§ There’s been some chatter over the last week or so over this public FB thread by Stephen Bissette about what he sees as exclusion of certain creators at indie comics shows. It sprang out of an older thread, and the conversation eventually includes Bill Kartalopoulos, who works with SPX and MoCCA, as well as Zack Soto of the just concluded Lineworks NW, Tom Spurgeon of the upcoming CXC show, and a lot of exhibitors past and present. The main complaint, it seems, is that there isn’t enough room at shows like SPX (the one which hurt the most feelings) and TCAF and Lineworks NW and so on and this leads to exclusion. Or as one Carl Antonowicz puts it:
If one’s work doesn’t meet the unstated aesthetic of the committee, one is out of luck.
Which is…yeah. If you’re gonna spend the money to put on an indie comics show—an undertaking so bereft of big profits that many of them are crowdfunded—you do get to choose what kind of comics you want to showcase there, and it turns out that people dedicated enough to actuallly put on a show generally have a pretty clear idea of what kind of comics they want to promote.
There are some sad stories in the comments—veteran cartoonist turned educator Don Simpson can’t get into the local indy show in his native Pittsburgh, and 90s mainstay David Chelsea was denied a table at Linework but gets a free table at the local Wizard show. And other people can’t get in and so on and so forth.
I have my own comment there, but if you read this site at all you can probably guess what I say: there are a zillion small shows out there and more coming. If you can’t find a local place to get set up and show your wares, you must live in a very remote spot. And yes, tables are expensive at some of these shows (but see next couple of items), but guess what: NO ONE PROMISED YOU’D BE ABLE TO MAKE MONEY AT THIS THING. There are more good cartoonists than ever and old-timers do have to compete against the new kids, who often have strong support networks via social media and colleagues from art school. And even if you build it, they may very well not come because you could be set up between Todd McFarlane and Kate Beaton.
Is this a competition? Sort of. While comics people are generally inclusive to a fault, the moment you put your first line on paper/screen you started competing for attention and acclaim (which come in unlimited amounts) and for money and space (which come in more limited amounts.)
One aspect of CAFs/indie shows that gets thrown around a bit in the thread is how they have become an alternative distribution system. It’s true a lot of publishers rely on CAFs to make a lot of their profits. This is far from healthy, but we’re still talking work that is of a niche appeal, and we have an indie comics reading audience that really likes buying their comics at shows where they can get a signed edition, have a personal transaction and maybe even buy some other stuff they didn’t know about that is normally warehoused in a shoebox under the creator’s sofa.
So while I understand the frustration of people who can’t get in to certain very popular events, there are lots of other ways to get out there. And all of this is going to change more. A column by the late great Dylan Williams from 2011 where he’s rethinking his convention strategy shows now much the landscape has changed in a more four years..and in four years it will have changed some more.
I think another underlying aspect of this is the youth movement in comics, and older creators feeling very much left out of the picture. But that deserves a post all its own.
§ Meanwhile, Bissette himself was a guest of the Big Wow Con in San Jose and reunited with the old Swamp Thing crew of Rick Veitch, Tom Yeates and John Totleben.
§ AAANNNNNNNDDDDD speaking of CAF/con economies, Barry and Leon, the Secret Acres boys, have posted their MoCCA Fest 2015 report and confront the money things head on. You’ll notice that MoCCA isn’t on the “dream list” for comics folks because tables are very expensive:
We’ve talked a bit about the con economy on this blog before. But let’s go there again. MoCCA has the highest table cost of any show we attend at $460 per table. That’s a whole $110 above SPX and a whopping $64.50 above TCAF. TCAF costs attendees nothing. MoCCA is five bucks. SPX is three times that, asking a whole fifteen dollar bill of everyone coming through the door. They look alike from here. Or do they? Tony Breed, a Chicago guy and our RIPE neighbor of a couple weeks ago, came by and said the most interesting thing: his sales at CAKE were slow, but he makes more money at that show than at any other. This year, we brought home something less than half of our take from MoCCA 2014. We made money. We can’t not make money. We live here.
Our most expensive show, by far, is TCAF. Believe us, if we could afford to skip customs and ship our books to Canada, we sure as shit would. Depending on the exchange rate, food and shelter and gas, we need to clean up every year or we go broke. We’re pretty sure Annie Koyama is making more money at TCAF than she could at any other show and, at any other show, break-even has got to be way up there for Koyama Press. We’ve enjoyed a couple of years of making more money at TCAF than we have at MoCCA, but we took home less money every time. And we’re a publishing company, micro or no. If you’re an artist making mini-comics, you’re not making table at MoCCA without a gang to split costs – and profits – and if you can’t make it there, you’re not making it anywhere else, either. How much are you saving traveling to Toronto or booking a room at the SPX Marriott? If not for the money, why bother with shows at all? Do we really need to answer that question?
§ Speaking of Secret Acres, they’ve joined the gang of small presses (Koyama, Uncivilized, Alternative, Nobrow, Enchanted Lion Arsenal Pulp, etc) that are being distributed by Consortium. Consortium seems to do good things for small comics publishers so good for them.
§ And speaking of Linework NW, it sounds like it went well:
And it’s a good one at that. In its first year, last year, Linework packed 3,000 people into the Norse Hall in northeast Portland. This year they expanded the festival to two days in an effort to thin the crowds, but if Saturday was any indication the event is only getting bigger. “I love it,” Portland artist John Black said at his booth. “It’s more of an illustrator’s (event), you know what I mean? It’s for people who make stuff.”
HASHTAG BLESSED pic.twitter.com/SwMlXZvX17
— Melanie Gillman (@melgillman) April 19, 2015
§ BUT over in Binghamton, NY, everything was coming up Milhouse for the local comic con:
More than one thousand people attended the River Road Comic Expo Sunday at Tioga Downs. The event was free and open to the public, and featured industry artists as well as local independent artists. “It’s great to have a place to come and be able to get a little face-to-face time and shake hands with the guys who make your day,” said illustrator Mike Capprotti. There were also vendors selling both new and old books and related products. “One of the great things about the pop culture community is that everyone’s really enthusiastic,” said expo organizer Jared Aiosa.
§ George Lucas has felt a tingling in the force and thinks Marvel might reboot Howard the Duck for the screen!!!
During the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival, Lucas commented on negative movie reviews, noting how even the worst reviewed films can “float up to the surface of the lake, and then they become cult classics. … It means you made an interesting movie or a weird movie, and a small group of people love it.” He continued by saying, “Even Howard the Duck is a cult classic. I have a feeling that Marvel’s gonna redo it because of the technology they have today.”
§ In less frightening news, John Ridley, showrunner of American Drime and OSar winner for 12 Years a Slave, may be working on a show for Marvel/ABC reinventing an existing Marvel superhero character or property.” Vague as hell so it could be anything, even Howard the Duck.
§ Reminder, Bart Beaty and co. are analyzing the hell ouf of comics over at What Were Comics? including Fun Home and more.
§ I forgot to link to this cool of page of interviews from the pages of Frontier Hellen Jo, Sascha Hommer, Ping Zhu and Sam Alden.
§ Here’s an old link I had to an investigation of a crappy scraper site.
§ And an interview with Keith Knight who has seen it all and then made a funny comic strip about it. .
§ Juliet Kahn offers a list of The Best Anime And Manga For Beginners and i think it’s pretty solid, but she left out …..(enter a list of 1000 names)
§ Finally, Zainab Akhtar reviews Jillian Tamaki’s SexCoven, the small press book of the year thus far.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.