Independents Flex their Muscles at NYAF|
Writen by Tectonic
Posted on January 20, 2008 at 05:18:30 pm
attending the New York Anime Festival (NYAF), I immediately noticed something that
set this convention aside from others: ‘Artist alley’ was spanning the merchant
room’s right side. Frequent con-goers
can tell you the artist alley tends to be a series of tables tucked away in the
back of the convention. Being their
first year, the management seemed to want to employ a bit of fiscal
conservativeness and the convention was hosted in a very small section of the Jacob
Javitz Center. As a byproduct the independent artists were
mixed in with a larger pool and boy were they up for it.
This kind of
opportunism is not uncommon to indie comic artists; it comes with the
territory. No ad department is going to
bring them viewers. They have to catch
them the old fashioned way: bait and tackle.
It’s harder, and there’s no guarantee of a decent paycheck, but there’s
nothing like being your own boss. It
wasn’t too long ago that we could count the amount of professional independent
artists on our fingers, but it’s apparent now that the web’s not done growing.
Charlie Spike-Trotman, creator of Templar, Arizona
and founder of Iron Circus Comics, are case-in-point of the magical chemistry
between elbow grease and PHP. She’s been
her own boss for 10 years, shows no signs of ever needing a (dear me) ‘day job’,
and has acquired a pool of roughly twelve thousand fans who are making sure she
stays in business: “My readers kept
bugging me for a printed version of the comic, so I said to them ‘I can’t pay
for it but I asked for a quote from a publisher and he said $3500, so I’m
opening up preorders and we’ll see what happens’. In 13 days I had my $3500”.
It would make sense that if you
release your comic for free on the web, nobody’s going to want to buy a
published copy, but Spike’s story is no anomaly. Professional cartoonist and illustrator Dirk
Tiede runs Paradigm Shift, a free web comic about two Chicago
detectives who deal with the paranormal.
He, like Spike, publishes a comic book once he’s done with a chapter of
his story, and is currently selling books one and two with number three not far
down the line. While fellow Chicagoans
love reading about fantastical mysteries right in their home city, fans across
the US are just
as intrigued by what Dirk’s imagination can project onto the city’s landscape.
Tiede’s attendance record boasts
around 15 cons a year, some even a 12 hour drive from home. Why so many?
“Cons make the most sales … Ad [revenue] on my site is mostly used for
buying ads on other sites.” Thankfully
when you do what you love, business tends to naturally mix with pleasure. Most artists use the extra travel time to
visit family or friends.
Web store sales, ad sales, and con
sales add up when put together, but a newer practice is opening up that could
give web artists some more stability: Diamond Comics Distributors was a name
passed around a lot on the convention floor.
Dirk uses them, but likely no one there depends on them as much as Rich
Bernatovech, founder of Drumfish Productions.
He only gives previews of his comic online, so no ad sales, only attends
6 cons a year and doesn’t have a web store (though he will sell you a comic
through email if you live in, say, Cold Bay, Alaska). Retail sales are healthy enough for Rich to
operate just like Darkhorse, only on a smaller scale. In fact his original comic, Sentinels with
art by Lucciano Veccio, has been so successful they’re working on a new comic
series, Neverminds, alongside artist Jamie Fay.
Despite success stories with
Diamond, conventions remain invaluable in the eyes of the indie comic
artist. Michael “Mookie” Terracciano,
creator of the well known Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire, remains
convinced that cons are “vital” to expanding your readership: “Fans can attach
a face to the work”. And Mookie
practices what he preaches, attending roughly a convention a month if not more,
to sell copies of Seer’s Digest, the first printed collection of his web
comics. “Most of my sales are done at
conventions. Orders [online] come in
spurts.” Cons also give Mookie an outlet
for one more thing: the sale of Dominic scarf replicas lovingly hand-knit by
Something all indie artists seem to
have in common is gratitude. While the
pro web artist club has opened its doors a bit wider in the last few years,
they have by no means forgotten their grassroots heritage. All artists in the Alley seem to love being
approached and complimented by their readers.
Most of these artists’ success stories were founded on the support and
compassion of their readers, only proving that while the internet can bring out
the worst in people (just hit un-mute on X-Box Live), it can also bring out the
best in them.