Bissette Bytes Digital Dave!
The Conversation Continues, With a Detour To Ponder Digital Comics Futures & Distribution Woes
* I’ll be taking a couple of detours in today’s and tomorrow’s conversation, to get into some of what I’ve been bouncing back-and-forth with of late with other fellow travelers and comics pro peers, all with the selfish goal of getting into these matters face-to-face in the Center for Cartoon Studies classroom with our seniors this semester (which begins on Tuesday of this week, hence my urgency in addressing some of these matters this weekend).
It’s really vital to me that we get into what’s happening now, if only so the current generation of creators can act on whatever we can impart or touch upon that might be of service. Lucky you, we’re doing this part of it publicly.
* As I’ve been steadily posting and responding to Dave‘s letters, working both foreward chronologically from our initial December 2010 exchanges, and Dave‘s more current letters, we’re finally arriving at the “middle” chronologically in terms of Dave‘s missives. That said, I believe we’ve managed this pretty well, and the conversational flow has been steady, progressive, and (I hope) of cumulative worth.
This brings me to the final and most current letter from Dave, dated January 12th (this past week), in which Dave follows up on numerous points we’ve bandied about…
Well, I’m sticking to my guns: I was publishing and co-publishing Taboo, not self-publishing.
I appreciate the compliment and the perception that what I was doing with Taboo was unique (to horror comics anthologies, if nothing else), but arching that ambition—in short, approaching horror comics as a philosophical quest, rather than just a commercial proposition—into an argument that it somehow made it “closer to self-publishing than your average anthology” seems to me to be a step too far.
Self-publishing, as a moniker, has become such an illusory badge of honor in some circles that I think striving to be that, when you can’t be that by definition (i.e., unless you are publishing only your own work, first and foremost, you can’t be self-publishing, and collaborative ventures are problematic), is part of the problem here.
I must reiterate that my working model very much emerged from mainstream publishing: Harlan Ellison‘s incredible sf anthology Dangerous Visions (1967) and its sequel volume that provided the template I worked from. I was hoping to do for horror comics (in some modest way) what Ellison had done for 1960s science-fiction, and by providing a central collective anthology to showcase the most disturbing comics being created, redefine what the genre was, could be, and should be. Dangerous Visions was the wellspring for the attitude, the manifesto, the introductions being essential to shaping the entire venture, etc.
I don’t think one can even argue I was in a particularly unique position for that era: a team initially (John Totleben and I), then an individual, shaping a horror anthology in the 1980s had plenty of bedrock to built upon.
Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein certainly had a philosophy at work in co-editing the famed EC horrors of 1951-1954; Archie Goodwin had clearly determined the initial contours of Creepy and Eerie in the 1960s (building on the vision and impetus of initiator Russ Jones, who “sold” the concept to publisher Jim Warren before a falling out between Jones and Warren resulted in Archie taking the helm, at the recommendation of Al Williamson); I’m not sure who per se “edited” the key underground horror comics like Bogeyman (the first horror underground, launched as a solo comic, featuring Rory Hayes work only, published by Gary Arlington), Skull, and Slow Death (was it Last Gasp publisher Ron Turner?), but Jack Jackson guided Up From the Deep into being one of the flagship genre titles of that era (I assume Denis Kitchen handled the duties on Death Rattle, but I won’t say more; no slight to Denis, but horror was never his cup of tea, and despite some very good work in DR, it didn’t hold a candle to the others I’ve cited here, in either incarnation: there was no singular vision or point of view cohering the whole into anything but “your average horror anthology” for its marketplace and eras). In the 1980s, Taboo‘s decade, Pacific Comics arguably opened that door in convincing Bruce Jones—the best of all post-Archie Goodwin writers to ever work for Warren (no slight to you, Dave, but Bruce was better and more prolific and attuned to the genre)—to do “his own” horror comic, Twisted Tales. That Bruce simply emulated the EC formula made commercial sense, but missed the boat in terms of the genre’s evolution in the 1980s (remember, John Totleben drew one story for Twisted Tales, from Bruce‘s scripting, and both John and I had strong feelings about what a squandered opportunity that title represented). In that, Twisted Tales was vital to Taboo existing at all, in part as a corrective and progressive reaction against the regressive nature of Twisted Tales following the tried-and-true paths.
Well, enough on that. You get my point, yes?
We don’t need the pretense, patina, or moniker of self-publishing attached to Taboo to legitimize or identify what set it apart. That said, nobody but you, Dave, would have tended the offer that led to Taboo being launched; in fact, nobody else ever did, then or afterwards. Even my parallel work with/for FantaCo Enterprises publisher Tom Skulan on Goreshriek and Shriek demonstrated the utter freedom I enjoyed doing Taboo as my own packager/publisher was a rare opportunity, and I think I can justifiably say I certainly made the most of that opportunity.
That badge of honor I’ll gratefully acknowledge and accept.
It was also commercial suicide: living up to its title as best I could, Taboo was doomed from birth. But it paved the way for From Hell outliving it, along (later) with Lost Girls, and it definitely paved the way for Vertigo (I got the initial phone calls from Karen Berger to prove that, however little that debt is acknowledged by Vertigo‘s “official history”).
Your parenthetical comments on the Taboo/”self-publishing” opening paragraph of your letter follow:
In the context of that, and my own retort above, I’ll just add about Taboo: Yes, you nailed it. Taboo was the eternal quest, truncated only by its publishing history: what is cutting edge now? What goes furthest, cuts deepest?
Taboo had its day, and I’m glad you mentioned Chester‘s stories from Taboo 1, because those (and Eddie Campbell‘s “Pyjama Girl,” which was actually the first work John Totleben and I acquired for the project) were the first submissions that had me saying to myself, “Yes, this is it. This is different, and deeper,” where no one else other than John and maybe you saw that was true at that time (before Taboo 1 was published).
* But your Sandeep dilemma is the more important section of this parenthetical comment, to my mind.
Let’s use that as the entry point to a much more vital discussion we must have.
You know, of all our past circle, I can only cite one or two as having stayed abreast of almost all the updates in computer technology over the years.
I’m in your boat, Dave. I’m still an graphite/ink/paper man, and loathe interaction with the computer to draw. I need to pay a compadre or willing tech hand to make anything happen from my drawing board to anything digital.
As a writer, I have taught myself html code, and can write directly to Myrant—and do daily!—and have learned the rudiments (very rudimentary) of scanning and posting my art, enough for Myrant needs. As a cartoonist and self-publisher, though, I’m in your boat.
For the Black Coat Press books—my first print-on-demand works—I was utterly dependent upon my friend and publisher, Jean-Marc Lofficier, handling all digital duties. I sent him the raw book manuscripts, he formatted them, I proofed them: all text-only, no illustrations (after our first book, Green Mountain Cinema, which was illustrated, I stripped to text-only so I could learn those ropes). We’ve upgraded that over the years to Jean-Marc providing me templates for the text, so I can now do the preliminary text layouts, but he still has to do the final versions, and send me the pdfs.
Jean-Marc handled all the cover design duties on the first print-on-demand experiment, Green Mountain Cinema; for the subsequent five volumes of S.R. Bissette’s Blur (collecting all my weekly film/video review columns and, with Volume 5, archiving my Myrant media blog postings), CCS pioneer class alumni Jon-Mikel Gates handled all the cover design work, for which I paid him. For Teen Angels, which I’ve insisted upon adding illustrations to, I was originally working with Jon-Mikel, who I hoped would design the book, but after (a) his move west, and (b) my considerable down-scaling of the project, I’m back to emailing scans to Jean-Marc Lofficier for final illustration insertion—just as we did Green Mountain Cinema in 2004.
Since 2009, I’ve been working with my computer/website guru Cayetano “Cat” Garza, Jr., one of the pioneers of web comics and a great amigo who has been absolutely essential to my remaining with one foot in the digital age via Myrant. The initial setup was started in 2005 by Jane Wilde, when I lived in Marlboro, VT; but having only dial-up access, we couldn’t get far doing much of anything, save collating files and Jane scanning artwork I wanted on my website. Jane got me going with Myrant as a text-only blog in 2005, which I slowly learned how to add illos to. After Marge and I moved north, in part to finally move to a part of Vermont that had high-speed internet access, Cat took over the setup of Myrant, working initially with Jane Wilde to gather all the work Jane and I had done—and then Cat set me up, and turned it all over to me as of a little over two years ago. He still has to trouble-shoot, and bail my ass out when I somehow fuck up, but that’s been less of an issue for a year or so.
It’s the first true autonomy I’ve had on the web, and I’ve made the most of it.
Cat and I now work regularly as we can as a team on book covers—we’ve done a number of them together (see our Mechademia cover, our first collaboration, at right), with my doing the black-and-white artwork, and suggesting possible color and design strategies, and Cat doing the digital design and color work—and we’re about to elevate that to a new level in 2011 (I’ll not say more about that until the time is right to do so; just take my word for it, we will be). I’ve paid or made sure publishers paid Cat on every job.
So, on those projects, Cat is my “Sandeep,” I reckon, or damn close.
Between Rick and Cat‘s urging me to engage more fully, and the market forces pushes us all toward digital publishing/digital comics, I can see you and I are in for a steep learning curve this year, Dave.
Whether we engage with the help of skilled experts like Cat or your replacement for Sandeep (good luck!), we’ve little choice but to proceed accordingly. Those who know how to work the gears, levers, and controls themselves will excel while we continue to try and catch-up via creative partners or hired hands, and the younger cartoonists will be waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of us every step of the way. In that, I bow to my CCS students, who have done some phenomenal online work, and continue to.
Now, I’ve been talking aspects of this over for weeks now with a few friends. The first to bend my ear about this change a’comin’ was of course Scott McCloud, back in 1990-1992: he saw it all back then, and we lived close enough together at that time to regularly talk into the wee hours of the morning over this.
This kind of information sharing is critical if we’re to collectively make sense of what’s really happening with online activity—in short, is anyone actually finding revenue streams with all this daily online activity, or is it another vast distraction from more rewarding work venues and making a living?
As Colleen has been at it, with a proper website and blog, for a full decade now, her numbers (particularly those from 2009-2010) are revealing.
She frames this sharing of information with lucid candor, and within her wider goals (aiming at 2013); she thankfully breaks out all her relevant numbers and explains them in terms contrary to the populist rhetoric. It’s well worth a hard look. Colleen also chums the waters, so to speak, by paying for ads promoting her cite and web comics feature (Project Wonderful ads; it’s a step Colleen urged me to take in 2009, but I chose not to, as I’m determined in my experiment to just see if content alone—I don’t even allow ads on Myrant, save those for my own art and links to friends’s own sites/blogs—can attract significant readership).
Furthermore, Colleen had a clear jumping off point to measure from. She dramatically revamped her site and whole approach to online activity two years ago: she writes, “In January 2009, I hired DC McQueen to redesign and reformat the website, and to make the webcomic the lead feature.” This makes her sharing of hard info for that two year span particularly invaluable and digestable.
“Sorry to kill the buzz, but the web traffic for [Carla Speed McNeil's] Finder is dead low, about 100 page views a day. I’m not reading this as a success from print to web. For an Eisner-nominated book, I read this as very bad. And it’s a shame, because Finder is awesome.
The entire Girlamatic site has a lower stat ranking than mine. I don’t know the exact numbers per strip, but the highest I could find was averaging about 3,000 page views per day. After how many years online? Geezus. Many appear to have been abandoned or moved their websites.
Galaxion, which has been ongoing for years, is getting modest traffic – again, only about 1,000-2,000 page views per day. Sad, it’s a really nice comic.
I’m looking at PW [Project Wonderful] numbers, and while they can be off, stat rankings compared to PW #’s can’t be THAT far off. And I showed you my exact, internal numbers. You can compare for yourself.
I still can’t find any Western long form serial print to web dramas averaging five figure or better daily page views. Except mine.
You can’t make decent money with 2,000 page views a day.
You’d think comedy strips like Apes and Babes would do better, but even Frank Cho is not getting the numbers he ought to get, even though his numbers are OK.
There does not appear to be much crossover between the print and web audiences. If you are in print, that means nothing re the web numbers you get. And vice versa.
I disagree strongly that “..many works, like ADS [A Distant Soil] and Finder, jump media successfully.” I’m not seeing it. I’m seeing two different audiences with two different sets of habits, and it takes a long time to reach one and then the other. As I have found out for myself. It has taken YEARS to find a solid audience online, and I think it’s going to take another year more to turn that into decent income.
Any webcomic that can’t get more than a couple thousand page views a day after years in production is a disaster. That’s a lot of work for very little return.
If the audience wasn’t out there clapping to revive Tinkerbell, I was ready to chuck it last year.
The whole thing reminds me very strongly of the self publishing boom and bust. Utopianism followed by wake up call.”
Most relevant to you and I, Dave, is Colleen citing
“Some yahoo of dubious credentials on some techy site [Geigner on TechDirt.com] went on a rant about how artists like me should be able to monetize the web – piracy or no – what with us being so famous and all. Surely we must have a kajillion fans!
But news flash: there is almost no crossover between our markets! Different buying habits, different everything.
A reader who saw my work at Disney [Colleen's art on the best-selling Beauty and the Beast] is not my fan. That reader is a Disney fan. They may not read my next job just because I did something for Disney. Same thing for Spider-man, Sandman, or any other work I do. Credits don’t translate into fans.
Can’t seem to get it through to people!”
Well, Colleen got it through to me; and I subsequently satisfied myself of that truth via the experiment in 2010 with “King of Monster Isle.” As I stated in my first and second part of our current conversation, Dave, that serialized comic experiment in fact terminated what had been a successful experiment with monetizing Myrant via online sketch sales, and it subsequently took months to get that pump primed anew and income flowing again.
Neil Gaiman‘s ongoing cultivation and sustaining an online audience was further proof, if it was needed at all.
My experiments with print-on-demand publishing, to date, have been even more sobering: my numbers for 2010 are sad, sorry figures. I’m trying a new tact in 2011 (starting with the publication of Teen Angels & New Mutants, and going up from there), but my bread-and-butter is my CCS teaching gig, and my occasional (annual) working with traditional book publishing gigs (more on that later).
Colleen‘s comment continues:
“And someday, one of the print comics publishers is going to be honest and admit in public that their downloadable comics are only moving a few hundred copies per book.
Who wants to be the first?
What, no takers?
The brilliant work by Stuart Immonen, Moving Pictures, did not do at all well online, and he eventually removed it.
Based on Cameron’s rankings, he’s getting no more than 100 or so page views per day. Outrageous. That’s great-looking work.
Print to web is not working for most print comics creators. At all.
The top webcomics are gags and joke strips, and have been online for years.
The good news for a work like mine is that even though it is old work to me, it’s new to everyone who sees it for the first time. No one reading this comic in Russia cares about the publishing history. They see what they like, and they read. It’s all new to them and that’s the only thing that matters.
Half my current readership is foreign and I have more online readers than I ever had in print. Making that pay is 2011′s goal.”
I won’t go further with this here on Myrant sans Colleen‘s permission (I share much in the CCS classrooms I’d never share here, and at present I only have permission to extend Colleen‘s and my conversations into the classroom); I’ve only shared here what Colleen has already shared publicly online.
Colleen mentions this in her own comments on her blog: “I’ve been emailing Steve Bissette about this and our takeaway is that it takes such a long time for long form comics to pay off that most people will never be able to stick it out. The traffic jump this year on my website is not a sign of profit: it’s a sign of promise. That said, A Distant Soil has made good money over the years, and some years much better than others. It can work. But I wouldn’t bank on it.”
[My own book sales via Myrant are very, very modest, and always have been. New work, old work, it isn't a revenue stream. How modest? While I sold a fair number of Vermont Monster Guide copies when it first came out (100+), those have dwindled to a trickle (one every two-three months), and Blur—all five volumes—barely sell a dozen or so copies per year. The limited availability of the Tales of the Uncanny preview booklet in the spring of 2010 was successful, but again, that meant about 100 copies. Period. Long term, for the books that are always available via mail order at Myrant, Tyrant sales are very occasional; about one set every three months. T-shirts sold not at all, so I abandoned that merchandizing. Taboo sales are, essentially, one or two copies per quarter, one full set per year (at my collectible prices, since I'm the only online source for a partial set—Taboo 6 sold out four years ago—that annual sale pays the mortgage for one month). About a third of all sales, including sketches, are to foreign readers/buyers. But only the sketch sales have proven worth continuing aggressively. Even the Alan Moore fan contingent isn't a resource: When I announced the end of availability of 1963 sets, only three sets sold; so I donated all remaining copies of the issues I didn't draw to two local charities, and saved the rest for CCS classroom use.]
Suffice it to say, Colleen‘s and my conversation got into other matters, but her public sharing of info (see that above link) provides all of us with invaluable information that is also timely, given its assessment of January 2009 to December 2010 statistics, and Colleen‘s conclusions.
Point being, Dave, we may have “a kajillion fans,” cumulatively, over all the decades and venues our work has appeared in.
But it doesn’t mean digital comics are going to work for us. We’re going to have to work hard for every inroad and sale, as Cerebus TV amply proves.
There’s some enlightening info being shared here.
“If you go by the top ten series, the Big Two are responsible for just 30% of ComiXology‘s units sold. This is a sharp drop from the 77% they control in the Direct Market.”
As I’ve argued for some time, this demonstrates (to my satisfaction, at least) that DC and Marvel are very much the fringe of the contemporary comics/graphic novel market now, not the mainstream. A redefinition of terms is certainly overdue.
To my mind, the single most mainstream American, non-manga comic of 2009-2010 was Robert Crumb‘s The Book of Genesis Illustrated (W.W. Norton and Company, 2009): previewed in The New Yorker, reviewed everywhere (even in our local VT newspaper!), for sale in every book store in North America.
Now, that‘s mainstream.
It could be easily argued that the Direct Market share DC and Marvel maintain is due solely to their almost absolute control of that ever-shrinking market. Sustaining a 77% share of a monopolistic distribution network that both companies essentially have a lock on, but one that no longer accounts for the primary means of distribution for the medium and industry, is hardly a badge of honor, much less a means for sustaining growth. It’s a death-grip on an increasingly marginalized niche market, at best.
“Further examination of the Top Ten Series on ComiXology reveals even more interesting data. Creator-owned books are 50% of the list.”
This is heartening news; I’d love to know, though, how the money is sifting out and whether livings are being made by these creators, or if they’re still struggling to get to the back-end paydays down the road.
“…these sales show that brands work differently online. Marvel and DC are playing second fiddle to companies that they dominate in the Direct Market, and Image is going for the crown.”
(An aside: Image may be “going for the crown,” but they completely blew me off after seven months of negotiations to work with them on a project they supposedly wanted. It was disappointing, to say the least; I still haven’t heard a peep from Image on my terminating the venture two weeks ago. I must say, I have been surprised that, in my own recent experience, a venerable New York publishing house has moved much quicker—first contact with me on October 2, 2010; we finalized contract negotiations this past Friday, January 14th, 2011—than Image seems capable of, which doesn’t bode well for their being able to go “for the crown” if it requires quick action or turnaround.)
January 12th has been a flash point of sorts in this analysis.
Archie Comics—which, to our generation, represented in many ways the most staid and traditionalist of all comics publishing models—has been the most aggressive of all the former-mainstream comics publishers in this regard.
Given Archie‘s history, this new turn of events is particularly astonishing. Since the death of the Goldwater patriarchs, the new proprietors (the Goldwater offspring) have really shaken the company to the core with (reportedly) great success thus far; alas, they remain strictly work-for-hire (and of the most odious kind), but that is in part what so empowers their moves at this time.
Thus, their conservative business practices are perfectly attuned to taking radical steps into the new technology and its new venues.
Of the venerable comics publishers, it definitely looks like Archie Comics is the big winner—and Archie, to touch upon a point being bandied about (in quite convoluted ways, sadly), is a COMPLETELY work-for-hire publisher, with among the most aggressive work-for-hire terms and policies of any comics publisher of the past 30 years.
There’s still plenty of working creators laboring under work-for-hire, under terms with precious few perks or benefits; make no mistake, the plantations are alive and working.
And the plantation owners are being amply rewarded in the marketplace.
Owning absolutely all they publish, lock, stock, and barrel, and knowing absolutely their costs (and with no royalties, I believe, earned by their creative laborers), they can proceed full bore ahead as a model of total corporate ownership.
This apparently is making it possible for Archie to move much more quickly than Marvel, DC, etc., who seem hobbled in this regard.
The major companies are going to be savagely reasserting work-for-hire, and, barring that, insisting upon “duration of copyright” contracts, which their legal departments consider essential for moving in the new realms and markets.
Despite the nay-sayers, we’re right back to square one in the struggles for creator’s rights, as I’ve long stated.
I see the proof in the book contracts (from mainstream book publishers, not comics publishers or gaming companies)—including the contract I’ve just negotiated for my own upcoming project—wherein they copyright the work in the creator’s name on page one of the contract, but then systematically strip away all that owning copyright means.
It’s the 21st century new paradigm, and it’s going to be a tough struggle for the new generation.
Of course, we’re also told these new online venues will empower self-publishing, and yes, we are seeing that already. But does it add up to a living? And if so, for whom?
As self-publishing, to me, involves my friends who are writers (non-fiction, noveliests, and short story) as well as cartoonists, I’m already seeing my immediate peer group there taking the plunge.
He’s gotten his first sales check from amazon—a little over $20—but one must begin somewhere.
Finally, we should also note in recent news the fact that
After a year or more of rough sailing for chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble, this could have devastating impact on the graphic novel market and publishers and creators banking on sales and royalties from sales via the book chains like Borders.
Still, beware the hyperbole:
“If the book stores go under, Digital will be the only option anyway. There is a lot of spin placed out there by publishers about how great digital distribution will be, but there are still distribution costs associated with it. $1.7 Million Archie downloads still costs money to host and pay for the bandwidth. Also, how many individual books did it take to get that 1.7 million in year. If it took 40 different titles then they are getting a distribution of 42,000 copies. They still had production costs and how many people returned after their initial download? Digital Comics are a bit of a novelty now. I’m sure there are a certain portion of people just testing out screen clarity and quality at this point.
Regardless of the transition away from paper, this is making publishers market the product to new customers through new methods. If a little effort had been put into seeking out print customers, the print versions might not be struggling.”
Don’t mistake the chains for “bookstores” as a total market. The collapse of the chains will only prompt the re-emergence of a hardier, more flexible alternative: independent bookstores. They were here long, long before the chains, and they’ll be here and active and viable long after, and distributors like Baker & Taylor and Ingram will also continue to do business.
This, too, is part of the “spin” regarding digital media: the false presumption that where go the chains, there goes entire markets. It isn’t true.
But clearly, we’re amid momentous, game-changing transformations, and we’ll have to change with the times to survive, Dave. You are, and I’m (per usual) watching carefully and picking my battles, projects, and venues according to my own muse.
OK, back to your letter:
This is all very illuminating, and confirms my own perceptions over the decades of what seemed to be supporting viable self-publishing ventures—and what I, significantly, did not have in my court when I undertook Tyrant and SpiderBaby Comix. I could not get anything like it in my court.
Much to Eddie Campbell‘s frustration, our last (what, two years ago?) exchange in which Eddie tried to chastise me over dropping Tyrant despite what was, in his mind in any case, an obviously “high page rate” I was obviously earning from my sales of the time. I argued I couldn’t possibly break Tyrant down to page rates, since I was in effect doing everything, except for what Preney Print & Litho did, including handling all typesetting (Alan Goldstein helped me with Tyrant 1 and 2, but I did it afterwards), dealing with phone, taking and filling orders, shipping of re-orders, etc.. I had no assistants at the board (as did and does Eddie, as did you via your relationship with Gerhard); I had no spouse supporting the household or the venture in any way (I was, in fact, in the early stages of divorce proceedings, subsidizing both households with my Tyrant income); and claiming my Tyrant earnings in any way broke out into a measurable “page rate” was patently absurd. If done, discounting all the labor associated with self-publishing Tyrant, it would have been minimal, especially in Image Comics-era 1996 terms, but that was besides the point.
I mention this only to note, in all my exchanges with Eddie or conversations with other self-publishers or former self-publishers over the years (including, most recently, Jeff Smith, when we caught up with each other in the spring of 2009 when he was keynote speaker at our CCS graduation), I almost never mention the vital support networks the successful self-publishers have had. But it was and is critical; and it is a key component in most viable models.
In this (and only this; she is far, far more productive in comics than I’ll ever be), I think Colleen and I are actually closest in practice, but I also had (while single and supporting two households) two kids to get through school, which pretty much knocks me off any comparable model with any contemporary.
I see and hear the CCS students struggle with these factors—particularly regarding spouses and/or partners, whose employ offers household support the single creators do not have. I’m not comfortable airing their views here (it’s all hearsay from me anyway; perhaps some of them will weigh in on the comments thread), but it’s all very relevant and vital to how, in fact, a creator and self-publisher can or can’t make it in the world.
Finally, Matt Feazell (Cynicalman) comes to mind, in that his spouse, if memory serves, in no way supported his venture (apologies, Matt, if I’m misremembering that dynamic). I also think of Mark Oakley and Thieves and Kings, and his I Box Publishing moniker; Mark was indeed going it alone, totally, wasn’t he? Is he still? Is he still going (I think I saw a Volume 27 of Thieves and Kings somewhere, which would seem to indicate ongoing work and some measure of success)?
Continuing with your letter—note, readers, that Dave‘s references to Deni is to Deni Loubert, his ex-wife; Karen was Karen McKiel, who worked at Aardvark-Vanaheim when Taboo was starting out; and Cat and Dean refers to Cat Yronwode and Dean Mullaney, husband-and-wife partners at Eclipse Comics:
All of which leads back to publishing, not self-publishing—which I think we’ve already covered in some depth—and back to where we started today.
Deni’s part of Aardvark-Vanaheim—the non-Cerebus titles like Journey, Normalman, Neil the Horse, etc.—were publishing, not self-publishing, and the same goes moreso for both Renegade and Eclipse. Frankly, other than their relevance to Taboo, and the decisions Marlene and I made there (as long as it was Marlene and me working together as publisher partner, essentially Taboo 1-3), I’m not interested in what Deni, Cat, or Dean did or didn’t do in terms of this conversation just now.
I’m interested in what we can do, now, ourselves, with our work—and thus, by proxy, discuss what every other current creator struggling to make it with their work can do.
Next: Part 14 of Dave and Steve, Wondering How and If Howie Can Make It In The Real World…