Every once in a while I mention the “small companies banding together to survive in a hostile environment” strategy, and here’s a perfect example. Aspen Comics, the long running company founded by the late Michael Turner, has acquired Big Dog Ink as an imprint. Both Aspen and Big Dog publish primarily periodicals, and that really is a tough business plan these days unless you have well known IP, and even then it is no cakewalk.

Aspen is notable for having giant booths at most conventions—a holdover from when they were a beloved darling of the Wizard crowd. Yeah we’re talking a long time ago. Best known for publishing the underwater glamour girl Fathom, Aspen doesn’t make many headlines for publishing news these days. At a show this year, or maybe last, I stopped by the booth to chat with co-owner Frank Mastromauro, who mentioned that they were doing a few things, but it was nothing that I felt compelled to sit down and write about.

Big Dog Ink has been setting up progressively larger booths at shows in the last two years or so. In all honesty, I have never ever heard any one say to me that they read a Big Dog Ink comic, but that could also be the company I keep. Their output seems to me to be somewhere between Speakeasy and Zenescope. It’s professional and everyone is having fun, but no one got into this business for easy money. A comment on the Robot 6 reporting on this story indicated that BDI has been cancelling a bunch of titles so…do the math.

The new model will see Big Dog properties published under Aspen’s banner, and offered under Aspen’s spot in the Diamond catalog. They’ll also team up for conventions. I stopped by the booth at NYCC to chat about the move and the fellow there (Who was not co-owner Tom Hutchison) seemed enthused about the development. Basically, it’s a way for both publishers to freshen up their look.

The PR follows:

Aspen Comics has reached an agreement with fellow Independent comic book publisher Big Dog Ink to acquire exclusive publishing rights for BDI’s entire library of comic book properties, in addition to their past catalogue of titles. The deal will see BDI launch forward as a distinct imprint of Aspen Comics’ books and products, with owner/publishers Tom and Kim Hutchison continuing to be the creative force behind BDI’s unique set of original titles at Aspen. Tom Hutchison discusses:

“At Big Dog Ink we’ve always been devoted to creating high quality, unique comics for our readers. When it came time in the growth of our company to find partners that share our love of the comic genre and passion for storytelling, Aspen seemed like the obvious choice. From the beginning, everyone at Aspen has been supportive of our crazy adventure and we’re looking forward to being part of a truly top notch crew of creators and longstanding industry professionals. Fans can look forward to all of the great content they’ve come to expect from BDI, but bigger and better with Aspen in our corner.”

Founded in 2009, BDI has seen a substantial growth within the independent comic book market in collaboration with a wide variety of up-and-coming artistic talent on a multitude of original properties such as Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, Shahrazad, Penny For Your Soul, Ursa Minor, Critter, Knightingail and more.

Under the terms of this new agreement between the two publishers, Aspen and BDI will be widening the access to BDI’s diverse lineup of original properties through several of Aspen’s existing channels, including at the retail and digital levels, in addition to Aspen’s online webstore outlet, Aspen’s VP/Editor-in-Chief Vince Hernandez discusses:

“We are thrilled to be able to team up with Tom, Kim and Big Dog Ink to introduce their original and exciting titles to our fans, and welcome their own fans to our house as well. They have really built something special at BDI, and their passion for creating exceptional new titles is something we knew would make for a perfect fit here at Aspen Comics. Their creative vision will continue forward, and based off the early plans we have in place, I am certain BDI fans can expect more of the same high quality storytelling in addition to some exciting new ideas coming your way.”

Aspen and BDI have set a planned reprint release schedule for their existing library of books to feature new and re-mastered content, beginning with the re-release of Shahrazad in early Spring with more release dates to follow.

The publishers will also be utilizing their combined regional presence and bases of operation to build a broader convention appearance slate across more potential cities and avenues of promotion in 2015 and beyond.



  1. BDI is good, smart people (“it’s professional and everyone is having fun” above sums it up well) and it is great to see they are staying in the game.

  2. “…nothing i felt compelled to sit down an write about…”

    Wow. This article is so very condescending. It would be helpful to the smaller businesses of the industry if this small relatively unknown Comicbook news publication would be more… I don’t know… Supportive?

    But I guess that is not the way to get readership. I guess if the news article is colored with passive-aggressive prose maybe people will read it.

    I’m bothering to “sit down and write about” this authors article because it’s sad. Shameful. This degrades what should be a shining moment for two companies entering into a new partnership that can only spark new and engaging ideas.

  3. Pili: regarding “…a shining moment for two companies entering into a new partnership that can only spark new and engaging ideas”

    That hyperbole would carry a lot more weight if either publisher actually put out innovative, thoughtful, cutting-edge, or otherwise substantive books of some type. However, the reality is they both produce T&A and run-of-the-mill genre books, hence Heidi’s “nothing i felt compelled to sit down an write about” comment. That sentiment, by the way, is echoed by pretty much all the other comic news sites as well, given their lack of coverage of either Aspen or BDI to any significant degree.

    PS. Calling The Beat a “…small relatively unknown Comicbook news publication…” is way more condescending. Or, at a minimum, uninformed.

  4. I get the writer wanted to insert some speculation as to why Big Dog and Aspen are getting together, but I, too, saw a passive-aggressive tone in this article. It isn’t imagined. If that’s what you want for the article, fine. Just don’t file it under “news” when it’s an editorial.

  5. I visited the Big Dog Ink booth at AwesomeCon just a week or two ago and their books don’t seem at all like what you see coming out of Zenescope — particularly if you crack them open. Ever hear the saying, “Dpn’t judge a book by its cover?” Critter, for example, is a light-hearted superhero adventure book. Ursa Minor stars a girl with hairy bear arms (that’s sexy somehow?). Aspen has a variety of titles that don’t fit the T&A description. I mean, look at veteran female comic book artist Siya Oum’s dream project, LolaXOXO. Look at Trish Out of Water, The Zoo Hunters, Broken Pieces, etc. The author of this article seems not to have updated her opinion of Aspen since the ’90s.

  6. I said “particularly if you crack them open” not “only if you crack them open” — meaning that even some books you might think are full of T&A might have more to them if you check them out. The books I mentioned don’t fit the T&A profile at all.

  7. My 12 y/o daughter loves a lot of the books Aspen puts out (Fathom, Lola and Damsels most recently). She also made it a point to visit their both when they came to Calgary.

  8. Seriously, in the wake of the Spider-Woman controversy, why this cover image to announce the merger? “Check it out! We have women in sexy poses falling out of their clothing, too!” Today’s Secret Word is: Obvious.

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