St. John's-born publisher brings comic book company back home

Andrew Benteau founded Black Panel Press in 2017 while living in New York City and recently relocated his company from Toronto to his hometown, St. John’s, N.L.
Andrew Benteau founded Black Panel Press in 2017 while living in New York City. He recently relocated his company from Toronto to his hometown, St. John’s. (Elizabeth Whitten/CBC)

From New York to Montreal, Toronto and, finally, St. John's — a comic book publisher has brought his roaming company back home with plans to expand the business.

Andrew Benteau's career in comics has brought him to France, the United States and Brazil. But throughout his travels, he says, feeling homesick has led him back to Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I felt like I had enough adventures and now I kind of want to settle down and build the business, build a home for myself," Benteau said in a recent interview.

Benteau started Black Panel Press in 2017 while living in New York, then moved to Montreal the following year, and relocated to Toronto in December 2019. Earlier this year he moved back to his hometown and last month officially registered his company in the province.

Benteau buys the rights to foreign language comics, translates them and prints them in English. The books are then distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors, the world's largest English comic book distributor.

"My goal is to try to show people what comics can do, like, outside of the superhero and action genres," Benteau said.

While he likes those comics, he said, he wanted to help bring more attention to European comics. He has also branched out into original published work.

Benteau has plans to expand his publishing company, doubling the number of titles he releases a year from five to 10. Right now, he's the sole employee, but he's been getting internship applications and would like to bring on other staff in the future.

Getting into comic publishing

Benteau was raised in downtown St. John's and studied business at Memorial University. In 2014 he headed to Grenoble, France, for a term studying abroad and then got an internship at audio guide company Orpheo. It led to a job, and the company transferred him to New York.

While in France he became immersed in French graphic novels — known as bandes dessinées — and began to think about how he could work in comic book publishing. He said he reached out to agents who help get comic book creators published with companies.

Andrew Benteau says he was recently a vendor at the Festival BD de Montréal held in May.
Benteau was a vendor at the annual comic arts festival in Montreal held in May. (Submitted by Andrew Benteau)

It was in New York that he decided to leave his job and start his own comic book publishing company. He said he was motivated partly because he likes working for himself.

He's since published more than 20 titles under Black Panel Press, with creators from China, Mexico, the U.K., Australia and Canada, among others.

For the first few years, Benteau said, he felt like an imposter because he didn't study publishing or English literature.

"But then over time you see the critique reviews come in. I realized that, you know, what I'm doing is having an impact on people and I don't worry so much about what some people might think about my qualifications."

Settling down to build the business

Benteau's work also keeps him travelling, he said. In May he attended annual comic arts festivals in Toronto and Montreal. He also still goes back to France for work to attend events like the Angoulême International Comics Festival.

He was on a recent trip to Brazil to check out the comic book scene there and noted horror anthologies and western comics are popular, he said.

"I [was] just arranging meetings and going out, having lunch and getting coffee with the Brazilian publishers, learning what the market is like there and then learning about the types of books they're putting out," he said.

"If something seems like it'll be a good fit, I'll make an offer and hopefully eventually publish it under Black Panel."

Andrew Benteau says he frequently travels to industry events to meet with others in the comic book industry, like a trip to Brazilian entertainment and comic convention CCXP held in Sao Paulo.
Benteau says he frequently travels to industry events to meet with others in the comic book industry. He recently took a trip to the Brazilian entertainment and comic convention CCXP, held in Sao Paulo. (Submitted by Andrew Benteau)

Most of the work of running a company can be done remotely — as he hires contractors for things like translation, proofreading and graphic design — but he said he still finds it useful to meet people in person and attend industry events.

"Sometimes it is definitely better if you can go and meet people in person," Benteau said.

He added he's excited to better know the Newfoundland and Labrador comic book scene and explore opportunities to publish local comics through Black Panel Press.

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