Whatever Happened to the Independent Comic?
(Author's Note: The views expressed in this article are not those of Comic Related LLC or any of its staff, contributors or affiliates)
I recently attended the Heroes Convention for my third year and I found myself in a very unusual place as a podcaster...there were very few Independent comic creators for me to interview. This is not because there were not enough guests there; quite the contrary. The place was virtually overflowing with people. Creators behind every table were quite busy the entire show but what were they creating? Fan art and commissions. For every one table with comics, there were four next to it selling nothing but prints and commissions.
Now before some of my colleagues jump to conclusions, I have nothing against fan art and commissions. I've done some myself and I completely embrace an artist making their money in that way. In fact I have purchased a large amount of art featuring characters that they did not create from artists and proudly display it on my wall. I love fan art. And I don't begrudge anyone the right to make money. Believe me; I come from a long line of money grubbers. But there needs to be a balance.
Comics are the engine that drives the ship of our industry. And promoting your comic at venues like Heroes is generally the best way to reach the highest number of people. And not to to toot our horn but Comic Related reaches quite a few people. So I found it somewhat odd when I went to someone's otherwise uninvolved table, they said that they were too busy with commissions to spend five to ten minutes (the average length of a "cold" interview) to promote their comic. And it isn't as if I don't understand how busy Heroes was this year. I was often stuck at my table without relief speaking to people and spreading the word of Comic Related, but I abandoned the table on a couple of occasions to make those cold calls and found myself turned away.
I don't want this article to appear to be an indictment or a criticism, but instead I hope this can be a learning experience, a teachable moment...because there are people out there who are doing both successfully. Both are admittedly friends to both me and to Comic Related but that in no way diminishes their accomplishments. I have honestly never seen Comfort Love and Adam Withers without their art supplies. They are also some of the busiest commisson artists I have ever met and two of the few creators that make a living at comics. But they have never missed an opportunity to talk to fans or interviewers about their comics The Uniques and Rainbow in the Dark. The members of Ringtail Cafe also manage to create art and promote their comics by having a crew at every show. Artists Jackie Hernandez and Ann Uland busy themselves with art while studio manager and head writer Krista and Darren Mueller engage the customers and also manage to make plenty of money and plenty of art at the same time.
Comics are seemingly always in a precarious place of one kind or another. The major companies are all too busy entertaining their corporate masters and Hollywood possibilities. It is more important then ever that we, the Independent comic, webcomic, and small press creator, do everything we can to not only keep this genre alive, but to promote it in every way we can.
John Wilson- John Wilson is Co-Owner of Comic Related and Online Editor for Sketch Magazine. He is also a writer for the website Pandoracon.com and writes several comics for Ringtail Cafe Productions.John also does his own pen and ink sketching and creates multimedia art. In his rare free time, he reads multiple magazines and torments his beautiful wife and their goofy dog.
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