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Friday, 16 March 2018

Comic Media Lies, The Small Press, Independent Comic Publishers and Take-Back-Comic Events

It seems that an equal number of you read the post containing the video  Did Free Content Kill Paying Customers?  and the follow-up On Did Free Content Kill Paying Customers?

No comments but that is to be expected.

I hear a couple more Indie comic publishers are going to the wall. Thing is, you have comic buyers and a comic media that insists Image and Dark Horse are Independents which they are not.  Neither for that matter is IDW which is counted as one of the “Big Five” US publishing houses.

Let’s make a clear definition here. IDW, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image and DC are companies that have licensing rights and are worth many millions and they are the companies get all the pimping.

An Independent comics publisher is one in which one or several comics are published, in black and white or colour, by one person or several acting as the publishers. No one really gets paid unless books sell because all the money goes into getting the book(s) out there and more is lost buying table space at over priced venues. Books are usually US comic book size though Digest (A5) and even magazine size are included. Art quality and styles vary –because we are dealing with individual creators and not photocopy machines.

Independent publishers might sell 10-15 books while you are at their tables but that does not mean they are “raking in the cash”! They do not have the big budgets and the chances of them paying table hire fees are slim and when you add in all the other expenses….

But you do see that these Indies have fans and that is good moral support.

Remember that all the shows make concessions (a lot of them) to get the Big 5 and, of course, their stars at their shows. 

The Small Press are amateurs.  They may well produce very slick zines –varying genres including comics, poetry, etc.- and the quality of the contents vary.  Events and those who self publish tend to be divided up into little cliques of people who know each other, areas they live in and so on. Psychologically and sociologically it’s all very interesting.

Small Pressers tend not to make much money because it is mainly friends and friends of friends who buy and sometimes only to stay in favour! Some are very happy if they sell 5 zines at an event because, if you attend any and really observe you will find that Small Pressing is now –probably always was- a social thing.

Now, the comics media will refer on a constant basis to Indie comic publishers as “Small Press” or some other incorrect term for two reasons:

1) they do not really care about real Independent publishers or want to promote them so to constantly refer to them as “amateur”/”Small” or “Home” press says “Hey, these are amateurs doing this for fun so don’t worry if they sell nothing –they don’t care!”

Which leads to:

2) comics media calling Image, Dark Horse and IDW ‘Independents’ and showing how great and healthy the industry is while at the same time firmly planting their tongues up company posteriors.  And the Big 5 really do not want you to spend your $/£ on “that stuff” –they want you to spend it on them.

The (I really am not going to call it the ‘independent’) comics media, like Diamond Distributors, wants you to only pay attention to the Big 5. They get benefits and some go so far as to dig graves and bury their own credibility (such as Bleeding Cool). Store owners tend to follow the Big 5 mantra and see three of the companies as Independents –anything else is trash.

Here is the bigger problem and it lies in the two factions that should be coming together and supporting and promoting each other.  Small Pressers tend to know nothing about comics (but produce them!) and look down at comics as though they have steppede on something smelly. 

When I attended the Spike Island (Bristol) Small Press event a few years back I had a very warm and friendly conversation with the organiser and I could not stop her chatting until she asked “What do you do?” So I replied that I wrote and drew and published comics. Her face dropped very visibly as she suddenly remembered somewhere she had to be.

I have been at other events and got strange looks –yet these were events where people were selling their own published comic zines and books.  What sense did it make to act as though comics were a lower art form?

Now, at comic events I have had people dismiss Small Pressers –while SP had tables at the very event I was at.  It just simply was “not comics”.  And this attitude came from some Independent publishers, too.

On two occasions (when Bristol had the best weather for a long time) there was the Bristol International Comic Expo with international visitors from the US as well as Europe and it was smack bang in the middle of the annual South Bristol Arts Trail meant to attract the public to see art and other media set up in little galleries in private homes. On both occasions I tried both factions but one dismissed the other out of hand and for no good reason.  It would have boosted Expo and Art Trail attendances but no.

I was explaining this to Olivier Cadic, publisher of Cinebook the 9th Art and asked him what would happen if two events like this fell on the same date and same area in, say, France?  The response was that they would both promote one another and make it a big art event. This is what should have happened.

Small Press and Comic fairs/fayres have, as was pointed to me on a number of occasions, got nothing to do with comics at all. People turned up and found Small Pressers but no dealers in back issue or new comics.

Now, look at it from my point of view.  I count as the biggest publisher of Independent black and white comics and graphic novels in Europe. I am based in the UK which seems to have no respect for Indie comics. Franz, Luc, Messine and others on my Yahoo Euro comics group have all pointed out that I should be based in Europe where publishers and Independent comics are treated with more respect. We can all dream, right?

Now here is the point: Small Press and Independent Comics publishers working together should create a strong comic community/industry, in truth as far as the UK is concerned there isn’t one anyway. 

Small Pressers work “by committee” where things have to be discussed and questions such as “do we really want to associate with this type?” are asked and discussed and discussed ad nauseum.

The Independent publishers that do exist are amateur and many are too busy back-stabbing and arguing to organise anything.

It’s a mess.  It helps the comic media to dismiss anything other than the Big 5 –all the comic blogs in the UK achieve what?

So, in the US, we find that Independent publishers vanish all the time but unless you knew they existed how would you notice? Promoting comics whether Independents or Small Press is what I have tried to do since the early 1980s. 

We should all be trying to do this and support those publishers by buying their books not looking for an illegal download. “If I like what I read I’ll buy” is the biggest lie going. If that is a line you use and illegally download and steal from small publishers who need every penny to survive then you are a thief. I believe it’s similar to handling stolen goods. You know it is illegal but you snatch it up for free. Breaking blog rules, my message for these people is fuck you.


If you attend events in the US please give up some time and visit Indie publishers.  If you can set up your own “Fans take back Comics” event –look at Donna Barr’s annual Clallam Bay Comic Con and when it was first announced most people said it wouldn’t work yet it is still going and this year is the 7th event:

And if you are into comics why not visit the 2018 Small Press Expo in Maryland in September:

Small Pressers need to support Independent Comic publishers and vice versa. I made my thoughts and points to the Harvey Awards and told them I would no longer submit a pro ballot form until they stepped out of the Big 5 bubble and included Independents -which seems to mean I am now persona non grata! Oh, my life is ‘ruined’.

This year I said the same thing to the Wieringo Awards.  And others, also.  This is where the sickening hypocrisy shines through the dark with 1 million candle power lights (that is very bright in case you wondered –blindingly so).  I am considered a professional by them and an Independent publisher –it’s why they all send me these ballots.  However, not one of them will promote an Independent publisher and they will not even consider it if you want to push a creator from Indie comics.  They offer every excuse they can be bothered with but, as is common in all these things today, you can only vote for the person/publisher whose name is on the ballot and feck you. Using terms like “unbiased” and “free vote” is like holding a loaded gun to someone’s head and saying: “Would you like me to pull the trigger –Yes/No?”

This is very long-winded again, isn’t it? I think it has to be one last big shout –I really think the UK is a lost cause.  Bluster and grind your teeth all you want because I really do not care.  Every point I make is easily proven with facts. Being honest with people is the only way to go because the back-stabbing, “comics mafia” have destroyed comics in the UK

I would love to see more comics in Welsh and Alun Ceri Jones’ Dalen Books (which seems to get no real publicity) publishes editions in English, Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Gaelic and Scots! Check the site out (language options are available):

We all need to work together and promote Independent Comics, the Small Press and smaller, less run-for-big-profit events locally.

I can only put the case so many times and in so many ways on CBO. That’s it.  I’m done.

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