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Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Surviving In The small Press

I have just watched yet another video on You Tube from someone asking how they can possibly survive as a Small Press creator.


Get a job that pays.

I have, in 40 plus years, seen so many Small Press publishers come and go that some I only get reminded on when I find their publication in one of my zine archives. I have hundreds of zines. Some go back to the 1960's or 1970's.

Looking at the publishers who were active in the 1980's I can think of two that left then came back. 99.9% of those who got into the Small Press were producing zines for fun or to get experience or even hoping to get people to notice their poetry or prose work. Not one thought that publishing a zine was going to make them a living -that came from working for a larger publisher once you gained experience.

We now have Millennials -sorry but that is the group involved here- who think that producing one publication a year or every couple of years will set you up and draw in the money.  That is not how it works.

I have over 9 pages on the online store which is a hundred books and they cover all genres as well as prose books. I actually have in stock, in my other room, over 140 books.  I sell nothing despite even steeply lowering prices. And that is with all the publicity any publisher could wish for.

I know an author who has been on TV, radio, in newspapers all over the place and living off the earnings from his books? No. He does not make enough. 

Look at John Hanson and his Haunted Skies books -a series looking at UFO history full of data, illustrations, colour and black and white photos and high end printing and in the 1980's we would have rioted to get copies.  He hardly sells any.

Independent comic publishers with good quality titles have gone out of business in their dozens in the last 3 years.  The market is not flooded -people just can't be bothered buying and reading.

In the last 10 years -and some I used to post to CBO- I have watched 20 You Tube videos (some are still out there) titled or claiming that "The Small Press is going to save the comics industry!"

It failed.

Small Press events you usually find that friends of the publisher are the ones buying the books "because" and I have heard friends of friends who are going to buy a publishers book as they want to stay as a part of a little group.   Do any of my friends buy my books? No. You cannot rely on your friends or their hangers-on to support your life style and if you want to eat and have a roof over your head you need a paying job.

I have no idea just how this Millennial fantasy started -"comics are cool, hip and chic so they must earn big money!"  Yeah. Not in real life.

I will look at peoples books and discuss them, review them or give pointers but it will make no difference: you NEED to have a source of income to keep you alive.

One pointer for free: NEVER EVER EVER EVER OFFER YOUR COMIC AS A FREE DOWNLOAD. Once someone has that download they WILL put it as an illegal download online and no one will ever buy your book -I speak from experience with two books that if even sold at 50p/50c a download would actually make myself and the artist involved (and the widow of one artist) worth over a million each.  "I'll download it and IF I like it I will buy it" -lie. That is theft and robbing creators of a living. NEVER make that mistake.

You need places to sell but do not expect comic shops to put your books on their shelves. Again, decades of experience there and if you are not robbed of your earnings or conned from the get go you are one in a million!  Comic shops are suffering from poor sales and closing up or going into games as a new business and while now might be the time for them to bring in new creators work they won't.

"We'll take your book and we'll take 60% of the cover price for ourselves. Add up your printing costs, the cost of getting books to those shops might end up with a couple quid. Shops are offering to take prose books -such as Haunted Skies or my own titles- for FREE. They will then see if they sell and if they do then decide how much of the cover price you will be paid. That is taking advantage and they know all the benefits are in their pockets not the creators'.

Oh "Queer Small Pressers are going to save the Small Press"/"Queer Publishers Will save the Small Press" is the latest.  No. No they will not. Not to be upsetting anyone but there were gay people in mainstream comics as well as the small press decades ago.  They never earned a living from it either. The whole "Queer creators" scene at Marvel Comics have actually driven the company into a nose-dive it does not look capable of pulling up from.

Being gay or any "colour" or ethnic minority is NOT guaranteeing you earning a living. Publishers are promoting this as a fad. "Hey -let's get black artists and writers!"/"Hey -let's get British writers and artists in!"/"Hey -let's get some Filipino artists in!"...the list goes on and on as publishers look for the next fad that might earn them money. In the old Fleetway 2000 AD the fad came in to get younger and younger artists in which really achieved nothing according to Gil Page (then Managing Editor) other than "not very good work" -and he was at one time in charge of hiring artists from Italy, Spain, Argentina, Brasil -anywhere that had good quality artists who were cheap.  That was the business.

All you can do is produce your book. Try to attend events and sell there and get reviews -you might not be guaranteed sales from that but it gets your book noticed and you can use reviews to promote your book.

It is sad and very depressing but if you live in the UK you will find that comic art -or any type of art- is not even considered worth thinking about let alone encouraging. Look at Tommy Ross, David Gordon, Richard Anthony Pester, Paul Ashley Brown...the list goes on and on and on.  Talent is never rewarded so set your high standards but do not expect it to appreciated or to make you a living.

The simple answer is that you CANNOT survive on selling comics or books. If you are in the UK you have that against you. In a perfect world good stories, good art and a love of art would be appreciated and I love comics and books and I produce them.  My main meal of the day was a tin of chopped tomatoes and three slices of bread: reality

Obscure British Super Heroes

Firstly, apologies for any slightly "off" scans but I am working with an aging A3 scanner and small press comics that were often not well aligned before stapling.

"The Small Press???" you may ask and I say thee YES!

Just because it is not Marvel or DC Comics does not mean it is of no interest or significance.  Someone had an idea and wanted to bring it to life on paper and either  drew or wrote or got a friend to draw it and then  published it.  Maybe in the dozens of copies rather than thousands but they took that step.

As "just a bit of fun" or because they thought that the idea could "go places".

As legitimate as any big company comic.

I have boxes full of Small Press prose, illustrated prose, poetry, or just plain comics from the 1980's on -the rarer 1960's and 1970's ones I keep safe in a folder.  But our task (mine actually) is to give a brief look at a few of these and add a few comments.

I would like to do more of these but no funding means they have to be rare posts.

Sugar Glider and Sugar Glider Comics (the latter being an anthology and hidden somewhere in a box)was the brainchild of Gary Bainbridge (artist) and Daniel Clifford (writer) under the Unterwelt and Cottage Industry Comics banner.  I believe they were based in the NE (South Shields) and, as is traditional in these small press comics -no address was featured).

It was pretty crude art but never bothered me.  I loved the idea of the character and I know I did have Clifford's address as I drew a spur-of-the-moment 3 pager and sent it to him. Never heard back and I think the 3 pages were amongst those I burnt a few weeks back.
The synopsis for the series -it was published in 2011 and I do not recall an issue 2 appearing:

Surrounded by friends and family with it all figured out, Susie Sullivan is desperately unsure of her purpose in life. Casting ordinary pursuits aside, Susie takes to the Newcastle skyline as the crime-fighting…SUGAR GLIDER!

Above Gary Bainbridge art

I am assuming that "Hyper Geek" had not read or seen any small press comics before! Whoever that was wrote:

"Sugar Glider #1 is a fantastic debut issue of a new all-ages superhero/masked avenger series, which is of a high quality rarely seen in small press comics. I would highly recommend picking this comic up" - Hyper Geek

Sugar  Glider Comics was the anthology and featured other artists including Martin Newman (art above). I remember thinking this was a good comic and I know I gave a good review on CBO.

Did either comic go beyond issue 1 -if you know let me know.

Windrush was an A4 stitched (yes, stitched) comic with a cover that caught my eye straight away. I think this came out in 2012 -again, no real address or date given in the comic itself.  Synopsis: – Helen Mu, aka Windrush, once the greatest protector of the Lambeth borough, has been assassinated. Now Lauren is forced to take up the Windrush mantle to prevent Lambeth and Southwark from going to war.
Created, written and drawn by T’sao Wei with front and back cover art by T’sao Wei and colours by Stuart Atholl Gordon.

Questions like "was there ever a second issue?" go unanswered.  But this was a lovely comic and there should have been more!
Nik Morton (?) wrote and drew Vengeance of Vulcan in the A5 (Digest) Vulcan. This is again undated and there is no contact address.  If I remember rightly I got this around 1995 
but even the back-up strip Witch Finder written by John A. Short and drawn by Gurchain Singh is undated.

 The signature is tiny but I am quite sure that it does say Nik Morton. PLEASE if you are an artist you really MUST  make it clear you did the work and date it "Morton '95" would at least have given us a clear name and date.

There is another super hero in this comic....but it is a bit confusing.  Again, unsigned Shadowfax featuring Kaleidoscope does not tell us much except some super powered goon is after, I assume Kaleidoscope?  I write assume as at no point is the female character ever identified but as part 2 is credited as "Choir" I guess Shadowfax is a group and Kaleidoscope and Choir are members?

I have no idea why I keep think John Short had something to do with this strip?
David A. Johnson was the creator of The Blue Saviour as well as Madam Mystery, Enigma and others. A4 comic and text zines that were generally on sale at the Bath Comic Marts he organised. Dated 1985 and with clear creator credit AND an address. Bliss.

I did hear that David went on to work at BBC local radio -but that is not confirmed. I did draw an Enigma and Blue Saviour comic for David and I think (thank goodness) I have one of the very few copies remaining!
Lee Davis produced Mondo to no particular schedule as I remember and despite having an address for North London Comics nothing is dated here and...even the comic has no number on it!  But we find inside part 3 of Lord Thunder -created by Lee Davis and Glyn Davies and written by Lee and drawn by John Woolley.

This particular issue also featured another female heropine -Vixen. One day I am going to have to dig this lot out and read through them again!
This "Fall" 2000 issue of Mondo had a very praising ad for Black Tower comics.  Good taste. Anyway, the hero featured in this issue was Darkness -written by Tim James and drawn by Dek Baker and is a rather dark story

Lee appeared to be having great fun with producing Mondo and when I later tried to find out what happened to him I was told that "the word" (unfounded rumour) was that he had put this all together while at school.
Lee...if you, or anyone knowing Lee, can fill me in (oo-er) please get in touch.
Once more -I sent in some Darkness art pages but heard nothing back. Oh my genius will be recognised one day!
Willyprods/Small Time Ink really out to give you a clue that there was something gay about this comic. Matt Black, Charcoal was first published in 1986 and this issue, #4, was published in February, 1987. Created and written by Lionel Gracey-Whitman and drawn by Don Melia the duo also produced (?) Splashdown and planned Justice Force Europe. Sadly, Melia died in 1992 so how much was published I have no idea and most people remember BLAAM!, and anti homophobic comic.

The story intro reads:

"Born white to black parents, Matt Black's ability to control carbonized matter led to his becoming Britain's leading graphic artist.  But the brutal murder of his loiver made him turn his powers to fighting crime. Matt Black is Charcoal."

So there you have it.  This has taken me far too long to write and I need to get back to other things.  There are many, many more British costumed/non-costumed heroes in comics and the Small Press and maybe one day I'll put them all into a book that no one will buy!
If any of the creators mentioned here read this please get in touch.
If YOU want to see more original content like this that you will NOT find anywhere else please consider supporting CBO by either buying books or the PayPal button to the right.

Prime 1 Studio Predator (UNMASKED!) Wonderfest 2019

Does Marvel NEED another super team??

The CURRENT (we KNOW they'll reboot it soon) run of Avengers has been good with solid art. Dr Strange has also been good. 

Doc Justioce and the J-Team....I'm guessing another "diversity" project and they just do not work -look at the poor sales. 

Does Marvel need ANOTHER team? Invaders, Liberty Legion, Invaders, Champions -until someone with sense takes over I am not holding my breath waiting! LOL! 

Monday, 19 August 2019

One Shot – Justice League Odyssey #1 | Comic Review

The Green Skies -art complete and final page count!

The final (providing I don't find another bridging page is needed) page count is in on The Green Skies.

Yes, I finished the last few pages and there are already 83 scanned (unlettered) pages.

As this is the final epic storyline from Black Tower and considering it began in 1987, I went all out.

438 pages

Yup. Considering the final part of the Invasion Earth Trilogy should have been out in June 2014 I feel proud to have outdone Glenn Fabry and even Brian Bolland on late delivery of a book!

There are 6 pages I just dumped because they were not up to much in my opinion.

The idea of splitting the project up into standard 20pp parts with back-up strips I ruled out as that would be 20 issues and 25 pp per issue would be 17 issues and I can't see people buying that many especially since they don't seem interested in buying single volumes!

440 pages will cost me £10.40 per copy and then I have to account for the POD company cut and so on but I want to keep the price low.

It IS black and white and that is because it would take a year to colour and the final basic cost for a 440 pp full colour book would be...

£63.10....any takers! LOL!!

83 pages already scanned so I have to dust off the old Mustek As Scan Pro and hope it manages. Even if it does there is the problem of WHEN the book would be on sale.

My old PC blew after almost 19 years service and that had my Microsoft office Publisher that I used for letter and sizing pages -the state of my hands means it is impossible for me to hand letter and I suspect that the macular myopathy might object, too!

The laptop is hardly functioning and no sales or money coming in means a PC is....a little fantasy at the moment (and buying Microsoft Office Publisher is WAY too expensive and...meh).

But the artwork will be scanned, cleaned as best as I can on the laptop and then sit there with 8 issues of Black Tower Super Heroes.

So the art is complete.

I'll be glad to see that out of the way after all these years and hope my eyesight lasts long enough for me to see a printed copy!

There. Up-dated as promised.

Prime 1 Studio Red Sonja (No Cloak!) Summer Wonderfest 2019

Chi ha rubato la pubertà?

Power-Con 2019 Full Tour 4k Ultra HD 60Fps

Friday, 16 August 2019


I had a quick conversation with someone earlier who said "It must be easy reviewing comics".

The sound of grating teeth across the internet ended the conversation!

Well, reviewing does involve work you know because it is not for fun but serious. There are problems. A few years back I refused to review any series that had a continuing story-line for a specific reason.

An example is a series -only ten issues- from about ten years back.  The fella behind it emailed me and asked whether I would review the series and that it had plot twists and surprises in each issue -he gave it the big build up.  So I said okay.

I received issues 4 and 7 and it made no sense at all. I contacted the said fellow and asked whether he realised he had only sent #4 and #7?  Yes. He had expected me to review and base my review of a 10 issue series via these two issues -#7 had different characters from #4 and seemed to have a different story. I explained the problem and said fella got stroppy and could not understand why I could not use two unconnected issues to review a 10 issue complicated (he said) story?

Then I received books from other people -issue #4 of a series. Issue #3 and 8 and these were ongoing but made no sense. You either review issue by issue from #1 onward or it's pointless.

Then publishers -proper publishers mind you- send me books and they do note that sales pick up after a review: books (such as Kinsman) are still selling based on reviews in 2010, 2011, 2015 and so on. Titan Books noted sales increase of the Tarzan collections after reviews and people say they are still buying them after seeing a CBO review.  Then Titan stopped sending review copies. Meh.

Other big publishers who delved into graphic novels sent review books and were happy with the results -then they stop.  Casterman BD were sending books monthly for review and based on emails and messages on my various groups I know people were buying based on CBO reviews. Then Casterman stopped.

I would like to review comics from Europe such as Hexagon etc, however, despite a world wide readership -including large numbers from France, Belgium and Germany- European publishers do not send review copies.  There is nothing that says they have to.

A rule of reviewing is that you DO NOT buy copies of books to review.  The publisher profits from sales due to reviews but the reviewer is out of pocket so is just giving out free publicity. And despite the temptation I simply do not have the money to buy in books to review.

All of this means reviewing can be a problem and when Small Pressers do not want their books reviewed -while complaining that no one will review their books!- you just have to wait and see what comes in. Cinebook the 9th Art know a good thing so when their books turn up it relieves the boredom!

There are good comics out there but the days of me chasing around after copies are long gone...but if anyone wants to send anything......
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