The much talked about indie comics label will celebrate their anniversary with a bang!

(Kincardine, ON)– In an industry fraught with fly-by-night financing and dreams that are often bigger than budgets it’s rare to see an independent comic imprint that has survived more than one publisher, let alone survive for half a decade. SMASH! Comics, gearing up for the summer of 2006, has accomplished both and is ready to celebrate!

In June of 2001 the now defunct Lightningstrike Publishing launched a new comic book imprint, SMASH! Comics. Up until then Lightningstrike had been a self-publishing venture of owner Mike Gagnon. Thanks to the friends and connections Gagnon had made on the convention circuit he was able to gather a group of trusted creators with work he liked, and get a specialty investment firm to finance the operations. Thus SMASH! Comics was born.

Gagnon managed the business and its comic line and continued to pump out a steady flow of quality small press comics. Many became sleeper hits and helped add to the underground following of creators such as Jason Marcy (Jay’s Days, Powerwus), Paul Quinn (Suspension of Disbelief), and others. Gagnon was also able to find time to continue creating his own work with such surprise small press fan favorites as Mason. Over the years SMASH! built a reputation of making good comics and slowly but steadily built a loyal readership. Then in the summer of 2003, when SMASH! was reaching the pinnacle of success and accepting orders from several major distributors on a regular basis, the rug was pulled out from under the growing label. Due to executive mismanagement the investment firm financing the company went bankrupt. The company was left to survive on its own and carry on trying to expand and grow a successful product line without the important financing every small company needs.

Gagnon managed to maintain operations and financing on his own for another year, when another surprise hit the entrepreneur in late August of 2004. Seeing the small company able to survive on its own equaled dollar signs in the eyes of the lawyers representing the company’s former investors. Although Gagnon had already managed to resolve any and all debt related to SMASH! Comics, and the bank that was floating the investment firm that had its money in SMASH! had already collected on the investment firms assets, the lawyers tried to claim the investment their clients had in the company equaled a controlling share, and that in turn made Lightningstrike Publishing an asset of the bankrupt financer to be liquidated as part of the bankruptcy fund. This meant as far as the lawyers were concerned Lightningstrike Publishing was their property and was to be sold off to the highest bidder. If Gagnon wanted to retain control of his company the bankruptcy lawyers were going to do their best to make him buy his own company from them or threaten to sell it out from under him without his consent.

Although the logic was quite questionable Gagnon couldn’t afford the legal fees to fight the claims the bankruptcy lawyers were making and prove them wrong. Gagnon was having a hard enough time keeping the company running and out of debt as he continued to run the company on a management team of one. After a lot of thought and consultation Gagnon realized that under the circumstances he needed a new financer or business partner to help manage the business and ease the ridiculous problems that the bankrupt former investment firm was making. No serious backers expressed interest.

After some more thinking it occurred to Gagnon that the one thing that the bankers had relied on was that Gagnon would continue to run the business and perform the management duties they needed to keep the business running to be the legitimate asset that the bankruptcy lawyers claimed it was.

At this realization it was Gagnon’s turn to pull the rug out from under his former investors. In a matter of just days a whirlwind of action ensued. Gagnon cancelled the company’s business licensing and registration, closed the business, sold some of the assets, and made arrangements for all of the debts to be taken care of. All without bankruptcy. The lawyers were informed that they were welcome to have the company name of Lightningstrike Publishing if they thought it was worth anything now that the business was no longer running. Without the claim of a successful business operating as a sellable asset the lawyers quickly lost interest in trying to argue the point any further.

Within a week they were back, trying to argue a claim over the SMASH! Comics imprint. That claim however quickly dissolved when it was found that the imprint name and logo were a privately registered copyright held personally by Gagnon himself and not of his former business Lightningstrike publishing. With the parent company closed Gagnon stated that he was not using the SMASH! name and was willing to give it away too. He didn’t have to.

In a strange twist of fate only two weeks after the lawyers left Gagnon alone, and less than a month after Lightningstrike Publishing and SMASH! Comics shut down, Gagnon finally got a serious legitimate response to his ads and press releases looking for a business partner and investor. The response came in the form of Chris Campanozzi, successful investor and former actor living in New Jersey. Campanozzi has seen the ins and outs of the entertainment industry and brought a lot of valuable knowledge and financing to the table.

Unfortunately without a business Gagnon had little to bring to the table. The two struck up a friendship, and soon decided to form a business together as 50/50 partners in a full fledged traditional publishing company that would publish quality children’s books, hard cover fiction, and graphic novels. Thus was born Open Book Press.

One of the first duties Open Book Press performed was to buy the copyright for SMASH! Comics from Gagnon for an undisclosed amount. The company decided to keep the name and imprint alive and in the public eye by placing it on the front or back cover of every graphic novel they produced. The name and logo has continued to appear uninterrupted on the company’s line of successful graphic novels such as Grafenveer, Dreams in Texture, Monkeys & Midgets, and Cry Wolf.

The healthy and thriving Open Book Press is expanding into the comic book market with the re-launch of the SMASH! Comics imprint and its line of new black and white and full color comic books which begin shipping in May. This new line of comics will feature some innovations on the small press comics scene. Every comic is perfect bound instead of stapled and made of the same high quality paper and covers that the company uses for its graphic novels. This means that it will be the only line of comic books that can also be easily carried and stocked in traditional book stores. As well, through strategic partnerships, the new comics will be sold at a price that can compete with larger mainstream competitors. The average new SMASH! Comic will run about $3.99 for 40 pages. The new line-up of comics is mostly made up of established and successful self-published series such as Mr. Scootles by H.C. Noel, Underlords created by Greg Robinson, Monkeys with Machineguns by UK comic stars Chris Lynch and Stu.Art and others who have come looking to join on and have SMASH! Comics serve as their new publisher. The interest coming from old and new creators alike is often credited to the reputation that Gagnon has built for dealing with all his creators in an honest and straight forward manner.

As part of the celebration to mark the five year survival of SMASH! Comics each comic will bear a commemorative 5th anniversary logo on the cover beginning in June. The company will also begin shipping a new and different comic or book every month with a cover price of only $1 U.S. These special editions will be released from August to December of 2006 and will feature things like official character guide books, retrospectives on the history of the imprint, short stories of old and new SMASH! characters, and previews of upcoming projects. The company will also be releasing a set of limited edition trading cards to commemorate the occasion which will feature old and new art from artists throughout the comics industry. More info on these special editions will be released soon.

The company is also continuing to actively pursue licensing of its properties and licensing of properties from other forms of entertainment. It recently announced that it is in negotiations to buy the rights to its former competitor Speakeasy Comics, which recently closed its doors.

For more information on Open Book Press and SMASH! Comics and further updates please check out