Chatting about the Comic Industry with Omar Spahi, founder of OSSM Comics

ossm1In 2012, Omar Spahi began building his dream to create comic books. Starting his own company at 23, Omar finished his first comic book script, Xenoglyphs.

Since then OSSM Comics has not only released numerous series by Spahi, but also worked with talent such as Brian Buccellato, Noel Tuazon, and is co-publishing Hadrian’s Wall with Image Comics.

I got a chance to talk to Omar about the comic industry and his co-publishing venture with Image.

Graphic Policy: At age 23 you decided you wanted to dive into comics and you came up with Xenoglyphs. What got you interested in creating comics and your own series?

Omar Spahi: I think I’ve always had stories in my head that I’ve wanted to tell. I grew up reading comics and so once I found out people were making comics, that’s just what I started to do.

GP: What comics did you grow up reading? What impacted you so much that you wanted to do that for a living?

OS: I grew up reading Flash and the Simpsons. The Flash is what got me hooked, the characters felt so real and personal. I knew I wanted to be a part of that world, to make someone feel the way that I felt.

GP: What were some of the hurdles you came up against with doing a creator owned series and what are some lessons you’ve learned when building your own publishing company?

OS: Comics is an incredibly difficult industry, nothing comes easy and it’s hard to build a fan base. Finishing comic books, each and every time is like giving birth. Each time I finish the book I’m overwhelmed with the sense of accomplishment. The next step is marketing the titles, and that works through good recommendation and word of mouth. People listen to their friends and read what they’re reading.

GP: You mention that it’s hard to build a fan base, but it seems like some of the most successful creators are doing just that through social media, Kickstarter, and other digital tools. It’s much more of a two-way conversation now where fans expect interaction and feedback in some ways. How are you seeing that as a publisher?

OS: It’s so important to build your fan base one person at a time. You never know who will end up crossing paths with you in an important way. I can’t stress the important of staying kind and open to everyone. As a publisher it’s exactly the same, you want people to embrace your brand and develop a positive experience.

GP: You’ve recently gone into co-publishing comics especially with Image. How’d this come about and why’d you go that route?

OS: It comes from working with amazingly talented creators. They’ve told amazing stories and I’ve been lucky enough to come along for the ride.

GP: How’d that come about? Image has an open submission policy but is this something you approached them with or was it the creators you worked with?

OS: It’s been through the creators, they come out with amazing books and I’m lucky enough to be a part of it. Our Image titles have come through creators that already have a relationship at Image and it’s just grown from that.

GP: What do you see as the benefits of that route as opposed to building up your own publishing brand?

OS: We couldn’t be luckier to be working with Image. They embody what comics should be about, the mission and purpose is about empowering creators instead of using them. At the end of the day, it’s easier to generate interest for our stories when we work with a powerful brand like Image. They’re known for their amazing quality and that inherently draws people in.

GP: You get better presence in Diamond and some social media presence, but what else do they bring? Talking to other creators, they still have to do a lot of the promotion for their comics.

OS: Image books do better because of a few things, first of all. Image books produce quality. They tell great stories that grab peoples attention. Another reason is comics is really an investor business, you want to invest in the next Walking Dead # 1 or Saga # 1 because you think it will be worth more in a few years. The goal is to take the comics we’ve created and take them from Comics to TV and films. Lastly, stores order Image books because they know it’s a brand their customers crave and stores are the one that are responsible for driving consumers to new titles.

GP: There’s be a lot of talk about distribution and the role of distributors, stores, readers, and publishers. What do you see as the “state of comics?”

OS: The sad truth about comics is it’s tough for everyone, even the big name creators aren’t raking in huge paychecks every time they’re putting out an issue. I feel like most comic book creators have it tough because there are so many great books coming out. It’s hard to make it as a independent creator, but with hard work and perseverance you can become the top tier creator that is very successful.

GP: Since it’s tough, what is OSSM doing to break the mold? There’s so many new distribution, marketing, business models out there than the traditional ones that’s existed since the direct market was formed. Has OSSM explored breaking out of the traditional system?

OS: We’re doing everything we can, including searching how to grow outside of comics. We live in a world where Batman and Superman are billion dollar characters, the goal is to create stories on that level. We’re always trying new ideas and pushing the envelope creatively and looking to take our titles to new media.