Sketch Card Fanatics Interviews Scott Gaeta

By Mike Rosenberg

Earlier this week, Sketch Card Fanatics interviewed Cryptozoic Entertainment COO, Scott Gaeta. In the interview, Scott talks about sketch cards that are found in Cryptozoic's trading cards, what the process of getting a sketch card made is like, and more.

Thanks to Sketch Card Fanatics for having such an interest in these rare and really cool cards! You can find the interview below:

1- What is your title/position at Cryptozoic Entertainment and how long have you been with them?

My title is Chief Operating Officer. Basically that means I run the day-to-day business.  I touch pretty much everything from finance and strategic planning, licensing, marketing, and my favorite thing, product development.  I've been here from the start and am one of four partners who put this whole thing together.

2- Can you give us a brief description of what Cryptozoic Entertainment is and how it might be different from other card companies? What are some of the products that Cryptozoic has produced in the past that people might be familiar with?

Well, we're probably a little more diverse than most of the other card companies out there.  We also produce a lot of games ranging from the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game® to board games based on movies and television and then we also create our own original games and IP (intellectual property). A few of our recent releases are games for The Walking Dead and Big Bang Theory.  We also have games releasing later this year for The Hobbit.  You will also be seeing more of our games on iOS in the very near future.

In addition to our lines of cards and games, we also do custom comic book publishing and marketing for several movie studios and video game companies.

3- Sketch cards have become pretty popular in recent years and is continually growing. As a card company, was that something Cryptozoic have been aware of and keeping track of?

Yes, definitely. I've been a collector my entire life so I've followed the trends from that perspective.  I also developed several trading card sets at another company before CZE.  Before CZE the one I'm most proud of was bringing Marvel Masterpieces back.  Marvel Masterpieces 1 back in 2007 was my set.  =)

4- Do you collect sketch cards and what is it about them that appeals to you?

I do.  I love original art and collect some comic art too.  I don't have as many as I would like but probably have more than I should. I think it's really special that a fan can own an original.  That's what I'm most excited about with our upcoming DC line.  Owning originals of your favorite characters is probably the pinnacle of being a comic book fan.

5- What made Cryptozoic decide to finally produce sketch card sets? And how did you approach it?

Well, there was never any doubt as to whether we would do sketch cards.  The question is what brands are appropriate for them and in what quantities.  I think we have to be careful not to flood the market…that never works out well.  For example with The Walking Dead television series the sketch cards were very limited to 1 per case.  The main driver for a live action show is the photo imagery, autographs, and wardrobe but we thought sketch would be cool too so we added a modest amount.  But then you have something like DC Comics and that's all about illustrated art so 1 sketch per box is more appropriate.

6- How was producing a sketch card set different than a "normal set"? And was it more difficult to do than you had thought?

This wasn't the first time I had worked with sketch cards so it was about as expected.  As we've grown we've added more staff so hopefully the process should be easier for both us and all the great artist we work with.  We're constantly looking at how we can do things better.

7- Your first sketch card set was a charity set created to help the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF). How did that happen?

It really just came about one day when we were hanging out with Larry Marder from the CBLDF.  We think their work is very important to an industry like ours and wanted to figure out a way we could support them.  Trading cards with sketches seemed to be a great fit.  

8- Not only do you have an Art Director, David Barron but also an Art Acquisition Manager, George Nadeau. What are their responsibilities in regards to handling sketch card products?

George is really the main guy for sketch cards. He's managing the booking of every project, approvals, and contracts.  If you're a sketch card artist you will be working closely with George.  The rest of the trading card team includes three others, such as Miranda Anderson, our brand manager for all trading cards.  She writes a lot of the sets and works with me on product configuration and marketing. Then there is Rachel Valverde, our project manager for trading cards.  She oversees all the manufacturing.  We also just recently hired Carmen, she has over 10 years experience working with wardrobe, autographs, etc.  She's in charge of QA and managing all that cool stuff.  Beyond all these folks is a team of very talented and experienced graphic designers who create all our card designs, marketing people, etc.

9- Who should artists contact if they have questions about a sketch cards?

George is your guy.

10- What kind of expectations do you have for the sketch cards that artists produce for Cryptozoic? And what are your thoughts on the pay vs quality debate for sketch cards? Better quality usually requires more time and its really not financially rewarding for an artist to spend literally hours on each card. Are you fine with the cards produced for you as long as they meet Cryptozoic's contract requirements?

Quality is definitely something we care about.  Basically we just expect solid work.  Every artist is different and that's a good thing.  Some artists add great backgrounds to their cards, some airbrush, etc.  I would say as long as you are declaring something the fans would be happy with we will be more than happy to keep working with you.  In the end we all work for the fans.
The one thing I like about sketch cards from the perspective of an artist is that it give you all the opportunity to work on some pretty major high profile character and that could lead to work on other projects.  At CZE since we do more than just sketch cards, we commission well over one-thousand pieces of art a year for game and comic projects.  We're also creating new base card art for some of our future trading card releases.  We've already found several artists in the sketch card community that we've been able to give other work. When we find people we like to work with we tend to stick with them.

11- You have two upcoming sets from Cryptozoic. The Walking Dead Comic Trading Cards and the new DC set.

 (a) - The Walking Dead series set which included sketch cards was very successful for you. What made you decide to have the new set based on the comic book instead of the TV series as a "sequel'?

  We thought it would be fun to explore the comics between seasons.  It allows us to do some things we couldn't do with the TV set like focus on sketch cards.

 (b) - Not long ago it was announced that Cryptozoic Entertainment had acquired the DC license. How excited are you to be producing a sketch card set for them and what should fans expect from it?

Extremely excited! This is something I've wanted to bring back to trading cards for years.  I've worked with the folks over at DC on other projects in the past and they are a great bunch of people to work with.  They really love what they do and care about their fans.  We're creating a lot of sketch cards for this set and have a great line-up of artists.  It's been a long time since the fans have had DC Comics Trading Cards and I think these will be very well received.

12- What do you think of the current market for sketch cards? And what do you think about all the smaller companies or artist created sets that have recently popped up? Is it a good thing for the market?

First of all I think it's great when creators have a medium that they can use to express themselves in.  Sketch cards are fairly easy (relatively speaking) for someone to produce on their own.  I mean if you have a passion for architecture it's a little harder for that person to go out their and do something on their own.  
I do worry a bit though about too many sketch cards on the market but I don't think the smaller creator owned sketch projects are an issue.  All we can do at CZE is try and be responsible with our own releases.  With DC for example I know based on past experience and demand we've been getting from distributors that we could probably sell almost twice as many boxes as we are going to produce for this first set.  But in the long run that's not good for the market.  It just creates a glut and the quality per average sketch would go way down.

13- Cryptozoic Entertainment along with Versicolor Productions is sponsoring the upcoming Pop Art Con on June 10th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Ft. Washington, PA (outside Philadelphia). Also Cryptozoic Entertainment and Breygent Marketing has generously sponsored several artists to appear at the Pop Art Con. Do you see this as part of the evolution of the non-sports hobby and its interest in its artists?

Yes, I think it's great that sketch cards are being recognized as a high quality piece of art.  My biggest regret is that I'm going to miss this first show because of a previously scheduled family obligation.  Hopefully this one will be a success and I'll get to attend the next one.  

14- Basically all of the bigger known non-sports conventions are held in the east coast. With Cryptozoic being based in California, do you think there is enough interest in the non-sports hobby to have similar conventions developed here in the west coast? Would you like to have one here?....Perhaps even start one? *wink, wink*

It's something I've definitely thought about and even mentioned to Harris Toser at NSU.  It's on my list of things to do in my spare time.  =)

15- For artists looking to do some work for Cryptozoic. Who should they contact and how can they do it? Also what do you recommend they should send in as samples for their submissions?

George is the right guy to start with for sketch cards.  Just send him some jpg samples, a link to your web page, and a rundown of published work you may have done.  

16 - Any upcoming projects people should look out for?

DC is the big one right now and there will be another big sketch project releasing in the fall.  We're going to start booking that one in about a month so artists should have more time to work on their cards than they have had in the past with us.  

17- If anyone would like to know more about Cryptozoic and its products, where can they get more information? is the place to go.

Thank you for your time and I greatly appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions for me.

Any time!  It was fun!


Rosenfloggen's picture Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg has been a long-time trading card game fan and an active freelancer in the hobby game industry since 2004. He wrote, editted, and managed web content for Cryptozoic Entertainment from March 2012 until October 2013.