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Altered Realities: 
an Interview with Sal Cipriano
by
Andrew Goletz

Talent. Ambition. Determination. Passion. These are words often used to describe ideal presidential candidates, not up and coming comic book creators, but Altered Realities creator Sal Cipriano embodies all of these qualities and more.

 

Most people who read comics with a passion also have a desire to know what it would be like to actually write or draw one. How many of us as children created our own comic books and tried to sell them to our parents and friends? Sal has taken that desire a step further and actually gone out and published his own comic.

Tell him the industry is dying and heíll tell you that the talent in the field now is better than ever before and that the insiders are wrong. Praise his work and heíll ask for constructive criticism instead. Tell him heís a fool or that his work sucks and heíll thank you for noticing that heís doing it at all. Sal is person with a simple objective: create a comic that he can be proud of and get it read by the most amount of people that he can. If you were to buy Altered Realities #1, the full sized, black and white comic would cost $1. I donít know if Salís charged one person yet, though. He goes on the Internet and to comic conventions promoting and giving away his work just to get it out in the public eye. He knows that the odds are stacked against a small press publisher from the get go, so heís taken it upon himself to do what he can to ensure people get their hands on Altered Realities and come back for more. But thatís all my version of Altered Realities and its creator, Sal Cipriano. Letís talk to the man in question and get the answers from him. AG: So how did you get started with Altered Realities?

SC: Iíve wanted to do comic books my entire life. Iíve always been a fan of them and ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to create my own comics.

AG: How did you get from wanting to do them to actually doing them?

SC: I knew I couldnít do the portfolio route to break in. Iíve been to too many comic conventions and seen people with a lot better art talent than me get shot down. I didnít want to go the traditional route. 

AG: So what did you do?

SC: I got my first break with a local fanzine called Believe. It was a zine that dealt with paranormal phenomena and thatís where I first published ĎFunny Little Voicesí which is also being anthologized now in Altered Realities. The zine was seen by like maybe 100 people in the New York City area, but it was enough of an inspiration to cause me to want to go and do my own thing. I thought that by self publishing a comic like Altered Realities, we could showcase new talent and give people an outlet to have their work seen. 

AG: Do you think the odds are stacked against you given the market situation now?

SC: Iím not deterred by that in the least. I am not a quitter. The books being published today are better than at any time in the history of the industry. There is more variety and quality in those books than ever before. I think that, like everything else, things are cyclical. Itíll take time for things to get back on track, but I donít see the industry coming to an end at all. 

AG: What are you doing to market the book?

SC: Self publishing is a lot different from anything else. I have to do everything myself, from the creation of the book to getting it out there and promoting it. Weíve gone to some comic conventions and given the book away. As you know, Iíve hit some of the Internet message boards, particularly jinxworld.com and the feedback has been great. Weíre on our way to the Wizard World con in Chicago after this interview and Iíll spread the word some more. 

AG: You have an additional reason to celebrate in Chicago, too, right?

SC: Yeah. Weíre releasing Altered Realities #2. Itís 64 pages, black and white again and itís only $2. Most likely, Iíll be giving most of the copies away. The reason Iím selling it so cheap and giving it away in a lot of cases is because for now I just want people to read the book. Itís a lot easier to have some one read something that you give them for free than to try and get them to pay 3 or 4 dollars for an unknown property. 

AG: Doesnít that get expensive?

 SC: Self publishing is crazy-expensive. The way things workÖwe had the firs tissue done at the end of 1999 and it wasnít out to anyone until May of 2000. Now our second issue is coming out this month. It does cost a lot, but Iím not doing this for immediate gratification. Iím looking down the road. This is for the long haul. 

AG: What was the reasoning behind doing an anthology?

SC: I always liked the idea of anthology books and doing 8 page story formats. It harkens back to the days of Dark Horse Presents or Marvel Comics Presents. So many people are asking me if they can put stuff in there now. Word of mouth has been really good on the book. Issue 2 was a pain in the ass to work on, but it was worth it.

AG: Where do you draw your inspiration from?

SC: Like most people, I suppose I take experiences from my own life and work them into a story, in a warped sort of way. American Hero, a new book Iím working on, is a twisted version of Captain America. I get a lot of inspiration from life around me. 

AG: Are you working on any other projects besides Altered Realities?

SC: Oh yes. Arse is coming out. It stands for Altered Realities Special Edition. Itís a pretty lighthearted bunch of stories that we have coming out in December. Weíre also doing a Brusia special. It was a short story from issues 1 and 2 and weíve decided to finish the story in a special one-shot. Why wait? The Brusia special will be a flip-book with Brusia on one side and American Hero on the other. By next spring, we can hopefully have the third issue of Altered Realities out and my main goal is to have Funny Little Voices, the series by the end of 2001. I also got together with 2 other people to do a comic zine which will be out in September. Itís called Exhibit C and will feature interviews with Mike Oeming, Jim Mahfood and myself. Also, our web site should be up by September. 

AG: What has the reaction been to Altered Realities so far?

SC: The art is probably the part that gets criticized the most, but even still, weíve gotten mainly positive feedback. I donít mind that. I mean, I like the fact that people are responding well, but I really crave the bad reviews because it helps me to do a better job. Iím not writing this to please the masses, but I need to know what the reaction is to what I am doing. Feedback is the most important way you can thank a creator. Whether itís good or bad, feedback is essential for us to do a better job for the readers. 

AG: What other interests do you have besides comics?

SC: I go to the movies a lot. I donít care for films that are based in reality. I like escapism with my movies. When I pay 10 bucks to see a film, I want to go and have a good time, not get depressed. If I want reality or depression, Iíll just watch the news, which I never do. 

AG: Why should people take a chance on Altered Realities, besides the fact that itís cheap?

SC: Because we have the best attitude out there. All we want if for people to read and enjoy our books. Weíre a bunch of guys who are trying to break into this business the hard way. We tell decent stories and publish good books at good rates and weíd love for people to give us a shot. 

Sal can be reached at:

Sal Cipriano
1819 West 11th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11223

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