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Friday, 29 April 2016

Self Publishing and Breaking Away From The Mainstream

I have to admit that I am slightly staggered.  Why?  Well, I checked the postings here and on Comic Bits Online pertaining to BTCG books.  They have some of the highest views -the recent one on this blog had a record number of views.

Yet, no sales resulting from all this attention.

Black Tower Comic albums (ie. books over 40 pages) and Graphic Novels (120-300+pp) are true Independents.  Black Tower does not try to con comic fans with "This is a MUST buy....and you'll NEED this great comic for the full story!" All books are self contained stories with the exception of three books: Black tower Adventure which, like Black Tower Super Heroes and Tales Of Terror, is an anthology title.

Yes, all the books are black and white. People should not confuse that with meaning just a black line with a few patches of solid black!  Ben R. Dilworth is amazing at producing shading tones as well as using solid blacks, cross-hatching and even a sketchy style that works for some strips.  Gavin Stuart Ross uses black and white and some nice toning effects. John Erasmus...I still find it totally baffling that no big European or US comic company has snapped him up.  At times I just sit looking at his work and sigh.  And Tom Elmes....his some times jarring line and technique I've admired since he earned the title "King of the Zine Nasty" in the 1980s with "The Man Who Ate Himself To Death"!  And then there is me.  The lesser artist of the inmates of the Tower.  I employ a lot of techniques not just in inking but also layouts. 

There is one good thing about publishing Independent comics -you can, as an editor and publisher- allow complete creative freedom.  No "You MUST adhere to the four sided panel" or "You can ONLY have 4-8 panels a page -a splash page is only for the credits page".  In fact, going through the Black Tower books I started realising that, having worked in pro comics, there were things going on that editors and publishers in mainstream companies would never allow.

You see, I have stood at the conventions when the portfolio viewings take place.  I know those viewings are to promote the company and give the reviewers a chance to be a "big man".  I have seen beautiful artwork torn to pieces (verbally) by these people. 

I once saw artwork that looked similar to Gil Kane's in his hey-day and the reviewer was a very slip-shod artist who most people kept wondering "who did he sleep[ with to get the job" (I once had an editor ask that question about him).  He tore into the young artist -line stroke and not using the brush properly (and totally ignoring the artist who told him "I don't use a brush"), "The perspective is off badly here" (it was NOT) and so on. I went up to the artist and told him to ignore what was said and pointed out that I'd been a comic creators agent for a few years and explained to him how to get the pages to the right people.  No. The 'big name' had told him he was crap. That was it.

I was in the office of a Marvel UK artist in the 1980s (the man "allegedly" held out of a window by someone...koff) and he looked at me and said (I'd worked in comics longer than him at that point) "You need to realise that when you draw people under those clothes are the flesh, the muscles and under that the skeleton" I said "Okay.  I think a lot of us artists studied Leonardo's (da Vinci) anatomy drawings--" he interrupted: "I don't rate him at all.  He's overblown.  He'd not get work drawing comics with me as an editor"  I just never had the heart to point out daVinci had been dead a long time.  And note rated as an artist?


Anyway, this same editor opened up the big map drawers on his desk to demonstrate a point.  "This is just submissions I rejected this month"  I took 20 minutes to go through just one drawer and the art he had rejected was lovely.  One really caught my eye so I asked who the artist was? "Don't know. Think he was Italian or something"  So I took the page out and it was signed.  "C.Pacheco".  Years later I read in Comicology how Carlos Pacheco had submitted work to Fleetway/IPC as well as Marvel UK. He'd submitted to an idiot.

Busiest time of the day for an editor, as I found out early one, was lunch-time. Pub or local cafe and those lunches could go on for two hours.

I always say to any artist "If you cannot, after a lot of trying, get any publisher interested in your work -self-publish!" However, 99% will not. Because "I only write/draw comics" which is a nonsense. If you write and draw yourself  then you are editing. With Print-on-Demand you do not have to be a rocket scientist or even have university degrees. I do it.

So, yes, there is work involved but you get the opportunity to break away from the mainstream comic restraints and do comics your way.  Experiment.  Have fun. But never, ever think you are going to become rich.  Very few if any ever do.  But you are your own boss.

Now, go buy my books!

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