Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ryan Fields of Viceroy Cards

1 - Can you tell us a little about yourself, your official title and what you do at Viceroy Cards?

  • My title is Owner/Operator.  I handle the daily business operations, along with various design jobs within the company.  I live and operate Viceroy Cards in Las Vegas, NV.

2 - How long did you collect sketch cards before starting Viceroy Cards?
  •  I collected trading cards for many years when I was younger.  I got into sketch cards once my friend Ashleigh started working on various sketch sets for trading card companies.  I'm a big fan of a variety of styles and subject matter within the sketch card market.

3 - How many people officially make up the Viceroy Cards company and how did it get started? 

  • Officially there is myself, and our Art Director Ashleigh Popplewell.  We also have several collectors and others in the industry who serve as consultants in various aspects of the company.  

4 - Did you decide to go straight with unlicensed property or did you make an attempt at acquiring licensed property when you started? 

  • We were always going to start with unlicensed properties, even if we had lined up a license early on.  It was a conscious decision to use the small early sets to work out logistics and learn on the fly, without jeopardizing a large scale licensed release.  We had been in contact with a couple of companies prior to our first release, one of which decided to produce their own basic (no sketches or inserts) set once they saw a potential market was there. 

5 - Your first set Cryptids was an unlicensed set that did extremely well. What were your expectations for it?

  • We had hoped it would be well received by collectors and sketch fans.  We took the single sketch, premium pack concept and tweaked it a little, but we never had a doubt that we were on the right path.  We spent over a year prior to our first release speaking with collectors and artists, and getting feedback on what they both liked and disliked about the current sketch card market.

6 - What did you learn as a company from your experience with Cryptids? Are you surprised at how well it did? 

  • We learned several things during that first release. Overall I feel we accomplished the goals we set, and were thrilled with the positive response from both collectors and artists.    

7 - With your upcoming Space set, you created miniature sculptures that fit into a trading card holder. Who came up with that idea and how long did it take to create your first successful sculpture? 

  • That was an idea I had originally, and we were able to find a great artist to create sculptures for the set.  He took about the same amount of time as sketch artists, and everything remained on schedule quite well.

8 - Unlike other companies who generally pay artists a few months after a set release date, Viceroy policy is to pay artists as soon as they turn in their assignment. You obviously must have a lot of faith in your sets to do this. Why stray from the normal card company payment formula?

  • One of the main complaints from artists was the length of time it took to receive payment from trading card companies.  With our AD Ashleigh being an artist herself, I discussed with her the possibility of paying artists when they return their cards, instead of months after a set releases.  Artists have responded well to the practice, and we believe it's a policy we will keep for all future sets.  Happy artists are very important, and waiting to pay artists months after they have completed their work seemed like a common practice worth breaking.  

9 - Viceroy also print its own cards using a vintage letterpress machine. What made you decide to do that?

  • We felt the use of letterpress would bring a unique feel to our sketch cards, while at the same time providing artists with an amazing canvas for their artwork due to the thick card stock.  We are very lucky to have an amazing local letterpress shop, Somersault Letterpress, print our sketch cards.

10 - You have several more sets based of unlicensed properties (Space, The Deep, Carnival, Insecta, and Cryptids 2) Do you plan to produce licensed property sets as well? 

  • We do plan on producing licensed sets in the future, but we're not looking to rush anything.  When the opportunity comes to produce a licensed set that both fits with our company theme, and will interest collectors, we'll definitely head down that road.  We also have plans of producing non-sketch based sets, but we're still working out the details for those.  

11 - The themes from your sets has been "outside the box" so to speak but yet it has been pretty successful thus far. Did you plan to intentionally avoid the "mainstream" themes of superheroes, or cheesecake pin ups for your sets? Or will you eventually do some superhero or pin up themes later on?

  • We're not opposed to comic or superhero themed sets, but again we feel the market is meeting the demand for such sets.  We'll probably never do a pin up style set, even though they are quite popular in the sketch community.  While some artists enjoy sketching in that style, we've had many artists give us feedback that they enjoyed working on our sets because it forced them to adjust their style, find new and interesting source material, and take a rest from the common themes. 

12 - Can we expect to see some licensed property set in the future? 

  • Yes, we're currently in talks with a few licensed properties, and will be attending the Licensing Expo this June in hopes of securing others.

13- Do you see sketch cards in a different way since you now produce sets for them? Do you still collect sketch cards?

  • I do see it a bit differently now to be honest.  Our AD Ashleigh had prepared me a bit, having watched her sketch and work on sets as Viceroy was coming together.  I have a better understanding of the artists and how they work as well.   I do still collect cards, and if we hadn't already pre sold all of the Space packs, I might have just secretly cancelled it and kept them all for myself!  

14 - Will Viceroy be making any convention appearances this year?

  • We plan to attend the Amazing Las Vegas Comic Convention, and are currently looking at other conventions in the near future. Las Vegas Comic Con is on June 14-16: Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con

15 - Where can people go to if they would like to learn more about Viceroy or to purchase cards? 

  • Our current set, Space, is sold out and scheduled to release at the end of March.  Collectors can visit to see a list of our upcoming sets and place preorders once the order window opens.  You can also find us at and on Twitter @ViceroyCards.  Artists are able to submit artwork samples directly to Ashleigh at  General company questions can be sent to

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sketch card collector : Adam Martin

1 - How long have you been collecting sketch cards and how/why did you get into it? 
  • I started collecting sketch cards in March of 2010. At the time I was really big into collecting comic books and Josh Howard’s DEAD@17 book was one of my favorites. I followed his blog and saw one day that there would be a sketch card set release from 5finity and Josh would have an allotment of packs to sell. When they became available I ordered just one pack from him directly just in the hopes of pulling one of his cards. When the pack came I actually pulled a Frankie B Washington card of the character Nara. Although it wasn’t the Josh Howard I had hoped for it was a sweet looking card and I was hooked.

2 - Have you known about sketch cards before Josh Howard's DEAD@17?
  • Yes, I remember seeing sketch cards as incentives advertised for a Red Sonja trading card set in Diamond Previews before I heard about the DEAD@17 set. Frank Cho was one of the possible pulls which was really exciting since he doesn’t do commissions at cons. I ordered a box from the place where I was getting my comics at the time but before it came out the store changed ownership and the order got lost in the shuffle and I never saw it. I had no idea there was such a following for collecting just sketch cards at the time though.
3 - What was your impression of them before you started collecting?
  • I thought when I discovered them that they were something really new. I had no idea they had been around for as long as they had. I liked the small size too. I was just getting out of action figure collecting after a little more than 12 years because of how much space it took up and the self-pressure to have a complete collection. My wife appreciates the space savings sketch card collecting has afforded me too, lol.
4 - Are you a fan of puzzle cards? What do you think of some companies having all the puzzle card pieces available in one box/pack? 
  • I like puzzle cards but I really don’t like when I only pull part of a puzzle from a pack. So, to answer the second part of the question I wish all companies would have all the puzzle pieces in one box/pack. I have three partial puzzles right now that I’ve never seen their counterpart surface anywhere and it frustrating. For one puzzle piece I actually commissioned the artist to draw a variation of the missing piece on an AP just so I could have a complete piece. If an artist is drawing puzzles for a company that doesn’t keep them together they really should make sure each piece looks good as a stand alone too.
5 - How many cards do you have in your collection...roughly? How do you store or display them?
  • I have a little over 200 cards in my collection as of right now. Not a huge collection by any means but I like to be picky about what I’ll buy and what I’ll keep from pack pulls.
  • My cards are kept in penny sleeves and Ultra Pro top loaders for standard size cards and magnetic cases for thick cards. I keep them all in card boxes in order by set and artist within a set. I tend to look at them more through the scans on my computer probably though because it’s difficult to have my collection spread out with a toddler always trying to grab it, lol.
6 - Has the way people collect sketch cards changed much since you started? If so, how?
  • I don’t really think as whole people have changed how they collect sketch cards since I started but I have. The majority of collectors from my perspective prefer either superheroes, movie characters, T&A or some combo of the three. Until 2012 I only really collected 5finity releases which tend to fall into those categories. In 2012 Viceroy Card Company put out their first set, Cryptids, and it really took my collecting in a different direction. That set has really expanded the range of artists in my collection and brought my attention to the possibilities of some really cool set ideas that aren’t licensed. In my opinion those non licensed sets offer so much more in terms of creativity for the artists.
7 - Some collectors prefer collecting specific characters or artists. How do you decide which cards you want to collect?
  • My first artist addiction was Penelope Gaylord. I really liked the work she did on 5finity’s Hack/Slash and since she was a regular artist for the company I just kept collecting her work. She also is great to work with when it comes to commissions. I have over 80 Peng-Peng cards right now. Most recently, I can’t get enough of Mike Vasquez’s Cryptids cards. I have four of his pack inserted cards, 12 APs, and 2 more APs in the works.
  • When it comes to choosing which artists to collect I first have to visually like their work and secondly they have to represent themselves well in social media. There are artist who do some great work but the way represent themselves online is just too much of a turn off for me.
8 - Do you think there is much competition among collectors?
  • I really don’t see competition between collectors. I have been reluctant in the past to post some of my collection in fear someone would recognize a card I’d really want and dangle it over my head with one hand and have a large empty sack with a dollar sign on it the other. It may have been unfounded fear, but either way I’m over it though. I’d much rather share my collection with people who will appreciate it.
9 - As a collector, what do you think about the market being over saturated with sketch cards? Does it make it easier for you to choose what you want?
  • I think when it comes to the larger companies who put out a sketch card per box and put out thousands of boxes, like the Marvel licenses, it is too much. I think they would be better off to make sketch cards more limited in those large runs of boxes. I’ve primarily been into purchasing “premium pack” style cards where it’s one pack one card out of a limited run of packs. I think you are creating value for the long run that way.
10 - Obviously not everyone have the same taste, but is there anything you'd like to see more of from artists? 
  • I can’t say I’d want anything specific from the artists. They are out there trying to make a living doing something that can go widely unappreciated when it comes to compensation. What I don’t like is when an artist uses the same background for every card they do on an individual set.
11 - What do you think about all the various sketch card groups/forums that have popped up? They're usually made up of a lot of the same people from other groups. Do you occasionally check them out or do you stick to a few regularly?
  • When I got into that DEAD@17 set I discovered Scoundrel. For a long time I just hung out in the 5finity forum because that’s all I cared about. When I ventured outside of that forum I saw a lot of negativity and silly trolling. Since George Nadeau made his exit from being a moderator there the 5finity forum has just kind of fallen apart so I don’t really visit the site much anymore. I check in with SCF on Facebook multiple times a day and is now the primary place I got to connect with people who share my hobby. Other than that I visit the Blowout Cards forums for updates and chatter on Viceroy sets since that is the place where it seems to get the most talk.
12 - What would you like to see more from card companies? If you could suggest something to them, what would it be?
  • What I would like to see is a wider range of set ideas being generated from companies. How many way can you spin a Marvel set? One is really no different than the other as far as the sketch cards go. I wish the larger companies would take chances with sets based on more creator owned comics. The smaller companies shouldn’t get themselves tied up in one type of set either. I think Viceroy really has a great thing going for them. Taking non-licensed themes that you wouldn’t expect or think about as a card set and making some great product. Cryptids was huge with me and Space! Looks to be exciting as well. They just updated their website to add Carnival (which I have a part in) The Deep, Insecta, and Cryptids 2 (which I also have a part in).
13 - Do you think the hobby is growing, dying or just stale? And why? Any suggestions to improve it?
  • I think the interest in the hobby is growing. I see new artist all the time excited to get into drawing on cards. I don’t the collector base is growing fast enough though. I’ve seen the same major players in collecting and dealing since I began almost 4 years ago without much change. I think if you want to get more people collecting you need to make sets for people who have other hobbies outside of art collecting. Themes for people who are into cars, history, literature, science, etc. could bring new life into the collector end of the hobby.
14 - Do you think people arguing in forums scare away potential collectors?
  • I don’t think it scares away potential collectors. I doubt anyone makes a decision to start collecting something based on available forums online for that hobby. I think it makes current collectors say screw it, I’ll post my cards somewhere else or not at all. I try to avoid arguing online but even I’ve been sucked into one or two ridiculous arguments in the past.
15 - Any advice for new collectors? How about for new artists?
  • For new collectors: Collect what you will be happy keeping for the long run. Don’t get caught up in buying so much just because it’s available, and don’t buy more than you can afford. You CANNOT always bank on flipping enough cards to cover what you keep for yourself.
  • For new Artists: Be humble, positive, and respectful in social media settings, your future clients and employers are watching. Find a good balance of sharing your work without cramming it down collector’s throats. The same goes for companies when they post previews of their sets. This is especially important on the SCF Facebook page. It’s disrespectful to push everyone’s posts down by posting a ton of images right in a row and then commenting on the “likes” to get it bumped back to the top. Also, don’t take on more work than you can handle at one time if it will affect the quality of your work.
16 - Do you commission artists? Any horror stories with commissioning sketch card art?
  • I love commissioning APs! 100% of money goes right to the artist AND I get to pick what I want on the card! I’ve been pretty lucky, nothing too horrible. I’ve had great commission experiences with Penelope Gaylord, Mike Vasquez, James Linares, Amber Shelton, Rusty Gilligan, Josh Howard, and Joshua Werner so far. The worst experience was with a very popular artist who I paid up front with an estimated 4-6 weeks turnaround time due to their busy schedule for two AP cards. It ended up being 6 months with less than stellar communication from the artist. I loved the cards when I got them but every time I looked at them I was just reminded of how the fun was sucked out of collecting by the experience. Eventually, I couldn’t take it anymore and I sold the two cards. To this day I don’t regret selling them because I got quite a bit of money for them and was able to fund some more pleasurable commission experiences with other artists.
17 - You have an online sketch card gallery? Where might people be able to check it out?
  • Yes I do! Pop Phenom’s Sketch Card Collection can be found at . I started it as a way to show off my collection without it being tied to a specific sketch card site or my personal Facebook page. I also want to use it as a way to promote the artist in my collection. There you can find my entire sketch card collection plus any other original pieces of art that I own. I’m also having my own PSC stock printed pretty soon too. It will be called “The Pop Phenom Private Collection”. Mike Vasquez is doing the art for the card back too. I plan to take them to cons and events and hope to get some top comic artists and to do commissions on them for me. 
  9 of Adam Martin favorite sketch cards in his collection

1.       Frankie B Washington – Nara from 5finity’s Dead@17. My first sketch card.
2.       Penelope Gaylord – Cassie Hack from 5finity’s Hack/Slash. My first Penelope Gaylord card.
3.       Katie Cook - Cassie Hack from 5finity’s Hack/Slash. The most “liked” card in my collection.
4.       Drew Moss – Beagle from 5finity’s P’ups. eBay pick up and a sweet take on Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
5.       Cassandra James - Manga Mandy from 5finity’s Manga Mandy. Pack pulled card
6.       Bianca Thompson – Masters of The Universe Evillyn PSC. Won my choice of 80’s cartoon character in a giveaway on SCF.
7.       Mike Vasquez – Aswang from Viceroy Card Company’s Cryptids. Commissioned AP
8.       Joshua Werner – Akkorokamui from Viceroy Card Company’s Cryptids. Pack pulled card.
9.       Amber Shelton - Tata Duende from Viceroy Card Company’s Cryptids. Commissioned AP

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rusty Gilligan

In this installment of Sketch Card Fanatics Talk features artist and writer Rusty Gilligan.  

 1. Please give a brief description about what you do and how long you've been in the art field. 
  •  Ok - well, let me introduce myself, my name is Rusty Gilligan and I've been an artist and writer in comics since 1978.
2. Did you have any formal art training?
  •   No, I wish that I had. In truth, I'm so slow that I basically hold a pencil and the Earth's rotation slowly moves the paper underneath it lol

3. You have a very interesting history with sketch cards. Can you briefly tell us about it? Anyone who wants to read the full story can follow the links:   
Original story from adult trading card site
 Copy of original text (non adult)
  • Well, the link is more of the 'comedy' version of what happened... but back in the end of 1992/beginning of 1993 I was employed by a mature trading card publisher named "Clubhouse Diamonds" to design and cultivate their line of 'sexy cards. During that time, I had created what has become 'sketch cards' in the industry. At the time, we had many blank cardstocks that were sent to us as 'seperators' (mostly overprints and run-offs) from the printers, and I had started to doodle on them... basic designs, model poses (because we had also photographed our own models), etc.
  • This one particular meeting in Las Vegas, I had proposed that we feature original art on these 'insert cards' (they were 1:100 packs at the time plus a case topper) and the idea was embraced by the publisher.
  • After I had done a few, I had asked comic book art legend Rich Buckler to do some as well as some local tattoo artists. They were basically blank on both sides with a basic white sticker stating the set, date, and number on the back.

4. What sets have you worked on that involved sketch cards?
  • Too many to list here, unless you want to hear readers yawn LOL. I started with the original sketch cards for "Clubhouse Diamonds series 2" back in 1992/93 - went on to work for such top producers as Upper Deck, Cryptozoic, Breygent Marketing, 5Finity, Unstoppable Cards, Cult Stuf, to name a few. I am also proud to say that I have contributed to sets from newer producers in the market such as Boo and Marty, Viceroy Cards, Frank Eachus and charity sets/projects such as "Island Dreams", the "501st Legion Star Wars" set, and cards benefiting the March of Dimes and animal charities, among others. Currently I am working with 2 new producers to bring even more sketch card opportunities to the market.
5. What would you suggest for anyone looking to get into sketch cards?
  • To the collector... this is a fantastic way to collect original licensed art. I am still surprised to see single sketch cards going for more than whole comic art pages, but this does show a major interest in the market for such a vehicle. These pieces are for 'your viewing' and not something that has been reproduced many times over in print, so you truly will have a personal masterpiece in your hands.

  • To the artist... this is an exciting variation on the 'comic art' theme. The publishers are shrewd, but they do appreciate consistency. Make your style known - send samples on a regular basis - ask questions, join groups, hob-knob, and get involved. I get a lot of flack for saying this, but not every job has to entail payment... work on charity sets, trade work when you can, and work on smaller friends' sets... this kind of networking is invaluable as an artist looking to market themselves in an additional avenue for their talents.

6. For someone who has been around sketch cards since the very beginning. How has artists and collectors have changed from its early days? Do you think sketch cards is still an appropriate name for them? 
  •  It's hard to answer the first part, because the original sketch cards were a 'newness' on the market, and a new outlet for an artist to get involved, make additional money, etc. Sketch cards were 'accidentally' the marriage of comic books and trading cards for the genre.
  • Today, the artist on a sketch card has a 'following', a fan base - it's amazing where the medium has taken the artist, and I'm glad to see the popularity on all sides of the fence.
  • As for the second part, I find that the term 'sketch card' is antiquated and out-dated now. Just after Clubhouse Diamonds released our cards, a few others tail-tagged behind us - "Simpsons" etc. We went on the road and signed at conventions and did basic 'sketches' on cardstock, pencil/ink... these were convention style sketches, nothing more. I remember doing a sexy girl with a 'Superman' "S" on her chest, no one asked for color - we did it for free to get some pr - nothing big. People appreciated it due to the newness of it.
  • Today, the artist seems to be making their cards more 'elaborate'. At first, I would imagine that they were going in the direction of impressing an art director to obtain new work, but then this slowly altered the medium. In doing so, did they 'mutate' the medium ? Do the producers have higher expectations now ? And, due to this, there are a lot of artists who are 'primadonnas' and hot shots in the industry. Lately, a few elitist attitudes are surfacing and there's no need for that sort of ego play. I have some opinions there that I will keep to myself.
  • Now color is in high demand, and gone are the 'sketches' to be replaced by 'pinups'. To me, some cards are so overdone they seem to outweigh the medium.
  • They're no longer sketches, I would call them 'artist cards' really.

7. With so many sketch card sets being produced by so many sketch card companies. What do you think of the current state of the hobby?
  • From a collector's standpoint, this is a good time to start or continue collecting. The art is amazing, and the availability of the works are at an all-time high. I may not always agree with the prices being offered, but collectors have to weigh the costs vs their needs. From an artists' standpoint, there's a lot of work out being offered out there in a varied amount of styles. There's work for everyone if they take the time to market themselves correctly. This is a wonderful time to be a part of things.
  • The hobby is in a current state of flux really. I hear artists all the time complaining about low payments and higher demands placed on them by the publishers. If these cards are truly inserts meant to entice a buyer, the pay should be more along professional lines. I hear about favoritism a lot. Disgruntled artists stating that 'he is getting paid more per card than I am' "I can't make the minimum amount of cards that they are offering' 'the art director is rude and hard to work with' and countless grumblings over late payments, rejections, etc. Personally, I feel that the medium is a bit out of control in these areas and the demands and treatment may not be worth the payment for some. But, this is a business after all. It's not for everyone and not every situation is perfect. In the end, and overhaul may be needed.
8. In order to keep consumer interest, companies are creating different type of sketch cards: hinge, fold out, relics, etc. This reminds me of gimmicks of comics in the early 90s. What do you think about all this? 
  •  Gimmicks are gimmicks, we've all seen the tricks that publishers have done for years. I remember Upper Deck's baseball team holographics, Donruss' puzzle cards, stickers, etc I remember designing an insert set for Hot Shots years ago where the cards were made of clear plastic and had a models' image 'trapped' in the center much like a slide, it went over big, then a few others re-did it... then outdid it... etc. These newer ideas for sketch cards are most welcome, anything to keep interest and sales up helps the entire hobby.

9. You created a Mac & Trouble comic book series and also produced a sketch card charity set based on them.  Can you tell us a little bout that?
  • I wanted to revisit a 'behind the scenes' position in cards (I worked with a lot of card companies years ago in design and publicity) so I designed a promotional set of cards for my new comic book series "The Adventures of Mac and Trouble" and offered friends and other artists in sketch cards and comics a chance to do something for various animal charities. Through my publisher WTF Comics, I designed a 3-card promotional set and a separate sketch card for original art. I gave each artist the opportunity to be 'free' with their own personal unique styles, and draw the main characters in a variety of situations. Well, the set worked out well... every set came with 1 sketch card, some with 2 as well as other bonus cards. A large portion of the profits is still being donated to local animal shelters and charities, the art cards were amazing (especially without boundaries). A bit of trivia here, not 1 sketch card was rejected and only 1 artist did not fulfil their obligation. So to me, this is as close to a 100% turn around as you can get. I was very impressed.
  • Going along with what I said earlier about professionalism and the demands of certain producers in the industry, I did something different with this set. I established a stronger rapport with the artists. I created a web page with all of the rules and licensing regulations of the set and updated it constantly... I collected all of the staff/artist/printer emails and sent a newsletter and announcements with information and deadlines, all written in a personal tone... I publicized individual cards with links to the artists in a few different forums and blogs... we created functionable flyers and sent files to all who requested them...  artists were offered more Artist Proofs for their work... and went on to request further work from artists on the set in both the sketch card and comic book markets.

10. Where can people learn more about Mac & Trouble?
  •  Currently, "Mac and Trouble" #0, the promo convention book, is out - #1 debuts this November with a special variant cover for the "Toys on the Hudson" collector show in NJ - and additional projects are in the works such as a cook book, joke books, etc. You can see more at as well as they have their own Facebook and Twitter.

11. Do you have a website people can visit if they want to commission you or to check out your work?
  • I've never really had the time to build up a website of samples and set commission prices, I've always wanted to. I never charge much, I always feel bad asking for too much from a fan.
  • People can contact me on Facebook under my name or use any of the information that's there (gallery links, public albums, emails, phone number). I love to chat, so I welcome the contact :)

  • I wish everyone... collectors, artists, and publishers alike... much success and happiness in this wonderful industry that has treated me well for so many years.
  • I'm an entertainer, and working along side of today's best and brightest is a supreme honor for me. I value every friendship and working relationship, and consider myself lucky that I still have a place here.
Thank you for your time
  • Thank you.

You can find Rusty Gillian on Facebook at:
 Rusty Gillian on Facebook
Mac and Trouble on Facebook
Mac and Trouble site

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sketch Card Collector : Annie Williams

 Annie Williams is an established collector in the sketch card community. She has been collecting sketch cards since 2008. Collectors are essential for funding the industry. Without people like Annie, there would be no interest for companies to produce sketch card sets. 

1- How did you get into collecting sketch cards? And how long have you been a sketch card collector? Why sketch cards, what is it about them that you enjoy so much?
  •      I got into collecting sketch cards with the release of Rittenhouse's Women of Marvel set.  I saw a Storm sketch card by Joe Rubenstein, and I remember thinking that $30 was an awful lot to pay for one card.  However, it stayed with me, and I finally had to break down and buy it.  I've been hooked on sketch cards every since.  I think what I love most about sketch cards is the fact that they're miniature pieces of artwork - the only sort of original art I am able to afford, and easy to display.  For me, there is no rush quite as incredible as ripping open a package to reveal the sketch card within. 
2 - How big is your sketch card collection. Do you display your collection or are they kept in a folder. And if you were to choose one card as your absolute favorite...which one and why?

  •      My sketch card collection probably numbers around 600 or so.  I display my cards in different ways - the majority I keep in binders (which I flip through pretty much nightly) but some I keep in displays that hang on the wall.  I store my oversized artist proof cards in 4x6" photo albums, but I hope to get some of them framed someday.  If I had to pick just one card as my favorite (eek!), I think I'd have to say it's a Psylocke PSC from Renae de Liz, one of the first artists I ever commissioned.  The card is absolutely stunning, and I get goosebumps every time I look at it

3- Do you collect anything else? If so, what?
  •      I do indeed collect many other things.  In addition to sketch cards, I've become hooked on collecting larger pieces of original art (the core characters I collect are Rogue/Gambit, but I also like Storm, Psylocke, Phoenix, and Arwen/Aragorn from LOTR).  I also enjoy collecting press kits (both digital and older kits with slides and photos) from movies/TV shows.  I'm a voracious reader, and I love nothing more than picking up a special copy of a great book (Easton Press is one of the best) or an ARC (advanced reader copy).  I think that's about it!
4 - Do you follow certain artists or characters when you collect?....What is it about Rogue/Gambit that you like? =D
  •     In terms of collecting "official" sketch cards, my number one must-have is Andre Toma female sketches (I have over 60 total) and Rogue/Gambit cards.  As far as commissions go, Meghan Hetrick is my go-to must-have artist...I own over 15 pieces by her, and I intend for my collection to keep on growing and growing.  
  • Rogue and Gambit are, as most people who know me (and my collecting tastes) know, my favorite all-time fictional couple.  The story of why goes back to the early 90's, when I first got into collecting comic books.  A friend introduced me to the X-Men animated show, and I fell in love with Rogue and Gambit and their relationship.  Soon after I became a fan of the show, I saw Andy Kubert's iconic cover for X-Men #24 - featuring Rogue and Gambit in a torrid embrace.  It was love at first sight, and I picked up the comic immediately.  I was just as entranced by Rogue and Gambit's comic-book relationship as I had been by their TV romance; there is something so incredible about being so attracted to somebody that you can't touch for fear of dying.  While Gambit was always portrayed as something of a ladies' man, his love for Rogue never wavered (even though she certainly had her moments of infidelity) despite his inability to touch her.  To this day, I keep hoping that they someday get their much-deserved happily ever after.

5 - Do you find it difficult or get expensive when other people know what you collect? Do you limit yourself with a price range budget?
  •      I sometimes find that it can get expensive when people know what I collect...but sometimes it helps to have others looking out for you (with a big shout-out to Kevin, who hooked me up with a dream Jack Redd Rogue/Gambit sketch card).  I've noticed that Andre Toma sketches have certainly gotten more expensive over time, but I attribute that to the fact that others are  finally catching on to his incredible style.  I have a VERY limited price range and have never spent more than $300 on a single card (and it was an artist proof card).  I see some collectors spending $300+ on cards routinely, and I marvel at the prices they pay.  I'd rather commission an artist directly and have all the money go to the artist.
6 - Do you buy individual sketch cards from dealers or do you search ebay for cards you might be interested in? Or do you buy boxes or even cases in hopes for a card you'll be happy with? 
  •     I have bought one box of cards in the last 10 years, and while it was fun to open, it’s not going to become a habit.  I much prefer to buy individual sketches from eBay or members on Scoundrel, many of whom keep an eye out for cards they think I may be interested in.  I also enjoy commissioning artist proof cards, because I’m able to get exactly what I’m looking for – and the artist gets paid that money directly.

7 - Do you sell the cards you sometimes get or do you keep everything for yourself?
  •      I mostly keep the cards that I obtain, but I certainly have sold cards before.  When I sell a card, it’s usually because I know somebody out there wants it more (or will appreciate it more) than I do.  As corny as it sounds, I like to see any cards I sell go to good homes where they’ll be loved. 
8- What is your opinion in the regards to the never ending debate of quality vs pay rate for sketch cards? As someone who buys sketch cards, do you think card companies should do more quality enforcement for the cards artists work on? Or are they fine the way they are? 
  •      I think this debate is incredibly tough.  What makes it tough for me is that some artists (such as Meghan Hetrick) take up to 8 or 9 hours on a pack-inserted sketch card that will sell for $250 or more.  Other artists can create beautiful works in a fraction of the time.  Still other artists clearly put in minimal effort on their cards.  Somehow, though, each of these artists is paid exactly the same (piddling) amount of money per card.  Sketch card companies (and, to a degree, collectors) have some nerve paying artists peanuts for their work but expecting 100 Mona Lisas in a 4-5 week period.  It’s nuts.  You know it can be done right, though, as evidenced by the success of the recently released Classic Mythology set – artists got paid fairly, had adequate time to produce their sketch cards, and the finished product was of the absolute highest quality with no “weak” artists or slopped-together work.
9- Is there a noticeable change with what you see in today's collectors as opposed to when you first started , if any?
  •      If anything, I think that people have gotten meaner and ruder.  It’s not uncommon to receive requests from other collectors asking to purchase a card from your collection, and if you politely decline or say that said card is not for sale, you’re called names and made to feel that you’re somehow a jerk for wanting to hold onto it.  Guess what?  If you like it that much, chances are I do too!  Also, I have found that chats on community boards have gotten nastier and more personal.  Certain community members can go a long way towards ruining the whole experience for everybody else.  I’m known for being pretty willing to speak my mind, and on many occasions I have gotten flack for sticking up for artists and/or collectors who were thrown to the wolves by ill-informed board members who feel like making a splash.

10 - How do you feel about commissioning artists. Have you had any bad transactions with artists or collectors?  Has it been resolved to your satisfaction?
  •      I am a big fan of commissioning artists.  I can request exactly what I want, and my money goes to support artists I think are great and deserve to succeed.  I have had some very bad transactions in the past (some ongoing, actually), but it hasn’t turned me off of commissioning artists.  I like to think that I’ve gotten smarter about how I do commissions with artists, especially those I haven’t worked with in the past (setting expected completion dates, paying only half up-front, etc).   I am certainly more likely to do repeat commissions – there are a few principal artists that I commission over and over again because they do great work and are a pleasure to work with. 

11 -What do you think when you hear about artists who have overdue commissions yet are seen taking more work or are seen listing new cards for sale on eBay?
  •    It seriously pisses me off (pardon my language).  I certainly understand that artists have to eat (and keep a roof over their heads, and support their families), but there are a few infamous artists who manage to dig themselves into holes the size of the Grand Canyon and then just keep digging.  If I pay for something, I expect timely completion of the product I paid for (goodness knows I wouldn’t go to the grocery store and pay for groceries that would be delivered “sometime” soon).  That being said, I am very willing to be reasonable and work with artists – IF they communicate with me about what’s going on and why the project may take longer than expected.  I think 99% of collectors get angry because artists ignore their customers owed commissions - customers who just want an artist to take a few seconds to let them know what’s going on.  It’s very unprofessional to ignore communication from customers; can you think of a single business that could succeed with such behavior? 
12 - Does it help lessen the frustration if the artist is in constant communication with you? 
  •     Yes!!  This is the single best thing an artist can do to make for happy customers.

13 - What are your thoughts on the incredible prices some sketch cards actually sell for? 
  •     I think it’s ridiculous to pay some of the amounts I’ve seen spent on a single piece of cardboard (no matter how lovely).  I, for one, would rather take that money and get it directly to the artist/creator, rather than see it line the pockets of a middleman or card company.

14 - Are there too many sets out in your opinion and is it a good or bad thing?
  •     Goodness gracious, it seems that there is at least one new set every month.  I think the market is incredibly over-saturated, and I for one would love to see companies slow down the frequency of their releases.  This would make for increased demand and improved sketch quality.

15 - Is there any change in the hobby that you would like to see, if any?
  •      I really would like to see a sketch card auction site catch on big-time.  eBay stinks for sellers (and sometimes for bidders, too), and it would be nice to have a sketch-card oriented auction site where buyers and sellers could come together more personally.  I’d also like to see unfounded personal attacks (on artists and collectors) stop on chat boards.  It’s not right that people are allowed to make unfounded accusations and/or bully fellow chat members without serious repercussions.  

16 - Have you heard of the If so, have you tried it out or considered using it?

  • I have heard of it and dropped by a few times, but there didn't seem to be a lot up.  If it were to expand, I'd be all for it.  eBay could use some competition.

17 - Do you have an online gallery to display your collection? How do people contact you if they have cards they think you might be interested?

  • I keep my stuff in multiple different locations.  Most of my sketch cards are on (user name will1078 ) but I also have some of my pieces linked to my DeviantArt site.  I mostly hear from people on the Scoundrel forum with regards to cards, but I've gotten messages on, too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Talk with Cryptozoic Entertainment's Scott Gaeta


1- What is your title/position at Cryptozoic Entertainment and how long have you been with them?
  •   My title is Chief Operating Officer. Basically that means I run the day to day business.  I touch pretty much everything from finance and strategic planning, licensing, marketing, and my favorite thing, product development.  I've been here from the start and am one of 4 partners who put this whole thing together. 
2- Can you give us a brief description of what Cryptozoic Entertainment is and how it might be different from other card companies? What are some of the products that Cryptozoic has produced in the past that people might be familiar with?

  • Well, we're probably a little more diverse than most of the other card companies out there.  We also produce a lot of games ranging from the World of Warcraft TCG to board games based on movies and television and then we also create our own original games and IP (intellectual property). A few of our recent releases are games for The Walking Dead and Big Bang Theory.  We also have games releasing later this year for The Hobbit.  You will also be seeing more of our games on iOS in the very near future. 
  • In addition to our lines of cards and games we also do custom comic book publishing and marketing for several movie studios and video game companies. 

3- Sketch cards have become pretty popular in recent years and is continually growing. As a card company, was that something Cryptozoic have been aware of and keeping track of? 

  •   Yes, definitely. I've been a collector my entire life so I've followed the trends from that perspective.  I also developed several trading card sets at another company before CZE.  Before CZE the one I'm most proud of was bringing Marvel Masterpieces back.  Marvel Masterpieces 1 back in 2007 was my set.  =) 

4- Do you collect sketch cards and what is it about them that appeals to you?

  •    I do.  I love original art and collect some comic art too.  I don't have as many as I would like but probably have more than I should. I think it's really special that a fan can own an original.  That's what I'm most excited about with our upcoming DC line.  Owning originals of your favorite characters is probably the pinnacle of being a comic book fan. 
5- What made Cryptozoic decide to finally produce sketch card sets? And how did you approach it?
  •  Well, there was never any doubt as to whether we would do sketch cards.  The question is what brands are appropriate for them and in what quantities.  I think we have to be careful not to flood the market…that never works out well.  For example with Walking Dead TV the sketch cards were very limited to 1 per case.  The main driver for a live action show is the photo imagery, autographs, and wardrobe but we though sketch would be cool too so we added a modest amount.  But then you have something like DC Comics and that's all about illustrated art so 1 sketch per box is more appropriate.
6- How was producing a sketch card set different than a "normal set"? And was it more difficult to do than you had thought?

  •  This wasn't the first time I had worked with sketch cards so it was about as expected.  As we've grown we've added more staff so hopefully the process should be easier for both us and all the great artist we work with.  We're constantly looking at how we can do things better. 

7- Your first sketch card set was a charity set created to help the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). How did that happen?

  •   It really just came about one day when we were hanging out with Larry Marder from the CBLDF.  We think their work is very important to an industry like ours and wanted to figure out a way we could support them.  Trading cards with sketches seemed to be a great fit.  

8- Not only do you have an Art Director, David Barron  but also an Art Acquisition Manager, George Nadeau. What are their responsibilities in regards to handling sketch card products.

  •   George is really the main guy for sketch cards.  He's managing the booking of every project, approvals, and contracts.  If you're a sketch card artist you will be working closely with George.  The rest of the trading card team is Miranda Anderson, our brand manager for all trading cards.  She writes a lot of the sets and works with me on product configuration and marketing. Then there is Rachel Valverde, our project manager for trading cards.  She oversees all the manufacturing.  We also just recently hired Carmen, she has over 10 years experience working with wardrobe, autographs, etc.  She's in charge of QA and managing all that cool stuff.  Beyond all these folks is a team of very talented and experienced graphic designers who create all our card designs, marketing people, etc. 

9- Who should artists contact if they have questions about a sketch cards?

  •   George is your guy. 

10- What kind of expectations do you have for the sketch cards that artists produce for Cryptozoic? And what are your thoughts on the pay vs quality debate for sketch cards? Better quality usually requires more time and its really not financially rewarding for an artist to spend literally hours on each card. Are you fine with the cards produced for you as long as they meet Cryptozoic's contract requirements?

  • Quality is definitely something we care about.  Basically we just expect solid work.  Every artist is different and that's a good thing.  Some artists add great backgrounds to their cards, some airbrush, etc.  I would say as long as you are declaring something the fans would be happy with we will be more than happy to keep working with you.  In the end we all work for the fans. 
  • The one thing I like about sketch cards from the perspective of an artist is that it give you all the opportunity to work on some pretty major high profile character and that could lead to work on other projects.  At CZE since we do more than just sketch cards, we commission well over one-thousand pieces of art a year for game and comic projects.  We're also creating new base card art for some of our future trading card releases.  We've already found several artists in the sketch card community that we've been able to give other work. When we find people we like to work with we tend to stick with them. 

11- You have 2 upcoming sets from Cryptozoic. Walking Dead Comic set and the new DC set. 

 (a) - Walking Dead TV series set which included sketch cards was very successful for you. What made you decide to have the new set based on the comic book instead of the TV series as a "sequel'? 

  •   We thought it would be fun to explore the comics between seasons.  It allows us to do some things we couldn't do with the TV set like focus on sketch cards.  

 (b) - Not long ago it was announced that Cryptozoic Entertainment had acquired the DC license. How excited are you to be producing a sketch card set for them and what should fans expect from it?

  •   Extremely excited! This is something I've wanted to bring back to trading cards for years.  I've worked with the folks over at DC on other projects in the past and they are a great bunch of people to work with.  They really love what they do and care about their fans.  We're creating a lot of sketch cards for this set and have a great line-up of artists.  It's been a long time since the fans have had DC trading cards and I think these will be very well received. 

12- What do you think of the current market for sketch cards? And what do you think about all the smaller companies or artist created sets that have recently popped up? Is it a good thing for the market?

  • First of all I think it's great when creators have a medium that they can use to express themselves in.  Sketch cards are fairly easy (relatively speaking) for someone to produce on their own.  I mean if you have a passion for architecture it's a little harder for that person to go out their and do something on their own.  
  • I do worry a bit though about too many sketch cards on the market but I don't think the smaller creator owned sketch projects are an issue.  All we can do at CZE is try and be responsible with our own releases.  With DC for example I know based on past experience and demand we've been getting from distributors that we could probably sell almost twice as many boxes as we are going to produce for this first set.  But in the long run that's not good for the market.  It just creates a glut and the quality per average sketch would go way down. 

13- Cryptozoic Entertainment along with Versicolor Productions is sponsoring the upcoming Pop Art Con on June 10th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ft. Washington, PA (outside Philadelphia). Also Cryptozoic Entertainment and Breygent Marketing has generously sponsored several artists to appear at the Pop Art Con. Do you see this as part of the evolution of the non-sports hobby and its interest in its artists? 

  •   Yes, I think it's great that sketch cards are being recognized as a high quality piece of art.  My biggest regret is that I'm going to miss this first show because of a previously scheduled family obligation.  Hopefully this one will be a success and I'll get to attend the next one.  

14- Basically all of the bigger known non-sports conventions are held in the east coast. With Cryptozoic being based in California, do you think there is enough interest in the non-sports hobby to have similar conventions developed here in the west coast? Would you like to have one here?....Perhaps even start one? *wink, wink*

  •   It's something I've definitely thought about and even mentioned to Harris Toser at NSU.  It's on my list of things to do in my spare time.  =) 

15- For artists looking to do some work for Cryptozoic. Who should they contact and how can they do it? Also what do you recommend they should send in as samples for their submissions?

  •   George is the right guy to start with for sketch cards.  Just send him some jpg samples, a link to your web page, and a rundown of published work you may have done.  

16 - Any upcoming projects people should look out for?

  •   DC is the big one right now and there will be another big sketch project releasing in the fall.  We're going to start booking that one in about a month so artists should have more time to work on their cards than they have had in the past with us.  

17- If anyone would like to know more about Cryptozoic and its products, where can they get more information?

Thank you for your time and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions for me.

Any time!  It was fun!



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