While I am buried deep under a pile of production – completing “The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #3” in time for Wizard World Chicago later this month – Editor Mike reached out to inspire me. In other words, he didn’t want me to bore ya’ll one more time with my annual bitching session regarding the passion of the indie creator. Instead, he suggested I suggest to you, my adoring public, a few books that I’m reading and loving right now… that do not come from the big two publishers. There was only one problem with this prompt.
Since I’ve been knee-deep in digital art-ing, lettering, editing, coloring, and laying out(ing?) a comic for the last month or so… I’ve basically all but stopped reading comics.
Of course I could fall back on my staple suggestions: Touching Evil by Dan Dougherty, Solution Squad by Jim and Rose McClain, Product of Society by Cheeselord Comics, and Monkey Fist by Sun Bros. Studios. But then it dawned on me, I could kill two birds with one stone! I could excite the masses about the passion of indie comics without suggesting any particular book at all. Indeed kiddos, I could be that good.
When the book is off to the printers and my life is freed up once more to consume amazing comics, I’ll find myself at Wizard World Chicago. And where better than the annual comic con to take a chance to immerse myself in sequential fiction not otherwise touched by Mickey Mouse or Brother Warner. My plan is simple:
Seek books within Artist Alley, and Artist Alley alone.
Across dozens of tables will sit books built first and foremost out of passion. While it’s likely true that Scott Snyder is symbiotically betrothed to Batman, at the end of the day the caped crusader is not Mr. Snyder’s own creation. Not to get all Robert Kirkmanny here, but there’s something to be said when a book is wholly the idea of a given writer (and/or artist). Without the constraint of an editorial office, calendar, or marketing strategy, an indie title has the least weight on its shoulders to succeed. Of course the alley cat who peddles the pulp sure wants due-payment and fortune. Suffice to say though, there are far fewer hands in the cookie jar wanting their rightful crumbs. Because of that, I’ve found that the independent book tends to push the edge harder conceptually speaking. And because of that, the books may not be as polished on the page, but they read incredibly in the mind.
Set a budget, and buy a breadth of material – not pour a fortune down one well.
As a creator I want nothing more than passersby to be so enamored with The Samurnauts that they feel compelled to purchase every last ounce of material available at the table. But turn that table around and I’m often a misanthropic cheapskate. In a case of “Fool me once, shame on me…” a few times I got snookered into less-than-stellar indie titles in my early twenties. Because this was well before the near-affordable print-on-demand days, these indie rags went for double the price of a typical DC or Marvel book. And they weren’t in color. And they were poorly written, drawn schizophrenically, and sold to me under false pretense.
Well, a decade later, and I’ve crawled out from the behind the rock. My tactic is simple: Get the pitch, agree with the pitch, look over the product, ensure the product is priced appropriately, and make the damned purchase. But I digress.
The key to making the most out of exploring the Artist Alley is as I’ve noted above: it’s all about trying out a ton, not committing to an entire series without first enjoying only a taste. If an artist is worth their salt, they’ll make their line of work available to me after the show is over, or at very least offer up to me the next shows they’ll do. In the day and age in which we live, social media is the great uniter. And any artist in the alley not taking advantage of the free services that open their art and products to the world simply do not deserve my continued business.
In essence, my trip through the convention will be amassing an unencumbered anthology specific to the genres, art styles, and creators I find most akin to my wants and desires. And with an open mind (and an empty stomach…), I’m going to make it a mission to be social. To look every creator in the eye, and proudly ask them to tell me about their comic.
And in a few weeks, I’m going to let all of you know exactly how it went. Excelsior.