Sean O’Reilly is the founder and CEO of Arcana Studio. He originally formed the company to publish his own book, Kade, in 2004. Since then he’s gone on to publish a wide variety of titles including 100 Girls, The Clockwork Girl, and The Greatest American Hero.
O’Reilly has worked to expand his influence through creativity and innovation. He has created and produced a series of original animated shows for SpikeTV. Arcana was awarded The Shuster Award for Outstanding Publisher and received the Moonbeam Award for top children’s graphic novel. In addition, O’Reilly was named one of Vancouver’s “Top 40 under 40.”
Arcana reviews project pitches from established creators and is also open to unsolicited manuscripts. (Before submitting, be sure to review and heed their submissions guidelines.) The company publishes about 20 titles per year. When asked whether Arcana pays on the front end or the back end, O’Reilly replied, “Both, and honestly each deal is different. After five years we’ve seen and executed all types of deals, and we’re even willing to try some we haven’t done before.”
ComicsCareer.Com: What do you feel are the most unique or magical aspect of comics as an art form, and what are some examples of comics or graphic novels that make great use of that aspect?
Sean O’Reilly: I love comic books because they are fantastical journeys into a distant world with epic tales, unique environments and characters that have to be plucked out of the imagination. Not including Arcana titles, I love Blacksad, anything by Graeme Base and other creations that are so rich in imagery. I also love comics because the visuals can assist the story complimenting the brand and the example that quickly comes to mind is The Walking Dead.
ComicsCareer.Com: What’s the most important thing a creator should know about your company’s approach to new projects or new talent that’s not covered in the submissions guidelines?
Sean O’Reilly: We look for strong art, compelling stories and ultimately graphic novels. We aren’t pursuing floppy comics as hard as we once were and we are really looking for branded storyworlds where amazing adventures can occur within the project.
ComicsCareer.Com: What are the main criteria that you use when deciding to accept a new project or work with a creator for the first time?
Sean O’Reilly: Art style, clarity of vision, work ethic, and great storytelling.
ComicsCareer.Com: What are your expectations of the creators you work with? What do they need to bring to the equation to be a good fit for you and your company?
Sean O’Reilly: Really depends on the project. Sometimes we are looking for a person to fit into our assembly line and do ‘job X’. Other times the idea is sparked from a creator and we really get behind them in a support role. Truly, I’ve worked with many people in many capacities and there is no ‘one way’ on how it is done.
ComicsCareer.Com: When you’re working with a creator for the first time, what guidelines or instructions do you typically provide?
Sean O’Reilly: For first time creators I try my best to crush expectations. Seriously. So many first-time creators come in and think this will be a number one book, and there’ll be movies and toys made on their lore. In reality, it is just so tough to try and break even in this market. So ultimately, with any creator, one of the first conversations I like to have is with expectations and our relationship; what they are putting into it, and what they are looking to get out of it.
ComicsCareer.Com: What should a creator never do when pitching a project to you? Or, conversely, what should a creator always do when pitching a project to you?
Sean O’Reilly: I would suggest having a strong pitch, rehearsing it and saying it with vigor, enthusiasm and having a strong package that supports the pitch.
ComicsCareer.Com: What’s the craziest excuse you’ve ever heard a creator give for missing a deadline?
Sean O’Reilly: The fifth book we signed up back in 2004 had one issue done. Since then I’ve had only one email — about a year ago — saying that they were closing in on issue 2 and were asking when the first issue could come out. I totally forgot and couldn’t believe it.
ComicsCareer.Com: What do you expect the comics industry to be like ten years from now?
Sean O’Reilly: I think somewhat similar to what it is now with more multimedia aspects to it, but at it’s core I think it won’t have changed that much. Yes, there will be print books that exist.
ComicsCareer.Com: What project are you working on now?
Sean O’Reilly: The Clockwork Girl screenplay, a new all ages graphic novel and directing a short film based on The Gwaii.