickstarter will make great strides to that end. Should this work out, we have more modest, but just as exciting plans for the future.

Ryan: When propels you forward at those times when circumstances seem to be at their most insurmountable?

Raighne: Looking to our history, at all the beautiful books we’ve published, remembering the good times, of how we have brought people together. And knowing that we can do that again, we can learn from our mistakes and right this ship. We can continue to champion up and coming artists alongside spotlighting lesser known ones, and the established giants of this scene wishing to try something new.

Ryan: Having been in the business for over a decade now, what do you look back on and wish you'd done differently? Are there any mistakes you've made that prospective future publishers would do well to learn from, or that you've learned a great deal from yourself for having made them?

Raighne: Know your limits. I think taking risks will always be important, but that has to be balanced against some pretty obvious things like maintaining your own health and mental well being, having contingency plans should some of your risks not pay off when things go south.

I would also say choose who you work with wisely. Know what you are looking for in choosing who to work with. Also, life happens. Things come apart. I mean really, if you do anything long enough, you are bound to make a few mistakes. Don’t operate beyond your bandwidth. You will have a much easier time of recovering if you’re not already overloaded for years at a time.

Pay attention to other small businesses, observe their triumphs and failures. These can aid you in moving quicker to your own successes while avoiding common pitfalls.
Ryan: Innovation and evolution are never easy things to consistently keep going, yet if there's one thing your company is known for it's routinely defying and exceeding expectation almost as a matter of course, maybe even demolishing it all together on a conceptual level. Going forward, what can readers look forward to seeing from 2dcloud that they've never seen before?

Raighne: I could be wrong, but I don’t know if some of the books we publish would be possible at another label. At least not in the ways that we publish them. Also, Maggie and I are going to start making very small scale, short-run works once again.

The main thing is just maintaining a better work-life balance, and keeping the publishing schedule and workload itself balanced as a part of that. None of this will be easy, but I’m optimistic. It will feel good to move forward once again.

Ryan Carey lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He writes about comics for Daily Grindhouse, Graphic Policy, and at his own blog. He also maintains a long-running film review blog, Trash Film Guru.

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