Since Jenn Arledge founded Arledge Comics in 2016, the company has grown from a two-person operation for publishing Arledge’s own work to something much bigger. The Beat can exclusively reveal that, starting Friday, June 14, this creator-owned, independent publisher will open submissions for creator-owned work.
Arledge Comics, based out of Washington, is committed to elevating queer voices, creators and stories in comics. The brand has organically developed as an all-ages hub since it first launched in 2016, which Arledge aims to continue with creator-owned submissions. AC is seeking pitches that focus on inclusive, all-ages topics with a rating up to PG-13. The goal is to expand its family-friendly library of titles with creator-owned work. Priority will be given to graphic novels, then collected webcomics, followed by serial comics, but Arledge says the AC team will review every single submission. They will be accepted on a rolling basis.
“Our team is committed to proving real responses to every pitch packet we receive,” Arledge tells The Beat. “The biggest frustration as a creator is getting a canned response (or no response!) when you spend hours on a pitch packet. ‘But Jenn, what if you get so many submissions?’ Excellent question. We’ll add more staff. Being seen matters, and not just in our comics.”
Currently, Arledge Comics staff consists of Arledge, their business partner and chief administrative officer Sharron Arledge, editor-in-chief Natalie Cooper, director of operations Zach Sherwood, art director Scott Malin, writer and editor Bryce Beal, graphic designer Leanna C, content writer Kayla Moore, flatter Diane Rockell, colorists Micah Weltsch and Melissa Capriglione, and principle artist Matt Aytch Taylor.
“About a year ago, a good friend suggested I consider getting a part time assistant — and at that same time, Alex Priest co-creator Scott Malin pitched an all-ages graphic novel for me to edit and publish (The Great Witch Artemis),” Arledge explains. “It was a perfect storm that resulted in Arledge Comics blowing up — in the best way. Our first quasi-creator owned submission was met with such a positive response, that all of us at AC just knew that Artemis wouldn’t be our last.”
Arledge Comics provides fair paying opportunities to comics creators and aims to remove barriers in order to make publishing accessible for all creators. While it’s been a longtime goal to open submissions for more creator-owned work, Arledge says a major motivating factor in deciding to take the plunge now was the recent Oni Press/Lion Forge merger, which shook up the industry in a big way.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this is great news for a lot of people,” Arledge says. “Looking at it from the outside, as an independent creator? That’s one less opportunity. One less publisher to work with. The same day I heard the news, someone posted in a Facebook group asking about lower/mid-level publishers — someone who can support indie titles, but isn’t one of the big five. A middle ground between DIY comics and Household Name comics. It was another perfect storm: two publishers became one, and there was visible demand for something new. Something that made publishing more accessible to indie creators. So we set a date. And when better than Pride Month?”
Developing all-ages, queer-inclusive titles is important, Arledge says, which is why it remains a focus as AC moves forward and continues to expand. “Too often, queer media is depicted as something not meant for families,” they explain. “Being queer shouldn’t bump up the audience rating. So our library can be easily summed up as ‘inclusive, family-friendly content.’ We want people to feel seen and be seen in our comics, and we want those comics to be stories literally anyone can enjoy.”
Beyond creator-owned comics, Arledge says they have big plans for the future. One goal is to move to a corporate office. “I’d like my video games and comics to be in two different buildings,” they say. “I also want to see AC sponsoring smaller comic shows. The Pacific Northwest is home to Emerald City Comic Con, but it’s not really accessible unless you have the following and funds to make it work. Fortunately, there are many more comic arts-centric shows — Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma is near and dear to my heart — and I want to see AC become successful enough to sponsor those shows and create more opportunities for less established artists and creators.”
As for how it feels to reach this point, Arledge says, “It’s completely surreal, to be honest! Every so often, Sharron and I will be playing video games, or hitting a spa — self care is important! — and we’ll just stop and look at one another be like, ‘Dude… we own a company.’ Everyday I wake up and my mind is blown that my job is literally making comics. And helping others make comics.”
Creators who are interested in developing a pitch packet for Arledge Comics should visit the website for details. In addition to taking creator-owned submissions, AC will continue to develop independent series such as Alex Priest and Black Gold, as well as anthologies like My Kingdom for a Panel, a Shakespearian comics anthology that was recently funded through Kickstarter.
Samantha Puc is an essayist and culture critic whose work has been featured on Bitch Media, The Mary Sue, Bustle, and elsewhere. She mostly writes intersectional pop culture analysis with a particular focus on representation of LGBTQ and fat characters in fiction. Samantha is the managing editor at The Beat, as well as the co-creator and editor-in-chief of Fatventure Mag, an outdoors zine for fat creators who are into being active, but not into toxic weight-loss culture. She lives in Montana with her partner and cats.