Stank! sets out to raise a comedic stink

Those protectors of the forest, “Wood Patrol,” now are killing trees as part of a new print publication, Stank! magazine.

“Wood Patrol,” the story of a raccoon and a possum who become defenders of the Mammalites in a future where animals have equal rights with humans, originally was conceived as an animated series targeted to an adult audience.

“We got to a point where we got the price to produce a season down to $380,000,” said Howland native and co-creator Tim Phares. “It just proved to be incredibly difficult for a handful of 20-year-olds to find that kind of funding.”

But it was frustrating to put all that time into a project only to have it disappear. They had a couple other animation ideas as well.

“Why don’t we just turn these into comic books? Or even better, why don’t we put them all in one big magazine and put some filler in between?” Phares said.

Stank! was started by Phares; Dominic Duca of Howland, who was art director of the “Wood Patrol” animated series; and Paul Franken of Austintown, who is editor of the magazine. The debut issue arrived at the start of January, and it will be published monthly.

The magazine, like the cartoon that inspired it, is intended for adults. Phares said Stank! is inspired by magazines like Mad, Heavy Metal and Big Brother, and its target audience is, “Comic book nerds, weirdos, outcasts, black sheeps of the family, people that like fringe entertainment.”

While it doesn’t cost as much as creating an animated series, Stank! had its own startup costs. Phares is part of 13Brains, a group of media professionals with different backgrounds that was born out of an emerging producers workshop led by industry veteran Scott Sternberg at a National Association of Television Program Executives. One of the projects developed by the group, a reality series called “Buried by the Bernards,” was picked up by Netflix and debuts next month.

Phares used his portion of the proceeds from the sale to Netflix to start the magazine.

“Half of that paycheck went to my wedding, and the other half went to Stank! magazine,” he said.

Take it from the newspaper guy, there are challenges that come with starting a print publication in the 21st century. Digital publications have no printing costs and no mailing costs to get them to subscribers. There is a digital version of Stank!, but its creators wanted a physical magazine.

“This was always intended to be something you hold in your hand and enjoy, something you get excited to get in the mail,” Phares said.

With that in mind, each issue comes with two trading cards inspired by the comics in the magazine.

“We were just looking for ways to engage with the audience. We’re trying to market to collectors. Chances are, if you like comic books, you’re probably into some kind of trading cards.”

But that “Buried by the Bernards” money only goes so far. For Stank! to be economically feasible, it needs 250 subscribers by the end of March. At the beginning of this week, the number of subscribers stood at 130.

“We’ve wanted to create something for a long time that was sustainable,” Phares said. “The idea of being able to create, which is the ultimate goal for us, to be able to create for the rest of our lives, create content that people enjoy and get a paycheck for it.”

The debut issue is available online for free at stankmagazine.com. Subscriptions can be purchased there for $12.50 per issue for a print subscription or $10 per issue for digital only.

And for those collectors out there, the magazine could be a launching pad for “Wood Patrol” or one of the other comics inside to make it to television. Issue No. 1 of “The Walking Dead” comic has sold for more than $10,000.

Andy Gray is the entertainment editor of Ticket. Write to him at agray@tribtoday.com.


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