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"All The Unsexy Stuff." Jordan Plosky Talks the Power of Zoop

We chat with Zoop's co-founder and CEO about his mission and the creation of comics for introverts like us.


Jordan Plosky Zoop Christian Ward

Welcome to our Creator Corner, our reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the industry. In this entry, we're conversing with Jordan Plosky about Zoop. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.

 

It's not good enough to make a comic. You have to get the comic read. Accomplishing the second part is the most challenging and requires different skills than those necessary for completing step one. If you're an introvert like one half of Comic Book Couples Counseling (which half, we're not saying, but you can probably guess), publishing and marketing your comic could seem beyond daunting. It's terrifying.


If you're operating within the independent comic scene, crowdfunding has become increasingly necessary. Kickstarter is the realm where many first venture, and with good reason. However, if you go that route, you're pretty much on your own unless you hire some partners to help you through the process. In the last few years, a few companies have arisen to offer an alternative, and one that routinely finds itself making comics for our bookshelves is Zoop.


Jordan Plosky and Eric Moss are the brains behind Zoop. If you've spent time on our website, you're familiar with their work. They're responsible for projects such as Who Killed Nessie, Fargo, Faceless and the Family, and many more. Jordan Plosky is a comic book maniac born out of the nineties speculation boom, and he has some serious opinions about The New Warriors.


Considering the time we've spent obsessing over their publishing endeavors, we finally decided to have a serious conversation about everything happening at Zoop. We spoke with Jordan Plosky about his comic book origins and Zoop's origins and why the company is currently running an equity crowdfunding campaign on Republic


This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

 

Jordan Plosky, Zoop, and the Start of it All


Brad: We've been talking to so many Zoop creators for a while now. It feels necessary to talk with the Zoop mastermind.


Jordan Plosky: Well, again, thank you for having all of those creators on to talk about their projects. We love having this relationship with you guys, and yeah, I mean, it does seem time for us to have that face-to-face, so thank you, guys.


Lisa: I'm going to start with my favorite question ever, my favorite rabbit hole ever, and it is talking about being a musician and how being a musician informs everything about the way you think and the way you live your life, and the way you look at other types of art. How do you feel like being a professional drummer influenced how you started Zoop specifically?


Jordan Plosky: Oh man, we could spend the entire time talking about this.


Lisa: It's literally my favorite subject. The second I find out someone's a musician, I'm like, that's all I want to talk about, actually.


Jordan Plosky: Yeah, so this is a really cool place to start, and it 100% crosses over into comic talk as well. But for ten years, I was a professional musician, freelance, independent contractor, whatever you want to say. So the parallels there between being a musician, a hired gun, and being a comic book creator - those parallels are almost like one single straight line as opposed to right next to one another. But the other thing is, and I didn't realize it, but when I was this independent contractor, I was in business for myself. I didn't realize that. I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur; I just thought of myself as a freelancer. But when I quit the musician life, because I got married and had a child, and being away from home all of the time was not conducive to an actual family, I had refocused and got into the world of startups.


And when I started doing the market research and sort of everything about my first startup before Zoop, I realized, oh, everything that I was doing as an independent contractor, as a freelancer, being in business for myself actually carries over so much into entrepreneurship in terms of networking, building those relationships, trading on your reputation, having the work ethic and being self-motivated and being able to multitask, and all of these things really, like 100% carries over from being a musician. I made a living. I had a great resume as a musician, but I was never the best drummer. I wasn't; I could play the songs, but I was never a ninja behind the set.


I couldn't do a five minute drum solo, that was never my thing, but my superpower was being the last drummer that everybody saw, so that when they got a call like, "hey, we need a drummer for this project," they thought of Jordan.


Lisa: Oh, awesome.


Jordan Plosky: That was my biggest superpower, going out and networking, being on the Sunset, I live in LA, being on Sunset Strip, watching bands play, schmoozing, just being active in that regard because the downtime in between gigs is rough, as many comic creators know as well. So I always say you could be the best at what you do, but if you never get out there, nobody will ever know.


Lisa: I am a professional musician, and I hate being out there. I'm like that kind of person where it's just like, I don't want to talk myself up, I sure as hell don't want to meet anybody and chit-chat, I hate that stuff. And it does feel a little bit unfair. Whatever type of art you make, you spend your entire life honing your gift and making something, and you go, "Okay, this is worth taking out into the world." Then, you also have to market it.


It reminds me of a Maria Bamford joke where she goes like, "Hey, Hollywood, I spent all of this time getting skinny, and now I'm all tired and hungry and you want me to go work out?" You know what I mean? That's what it feels like when you're an artist. You've made your book. That is a tremendous feat. Now you have to market it? It's just like, "No, thank you."


Jordan Plosky: It's unfortunately the way of the industries, the way of these creative industries. I get being an introvert, or I get not wanting to have to go and shake hands and go out after 10 o'clock at night anymore and just go schmooze and network, but that's kind of part of the gig. In order to support the art that you want to make, it seems like a necessary evil. And we tell that to our creators all the time, too. It's like, "Look, even though you're coming to Zoop and we're going to help promote your campaign, it's still incumbent upon you to bring your crowd to crowdfunding." A lot of creators, just like you're saying, don't want to have to promote. They don't feel comfortable doing it, but it's kind of just the way of the world right now, whether you're an independent creator or you are even working for a Marvel and DC, even they expect you to promote your next issue or do announcements for new titles that you're on and stuff. So as unfair as it is, it is something that I highly recommend every creator just get as comfortable with as they can.


Lisa: And I think it's good to have a partner to kind of encourage you to do that, too.


Jordan Plosky: Well, absolutely. If you're not that person, yes, get someone who's able to help you be that person. I guess, in my personal relationship, I'm that person, but then also in the business relationship, I'm also that frontman for Zoop, if you will.


Jordan Plosky, Zoop, and Creative Satisfaction


Brad: How did Zoop originate?


Jordan Plosky: We were a pandemic baby. During quarantine, [crowdfunding] really came onto your radar. I had a startup before this called ComicBlitz, which was essentially the Comixology Unlimited model before Comixology Unlimited. So we wound up actually selling that company in 2018 to a video distribution company that folded the digital comics offering into their streaming video, and then I went to work for them. That's a whole other story, but during the pandemic, we were all quarantined. I was losing my mind, and I needed a creative outlet, and I started having conversations with people. One of them is my now co-founder, Eric Moss. He was at IDW, he was at Cryptozoic, but maybe most notably, he was the campaign manager on the BRZRKR campaign for Boom Studios and Keanu Reeves.


Brad: Yeah.


Jordan Plosky: That was the number one comics crowdfunding campaign of all time until recently. Got knocked off by Good Omens, but it served us well while we were growing Zoop and really trying to bring people on board the platform. But he and I were talking, and this is at a time where, if you remember, Diamond still had a monopoly on distribution. They had to shut down. All the retailers shut down. AT&T had just purchased Warner Bros. and slashed DC's output by 25%. All of this meant fewer opportunities and less money for creators. Now, on the other side, you see ecommerce exploded, years worth of growth in two months, and crowdfunding was a part of that. You see this growth, you see so many people turning to crowdfunding, and Eric and I were having a conversation and he was talking about potentially consulting for people on their Kickstarters and helping them run their Kickstarters.


And then we started spitballing and realizing, "Hey, crowdfunding is this wonderful vehicle that essentially democratizes putting out content, but it's really hard to do." Like going back to the first part of this conversation, creators want to create; they don't want to have to market. They don't want to have to fulfill. They don't want to have to figure out how they're going to print their book. They don't want to have to figure out financials and technology and basic administration and customer support. So we, instead of tacking onto Kickstarter, we're like, "Why don't we just have an alternative where we make it so much easier for people to run campaigns?"


We're a built-in team. We handle all those things. Again, campaign management, financial, strategy, budgeting, PNLs, we do marketing, so that's press, PR, setting up interviews, podcasts, YouTube, we do email marketing. When you go to Kickstarter, you're on your own.


You either do it all by yourself and throw it up against the wall and hope it sticks, or you have to hire all those people individually, hire a marketing person, hire a campaign manager, bring on someone who's going to handle fulfillment, and now you're talking about months of work ahead of a campaign just lining all this stuff up. With us, it's one phone call. We handle all of the heavy lifting, all the unsexy stuff that most creators don't want to take the time to do. It frees up literally months of their time. We have all the vendors in place for printing.


For manufacturing, so it's not just comics but pins, posters, stickers, t-shirts, whatever those add-ons and other rewards and incentives are that people want as part of their campaign, we have all those vendors lined up, and we have fulfillment in place, so we charge a premium, but no one has ever complained about the percentage that we take. Everyone thinks it's super fair, and the best part is they all get to keep a hundred percent of their ownership. So while we act like a publisher, we're not actually a publisher, we're not taking a percentage, but we're providing all of the services essentially, of a publisher minus editorial.


Lisa: Do you still get artistic satisfaction, like coming from the artist's place, do you get artistic satisfaction helping other people put their art into the world? Do you find yourself being fulfilled by the work?


Jordan Plosky: Yeah, I mean, that's one of the cool things because as a comic fan, I can't write and I can't draw. So, this is kind of my contribution to the industry that I love. And the thing that I loved as a kid and for some reason is, it's hooked into me, right? I'm 40-something years old; by all accounts, I should not be as passionate about funny books as I am. But yeah, seeing someone not only succeed on their campaign - like someone like Jason Copeland with Full Tilt, the guy, he's kvelling. You see him on social media how happy he is with everyone who has something nice to say about it, who got their book or who just compliments him on a job well done. All that stuff, yeah, I feel like a proud papa, like helping that one come out into the world. So there's huge satisfaction. Yeah, that's the fun part of this.


Jordan Plosky, Zoop, and The New Warriors?


Brad: We can attest that you're quite the bulldog in supporting your creators too. You're constantly in our email, and we're sorting through and looking at all the incredible stuff that you're doing and going like, oh, man, look at Jordan go.


Lisa: Yeah, I know. He does keep you top of mind. We go like, "Oh, well, we need some new cool books." Do you know who's going to suggest them? Jordan.


Jordan Plosky: Yes, well, and I appreciate you guys being open to it all. I mean, I know we're not going to hit every single time, and that's totally cool, but the amount of our creators that you guys have had on the show is honestly so very much appreciated and they'll keep coming.


Lisa: We've talked to a lot of creators who loved comics first, and the conversation that keeps coming up is, comics is such a small and intimate community. If you love comics passionately, you're just going to end up making them one way or another. What was your comic origin story? How did you get into comics?


Jordan Plosky: Oh, man. I feel like there's sort of two touch points. There's one, when I'm like four or five years old, and I'd go to the candy store with my brother and my dad, and that was a weekend thing. And sometimes you get a piece of candy, but sometimes there was Archie Digest's or sometimes I remember picking up a GI Joe comic from the spinner rack, and I probably have those first comics still somewhere, although I couldn't tell you what they were. But then, look, I'm born in 1980, so when the comics boom of 1990, '91 happened, I was just the perfect age.


You're talking about Image Comics, you're talking about Valiant Comics, you're talking about Spider-Man 1, X-Men 1, X-Force 1, all that whole boom, Death of Superman. And that hooked me right there. So that's when I really got in and started collecting. My big book, and again, this is a topic I could talk about for hours, was The New Warriors. That's my all-time favorite, which is crazy to think when you're talking about Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, like Amazing Spider-Man, Batman, everything that's going on, and I'm like, "No, The New Warriors is where it's at."


Lisa: Do creators pitch to you? Is that how it works? Or do they just say, "I have a comic, I'm going to make it now."


Jordan Plosky: Sometimes.


Jordan Plosky and Zoop Want You!


Lisa: And you're on board?


Jordan Plosky: Yeah. I mean, on the business side of things, it's a little bit of inbound. It's a little bit of outbound, like going to WonderCon, for example, and walking up and down Artist Alley and either speaking to people for the first time or staying on their radar so that when a crowdfunding project actually comes to mind for them, whether that's something creator-owned or like a sketchbook or an art book, anything self-published. I mean, I think right now, the Venn diagram of self-publishing and crowdfunding is like a circle. It's very synonymous with one another.


So it's a lot of schmoozing like we were saying at the beginning. I have no problem going up to people, shaking their hand, introducing myself, explaining what we do, and trying to target people that it makes sense for them financially, and it makes sense for us financially to provide that full suite of services for - because there's plenty of great creators out there, but if they have a thousand dollar funding goal, it doesn't necessarily make sense for us to take a large chunk of that from them and vice versa, it might not be worth it for us financially to devote our resources to a smaller campaign.


So, there is a little bit of that balance that we bring to it, too, but it's something that we want to be able to bring to everybody. And that's one of the things, and if you don't mind the cheap plug, we're running what we call an equity crowdfunding campaign right now on a site called republic.com/zoop. An equity crowdfunding raise is similar to traditional crowdfunding like we're talking about right now, except when you back our campaign, you're actually buying shares of Zoop. You're becoming an investor in Zoop. So, as opposed to buying a comic or another product, your money goes towards growing Zoop. It's a capital infusion so that we can continue doing what we're doing, continue supporting and advocating for the comics and the creative industry as a whole.


Brad: And why did you think this was necessary?


Jordan Plosky: We're not necessarily like a VC type of company, right? VC companies - venture capitalists are looking for this 10X return on their investment. They're looking for billion-dollar valuations on companies. And even Kickstarter doesn't have a billion-dollar valuation. It's hard to compete for the same money as health tech companies, financial tech companies, AI companies, and blockchain companies that are going for the same money from VCs. With crowdfunding - look, we have tens of thousands of users on the Zoop platform so we figured, "Hey, maybe we could tap into these people who are supporting our campaigns multiple times over." I mean, we have a huge repeat purchase rate on Zoop.


We have people who are coming and want to continue getting the products that they love delivered right to them. So some of those people are coming in and acting as investors, and it just felt like, we know how to run crowdfunding. So it felt like the right opportunity for us to take control of our growth as opposed to having to answer to VCs and the bottom line being the most important thing. We love comics, we want to have a good culture, we want to make people happy, and if we make a few bucks less because people are happy, that's cool by us, but that's sort of not cool by VCs.

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