Return of the Independent Comic Book
First, I want to apologize. This is a brain dump post. I’m going to move all over the place. But I’m buzzing with the sound of comics in my head and I need to get it out there. I want to talk about the independent comic book.
This weekend I read through the first volume of The Complete Eightball collection. I noticed something that struck me. I think we are in the middle of a rejuvination of the individual anthology comic book that was popular in the 90s. Those books, like Eightball and Schizo, were themselves throwbacks to the 60s underground comix. But upon re-reading, I can’t think of a book that represented the 90s to me as much as Dan Clowes’ Eightball. I hunted as many issues as I could find when I discovered it in 1993. I was 16 and stuck in the midwest, surrounded by superheroes. Eightball blew my mind.
Now here I am at 38, still in the midwest, still surrounded by superheroes. But I’m reading all these great new comics also. Like Dark Corridor by Rich Tommaso. That first issue was a revelation and made me nostalgic for the 90s at the same time. Then I started thinking about Revenger by Charles Foresman. Lose by Michael DeForge. Pope Hats by Ethan Rilly. Crickets by Sammy Harkham. Phase 7 by good ol’ Alec Longstreth. There are a ton of similar books. Comics that are created by a single creator on a periodic schedule. Not graphic novels, but comic books. Independent cartoonists have been stuck on the graphic novel since 2000. That is long enough so that this all feels new again. Much like how I felt when Eightball would come out twice a year.
The similarities continue when I was reading about Clowes’ obsession over the production of the book. He had his hand in every aspect of how Eightball was printed. It was a quality book. It felt good to touch and was a joy to physically read. I read about Charles Foresman’s printing decisions for Revenger. I’m nodding along while I’m reading. Pope Hats feels superb in your hands, what you’d expect from AdHouse publishing it. Lose has the usual high standards we have come to expect from Annie Koyama.
All this is to say that I have a lot to say. I have so many comics in my head wanting to get out. So I’m reading Eightball this morning and I stop and head to the computer and start looking up printers and figuring estimates and oh my god wouldn’t it be so cool to do a high quality 30-page anthology comic book once or twice a year?!
Back to the 90s for a second. I found a small group of graphic design friends in high school that all wanted to draw comics forever. I’m the only one who kept at it. But we all thought about pooling our money together for self-publishing our work. Remember, it was at the tail end of the black and white boom. Printing was cheap. You could still get your book into Diamond with relative ease for distribution. I thought it would be so cool to do a monthly book. To have a letters column. Fake house ads.
Now I see all these other cartoonists doing it. I want in. Doing my own anthology would let me draw in all my styles and experiment. I would have my own letters column. That maybe excites me more than it should. I could pay for a once or twice a year print run out of pocket now (because I’m good at being an adult).
This original dream of mine died when Diamond raised their minimum orders. I’m sure it did for a lot of other cartoonists. We all flocked to graphic novels and webcomics. But here we are in 2015 and here are all these books being distributed direct to readers and it’s like, why not?