Tag Archives: Comics

Small Press Expo Announces Kickstarter Table Grants for SPX 2019

Small Press Expo 2019

In addition to its sponsorship of the 2019 Ignatz Awards, Kickstarter is also directly supporting creators at SPX’s 25th Anniversary. SPX is honored to have Camilla Zhang, Kickstarter’s Comics Outreach Lead, along with Product Designer Jenna Leonardo and Senior Engineer Pritika N. on site to provide SPX creators with dedicated consultation as to how to design and launch the best Kickstarter campaigns possible.

Kickstarter is also directing part of its sponsorship to subsidize tables for a selected group of exhibitors at SPX 2019, which was developed in consultation with members of the SPX Executive Committee.

The following SPX exhibitors will have their tables paid for by this most generous Kickstarter sponsorship, with any monies already paid to SPX to be refunded after this years show:

  • Shortbox/Zainab Akhtar
  • Lawrence Lindell
  • Carla Speed McNeil
  • Hazel Newvalent
  • Laura Knetzger
  • Archie Bongiovanni
  • Claire Connelly
  • Richie Pope
  • Maia Kobabe
  • Christina “Steenz” Stewart
  • Henry Barajas
  • Rhael McGregor

Come to SPX 2019 to celebrate SPX’s 25th Anniversary. There will be 30 special guests, 22 program panels, 14 workshops and over 600 creators/exhibitors, many of whom have used Kickstarter to fund their works.

Small Press Expo Announces Special Events

Small Press Expo 2019

While you’re waiting for Small Press Expo, celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary with these additional events in the Washington, D.C., area.

Small Press Expo takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 14-15, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center and will have over 650 creators, 280 exhibitor tables, 22 programming panels and 14 hands-on workshops to introduce attendees to the amazing world of independent and small press comics.

Wednesday, September 11 

Curated by SPX Executive Director Warren Bernard, the show traces the history of comics on newsprint from Little Nemo in Slumberland to such indie comics publications as Smoke Signals, Magic Bullet and LAAB. See works on newsprint by SPX creators such as Chris Ware, Charles Burns, Lilli Carre, and Ron Wimberly, as well as those by George Herriman, Will Eisner, and Frank King. The show runs through September 27.

Wednesday, September 11 

French artist and illustrator Yann Kebbi, who is a Special Guest at SPX 2019, will give a talk about his collaboration with author Viken Berberian and the story behind their book, The Structure is Rotten, Comrades.

Thursday, September 12

In conjunction with the 25th Anniversary of SPX, the Library of Congress is holding a year-long retrospective of the history of comics. Works from the SPX Collection at the Library of Congress will be displayed from Jaime Hernandez, Bill Griffith, and Raina Telgemeier among others. These works will be shown alongside those of George Herriman, Walt Kelly, Richard Outcault and other historically distinguished comics creators.

Thursday, September 12

Conversation with comic artist Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of the alternative comic Love and Rockets. Hernandez was the winner of the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for best graphic novel/comic and the 2014 Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Writer/Artist. He will be interviewed by Gary Groth, founder and president of Fantagraphics, about his work and creative process, representing Latinx experiences in comic art, and changes in the field over the course of his career.

The event is free, but due to expected demand, tickets are recommended, and there may be special restrictions. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Entry is not guaranteed.

Friday, September 13

Join SPX 2019 Special Guest Jérôme Tubiana in for a book talk and panel discussion about Mohammad El-Gharani, who as a child went to Pakistan to study and ended up as one of the youngest prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Mohammed’s experiences are documented in Tubiana’s book, Guantanamo Kid. This event is hosted by Amnesty International and the Justice for Muslims Collective.

Small Press Expo Announces the 2019 Ignatz Award Nominees

Ignatz Award 2019 logo

The Small Press Expo (SPX) has announced the 2019 nominees for the annual presentation of the Ignatz Awards, a celebration of outstanding achievement in comics and cartooning. 

The Ignatz, named after George Herriman’s brick-wielding mouse from his long running comic strip Krazy Kat, recognizes exceptional work that challenges popular notions of what comics can achieve, both as an art form and as a means of personal expression. The Ignatz Awards are a festival prize, the first of such in the United States comic book industry.

The nominees for the ballot were determined by a panel of five of the best of today comics professionals, MK CzerwiecKelly Froh, Chris Kindred, Nola Pfau, and Rob McMonigal.

The Ignatz Awards will be presented at the gala Ignatz Awards ceremony held on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 9:30 P.M.

This year’s Ignatz logo is by 2018 Promising New Talent winner, Iasmin Omar Ata.

Kickstarter is sponsoring the 2019 Ignatz Awards. Their sponsorship will go towards ballot printing, manufacture of the awards, room & A/V costs for the ceremony and the Ignatz After Party.

Congrats to this year’s nominees! Find the full list below.

Outstanding Artist

  • Rosemary Valero-O’Connell – Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (First Second)
  • Koren Shadmi – Highwayman (Top Shelf Productions)
  • Lucy Knisley – Kid Gloves (First Second)
  • Sloane Leong – Prism Stalker (Image Comics)
  • Ezra Claytan Daniels – Upgrade Soul (Lion Forge)

Outstanding Collection

  • Love Letters to Jane’s World – Paige Braddock (Lion Forge)
  • Girl Town – Carolyn Nowak (Top Shelf Productions)
  • Dirty Plotte – Julie Doucet (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Leaving Richard’s Valley – Michael DeForge (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • This Woman’s Work – Julie Delporte (Drawn & Quarterly)

Outstanding Anthology

  • Electrum – Edited by Der-shing Helmer (Alloy)
  • Wayward Sisters – Edited by Allison O’Toole (TO Comix Press)
  • Family  The Nib Magazine – Edited by Matt Bors, Matt Lubchanksy and Eleri Harris (The Nib)
  • Death – The Nib Magazine – Edited by Matt Bors, Matt Lubchanksy and Eleri Harris (The Nib)
  • We’re Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology – Edited by Tara Avery and Jeanne Thornton (Stacked Deck Press)

Outstanding Graphic Novel

  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me – Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (First Second)
  • Upgrade Soul – Ezra Clayton Daniels (Lion Forge)
  • Woman World – Aminder Dhaliwal (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Highwayman – Koren Shadmi (Top Shelf Productions)
  • Gender Queer – Maia Kobabe (Lion Forge)

Outstanding Series

  • The Nib Magazine – Matt Bors (The Nib)
  • Daygloayhole Quarterly – Ben Passmore (Silver Sprocket Press)
  • Heavenly Blues – Ben Kahn/Bruno Hidalgo (Scout Comics)
  • Frontier – Youth in Decline
  • Endgames – Ru Xu (NewsPrints)

Outstanding Minicomic

  • Trans Girls Hit the Town – Emma Jayne (Diskette Press)
  • Gonzalo – Jed McGowan (Shortbox)
  • Silver Wire – Kriota Willberg (Birdcage Bottom Books)
  • Cherry – Inés Estrada (Kilgore Books & Comics)
  • YLLW YLLW YLLW – Mar Julia (Diskette Press)

Outstanding Comic

  • Lorna – Benji Nate (Self-Published)
  • Infinite Wheat Paste #7 – Pidge (Pidge Comics)
  • The Saga of Metalbeard – Joshua Paddon & Matthew Hoddy (Self-Published)
  • Egg Cream – Liz Suburbia (Silver Sprocket & Czap Books)
  • Check Please! – Ngozi Ukazu (First Second)

Outstanding Online Comic

  • Isle of Elsi – Alec Longstreth
  • That’s Not My Name! – Hannako Lambert
  • What Doctors Know About CPR – Nathan Gray
  • About Face – Nate Powell
  • Full Court Crush – Hannah Blumenreich

Promising New Talent

  • Haleigh Buck
  • Ebony Flowers
  • Emma Jayne
  • Mar Julia
  • Kelsey Wroten

Outstanding Story

  • Sacred Heart Vol 2 Part 1: Livin’ in the Future – Liz Suburbia (from Egg Cream #1) (Czap Books)
  • Sincerely, Harriet – Sarah Winifred Searle (Graphic Universe)
  • Woman World – Aminder Dhaliwal (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • The Dead Eye and the Deep Blue Sea – Vannak Anan Prum (Seven Stories Press)
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me – Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (First Second)

Small Press Expo Announces the Programming Schedule for SPX 2019

SPX 2019

Small Press Expo has announced the Programming Schedule for SPX 2019. SPX is continuing the festival’s established tradition of rich, thought-provoking programming featuring leading comics artists and critics in conversation. As in previous years, the Programming Schedule features 22 sessions with two simultaneous tracks on both Saturday and Sunday, September 14 and 15.

See Raina Telgemeier, Eleanor Davis, Keith Knight, Chris Ware and Emily Carroll, along with all of the other Special Guests, in a wide variety of engaging panel discussions as part of SPX 2019.

In addition to the program panels, there are also 14 workshops with Special Guests and exhibitors being conducted by Pittsburgh-based Comics Workbook, you can sign up for the workshops here.

Here are some highlights:

  • Chris Ware And Eddie Campbell In Conversation: Chris Ware (Rusty Brown) and Eddie Campbell (The Goat Getters) are not only two of the most accomplished cartoonists in the world, they are also experts on its history. Moderator Craig Fischer (Appalachian State University) will join them in a wide-ranging conversation about comics’ roots, their current work, being a cartoonist in Chicago, and whatever else strikes their fancy.  
  • Jaime Hernandez and Katie Skelly In Conversation: Jaime Hernandez (Love And Rockets) and Katie Skelly (My Pretty Vampire, Maids) are known for their pulp roots, drawing beautiful & fashionable women, and creating memorable characters that have a profound impact on their readers. Rachel S. Miller (Ohio State University) will join them in a discussion delving into their unique drawing styles, inspirations, and shared cultural fascinations.  
  • Racial Illiteracy: Harvey, Glyph and Inkpot award-winning indie cartoonist Keith Knight crashes SPX with an all-new slideshow addressing America’s Racial Illiteracy. Using comix, story-telling, and humor, ye olde Gentleman Cartoonist gets to the heart of the matter when it comes to America’s biggest problem. Tea will be served.
  • Libraries And Comics: Past, Present, And Future: Over the past twenty years, libraries and the comics industry at all levels have been working together to forge bonds that have benefited both. Comics and graphic novels have become a huge draw for libraries, who also use their resources for comics festivals and workshops. Libraries have become an essential client for publishers at all levels, emerging as a crucial part of their bottom line. Critic Chris Mautner explores the evolving nature of this relationship with Kathy Schalk-Green (of the American Library Association), Megan Halsband (from the Library of Congress), Jacq Cohen (representing Fantagraphics Books), and cartoonist Raina Telgemeier (award-winning and best-selling author of Smile, Drama, Sisters and her newest book, Guts).  
  • Queer Science Fiction And World Building: Science fiction has long been used as a means to address any number of society’s ills through the use of alien settings and advanced technology. Many cartoonists address queer-specific issues in the way that they actually create the foundations of their worlds. Critic and publisherCarta Monir will moderate Hannah Templer (Cosmoknights), Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (What Is Left), Shing Yin Khor (Salvage Station No. 8), and Alison Wilgus (Chronin) as they discuss how their settings create explicitly and implicitly relate queer themes.  
  • Birthing Stories: There have been a number of extraordinary comics published about pregnancy and motherhood in recent years. Carol Tyler (Late Bloomer, Soldier’s Heart) blazed the trail in this regard thirty years ago, and she will moderate an all-star assemblage of cartoonists to discuss the experience of giving birth. Join Lucy Knisley (Kid Gloves), Marnie Galloway (Slightly Plural), Meghan Turbitt (Laughter Birth), Lauren Weinstein (Mother’s Walk), and Rachel Masilamani (We Conceive) as they offer a wide variety of perspectives on their own birthing stories.

Small Press Expo Announces Cartoon Workbook Workshops for 2019

Small Press Expo 2019

Small Press Expo has announced a series of comic book making workshops, featuring hands-on instruction from some of the most talented makers of independent comics. The workshops will occur at SPX 2019, to be held Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15.

Educators from Pittsburgh, PA-based Comics Workbook will host workshops with Eisner-nominated Master Cartoonist Carol Tyler, animator Scott Morse,teacher/graphic novelist Jessica Abel and other experts of the form.

Participants will have the opportunity to hone their storytelling and drawing skills – whether they are a beginner or expert. The popular clay figurine workshop with Liz Reed returns this year, and Camilla Zhang will offer two workshops on getting the most out of your Kickstarter campaign!
Due to popular demand, this year’s SPX has a full slate of 14 different workshops, with the complete schedule of Comics Workshop sessions on the SPX web site.

Panels for SPX 2019 will be announced next week.

Sign up here for a session (or two) to Learn to Draw Comic from the Pros!

Confirmation emails will be sent out Tuesday September 10. All Saturday workshops will be held in the Glen Echo room. All Sunday workshops will be held in the Oakley room. Both rooms are downstairs at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, right across from the White Flint Metro stop on the Red Line.

You must have an Attendee badge to participate. Admission to SPX 2019 is $15 Saturday, $10 Sunday and $20 both days. Admission gets you into the class, access to 22 slots of programming panels and the Exhibitor Hall with over 600 creators selling the finest in indie comics, mini-comics, graphic novels, posters and other cool stuff.

Walk-ins will be welcome, however, space permitting. Seating to all sessions are limited to 50 people.

LOCATION:
Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center 5701 Marinelli Road Rockville, Maryland20852
METRO STOP: White Flint Station on the Red Line

Small Press Expo 2019 Announces Danish International Guests

Small Press Expo has announced Danish International Special Guests for SPX 2019. The festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 14-15, at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center and will have over 650 creators, 280 exhibitor tables, over 20 programming slots, and additional hands-on workshops to introduce attendees to the amazing world of independent and small press comics. Additional Special Guests will be announced soon.

Craig Frank

Craig Frank was born (1961) in St. Louis, Missouri. In his early years he had various jobs that helped form his character, among them, a gardener at a retired Nun convent, an asst. to an alcoholic carpenter, a trash collector in a ghetto north of St. Louis, a bellman in the Adolphus Hotel and a printer at a chemical infested T-Shirt Factory. He graduated from Columbia College with a Cum Laude in BFA. A multi-talented artist, Craig moved to Denmark in the late 80’s and later joined the world of animation and directed his debut film Journey to Saturn, and created his debut Graphic Novel, JFK Secret Ops. 

Craig Frank has created the graphic novel COOL VALLEY, a coming of age story set in the 70’s in a small town outside St. Louis. As one reader wrote: I read it without stopping and laughed many times; it kept me wanting more of both our pasts.

Emil Friis Erns

Emil Friis Ernst (b. 1994) is a danish cartoonist, illustrator and comics teacher living and working in Viborg, Denmark. He has previously had journalistic comics work published on The Nib and exhibited at Erlangen International Comic Salon. 

He’s into big robots and cinema from around the world. 

Emil’s forthcoming books “Dr. Murder and the Island of Death” and “Reservat” (the latter written in collaboration with Dennis Gade Kofod) are equal parts spandex-clad pulp and dystopia, dealing with loss and longing in a world on the brink of destruction.

Halfdan Piske

Halfdan Pisket‘s graphic novel debut, the highly acclaimed Cockroach Trilogy (2014-2016) has been applauded by the pressand awarded numerous prizes.

“My father’s story is similar to so many others, who travel away in an attempt to put the past behind them, but who eventually fall apart in the new country.”

The Cockroach Trilogy is about the life of Pisket’s father, an Armenian immigrant escaping opression and trying to make himself a new home in Denmark. It is a story about not belonging anywhere and about losing everything. The trilogy is heavy awarded and sold for publication in The Netherlands (SubQ), France (Présque Lune), Sweden (Kartago) and Mexico (La Cifra editorial). Recently the French edition of the last volume of the trilogy won Série de la Prix Angoulême in France.

Ida Rørholm Davidsen

Ida Rørholm Davidsen is a Danish illustrator educated at The Royal Danish Academy of Design in Copenhagen. Ida works independently with illustration, art and book projects, besides being part of the design collective and shop GunGun. Her drawing style is light and feminine, and mixes the analogue pen drawings with digital pastel colouring.

Ida Rørholm Davidsen won the Ping prize (the official comic award in Denmark) for “Best young-adult comic” 2019. for her comic debut: Lonely journey.

Lonely journey is a a modern fairytale about the young girl Anna, her obsession with computer games, her loneliness and the every day struggle to fit in.

John Kenn Mortensen

John Kenn Mortensen says “It warms my heart when I am able to scare people or just give them the sense of having experienced a small adventure from something so simple as a drawing on a post-it note. People will always be afraid of monsters. For some people spiders are monsters… just very small monsters.

There is this very fine moment right before you realize you are gonna be eaten by something you never thought existed. It is like when you get bad news and you think ‘I never thought this was gonna happen to me.'”

Rune Ryberg

From dinosaur evading cats in a post apocalyptic world to pinball playing teenage lizards in the early nineties, Rune Ryberg (1979), turns his characters to life with his dynamic, color saturated, rough style. In 2014 he made his debut as a comic book artist with the award winning Gigant published by AdHouse Books.

Rikke Villadsen

Rikke Villadsen is a comic book artist living and working in Copenhagen. Since her 2011 debut, she has been defying artistic conventions and surprising readers with her stories’ surreal twists. Her work questions gender as a social construct, embracing the complexity of being feminist and human. 

The Sea is Rikke Villadsen’s English-language debut graphic novel, released January 2019 by Fantagraphics Books. The tale of a sailor lost at sea is full of evocative symbolism that doesn’t just bubble beneath the surface of the water, but drenches the sailor—and reader—like a tidal wave.

Paw Krogsbæk Mathiasen

Paw Krogsbæk Mathiasen is the founder, editor and publisher of Danish publishing house Fahrenheit (established 1991), the Danish publisher of the works by Craig Thompson, Miles Hyman, Gilbert Shelton, Robert Crumb and Charles Burns and Danish artist like Peter Snejbjerg and Rikke Villadsen among many.

Pernille Arvedsen

Paw Mathiasen will take part in SPX searching for material to publish at the Danish market.

Pernille Arvedsen is an editor at the Danish publishing house COBOLT

Independent Comic Publisher Arledge Comics Opens for Creator-Owned Submissions

Arledge Comics

Independent comic publisher Arledge Comics has announced that they’re now open for creator-owned submissions.

Arledge Comics is seeking pitches that focus on inclusive, all-ages topics with a rating up to PG-13. Their goal is to continue to develop their family-friendly titles and expand their library to include creator-owned titles. Priority will be given to graphic novels, then collected webcomics, followed by serial comics.

Those interested in developing a pitch packet should view the website. Arledge Comics will continue to develop independent series such as Alex Priest and Black Gold as well as their anthologies.

Underrated: Release Barabbas!

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Release Barabbas


The cover to the comic actually has straight lines – this is just a poor photo of my copy.

There’s a chance that you may have heard about Barabbas, especially if you’re familiar with the bible and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, John and later copies of Luke. If you haven’t heard of him, then Barabbas was the criminal who, along with Jesus of Nazareth, was presented to the crowd by Pontius Pilate whereby the crowd was given the option to save one man and condemn the other to death. We all know how that turned out for one of the men.

But what about the other?

Well that’s where Liam McKenna‘s Release Barabbas comes in. Billed as “an absolutely nonreligious, yet possibly sacrilegious biblical fairy tale” the 57 page comic tells the story of Barabbas’ life on the day his life was spared – a day that also happens to be the same day Jesus was crucified.   If you’re already starting to turn away because you’re leery of the religious undertones then don’t worry because despite being set during a pivotal moment in history, biblical or not, there’s actually nothing to do with religion in the comic, because Barabbas himself seems entirely oblivious to it – and this is his story.

Release Barabbas has a colour scheme that feels immediately historical; the reddish peach of the physical comic lends itself a brilliantly sepia-esque tone that serves as a great tool to set the historical nature of the tale right away. Likewise, McKenna’s stylized art lends itself to a physical comedy that’s reminiscent of the Saturday morning cartoons and the sound effects that so often permeate those shows and comics. McKenna’s use of blank space to highlight the loneliness and isolation that Barabbas feels as he navigates his first hours of freedom.

As a story about the death of Jesus without Jesus in it, this is a very enjoyable read about a man unaware of the history unfolding around him – and in many ways that’s a reminder to us all. Just because you’re unaware of the events around you doesn’t mean that they’re not happening. For a comic that seems to be a light hearted tale, there’s a subtle gut punch there – and that’s why this is an Underrated book (and the fact you’ve probably never heard of it).

The comic is available in part here or on Gumroad here in a pay-what-you-want model. If you want to hear more on the comic, there’s an episode of Those Two Geeks you can listen to here. I purchased a physical copy directly from the author a couple of months ago for around $17, and it was worth every penny.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

Review: Zachariah Thorn #2

Zachariah Thorn #2

It’s been 10 years since Zachariah Thorn inadvertently tore the veil between our world and the darkness beyond. Now his dark gift is his only weapon in his quest to banish the evil he has wrought.

Eli Merric has pulled Zach from his self imposed exile. The two returned home to aid in the banishment of a trio of Howlers who had taken root in the psyche of Cynthia, the young niece of their long time friend AJ Jordan.

With Cynthia now free of the Howlers’ thrall, Zach and his friends begin to shake loose the rust of their relationships…

…but old wounds have a habit of reopening.

It hasn’t quite been ten years since I read Indigo Comics Zachariah Thorn #1 (reviewed here), not even close if I’m being honest, but it has been some time (about three years if we look at the publication date of the first review). I am happy to say that even after all that time I was still able to pick up this long awaited second issue without the need to reread the first.

I was immediately drawn back into Scott Reichert‘s story as if I’d never left – but if this the first you’ve heard of Zachariah Thorn then fear not! You can get the entire first issue for free if you check out the link below, and the sequel is available for a steal of a deal right now (there’s another link below) on comiXology. And honestly, for 99cents, this is a fantastic deal for the two issues of Zachariah Thorn.

A comic that has echoes of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books in the setting (in that it’s a modern day magic based story with a well loved yet slight rogue star)Zachariah Thorn is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, with the world having a fully realized feel – even if the reader may not be totally aware of the history, it’s evident that Reichert has the details written down somewhere. We’re given exactly what we need to follow the story within the comic, and just enough to drive our interest further into the series with the subsequent issues.

Zachariah Thorn has a lot  about it that I really enjoyed – and for the price you’ll pay for this book, there’s absolutely no reason not to check out the two comics in the series thus far. 

Story: Scott Michael Reichert Art: Kristian Rossi
Colours Robert John Reichert Letters: Toben Racicot
Story: 8.3 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Zachariah Thorn #2 is available on ComiXology for $0.99 now. You can read the first issue for free here if you need a refresher on the story.

Amazon Isn’t Indie and Small Press’ Enemy, It’s Another Platform to Sell

If you read The Comics Journal, it might seem like one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was descending on Small Press Expo which takes place in Bethesda, Maryland this weekend. In an article entitled “A Plague Comes to SPX” RJ Casey makes the case that Amazon and comiXology‘s involvement in the show is an “affront” to those who attend and exhibit at the show.

comiXology is a digital platform that acts as a storefront for digital comics and was purchased by Amazon some years ago. Since then, the company has expanded allowing individual creators to upload their comics to sell through comiXology Submit and more recently launched a line of original comics called comiXology Originals.

Amazon and comiXology are bringing one of those originals, Hit Reblog, to SPX along with some of the creative team behind it and giving away printed copies to attendees. They’re also sponsoring portions of the convention.

Some feared when comiXology was acquired Amazon they would flex their market dominance putting pressure on publishers and brick and mortar stores. In the years since the focus has been more on experimentation and slowly integrating the service into the Amazon family such as Amazon Prime and Kindle. Even before Amazon, comiXology was the 800lb gorilla in the digital comics market and at any time could have easily become a tyrant with their exclusive contracts and market dominance. Though there were alternatives earlier and after, they remain the gold standard service by which all others will be measured. None have come close to matching what comiXology delivers.

While it is understandable to be nervous about Amazon’s entrance into the comics market and apprehensive due to their questionable treatment of employees, reality is their store had already been in the comic market for years selling individual comics and graphic novels and accounting for an unknown, but vital, amount of sales. Well before comiXology, Amazon had a section dedicated to comics with regular promotion and since the acquisition, those promotions have become better focused and better curated running appropriate sales during events such as San Diego Comic-Con and Small Press Expo raising awareness. ComiXology Originals are free to read for Amazon Prime a service millions are already paying for.

While the TCJ article spends a decent amount of time advocating for the rights of Amazon employees, its actual focus on the comics aspect seems to fall short in both facts and conclusions.

The fear seems to be, Amazon sponsorship of Small Press Expo is a trojan horse to take over independent comics as if there is one publisher by which that can be accomplished. The article and those concerned supporting it make indie and small press comics out to be both on the edge of collapse, easily broken, and also so lucrative that Amazon of course would want to snatch it up. It’s Schroedinger’s business. Both fragile and also immensely successful as is.

What the article fails to mention is that Amazon is already in the small press comic game and has been for years as both a platform and a publisher. Not only can creators self publish through their many services but the company also has Jet City Comics launched in 2013. They were already in the original comics publishing game well before the comiXology acquisition and that included distribution through comic stores. For a behemoth that is portrayed as so focused on closing brick and mortar stores, it’s strange that in their business model of their own comic line would include brick and mortar stores.

The article claims that Amazon wants to be “your printer, distributor, and most likely, publisher and editor.” As stated by Bedside Press‘ founder Hope Nicholson, Hit Reblog is published and owned by Bedside Press, not comiXology and not Amazon. An attack on the comic is an attack on a small press comic company. Similarly, Savage Game, the first comiXology Original comic to be printed, is owned by Cryptozoic.

Amazon and comiXology are the distributor and printer at most, very different than other comic publishers and more akin to a combination of Diamond Comic Distributors, the monopoly that currently is the major comic distribution service, and a possible printing company. Honestly in a way they’re like Image, a brand that comes with some benefits but in the end are creator owned. comiXology Originals sound more like paid for exclusives, a value added for comiXology and Amazon Prime customers and subscribers. They’re also willing to sink money into promoting comic projects featuring varied subjects and different creative voices that we don’t normally hear from other publishers.

The article also mentions a hit on “artistic freedom and intent” with a focus on the paper on which the comics are printed. While different printings can create a different reading experience, the focus on this, much as the article as a whole, screams of elitist gatekeeping as if there is one way to print a comic. ComiXology is providing these creators, and all of those that participate in comiXology Submit, a creator owned platform and the ability to do as they please with a possible visibility that can’t be replicated by any current comic publisher or distribution system. Amazon for years has provided print on demand services and it’s only natural that this be incorporated into this latest experiment of theirs.

As C. Spike Trotman emphasized in the comiXology Originals San Diego Comic-Con announcement panel, the ability to work with comiXology and Amazon is a value added and provides an opportunity to open doors. These are opportunities that might not exist to her as an already successful independent comic publisher (one who has been a regular at SPX for years). This is a comic creator who has raised over $1 million on Kickstarter. Trotman pointed out despite that success some doors are still closed to her. Amazon and comiXology are partners to possibly help open some and explore others neither have ever imagined.

With those incorrect conclusions and facts, the TCJ article warns of dire times when Amazon will force indie creators to print through them and undercuts creators through their platform. As if there’s not other on demand printing options and also downplays the do-it-youself nature of indie comics.

The reality is, a sale on Amazon because an individual saw the comic at a convention is still a sale. Yes, the creator will make less, but they’re still making money that most likely will have never been made otherwise. Conventions like SPX are as much about visibility and advertising as they’re about direct sales to the consumer. Conventions are about raising awareness and getting on attendees’ radars. That fee for the table, that’s the advertising fee. What you make there is some of which you make back immediately from that advertising. And Amazon’s cut of the sales through their platform? That’s no different than selling through Diamond or to comic shops directly or through Kickstarter or Etsy or Indiegogo which all take their piece of the pie. Amazon and comiXology are the technology platform through which these individuals can sell their wares globally and if done right get their creations before an audience that might not otherwise see them. That’s something TCJ’s parent Fantagraphics should be well aware as they use both Amazon and comiXology as two of their sales channels. It’s not an either or, it’s an all of the above to sell comics.

But where the article absolutely fails is its advocacy for attendees to throw copies of Hit Reblog in the trash. As if that comic is less worthy to be at the show than any other. TCJ seems to forget that the beauty of small press and indie comics is that anyone can make them. The paper it’s printed on, the format it comes in, and the ability of the creators are varied. Indie comics and small press are all an experiment. None of it is right, none of it is wrong. No one can “own” small press and indie comics because anyone can create them. Walk up and down the aisles at Small Press Expo and you can see that from the high quality books published by the likes of Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, and Top Shelf, to the comics xeroxed, stapled, and folded by the attendees themselves. RJ Casey, TCJ, and Fantagraphics has seem to have forgotten this and are becoming the gatekeepers they themselves would have decried years ago.

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