With this in mind, a group of trailblazing comics creators founded Indy Comic Book Week, an event in which indy creators can get their books into comic shops across the nation. (We’re also participating here at TFAW.com, and creators have ONE WEEK LEFT to submit–click here to learn how to send us your comics!)
We were able to conduct an email interview with three of the founders: Matthew Warlick, Vinh-Luan Luu, and Jake Ekiss. Read on to learn what inspired them and get their perspective on where indy comics fit into the industry as a whole:
TFAW.com: Hi guys, thanks for sitting down and answering a few questions!
Matthew Warlick: Anytime, thanks for having us.
Vinh-Luan Luu: Not a problem; I have been really looking forward to it.
Jake Ekiss: Anytime!
TFAW.com: Why don’t you start by introducing yourselves? Tell us a little bit about who you are, your history with comics, etc.
MW: I’m Matthew Warlick. I’m an “independent” comic creator as well as freelance illustrator and art director. I’ve been in love with comics since I was about 10, when a friend let me borrow his New Mutants #93.
VVL: I’m Vinh-Luan Luu; I just go by Luan though. Confusing, I know. I’m a freelance graphic designer/illustrator by day and a comic book creator by night. Because of my experience and efficiencies, I’m mostly on the production end of things at Space-Gun Studios. I’ve been into comics since about the second grade; collecting my first issues with Jim Lee’s X-Men run.
JE: I’m Jake Ekiss, and I’ve been working on indy comics and webcomics for about 7 or 8 years now. My first big project was working with Vinh-Luan Luu on the webcomic Space-Gun. It was a gag-a-day strip that updated twice a week and ran for three years, roughly. Since then he and I founded Space-Gun Studios and joined other artists Paul Milligan, Evan Bryce, and Matthew Warlick. Our first big studio project was to put together the Synesthetic anthology. Since that I’ve done a number of indy and for-hire comic projects. My book for ICBW is the first full-length comic book that I’ve done solo as an indy creator.
TFAW.com: What inspired you to found Indy Comic Book Week?
MW: We were directly inspired by Kyle Latino’s “Deadline 09” challenge, which made its way to us through some blog posts and online discussions. We thought it was a great idea and started brainstorming ways to hop on board. I came up with the snarky idea of calling it “No Comic Book Week,” and Luan came up with the much better “Indy Comic Book Week.” From there I set up the website and we started posting about it on Twitter, and it took off and became the beast it is today.
VVL: Paul Milligan came to us with a flyer/posting he got from his friend Edward Priddy, who in turn got it from Kyle Latino like Matt said. Oddly enough, I was in California at the time when I got this so what happened next all happened via emails, blogs, and tweets. Within two weeks, we go from the original email, to “No Comic Book Week,” which becomes “Indy Comic Book Week,” and my original blog post about it. The website and the twitter hashtag [#indycomicbookweek] soon followed; before we knew it we had emails from across the nation and even a few overseas. What started as a local Dallas-Fort Worth event turned into something massive; it has been really interesting to see the development happen through the twitters and blogs.
JE: Originally there was an article by Kyle Latino circulated that described both the Diamond Skip week and referred to it as “Deadline 09,” a time when Indy creators would have their works put on the shelves in place of the usual mainstream books. We had the idea at the studio to take the whole thing a bit further, and Matt went ahead and purchased the webspace for indycomicbookweek.com. We decided to turn the website and accompanying blog into a sort of hub for the event. People can go there to preview their work, find recourses for promotion, and find what retailers are supporting the event.
TFAW.com: Can you tell us a little bit about what Indy Comic Book Week involves?
MW: Originally it was going to be just a local Dallas event showcasing books by local talent. More than anything it was a good motivating force in the sense of having a hard deadline to produce some quality work. Once the website went up and a few local retailers hopped on board and started promoting, it really took off. It’s quickly become a nationwide platform for creators to promote their books and independent comics in general.
VVL: Indy Comic Book Week is about taking advantage of an opportunity. UPS is closing for an extra day, due to where the holidays land this year. So instead of dealing with the shipping fiasco of getting new books to shops on Wednesday after Christmas, Diamond decided to forgo the shipping and just have a “No Ship Week.” So we are taking advantage of that shipping loophole to fill in those gaps on the new release shelves that would usually hold Spider-Man or Superman.
TFAW.com: How long has Indy Comic Book Week been around?
MW: At this point it’s been around less than six months, since about late August. It’s really exceeded all of our expectations in terms of exposure and support.
JE: This will be our first year, though there is already talk of making it an annual event.
TFAW.com: What has the response been like so far this year?
MW: Overwhelming. The support from creators, retailers, and fans has been amazing.
VVL: Yeah, pretty overwhelming. What started out small where we could just call up creators or walk into a local comic shop has become a huge ordeal of coordinating information across the nation. Jake had to call up shops himself and figure out who’s in charge and if they’d like to participate. Nothing really difficult to do, but there’s a lot of shops and creators that wanted to jump on board.
JE: Thus far the response has been very positive. There’s been some hiccups just trying to get a solid system in place what with the brutally quick turnaround, but otherwise people have been universally supportive. Retailers to fans, we’ve gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback.
TFAW.com: How can creators participate?
MW: The “official submissions” are closed, unfortunately. With the event less than month away, we’ve had to stop adding creators to the site to focus on promoting our own books and the event in general. Creators can still talk to shops about carrying their books, and there’s a list of participating retailers on the site for just that reason. Creators can also promote their books through the Twitter hashtag “#indycomicbookweek.”
VVL: Yeah, with what Matt said, we are in what we dubbed “Phase Four” of ICBW. It is in these final weeks where we should be promoting the event to fans. At this point, creators should have their books done and are corresponding with retailers about carrying their books. Now we need to let the fans know about the event. Its about letting them know what’s going on, where to find these books, and why it’s a rocking event with things like in-store signings, specials deals on the day, live art events, and so forth. We the creators know why this is such a great event; we need to share that enthusiasm with the fans.
JE: The best way is to check the website out and get signed up on the blog. At this point it’s virtually impossible for people to put out new books, but folks who have books that were already coming out in December could always hop on board. Likewise, we’ve capped the official website for listing new people on the site proper, but the blog is still open for anyone who wants to sign up and show previews of books that will be on store shelves the week of the 30th.
TFAW.com: How can the average person get involved this year?
MW: By promoting the event and the site, by visiting the blog, and most importantly by going into shops on December 30th and checking out all the great independent books that they might not see otherwise. And if you find something you like, let your money do the talking, and be sure to let the retailers know you appreciate the chance to read indy books.
VVL: The size and reach of Indy Comic Book Week was really created via social networks like Facebook, Blogger, livejournal, and twitter. And we need to use those same methods to spread the news. We have a Facebook event up and the twitter hashtag #indycomicbookweek is really active. And of course come in on December 30th to your local shop and pick up a few great comics.
JE: The best thing people can do is spread the word about the event. We’re on Facebook, twitter, pretty much everywhere online, but word of mouth is still the best way to spread news. The more people that hear about the event and come out to support the indy books at their local shops, the better.
TFAW.com: Where do you think independent comics fit in today’s comics landscape?
MW: I think they play a large role, larger than most people might realize. There is some really creative, intelligent, and beautiful work being created that’s really pushing the medium forward. The stories are rich and powerful, and there is often no status quo to maintain, so you get some really interesting things you wouldn’t necessarily see in a book from the big four.
VVL: The great thing about indy books is the creative freedom. It’s a place where any creator can go and try out new things and tell different stories.
JE: Comics, particularly American comics, are experiencing something of a Renaissance right now. With the Net becoming more and more a viable platform for indy books and the print-on-demand companies becoming slowly more affordable, indy books are gaining more and more prominence.
I think a lot of the more creative ideas are coming out of the indy market, and I think that will continue. It’s also a great place in the industry for new guys to cut their teeth and really get some experience on how comics are put together. Nothing teaches you better than the experience of doing it yourself, and for the first time the average Joe really can put together a book completely on their own and see what it’s like.
TFAW.com: Do you think they’re more visible then they were, say, 10 years ago?
MW: Definitely. The success of Indy Comic Book Week speaks to that, as does the number of small press books, independent creators, and webcomics out there.
VVL: Oh, much more. I think with the rise of print-on-demand, the online market as both a means of sales and distributing content, and the various conventions across the nation, an indy creator can really make a viable home in that wide landscape. There is no need to wait for someone to get back to you; you can do it yourself, rock the market, and let them come to you.
JE: Definitely. The Web has been a big part of that. Combine the Web’s ability to give unlimited access with POD production, and it’s never been easier to produce an indy book. That means there’s a lot more indy work out there, and gradually it’s finding its way more and more onto store shelves.
TFAW.com: Do you think the rise of webcomics have helped get more eyes on independent comics, or are they something else entirely?
MW: I think webcomics are the best of both worlds. Those creators that succeed not only have an understanding of comics but also of the online world in general. They have a direct line to their audience and take a huge stake in their creations, and also prove that niche content can be very successful, if done right.
VVL: Of course they’ve helped. That’s because webcomics are independent comics, just in a different format. They have to create a story on a regular basis, find their fanbase, and figure out how to sustain themselves financially. At the core that is no different than any of the indy books out there on shelves. I think people see webcomics as different because the more successful ones right now are more strip-style comics; but there are webcomics out there that do a long-format story telling very well and those will start gathering more momentum soon.
JE: I think the two are like cousins in the same family. Webcomics tend to be a different format (although not always), but their rise has certainly paved the way for indy comic books. I think the two are entwined if not entirely representative of each other. Long-term indy comic books will have different challenges to face, but there’s no doubt the webcomic scene has affected them positively.
TFAW.com: Are any of you comic creators yourselves?
MW: I suppose I’m an “independent” comic creator, meaning I don’t have a Marvel or DC exclusive. Yet. I’ve done art and colors for some small press books, but mostly work on my own stuff while doing freelance design and art direction to pay the bills.
VVL: Yeah, I would consider myself a creator; though I am in more of a support role for the studio.
JE: In fact we all are, and several of us will have books out for ICBW. Mine is Solomon Azua, a sci-fi epic with cool spaceships, deadly aliens, and wicked tech.
TFAW.com: What do you like most about independent comics?
MW: I like the variety. If you can think of it, there is probably a creator out there doing it. Or trying to, at least.
VVL: The creative freedom they give creators who may want to tell a different story than what would be the norm.
JE: I think the best thing is the freedom and the responsibility. Doing a book on your own carries with it a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and knowing that you are in charge of it from start to finish means you have a lot of control over the quality and the little details that can make or break a book.
TFAW.com: What are your plans for future Indy Comic Book Weeks?
MW: I think we’ll see how this one goes first then revisit it. We’ve talked to some local retailers who are interested in helping grow the event for next year, so that’s a possibility. I think it all depends on how well everything goes come December 30th.
VVL: There has been talks about having this become an annual event. We have to see how this year’s event goes before addressing next year; there have been a few bumps here and there, so we have to figure out if those can be paved over or if we’d have to find another route.
JE: Right now we’re still focused on this year, but with so much enthusiasm I think it’s safe to say this idea will carry on somehow. What with the POD companies starting up their own distribution as well, it may become a much larger event the next time we do it.
TFAW.com: Apart from your own work (of course) what other independent creators would you recommend the novice indy reader check out?
MW: I’m definitely looking forward to the stuff from my studio mates Jake Ekiss and Paul Milligan. Green Monk looks awesome, and I’ll definitely be picking up a copy. Omnitarium looks great, as well.
VVL: I’ve gotten to see most of the studios’ books so far, and I think people will love them. One Night Stand looks to be pretty awesome.
JE: I’m really looking forward to the book Omnitarium myself. And of course I’ll recommend anything from the local Dallas crew. David Hopkins has a book called One Night Stand that’s geared towards the more mature reader that I’m really excited about.
TFAW.com: Thanks again!
MW: Thank you!
VVL: No problem! It was fun!
Have you submitted your independent comic to TFAW.com yet? There’s just one week left! Are you planning to participate in Indy Comic Book Week and try some new comics? Post your comments below!