The Comics Are All Right: Iron Circus Shows Alternative Paths are Winners

One reason I generally dismiss a lot of takes on the “state of the comic industry” is their focus on the big two, traditional distribution, and traditional retail. I’ve written before that the comic industry is so much more than Marvel and DC, Diamond, and local comic book shops. Many creators are paving their own path by creating new revenue and distribution models that break the mold and can find success.

One example of this is C. Spike Trotman and Iron Circus Comics who has carved their own niche in the industry and doing things in a way that works for their product, fans, and building a community.

Founded in 2007, Iron Circus Comics is Chicago’s largest alternative comics publisher. The publisher is dedicated to strange and amazing comics, amplifying unheard and unique voices, and giving creators a fair deal. ICC pioneered the widely-used bonus model that has reshaped the compensation system of small press, and helped jump-start the current renaissance of alt-comics anthologies. ICC is an example of a publisher incorporating crowdfunding into its business model, netting over $1,000,000 on Kickstarter to date for its slate of new work from emerging talent in the comics field.

Yes, you read that right, Iron Circus Comics has netted over $1 million on Kickstarter but also hasn’t ignored traditional brick and mortar stores either. ICC is distributed to the trade by Consortium and you’ll find physical comics in local shops and through conventions.

Trotman has founded a publishing empire focused on inclusive, diverse, sex-positive books, an audience and genre overlooked and under served by publishers. And that’s not to mention doing so in an environment filled with hostility and harassment by regressive trolls. There was a space and Trotman has filled it to the tune of seven figures and counting. Titles have “netted five-figure unit sales before major trade distribution” and you can find Iron Circus at conventions, look for the mobbed table (that’s my experience at SPX).

But when “experts” talk about the comic industry, they’re excluding Trotman and this new model to their dismay. Yes, some comics are hurting, but others are booming and this is an example of that. And example other publishers and creators should be learning from. The industry has been in the middle of a disruption that has been occurring for years in other industries, and those disruptions create new entrepreneurs to stand out and fill a needed space.

So, when other sites and individuals talk about the failing comic industry, step back and wonder if they really are talking about all comics or an ever shrinking outdated genre and business model.

General DC