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Mat Broome: Man in Constant Motion, Part 1

A comics interview article by: Jason Sacks
Mat Broome is one of those people who just can't still. He's got a whole slew of exciting projects that will be released over the next few months, including the DC Universe Online MMORPG, a relaunch of his '90s comic DefCon, animated series, a Facebook game and more.

But what Mat is most excited about is the upcoming release of his creator-centered website, CreatorSafe. In Part 1 of a two-part interview, Broome talks about CreatorSafe and his exciting plans for it. In Part 2, which runs this Friday, Broome talks about some of his other work that will be appearing this year.


BROOME: I gotta tell ya, I knew this would be the toughest year of my life, and it definitely answers the call, let's put it that way. In a good way, but in a bad way. Bad in the sense that it's intense. It's intense. It's pretty outrageous. But it's good in the sense that I'm actually able to handle it and know that there's a finish line to certain stages of it.

SACKS: I was thinking about this because I work in software and I just know how much work is involved in launching a new website. And here you are, with basically three enormous projects all launching at the same time. And you have kids! And you went to Comic-con!

BROOME: Yeah, it's funny because it was something I had to plan out before I even started it. And I had to literally sit for a week after I planned it out and just had to decide how am I going to get through this slice of projects. And it was one of those things where – there are people who do this kind of thing all the time, I should challenge myself to do it. I decided that I'm going to challenge myself to do it. It's almost like a bungee cord jump. One you start to jump, there's no turning back.

SACKS: It's amazing what you can accomplish when you stop being afraid to accomplish things.

BROOME: Boy is that an absolute great quote.

SACKS: I had a position where I was terrified of losing my job, and within a week of losing that job I found a job I liked much better. I was challenged every day. It was like moving from hell to heaven.

BROOME: Your just hit it right on the head. I had a great conversation with my great-grandfather in law. This guy has seen it all, from World War II, you name it. I was talking to him very recently. He was saying that it it's an amazing feeling to know that you can take it on, that you can do it. You can absorb that kind of stress, or absorb that kind of work, or absorb that that kind of traffic, and still get it done. I just looked him right in the eye and said, "Yeah." It's indescribable. It's indescribable. I remember a few years back just thinking, "Holy cow, I can't believe how much I get done now," and I remember the days where drawing 9 comic pages in two days...

That's a good example of what's happening right now. Which is, I'm getting very close to releasing CreatorSafe. I've been talking about for years, but I think for a lot of people who have been out there for me, supportively saying - some of them, when will this thing be done, others hey I know this kind of stuff is complicated. What's really cool about it now is that the phone has been ringing off the hook right now, the email is constantly big. The work is building.

SACKS: No matter how much work you do to prep, it always gets bigger around launch time. It's inevitable.

BROOME: It really does. You're definitely in software! The DC game is swirling and it's got its chaos, I'm working on a Facebook game that I can't talk about that's going to be launching this year. I'm working on CreatorSafe and getting that launched. I'm working on DefCon 2055. It's all simultaneous. It's an absolute thrill ride.

It's also one of things where I was in bed last night at 6 and was up at 11:30.

SACKS: I've done that. [Laughter]

BROOME: You know about that, you're in software! [Laughter]

SACKS: OK, let's get this focused... So, Mat, tell Comics Bulletin's readers about CreatorSafe.

BROOME: CreatorSafe is a social networking interface to a whole vertical slice of entertainment – comics, video games, music, scripts, stories. Even on the back and you have a nice visual design. What CreatorSafe allows you to do - and here's the elevator pitch – CreatorSafe allows you to interface with the a-list of entertainment. But on upload with your content, CreatorSafe converts that content into a consumable format for all different types of industry. So you can sell your work in progress or sell it in a finished state.

It is an extremely different site based on 100% inception to consumption.

SACKS: Everything from sharing your work to finding collaborators to selling it.

BROOME: Absolutely. It does everything on one site. It is extremely streamlined. So basically on CreatorSafe what you can do is you might show up to the sit with 23 pages but unlike other sites, on CreatorSafe you just upload that content. When you go check your Safe, as it's called –your user profile page – that now is a comic, a flip book. There's nothing else that you need to do. It sits in your comics section.

So anybody coming to your Safe can actually just read your comic. You've now published yourself. There's no submission. You've already tagged it with the price that you want the product to be sold for, but what's different is, you don't just have to put finished content up on CreatorSafe. All the creators I know, including myself, these projects don't happen in a minute. They happen in years. Sometimes they happen in decades.

So what you can do on CreatorSafe is upload sketches of your properties. You can upload the scripts before the sketches happen. The most critical thing about CreatorSafe that makes it very unique from any other site on the web: the entire point, the entire existence of CreatorSafe will always be all about the act of creating. Any stage at any point, the act of creating. From the moment you have the idea to the moment that you actually think it's ready to be sold. Or someone out there finds it of value. It can live on CreatorSafe and have a home.

So what's critical is that the site allows you to protect your content legally as well. CreatorSafe's terms of use policy, unlike any other social networking site I've seen, we can use absolutely nothing that that creator uploads. Including their thumbnails. To represent, repurpose or to promote CreatorSafe anywhere in the world, internationally or domestically.

Another key thing about CreatorSafe is that you can actually attach anything from different types of contract, copyrights, different ways for people to legally repurpose your content, and it's all based on the reader, not on CreatorSafe.

What that means is the users themselves completely control their IP, from birth to death. And I think that's the most important part.

SACKS: It's a very unique idea, to combine social networking with the ideas of having artists all work in their own unique space. You don't have Facebook tracking all your social network settings.

BROOME: You are correct sir! I care about Facebook and privacy.

When I started building CreatorSafe it was 6 years ago and a lot of people asked me what took so long. And the first answer would be that it's a dotcom, not a website, and it's build on top of proprietary code. It is a very large site at launch. It has a very large back-end messaging system. But the thing about CreatorSafe's messaging system. The thing is that, sure, it'll be like most messaging systems out there, but it's all built on the dotcom.

The reason for that is so that when you exchange messages, and when you do things with other creators, even with other publishers and companies, that log, that affirmation is never going anywhere. It will always be there. You have not only a time stamp but you have a legal record and you have a paper trail, a visual paper trail, of the entire lifeline of that idea from creation to consumption.

CreatorSafe, because it's devoted to nothing but the art of creating, nothing but creating rights, and nothing but the publishing of creators' content, is completely dedicated to what's legal in that environment.

So if someone actually does something, say two years down the line, and they need to get reference to that data, they can get it. It lives on CreatorSafe's databank, on its own dedicated storage system. The site is very different.

One of the funnest things for me talking about it is when I think people step back and think about what I'm saying, there really is no site that is built exclusively for the idea and the act of creating. And when I started to build the site I just knew it was going to get a lot of lawyers involved, and for the first two years of developing CreatorSafe, all I did was work with4 or 5 different attorneys, one of whom owned an intellectual property law firm. We worked diligently – not so much on what we couldn't do on CreatorSafe but what was OK for us to do.

So I had to basically go out to the legal infrastructure before the software or design or development ever even started.

SACKS: This is obviously driven by a creator because we've all heard horror stories about creators who's had their stories appropriated by studios, screwed over... the stories are endless. This is obviously an attempt to help creators work through these sorts of problems.

BROOME: It definitely is. And what I can tell you, not only do I have those stories, being in the business for 25 years, all my friends have those stories. It's always a personal thing for me when people say that, because that's us. It always stings when I hear that. That's not hyperbole. It really does sting. Whenever I hear people say that, and I know the creators out there who will read this are going to relate to me, it is a painful discussion.

A lot of people don't understand – the average book that I've created in comics, the average movie that I've worked with or worked on with friends of mine, screenplays and screenplay writers. You've seen their movies - Underworld, Spider-Man, you name it – it takes years of your life.

So if you live to be 80 and you have 8 great ideas, if one of those ideas is stole, it is a painful thing. It is like a tremendous loss. And I think only creators really understand what it is like to go through that. There is no United States Supreme Court for that last idea that got ripped off. But what there is with CreatorSafe is a way to prove I thought of it first.

So if somebody does plagiarize that idea, I don't have to scramble through a whole bunch of manila folders and files. I don't have to dig and figure out if I left it on a laptop 7 or 8 years ago, where is it? It's there. CreatorSafe is organizing me. CreatorSafe is actually keeping track of how I negotiated with somebody on that IP. Did we say 50/50? Did we say 75/25? Who contacted me to take a look at that and unlock that idea?

CreatorSafe knows. So I can focus 90% of my time being creative, and 10% of my time being worried about getting ripped off. People are still going to have their ideas stolen. That's never going to not happen. As long as there's an Internet and digital signals flying through the air, you can't make anything bulletproof. But what you can do that people often overlook is you can prove you did it first.

In a world of ideas and the creation of IP, I can't stress enough that's everything in a court of law.

SACKS: The beauty of it, too, is that the site isn't just this kind of defensive thing but also a place to match yourself up with other creators who do interesting work.

BROOME: That's what's critical about the site. You can match yourself up with other creators, and I also have my own contact system built into the site that's not just like a cheesy forum. I do have forums there that you can get to, based on the different levels that members are able to work with on the site.

You can get in on the projects section and truly build out something that's private that identifies different types of sketches and material that you can put up, showing progress on your projects with anybody around the world that you want to share it with. So I have locking mechanisms for projects just as I do with IPs, to guard your ideas and shows so they're invite only. People can basically ask to see these things, and you can either accept or deny them seeing them. The key thing is that you have an idea where that's kept track of and organized for you.

So you can collaborate with people who are doing projects like yours, but the best thing about CreatorSafe is that I'm bringing the A List. What I'm doing with CreatorSafe is that I'm bringing my network and more. I'm bringing the people who actually make the movies that you go see, the comics you go and pick up, the comics that are read. I'm bringing the professionals.

Everybody in my network who actually wants to be creating. We're already creating together. There's just nothing like CreatorSafe that works the way that we work.

SACKS: That's the easy way to get over the classic problem with social networking sites, which is building your critical mass. You already have people there.

BROOME: You are spot on with your analogy, and I cannot stress it enough. When I started CreatorSafe six years ago, there was no iPhone. There was no Facebook. So when I initially started the site, I knew it had to have a social mechanic to it, because that's really how you let anybody come play. To me, that really is the user interface to my world. Everybody's already familiar with how that tool works. But I've been saying for years, I'm building a site for myself. I need this tool. What would make me come here.

So for the past six years, all I've done is build something and then tear it down, build something and tear it down. And that was because I would not come to a lot of the previous versions of this site that I've built. Which were sometimes too cumbersome. Other times we took ourselves way too seriously – it looked almost like – I don't want to say the name of a company and get sued – but let's just say they were very hierarchal sites. They didn't feel like something a creator would come to: easy to read, easy to see.

And I blew those two previous versions of the site up, and partners literally so angry with me that they would just flip out – what are you doing? i just kept telling them that I'll know when the site is done because I would use it. I really didn't think it was about being first. I didn't care about that as much. I just wanted to make sure it was something I could use when it was done to publish my own material.

No submission, I could just wake up one night, finish a series of sketches. Wake up in the morning after working all night, doing a series of sketches on a character, none of which might even work in the comic or animation or movie, and then just upload them. Here are my latest sketches. There are 72 sketches that will probably never see the light of day. But on CreatorSafe if enough people are interested, I can actually sell that sketchbook without every spending a dime.

That's what CreatorSafe is all about.

SACKS: Tell Comic Bulletin's readers how they can get involved, and when the site actually launches.

BROOME: The site's actually going to launch after 60 days or so of closed beta. I'm going to have the closed Beta launch September 1st. On September 1st there's going to be a ton of a-list talent on the site who are basically going to help me look under the hood, kick the tires. But I'm also bringing in people who aren't top tier talent at all. They're just people who are really big fans of pop culture and want to get in there and interact with other people doing entertainment.

SACKS: You're officially going live in early November?

BROOME: Yes, I'll be officially going live sometime in early November, and that's when we're going to open up the doors to everybody and let them come in and have a blast. But there's going to be quite a few people in the closed beta. Quite a lot actually. I just don't want to put a hard target on that number on that yet, until I get a chance to do all the load testing and stuff for the site.

It's definitely something that's going to have a lot of page and view time, so I have to make sure that the site is as stable as it possibly can before I launch it. I just have to make sure the site can handle all the traffic that comes to it, and that will require some hardcore load testing. As soon as that happens and I feel that we have a solid server launch, it will be time to let CreatorSafe go.

The last thing I want to do is see the site go up and see it immediately blow up. I had a mistake with a site that went live temporarily and there were quite a lot of people who came in there. That kind of got my attention before we are able to get it shut down again.

I want to make sure this site is very stable before I launch.

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Check back in this Friday for Part 2 of our interview with Mat Broome!


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