Tag: comics

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #014: Shameless Self-Promotion, Part 2!

Back in August, I lamented about the giant gamble of crowd-funding your way into comics. But as of late — with a deluge of projects bombarding my social media feeds these days — I’ve felt the urge to revisit the topic and dive a bit deeper into the nooks and crannies of shameless self-promotion. Get your pat of butter and jam ready, kiddos. Let’s make breakfast.

The truth of the matter is that being an indie publisher/creator/distributor of original content means having to navigate the choppy waters of branding, marketing, and relating to your public… all in order to keep your doors open and the money flowing to keep the drawings a’comin’. Simply put: you’re not going to be able to draw without also becoming a draw to would-be patrons. Especially if you opt to crowdfund your way into building the capital necessary to produce a product. Because of the nature of the beast, that often necessitates having to promote yourself early and often to the masses.

The how, of course, is the hard part. Because of the advent of social media, it’s easy (to a point) to build up a solid network of friends, fans, and family. But once you’ve amassed your following… stoking the fire becomes a balancing act between pride in your work, and desperation to see it pay off.

Shameless Self-Promotion to me is that balancing act of shilling for your passion projects without fear of sounding desperate. And there’s no greater time to act shameless, when you’re crowdfunding. Why? Because Kickstarters are built on the principle of all or nothing. With that in mind, setting the bar high and then needing to clear it or else will mean having to ask every family member, friend, and fan to support you. A lot. Repeatedly. And in doing it, maintaining a tone that comes with the confidence that your product is high quality, while you’re literally begging them to back you for a few dollars… comes with its own set of problems.

And the million dollar question is… When do you cross the line from acceptable hustle to annoying shill?

Truth be told: I don’t believe there’s an easy answer here. Every independent promoter I know is inherently tied to their brand. As such, one fella’s hourly update of his funding numbers may incite a truly positive groundswell as his fans rally to his aid… and another’s once a week crying vlog of happiness may get the job done just as well. So, what follows here is wholly my personal opinion, and nothing more.

As a friend/fan/contributor to a project, I don’t want more than a single touch a day from a given campaign (and to be clear: if a campaign is broadcast to multiple pages I’m receiving? No biggie!). The fact is, any more than that — save wholly for significant milestones or other worthy interruptions — triggers my “I’m caring less and less about your success” feelings. Having been on the other side of the equation, the data supports my leanings. No spikes in backer-dollars-in came due to incessant needling by way of over-posting.

More often than not, backers come in very few flavors. Those who know you and know they will back you — where their decision really relies on “how much can I afford to help you this time” really is the deciding factor. Those who stumble upon you by way of someone specifically sharing the project with them, or searching for something in the space your product is sitting. They are sold perhaps by your video, write up, rewards, or most likely some combination of all of the above. And the only elusive group we’re talking about here… those who know you but have no need to support you.

My last Kickstarter saw about 150 people back the project. I have 1,100 friends on Facebook. Unshaven Comics is liked by about 3,000. So, you can tell a considerable chuck of either subset represents that untapped potential customer group.

And I certainly tried every guerrilla marketing technique in the book to sell to them (such as it was, in the long-long-ago). Posting morning, noon, and night (being sure to self-deprecate about my frequency of shilling whilst still being positive and excited about the project). Making up daily contests. Begging people to share the project even if they couldn’t afford to assist. Posting to groups. Posting literally in any corner of the internet where people might stumble upon us. Asking all backers to “just increase your bid by X and we’ll make it!”

And in the end, we succeeded, but in the wake of the campaign, I personally felt hollowed by the experience. While the goal was met, and my little studio’s graphic novel dreams would now come true… It was hard to step back and feel if the support was earned or pitied. On some days, I feel bulletproof, and proudly declare that a win is a win. But more often, I’m left questioning if the naked neediness of shameless self-promotion hasn’t cheapened my brand. And at the end of the day… isn’t the value of your brand the most important of all? In the wide breadth of those I know in the indie market, it’s hard for me to separate the shill from the salesman at times. We’re all hustling — and next week, I’ll explore our specific brand of shameless salesmanship at Unshaven Comics — but again: there’s a line between over-confidence and wild desperation. To know where it is, is to live in that lucrative sweet spot.

I don’t have the answers as to where it is, of course. But when I figure it out, I’ll be the first one to sell it to you.

WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover

WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover

During the Halloween season, I always think of the three witch sisters from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They were very similar to the Three Fates of classic mythology, those sisters who wove the destinies of every individual. And even if you don’t know anything about either of those sets of sisters, you probably know about TV’s Charmed sisters.  They are in the midst of a reboot that has lead to a backlash.

In my own family, the “three sisters concept” is a big deal. We are blessed with the 3 girls. (We do have one great boy too!)  These girls thoroughly embrace being part of their little sorority of three. So much so that I am always cognizant of a set of three girls and especially dads with three girls.

And that brings us to Brian Bendis and some new comics.  Continue reading “WIth Further Ado #012: 3 Girls – Under Cover”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!

It’s been rattling around my brain for too long; this endless debate that begs a simple question: What makes one a sellout?

The term itself is often overused. It’s shorthand for labeling creators as lesser for any number of reasons — typically revolving around the notion that a creator acquiesces to changes in their work as demanded by a corporate entity to ultimately shave the edges from their output so-as to allow the end product be more appealing to a broader audience.  We also label those artists who choose to license their original work for use in commercials and other sundry productions with the same term… but in the specific case of my thoughts this week, we’re focusing on the former, not the latter.

When I’d heard the term bandied about through my youth, I immediately jump to a pair of performers in the music space; Jason Newsted of Metallica (at the time), and the entirety of 3rd wave ska band, Reel Big Fish. When asked if Metallica sold out, Newsted slyly smiled as he stared down the lens of the camera. “Of course we sell out — (he waits a solid and bitterly pregnant pause) — every seat in every arena we play!” And of course, Aaron Barret and his motley crew of California skankers received their first taste of widespread radio play with their hit Sell Out, wherein they joke about how “the record company’s gonna give me lots of money and everything’s gonna be alright.”

Upon hearing declarations like this, I’d felt an immediate kinship with those that ironically scoffed at the notion. That reaching a wider audience to seek better fiscal gains by way of a reduction of harder-to-understand nuances wasn’t inherently sinful. It was merely means to an end. And as an adolescent, my heroes all seemed to live and thrive living right in that sweet spot. Their work somehow seemed above completely shameless schlock, where the slick shine of heavily edited production and marketing did its job to make Enter Sandman or The Mask palatable to both me (suburban metal-tyke / comic-book-smart fan) and someone ten to twenty years my senior. And why would that be so bad, damnit?  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #013: Sell Out!”

Norm Breyfogle, 1960 – 2018

Norm Breyfogle, 1960 – 2018

Several decades ago, my friend Rick Obadiah and I founded a little publishing company called First Comics. During our tenure together we printed some pretty decent work. Part of my business plan for editorial was to foster and employ new talent – priming the pump, as I told our investors. I knew exactly when and where I wanted to build this door, and if you’ll permit me to drop a few names I think that also worked out pretty good: John Ostrander, Timothy Truman, Julia Lacquement, Mark Wheatley, Linda Lessmann, Marc Hempel, Bill Reinhold and about a dozen others went through that door.

And then there was this guy Norm Breyfogle.

We were working on a creation of Steven Grant’s called Whisper. Eventually, as it must to most comic book series, it came time to bring in a new artist. Every editor in every medium gets more submissions than he, she, and they could possibly evaluate. Usually, the really good stuff gets noticed and the really great stuff gets remembered.

Norm Breyfogle was easily remembered. He was brought in on First’s fourth issue, and Whisper’s future was set. So was Norm’s, to nobody’s surprise. He went on to such projects as Prime (one of my favorites), Bloodshot, Life With Archie, and a very lengthy run on some guy called “The Batman.” In fact, it was his work on Whisper that got him the Bat-gig, and he stayed on Blue Longears for eight years. By that point I was in New York working for DC Comics and somehow lucky enough to share a large office with Batman editor Denny O’Neil. Synchronicity makes the world go ‘round.

Drawing Batman brought Norm’s life at the time full-circle. His first published art – a fan drawing – made it into Batman Family #13, when he was a mere 17-year-old.

Norm suffered a stroke in late 2014 that left him paralyzed on his left side – worse, he was left-handed. This ended his career, but he did seem to be improving, communicating with friends and collaborators and trying to develop his creator-owned properties. When the word came down on Wednesday, well, we certainly would have been shocked anyway, but we all had hoped for the day when he could get back a little to the convention circuit and receive the proper respect his brilliant work deserved.

Batman has attracted many an A+ lister artist, pretty much since day one, and Norm Breyfogle was on that hallowed list. Batman’s 80th birthday just won’t be the same.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10

The first comic book I ever bought was in fourth grade. It was an X-Men Adventures comic cribbed from the animated series, which itself cribbed heavily from a combination of Len Wein and Chris Claremont stories, published almost 2 decades prior. I bought it because I loved the “X-Men” animated adventures on Fox Kids, and figured the comic would further flesh out what I’d seen in the episode. It didn’t. But I still loved it none-the-less. After that purchase, I dove head-first into all manners of X-books. But I didn’t know the Brood from Bushmaster and called it quits nearly as quickly as I’d began my new hobby. It would take more than a few years after that to really be interested in comic books again.

My newly-minted best friend, Matt Wright, bicycled to my house in the freezing Chicago winter to deliver a hastily wrapped box with my birthday present tucked inside. A pair of #1 issues of my new found love of Malibu Comics’ Ultraforce and The Strangers — loved, again, because of my viewing of the soon-then-to-be-canceled animated series.

And from the moment I cracked open those books — sitting somewhere between homage and pastiche — I was adamant that I wanted to be in comics too.

With that in mind, after 9 weeks of helpful hints, tricks, tips, and too-green-to-be-called-sage advice? My last lesson is the only one that I can give you with trepidation:

Why do I make comic books? Because I have to.

Personal history aside, the fact of the matter is at my very core, I’m a communicator. Be it in print, in pictures, in song, or in actions… I strive constantly to be a vehicle of entertainment. Over the course of my life — however short or long you personally perceive 36 years on said planet to be — I have been a columnist, an artist, a singer, a stand-up comedian, a marketer, and a generally OK human being. The through-line to literally all of those mediums? That I’ve been entertaining in each; some funny, some heartfelt, some serious, and all existing likely somewhere in-between.

Of all those medium, the one I am proudest of? One guess.

No, it wasn’t stand-up.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #010: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 10”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #005: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 5

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #005: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 5

This week, I am most likely to shoot myself square in the foot. And not with one of those fancy 3D-printed ghost guns you’ve been hearing all about. And not with one of my dozens of Nerf blasters. You see, I’ve been around the indie comic community enough now to divulge a little bitty secret no one would tell you openly about. It’s one of those “unspoken” head-nod dealies. A little grime on the underbelly of an otherwise joyous and hilarious community I’m proud to be a part of. If only on the far reaches of it. Because kiddosؙ—

There is a cool kids club, and I ain’t in it.

The key to remember is that in any industry, there will always be a social stratum. Niches within niches. Diversity where you’d think there’d be only commonality. What this means, in short, is that even within the tiny universe of comic book creators… there’s a cool kids club that you don’t just get to belly up to.   Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #005: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 5”

Everything We Read This Week – 7/25/2018

Everything We Read This Week – 7/25/2018

In this column, we make a quick trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

This week had a lot of quality books come out. Overall the haul was good with a few greats thrown in.

There is a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously as everyone gets their own impressions of art. These ratings are just to give our readers an idea of what we thought of the book, and they will be on the generous side normally. So don’t expect to see a lot of 1 Stars. After all, its not often that you have a bad book on your pull-list.

The rating system is as follows:

Great

Good

OK

Not Good

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 7/25/2018”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #004: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 4

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #004: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 4

Onward Comic soldiers… marching on to cons! I hope you read that like the little ditty from Sunday school. Further down the rabbit hole of comic creation, we find ourselves at a foothold that will define you and your brand for years to come. One misstep could lead you from indie darling to worthless sham artist in a matter of swathes of a brush. Hyperbole? You bet. But we absolutely need to discuss the matter at hand:

Your Product is Your Brand.

Take a stroll down the aisles of artists in the alleys of comic cons (aka “Artist Alley”) and you’ll soon find that they all fall into one of a few basic categories: Book Pushers, Famous-Enough-Not-To-Need-To-Sell(ers), Original Artisans, and Mad Merch Guys. Now, everyone (of course) is a unique snowflake — so they will all be a certain percentage of one, and another percentage of another — but these categories all basically define not only what we sell, but how we sell at a comic con.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #004: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 4”

Everything We Read This Week – 7/18/2018

Everything We Read This Week – 7/18/2018

In this column, we make a quick trip through this weeks pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

This week had a lot of interesting books and there were some digital developments. We expanded to include 2 digital only books in the column

There is a 4 star rating system. It is simple and not to be taken too seriously as everyone gets their own impressions of art. These ratings are just to give our readers an idea of what we thought of the book, and they will be on the generous side normally. So don’t expect to see a lot of 1 Stars. After all, its not often that you have a bad book on your pull-list.

The rating system is as follows:

  • Great
  • Good
  • OK
  • Not Good

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 7/18/2018”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #003: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 3

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #003: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 3

 And so, we soldier on! In this my third installment of my ten-part series on playing the game of Independent Publishing, I turn away from the negative to embrace the positive. Where part one saw me bitterly biting folks over my trust issues, and part two was a wicked warning on the evils of exposure… this week, I’m opening up a topic that truly has no seedy underbelly! Wait, don’t quote me on that. This week, I implore you to consider this:

Networking is necessary.

No one is an island unto themselves if they want to be a success. Crack open nearly any comic worth its salt, and you’ll see colorists, letterers, editors, and others throwing in to the mix. When you’re starting out as a creator, shake hands with everyone you can. Because the next hand you shake may wind up saving your book in the eleventh hour. But let me not get ahead of myself… We should slow this down some.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, man #003: Indie Comic Book Publishing 101 Part 3”