Recently I had the chance to talk to the founders of a new online venture, Loser City. Loser City is a cross-platform arts and culture magazine with a special focus on comics. Creators Danny Djeljosevic and Morgan Davis envision an outlet for cultural criticism, comics, and entertainment that reaches a diverse audience. Djeljosevic and Davis have limited resources for funding such an ambitious publication and have already faced many challenges. The two were gracious enough to speak candidly about the production side of Loser City as well as how they envision the future of this magazine:
How long have you two known each other? Why start your own magazine right now?
Morgan: Danny and I have known each other since 2009, when we both wrote for a pop culture site called Spectrum Culture. Spectrum Culture had a message board for its writers and although it never got much use, Danny had filled out a profile on it where he mentioned he wanted to be a comics writer, or something to that effect, and since he referenced a lot of my favorite comics in his music and film reviews, I sent him a message that I’m sure was pretty snarky and we hit it off. Weirdly, we also have a lot of the same history– we both lived in the same part of Florida, at basically the same time, but never crossed paths.
Loser City came about somewhat spontaneously, but Danny and I have been talking about what our ideal publication would be like basically since we first started talking. Comics specifically appeal to us because as far as criticism goes, it’s kind of the last frontier, other than video games, but in the case of video games there’s still too much evolution in the growth in the medium itself for its criticism to be held as accountable as criticism as comics, though I believe video games are just as in need of change. What I mean by comics as the last frontier, though, is that it’s a medium with a rich history but it has never truly had a healthy body of critical work to help shape its growth and nurture its potential. While at Spectrum Culture, we both began writing for Comics Bulletin [site no longer active], with Danny joining first and becoming reviews editor around the time I started contributing, mainly in comics journalism with some social media work, too. Before long, Jason Sacks, who was then the site’s editor-in-chief but is now the publisher, asked us if we would be interested in co-managing the site and we jumped at the opportunity because it would allow us to put our money where our mouths were and try to have an impact on comics criticism.
I think we did great work at CB, and I’m extremely proud of the staff we recruited and the content we generated, but after a certain point, I became extremely disillusioned with the media-end of the comics industry and my place in it. I felt we had taken CB as far as we could and that if we wanted to really win over new comics fans– the people who would be into comics if it wasn’t for comic fandom– then we had to reach them through an outlet that better represented their interest. I don’t believe that you can win over these fans– the indie kids who know Clowes but don’t know where to go next, or the feminists who are hip to the Bechdel Test but are afraid of the stereotype of comics, or the politicos missing out on the area of comics that has started the first truly exciting journalist movement in eons– unless you take the fight off of comic sites and publications and into broader, more flexible spheres. But at the same time, I’m equally disillusioned with places like The Atlantic, which seems to have transformed into a hotbed of Millenial-targeting generational terrorism, and Vice, which is too obsessed with its own worst traits, and The New Yorker which remains consistently good but not exactly hip to the zeitgeist. I jokingly sold Danny on the idea of Loser City the magazine being The New Yorker for the generation that hates The New Yorker, but there’s some truth to that, and I’m hoping that when we debut it, we can start being a place that people like us will go to read about culture or visit other perspectives that aren’t visible elsewhere and in the process, dip their toes in the waters of comics, either through the stuff we’re publishing and spotlighting, or through the reviews, essays and other content we hope to provide.
Danny: For years we’ve been talking about what we’d want out of a publication, so after getting some valuable experience we’ve decided to actually make something on our own terms. It helps that, after four and a half years of freelancing, I had a day job fall into my lap — which means I bandz ta make her dance (and pay artists) but not enough time to do all the work I had been doing as a freelancer. So, at this point in my life it’s a necessity to focus on personal projects and Loser City, both as a label and as a magazine, is a vehicle for that.
What’s up with the name? How did you guys decide on Loser City?
Morgan: If I have my facts correct, it was Danny’s roommate David who suggested the name, actually. Originally, Danny had just asked me to design some covers for some comics he was working on with Mike Prezzato and planned on publishing on his own, but when he asked me what I thought of the name, I was so love in with it I basically forced him to let me build it into an all-purpose cultural entity, with a magazine to augment and promote the comics. I’ve had an interest in the world of advertising for as long as I could remember and I just liked the aesthetic and notion of “Loser City,” with all the fun taglines it allowed for. It didn’t hurt that Loser City is also one of Vancouver’s many nicknames.
Danny: Yeah — I was wearing a Los Campesinos! shirt and he jokingly asked if the LC! stood for “Loser City.” I thought that name was delightful, so I decided to steal it and credit David as Loser City’s Associate Creative Consultant or some other thing. I’d been meaning to start my own vanity label for a long while. All I needed was a name.
How is your publishing cycle going to work? Are you guys continually putting new content up daily or will Loser City be divided up into issues?
Morgan: At the moment, Loser City is intended as a quarterly. We’re working on a website that will have regular content that will be more timely, but the magazine itself is intended to be the kind of thing you could theoretically pick up a year or two from now and still be interested in. Depending on how it goes, we may publish more frequently, but we felt a quarterly schedule was the most feasible schedule for us in order to maintain the quality we want.
Danny: “Evergreen” is a term I always drop when explaining what Loser City the magazine is about. After years of writing reviews of records, movies and comics books, we wanted to produce something that doesn’t have an expiration date of “the moment it’s knocked off the website’s front page.” Have you ever gone back and read an Entertainment Weekly? Probably not, unless it’s like “I found this one from 1992, let’s see what the world of print media and pop culture was like two decades ago.” We might not review the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but we might write a more in-depth essay about it.
I know I am really excited for all the comics that will be a part of Loser City. Can you tell our readers a little about these works? Any plans for daily or weekly strips?
Morgan: I’m glad you’re excited for those, because that’s honestly what I’m most excited for, too. Danny has shown me bits and pieces of the art, and I’ve seen early pages as well as scripts, but I haven’t seen the final product yet for any of them except Jenny Xaxx. I’ll let Danny do the pitch on the comics we’re putting out and what the history is there, but on the magazine front, we’re keeping it a little loose in terms of a format. Ideally, each issue will have one “feature essay” comic, which is intended to be an avenue for our writers to interact with guest comic creators. We’re bringing on comic creators to adapt essays written by the contributors we’ve brought on, and the first issue will feature Jen Vaughn adapting an essay by Dylan Garsee on a gainer fetishist meeting he crashed in Austin. It’s amazing, especially since the original essay by Dylan was what he sent Danny and I as his sample essay when he applied for CB. Outside of the feature comic, we’re going to have two “strips,” basically shorter pieces by guest creators we like, and then I believe Danny has something in the works for the fourth comic slot. We will probably be featuring comic stuff on the site, too, whether it’s webcomics or glimpses at what is on the way from Loser City Comics.
Danny: Comics are the reason this whole thing began. Outside of the magazine I’ve got a bunch of releases in the works. I’m putting out digital editions of everything Mike P and I have worked on since we first started collaborating — all these crazy sci-fi garage comic shorts we just kind of banged out over the years. I’m thinking about just putting them all in one package. There will also be some new longer one-shot comic issues — a new thing Mike P and I are working on, a collabo with artist CJ Camba. Mike P and I are also cooking up a serialized webcomic for Loser City‘s website.
What setbacks have you guys had so far?
Morgan: The biggest setback has just been getting people to turn stuff in for this first issue. We made the decision early on to hold back from any release schedule announcements or anything because we called in a lot of favors and bugged a lot of awesome people we know to contribute to this first issue, but that means having to give them time to fit us into their busy schedules. We want the first issue to make as much of a splash as possible, so we’re cool with taking the extra time in order to achieve that quality, but hopefully after the first issue, we’ll have a less hectic schedule.
Danny: So many of our talented friends are busy with other projects already.
Any plans for print editions?
Morgan: We would love to do print editions, but that’s going to depend on the interest we’re able to generate with the first issue, and then of course there’s always the possibility of looking towards crowd funding. It’s definitely something we’ve spoken about.
Danny: I plan on funding print editions of my own comics under the Loser City banner, but for the magazine… print is something we want to do, assuming anybody wants to read the damn thing.
How are you guys promoting such a new venture?
Danny: We have a Twitter. Morgan?
Morgan: We’re setting up a site that will be live soon, which will have its own exclusive content. I’ve set up a few shows to get the brand out there, as well. On October 19th, we have our first Loser City show, then we have another on Oct. 25th, and another on Nov. 2nd. I just set up another that hasn’t been announced yet, but that will be headlined by Tee Double, who recently had a song featured on Breaking Bad and serves on the Texas Chapter of the Grammy Governing Board and even has his own day in Austin. All of these shows are in the Spider House Ballroom, where we’re in the process of setting up a weekly Loser City night called Loser City Limits, and we’re working on doing a showcase at Spider House during SXSW too.
Danny and I are considering getting some promo stuff together, like stickers, pins and, I don’t know, beer koozies. Basically, we’re focusing on less traditional promotion and we’ll be ramping it up when our release date is finalized.