While comics seem to be holding their own as an industry, with revenue generally up, there are a few folks on shaky ground, and 2014 saw a few casualties. One of them is Great Beast, the indie uUK graphic novel publisher run by cartoonists Adam Cadwell and Mark Ellerby. The imprint was sort of run as an “Image” like model, with Great Beast generally handling distribution for an emerging generation of UK cartoonists including , Robert M Ball, Dan Berry, Adam Cadwell, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Dan Cox, John Cei Douglas, Marc Ellerby, Isabel Greenberg, John Riordan and Rachael Smith.
The reason for the shut down? Too much success basically. Ellerby had left running the publisher earlier in the year and Cadwell did not have the time to keep things going:
The reason behind this decision is that the Beast has grown too big for us to handle. As the group got bigger, as the books became more successful and as we widened the range of shops we sold to there became more of a need for the management and promotion to come from one or two people and Marc Ellerby and I (Adam Cadwell) happily took up that role. However, as time went on we found that the time spent working for the benefit of the group was getting in the way of us actually making our own comics, which is why we started the group in the first place. In Summer, Marc stepped back from the ‘publishing’ side of things to focus on his freelance work and his comics and now as 2014 draws to a close I feel like it’s time for me to do the same.
We looked at many ways of monetising the group so we could pay someone to run things whilst still giving the creators the bulk of the profits but we just couldn’t find a fair way to make it work. I wish we could find a business minded person who loved our comics (but didn’t make comics themselves) who could find a way to make the model financially viable and take over but I can’t imagine who that would be or how it would work.
Marc and I started Great Beast in April 2012 as a place to self publish comics to a professional standard and create a home for fun, accessible comics for a wide age range. Over the last few years, Great Beast has gained a reputation as an exciting and innovative publisher of quality comics and I’m enormously proud of that and of all the books we’ve helped produce. I hope we’ve improved the perception of what self publishing can be and shown the appeal of fun, bold, original comics. Please continue to follow the work of all our fantastic creators, I’m sure there’s a lot of incredible work yet to come.
While the door officially close on January 7th, Great Beast is having a 25% off sale, and there are some excellent books to be had there.
While Great Beast has joined the Great Hall of Shuttered Publishers, it definitely left its mark on a British scene that is growing and developing by leaps and bounds. Check out commentary by Zainab Akhtar and Steve Morris for more. Morris writes:
Great Beast was hugely helpful for the UK comics scene in general – the influence it wields will likely live on in a number of small-press publishers who’ve been set up in their wake. Having a publisher makes it easier for comic-makers to get press out to retailers and fans, and Great Beast were rather pioneering in the way they marketed themselves and got their books onto shelves across the company.
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.