Radiator Comics has announced that it will take over publishing Whit Taylor’s Fizzle, offering a five-issue subscription and reprinting the first two issues. Those first two issues are scheduled to debut at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo on June 1 & 2 this year. The next issue is expected in the fall, with two more issues in 2020.
As described by Radiator Comics, Fizzle is about “Claire, a New Jersey transplant in California on the verge of transcending her listless life. Claire works retail at a tea shop where her boss expects more enthusiasm than Claire can muster, her stoner boyfriend, on the other hand, wants Claire to spend less energy worrying about life. Claire wants something more but isn’t sure what. A pot-induced joke and a taste for evocative fruit spark an interest in Claire that could be her escape from her mundane life.” I reviewed the first issue of Fizzle previously for the Beat.
Taylor self-published the first two issues of Fizzle last year but had been discussing working with Radiator Comics to publish the book following a years-long relationship with Radiator as her distributor for self-published works.
“I’ve tabled with them at SPX a few times, and consider Neil to be someone who really has a passion and aptitude for small-press publishing,” Taylor told me. “We started discussing the possibility of working together a while back, and I’m glad this worked out. It really frees me up to put my energy into drawing each issue”
Radiator’s Neil Brideau says he’s been a big fan of Taylor’s since he first traded with for some issues of Madtown High at the MoCCA Fest in New York City in 2013, and his assessment of Fizzle is glowing.
“I feel like Whit has a unique way of telling stories with a great amount of subtlety and humor,” he said, “and I think Fizzle is the best example of her skills so far. I want to do anything I can do to make it easier for Whit to draw Fizzle, so I was happy to take over the publishing of the individual issues!”
Taylor said that her goal is to put out at least eight issues, but they are starting with a five-issue subscription plan for the title. Brideau thinks that the subscription is a good way for them to generate pre-orders but also to add some jollity to the Fizzle experience.
“Whit and I agreed we should use this opportunity to do something fun with the subscription,” Brideau said, “so we’ll be making some extra items for in between issues, like stickers or prints or maybe a zine about the series.”
Taylor also says that the new arrangement with Radiator Comics will make it easier for her to produce the content. She started out as a self-publisher, which she credits as her gateway into the world of indie comics and something that she hasn’t entirely turned her back on since it’s allowed her to retain control of her work over the years. But she also acknowledges the challenges in distribution and other areas.
“With Fizzle, the challenge was making sure I was keeping enough in stock,” Taylor told me. “Two cartoonist friends had helped me make the Riso covers at SVA and I was printing the interiors from my desktop printer before each show, so this seems like a more sustainable option for the series going forward.”
Brideau says that the first two Radiator issues will be mostly the same as Taylor’s self-published versions except for a few minor edits and a different printing method, so they’re offering several options of which issue to begin your subscription with.
And Taylor’s partnered with Radiator at a positive time for the company, following its successful Kiva campaign to borrow $10,000 . Kiva is a platform for microloans that requires those seeking loans to have lent money in another campaign. It also only allows a campaign to appear on its public directory after it has brought in a specific number of lenders during a private phase. Brideau’s hope is that after he pays back the loan over the next three years as required by Kiva, his private lenders will allow their loans to remain in the Kiva lending pool.
“I think Kiva is great,” Brideau said. “They’ve got a lot of resources to help you succeed with your campaign, and once your campaign is past the private funding period your work is exposed to a lot of folks far outside the comics world. Kiva also requires a bit more paperwork and budgeting than other crowdsourced funding sites, so it’s good training for folks who are trying to run a ‘legit’ business, who might take out loans from a bank in the future.
Radiator Comics previously ran a successful Kiva campaign in 2017 for $4,000, which was used to publish its first book, The Chronicles of Fortune by Coco Picard. For this current campaign, Brideau plans to invest the money in Radiator Relay, an expansion of his Radiator’s past distribution work that he hopes broadens the market of small, micro, and self-publishers, and make their access to stores much easier.
“Pretty much every conversation I end up having with small press publishers it comes around to what a pain in the neck distribution to shops is,” Brideau said. “I heard a lot of ‘what we really need is…’ so I took those ideas and designed a service to accomplish those goals.”
The ultimate goal for Radiator Relay is to become the go-to indie comics source for not only comics shops, but other types of stores that fall into a shared customer demographic with them — record stores, bike stores, skate shops, and others, even libraries. The challenge for Brideau is enticing stores that haven’t carried small press comics before to give that market a chance. Part of that involves efforts to get as many small and self-publishers using the Radiator Relay site as he can.
“The first chunk of money from the Kiva loan will be toward research to learn exactly what retailers and publishers need the site to do, so we can build a tool that’s most useful,” Brideau told me. “I have had some initial conversations about the project with a number of retailers and publishers who have indicated they will use it, but since there is no ‘it’ yet, I haven’t signed anyone up for the service.
Brideau said that he currently doesn’t have any plans to publish any titles beyond Fizzle but does believe that if Radiator Relay works the way he hopes it does, he will be contributing to the appearance of more independent comics titles in stores, and that’s his ultimate goal.
“My hope is to create something that generates more sales for publishers, and makes small press comics making a more financially sustainable practice,” he said. “More than affecting my own publishing, I’d love it if Radiator Relay made it possible for more publishers to produce more great work with the faith that they won’t lose money on their projects.”
John Seven is a journalist and children’s book writer living in North Adams, Massachusetts. His books include ‘A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide To Anarchy,’ ‘Happy Punks 1-2-3,’ ‘Frankie Liked To Sing,’ and others. Find out about all his things at johnseven.me.