Over at his Boneville blog, Jeff Smith has started a series of posts looking back at the self-publishing movement of the 90s:
It’s been 15 years since I met Larry Marder, who introduced me to Dave Sim. Who in turn introduced me to Colleen Doran. Soon, along with James Owen and Martin Wagner, we created a limited edition print featuring all our characters to sign and give away to comic book store retailers.
We did this at a 1993 Diamond Comics Distributors retail show – - a few months after the industry was stunned by the announcement that six of Marvel’s top artists were forming their own company called Image Comics. The resulting rumors that we might be planning to form our own super group was irresistible. This was the beginning of what would be called The Self-Publishing Movement.
With Smith, Terry Moore and Dave Sim all launching new titles this year, it seems like a profitable time to look back at what the movement meant and where it’s gone. Back then it was all about a lone cartoonist writing, drawing, publishing, promoting and touring. It was a grueling one man (or one woman) show that proved to be too grueling for most people. The good news is that the current economics of comics allow publishers from stalwarts Fantagraphics and D&Q, to newer specialized houses like Buenaventura and Picturebox to pick up the business end of things while still allowing near-absolute creative freedom. The internet and shows like SPX and MoCCA — not to mention distributors like Sparkplug — have allowed an even greater blossoming.
The difference is that the pioneering generation was based around the pamphlet economy — putting out a regular COMIC BOOK was the goal. Nowadays it’s all about the collection. Young cartoonists can get on the map with a single mini-comic story instead of a planned 10 year epic story. Many of the 90s creators were more genre-tinged, as well. It would be just as profitable, perhaps, to look at how the economic switch has changed creative goals and processes.
And yet, see our earlier posting on the genre-more-than-tinged CRIMINAL. Brubaker and Phillips are pretty much doing things the old fashioned way — albeit in a “team” situation, not the lone cartoonist model — and getting a book out this time around involves a publishing deal with Marvel, promotions on a social network owned by Fox, and interviews with comics-loving celebrities. The hard work seems to be paying off — the second CRIMINAL collection debuted at #10 on the Diamond graphic novel initial order chart, a strong showing for a creator-controlled property. We’ve come a long way, baby.
Anyway, this series of postings at BONEVILLE — which will include guest blogs by Colleen Doran, Larry Marder, Paul Pope, Terry Moore, Charles Brownstein, and others — should be good reading.