Support Indie Comics You Dope

posted August 24, 2008 by Jer


Saying you hate web comics is like saying you hate sandwiches. Anyone can make a sandwich. A sandwich can have anything on it. There are different combinations of ingredients that can make a sandwich good or bad to different people. Somewhere in the world, there is a sandwich that you love, and a sandwich that you hate. In fact, you probably know someone who makes the best sandwich you've ever had, and another person who's sandwiches are a disgusting mismatch of lettuce, mustard and sardines that you retch at the very thought of, yet you know two other friends who swear it is the most delicious thing they've ever eaten and can't fathom why you don't also eat it.

Perhaps I took that metaphor too far, but my point is there's something for everyone in web comics. I am sitting at my coffee shop right now, listening to a table full of loquacious hypocrites saying they hate all web comics, oh, except for A. A is pretty good, and also B. C has it's moments if you are into the same fandom as C's writers, but the rest of web comics suck. Oh, D! I forgot about D, that one can be good.

Web comics are the last great free speech. There's no one to stop you from publishing whatever you want. Most people are going to hate it because you're primarily doing it for yourself. I often hear the argument that web comics are just crap that people can't get published. Let's analyze this.

Who decides if a comic should be published? Usually, an editor in chief of a publishing company. This person's job is to select comics that will make money. To make money on that scale, you must choose comics that will have the widest appeal. To have the widest appeal, you must entertain and not offend the greatest segment of the population. The result is that the only comics that get published are the most commonly accepted characters and plot lines with artwork that is soft and bland yet meticulously polished. If you've felt that mainstream comics are all the same, you now know why.

The web is the only place true experimentation and originality can still occur, because the decision to publish it is in the hands of the creator and not an editor who's reason d'Ítre is cash money profits. You can not go in to web comics with the expectation that they should be as "good" as mainstream comics. If that is your stance, please continue feeding Marvel and DC's professional mediocrity.

It also aggravates me when people continue to pay money for corporate processed comic drivel, but get up in arms at any independent comic artist audacious enough to ask money for their hard work. We live at a time where it's actually possible for an independent comic artist to single handedly print and distribute their own work without having to placate corporate profit margins, yet these pioneers are demonized for not submitting to the main stream system. Ironically, the comic fandom firmly believes that fighting the power is still the thing that cool kids do. So why not support the underdogs?

I'm treading dangerous, self-glorifying ground here being a self published comic artist myself. The above speaks to my more dedicated peers, so lets disestablish myself as a martyr for a moment. I would love to make a living with my comics, but in the meantime, my day job keeps me quite stable - albeit very slow at comic production. In my case, my biggest frustration is setting a price to my comic. Historically, I charge $3 (US) for the 20 page full color first chapter of Elves of Iax (currently, the only printed work I've made). I based this price off of what other similar episodic full-color comics are sold for. However, lets put this in perspective. Say there's 100 titles on the shelf of a comic store. 98 of those titles are owned by two companies, and they make money off of every single sale. Then there's me, trying to price my comic to their standards. I've sold about 200 comics since it was published two years ago, which I'm really proud of considering I'm in about 4 stores in the world. At the mainstream price, though, my "success" has grossed about $600. Compare this to the $1300 it cost me to print the book, plus the months of personal blood, sweat and tears it took to finish it, and it becomes really easy to see why it's been two years and I still haven't finished the second chapter.

I feel a fair price for Elves of Iax would be about $7. That would put me $100 ahead (still ignoring promotion costs like advertising and con-going), but thanks to mainstream expectations, no one short of personal family and friends would have dished up that much cash for a first time indie comic when my circulation is as small as 4 stores. If I could reach all comic stores in the US and Canada, then it's at least conceivable that 200 people in two years would have dished up $7, but again thanks to the industry, it would be an understandably foolish business move for an independent book store to invest that much in a first time indie. The deck is very badly stacked against us.

I recently experimented with offering EoI Chapter 1 for free, and moved the most comics in the shortest time ever. I guess the only socially acceptable price for a non-mainstream comic is free, yet Marvel can continue to rake in fields full of cash for "One More Day." As for art, if quality is measured by success and Rob Liefeld is still successful, I will continue to interpret "You suck, just quit!" as a compliment.

Really, the only hope we have is persistence and internet promotion. There are thousands of us now, and we all have stories to tell. The communities keeps growing. I get upset any time a web comic gives up - even if I didn't really like their work, but I'm encouraged to see ten more step up the next day.

If fighting the power really is the cool thing to do, bookmark a new web comic or buy a god damned indie. I don't care if you hate mine, somewhere out there is an indie artist you'll love. Support them, god damnit, I'm tired of your hypocrisy.