Friday, 6 January 2012

Remembering The Self-Publishing Movement

Self-Publishers Limited Edition Print (1993)
Art by Dave Sim, Colleen Doran, James Owen, Martin Wagner & Jeff Smith

(from the Boneville Blog, 4 February 2008)
It’s been pointed out in numerous places that Dave Sim, Terry Moore, and I are all returning to our self-publishing roots with new comic book series – all within weeks of each other. But what exactly are those self-publishing roots?

It’s been 15 years since I met Larry Marder, who introduced me to Dave Sim. Who in turn introduced me to Colleen Doran. Soon, along with James Owen and Martin Wagner, we created a limited edition print featuring all our characters to sign and give away to comic book store retailers.

We did this at a 1993 Diamond Comics Distributors retail show – a few months after the industry was stunned by the announcement that six of Marvel’s top artists were forming their own company called Image Comics. The resulting rumors that we might be planning to form our own super group was irresistible. This was the beginning of what would be called The Self-Publishing Movement. The craziness that followed can best be summed up by this quote from Colleen:

“There was a period of nearly three years where we couldn’t go to a convention without being mobbed. We would start at 9 in the morning and we couldn’t get away to eat – we couldn’t get away to go to the bathroom. We’d get a short break for dinner, then rush back to the hotel bar or up to Dave’s suite and sign autographs and draw sketches for retailers until 3 or 4 in the morning.”

We spent hours together on the road and in hotels, at restaurants, and at convention booths. We talked about making comics and selling them. We had radical ideas about owning and controlling our own work. I remember very specific conversations about trying to change the retailing model of comic book stores from periodical collectables to that of replaceable stock – i.e. our trade books. 

Self-publishing pretty much started with Cerebus and Elfquest in the late 70s. The success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brought about visions of fame and fortune. Some of the  indie cartoonists in those heady days, lead by Scott McCloud, got together and drafted a Creators Bill of Rights. By the time The Self-Publishing Movement began, Comics – the community and the industry – was poised for anything. Hundreds, if not thousands of artists picked up their pens and had a go at making their own books.  At the height of the movement, self-published titles made up 17% of the comics market.

As I looked around the showroom at this year’s SPX, filled with hundreds of dedicated, enthusiastic indie comics creators working in every genre and every possible medium, I thought it might be fun to look back at those roots.

When I asked Larry Marder to write about it, he responded this way:

“Sure, I'd be glad to toss my 2 cents into this topic. This is a weird time anyway — you, Terry, and Sim returning to publishing with new projects and me returning to Beanworld, my only comic project. I personally do believe there is a direct line from today's creators backwards to our hopes and dreams in the 80s and 90s…but what a circuitous path!” 

As I read the essays coming in, I’m reminded how much fun we had analyzing the industry and the comics community, and making up rules as we went along. But I’m also reminded how difficult it was. Our credo was to own and control your work. Something that isn’t as easy as you might think.

I hope you enjoy this series of guest blogs:
Stephen Weiner (101 Graphic Novels, The Will Eisner Companion)
Rick Veitch - Part 1, Part 2 (Brat Pack) 
Larry Marder - Part 1, Part 2 (Bean World) 
Joshua Smeaton (Haunted)
Collen Doran - Part 1, Part 2 (A Distant Soil) 
Diana Schutz (Dark Horse Comics)
Terry Moore (Strangers In Paradise)
Craig Thompson (Blankets, Habibi)

1 comment:

Dolin said...

I Print it out and hung it on my wall. it was so gorgeous!! if they ever do this again with a more color theme and charge for it ill pay ina heart beat!!!!