Saturday, 8 July 2017

Captain Ahab's earlier years.

Just playing around with the pencil and it developed into this...

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Preparation is everything.

I've been asked to write something about 'Preparing for a Convention' from the perspective of an independent comic creator.
An interesting request.
Interesting in that we've been doing conventions for so long now, 15 years, that we kind of just get on with it.
I'll do my best though.

1) Booking the event to start with.
It's a challenge getting tables at a lot of Cons in the UK, so when the date for one is announced independent creators across the land hit their iphones and android devices. Only when they've successfully requested their table do they then sit back and look at where the convention fits in their schedule. 
It's useful to have a print out, on a page, of your convention season. There are a number of ways to avoid surfing the net for upcoming events. Sites like www.eventbrite.co.uk are becoming a useful hub for such things and if you're thinking or running your own Comic Event (and we've been tempted over the years) then that seems fairly straightforward too (Eventbrite's registration online page). Regardless of how you've come across the event before you push the 'submit' button consider the logistics of how you can get from the convention before it to the one you are booking, or from the one you are booking to the one that follows. Travel to and from a convention can take up the Friday and the Monday around the weekend that it's on. Another long trip the following weekend will be very draining. Another the weekend that follows may be just too much. Turning up exhausted at a Convention isn't great for sales and it isn't good for you.

2) Get your stock sorted we'll ahead of time.
There's nothing worse than finding out the week before the Convention that you've sold out of the middle issue in your mini-series. Keep an eye on stock levels. There's also nothing worse than looking out of your living room window the day before you travel, hoping that the latest issue of your comic is going to be delivered in time. This is sometimes out of your control a bit, as we all aim a comic at a particular Con, but try to give yourself a few weeks

3) Think about sketch packs, print packs and multi-buys.
If you're going to have some interesting incentive packs on your table then make sure you start pulling these together a week or so ahead of the Con. That way you have time to get comic bags, sellotape etc. Print some nice clear labels with the details and price information. It's nice, if you can, to take Show Specials, with the name of the Con on the labels. Makes it feel limited.

4) Take the right amount of stock.
It does make sense not to take too much stock. There's nothing more soul destroying than lugging a load of boxes of comics to your table at the beginning of a Con, only to lug most of them back to your car again afterwards.
Keep a count of the comics you sell at the Cons you attend. It gives you a feel for what's popular where (although this isn't something you can rely on) and more importantly a feel for how many you're likely to sell when you go back. We tend to take that number plus 25% or so, in the hope that things improve.
Selling out of a title towards the end of the event is not necessarily a bad thing, it gives you a buzz. Selling out an hour into the event however is not good. 
Having an idea of number you're likely to sell helps avoid both.

5) Tell everyone that you'll be at the Convention.
Use Twitter, Blogs, Facebook Groups... and anything else at your disposal to spread the word.

6) On the morning of the event...
Set your alarm clock...

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Belfast MCM.

Just back from another fabulous Con in Belfast.
This is a Con we never expect to make money on, the cost of flight and lodgings etc always mean we'd have to sell more books than we can possibly get into our 23kg luggage allowance, but we have such a good time it's always a Con we try to get to.
This year we nearly missed it as our friends, Steve Tanner and Paul Birch were organising a Con in Birmingham, but that fell through and we jumped at the chance to go back.
Arriving early Friday morning we took our time getting to the venue, spending the morning in the city, made easier by Colin's decision to hire a car this year.
We've got setting up the table down to a fine art, made even easier due to the reduced stock and lack of banners and other props. Gary Erskine was there already and had already planned out the weekend, which saw us that night sitting in a pub with a troop of 2000AD fans, most of whom were also involved in a Cosplay group (dressing up as Star Wars characters in the main I think). I know I'm getting old when I struggle to hear what is being said to me due to the noise... errr ... sorry .. music, but I was amazed to find many of the group were IT professionals and of a similar age.
A very enjoyable night that ended up with us chatting with Glenn Fabry and offering to chauffeur him to and from the event over the weekend. It's strange when you meet someone whose work you have admired over the years. You worry that you won't like him and that that would somehow make you see his work differently from then on. This was not the case with Glenn though, he's a really nice bloke and fun to be with.
Hopefully this is some kind of salute, acknowledging
quality and not them showing us where the door is.
Saturday saw good sales, and by mid day I'd sold out of all the copies of the WesterNoir Trades that I've taken. They are quite big books and I had to balance numbers of these with the other comics, a copy of the trade taking up the same weight as 5 other books.
This didn't trouble a number of people though as they still bought copies of issues 5, 6 and 7, saying that they'd order the trade through the post.
Colin would often wander off, I spotted him at one point
chatting to Gary Erskine at the other end of the
Comic Village.

Saturday night we caught up with Gary Erskine and Jenika Ioffreda for tea and chat, which is becoming a bit of a nice habit.
Sunday morning it was great to see a few customers who bought the trade on the Saturday rush over to the stall on Sunday to get the rest. We had one of our busiest Sunday mornings ever I think.
Meow.
Sunday was as busy as Saturday and it felt to me that the whole event had a better attendance and more energy than last year's.
I caught Moon artist Steve Penfold admiring his own work....
All in all we had a great time.

Colin hadn't noticed his passenger...
Monday morning, following the fire alarm going off twice in the Premier Inn, was a slow start but we made it into the city again to find the Ulster Museum closed and The MAC art gallery changing all of its exhibits, so we went shopping and tracked down The Comic Guys great new store.

Yep, a really nice weekend. We'll be back.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

New WesterNoir art cards.

We've produced (well, Gary Crutchley did all the hard work) four sketch cards, from the covers of 3 issues already in print and one yet to be published, and it's not Issue 8.
Here's the first.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

MCM London... lots to think about.

It was another busy weekend for Independent Comic creators across the land as they descended on London for the first of this year's London MCM events.

We were fortunate to get two tables, as we have too much stock to squeeze onto one, and as always I was stunned by the quality of work on offer to those people who would wander through the Comic Village, whether it be on a mission to get to a particular publisher / creator or wondering what on earth the Comic Village was all about.

For us the MCM events are where we shift most of our comics these days. Diamond Distribution are proving more and more difficult to navigate and it's almost impossible dealing with stores direct, apart from those in your local area.

There has actually been a lot of talk on the web at the moment about events, and MCM events in particular. Jon Lock over at Afterlife-inc.com and Joe Glass over at Bleedingcool.com both talk about the diminishing market that we are experiencing.

Yep, making your own comics is tough.
Getting them into people's hands is even tougher.

We have also experienced a dip in sales this year. Last year for us was our best ever, by some way, and this year we are back to 2015 figures.

Why is this ?
Is it a slump due to the uncertain times we live in ?
Is it due to the large areas of space that effected footfall flow over the three days ?
Is it because some Independent publishers had too many tables ?
Modok probably knows the answer,
but isn't telling.
We had decent sales over the weekend. We expected to do about two thirds of last year and that is pretty much how we did.
The MCM events are not like Thought Bubble. At Thought Bubble it's all about returning customers. People who turn up every year and know what they want to pick up.
MCM we've found is always about new customers. Sure we get those who return, and sometimes in a happily large number, but this is very patchy and unpredictable. I don't think many, if any, of the people who go to the MCM events are pure comic fans. A good percentage are interested of course, but most are there for the spectacle and to spend money on 'stuff', whether that's comics, t-shirts or a signature from their favourite member of Firefly (yep ... she was there).

So, all the potential customers are people who are wandering through the Comic Village looking to pick up something that catches their eye, peaks their interest.

To me it's a matter of your product and simple mathematics.

  • If your books don't interest them then they won't buy them.
  • The more competition there is the less of your books you'll sell.
  • The more competition there is the more these potential new customers will be spent up by the time they reach you.

What annoyed me more than anything this year was the lack of ethics of some of the other publishers. I walked past one publisher (who had a good number of stalls) to be told that the writer was better than Alan Moore ... I was told (when asked what comics I read) that there was WesterNoir in their books. Basically they were lying. Telling you what they needed you to hear, so that if you weren't that knowledgeable about comics in general you;d be convinced that this was what you were looking for. Whatever it was you were looking for. And from the count of comics sold, they were pretty successful at it.

The bottom line is that the more books these guys sold, the less money the customers had for any other books.

Steve Tanner, of TimeBomb comics, sold boxes of his new Flintlock books because he's hit on something that appeals to the people who wander past his stall. He doesn't have to pretend his writing is better than Alan Moore. The characters and the artwork, and what Steve says about them, are sufficient.
Unlike the aforementioned publisher, Steve can be honest because his books are good enough to interest people on their own merit.

The Minion was impressed by the Independent Publisher who seemed to
have studied the Trump rule book... and refused to talk to me...
I got a photo with him anyway.
Jon Lock in his article (link above) talks about the price being a possible driving force. He suggests we all get together and agree a standard price. Sorry Jon, that's probably illegal as we live in a free market and competition is what it's all about. That said, our books are typically cheaper than Steve's but he probably sold more of his over the weekend than we did of ours.
Not because of the price, but because his concept / product is more attractive to the MCM customer.

As to Fan Art ... I'm not a big fan (excuse the pun). It's also something that is illegal as the people producing it have not paid the owning company for the right to do so. I'm fine with artists selling their own paintings of elves and werewolves, but Wolverine ? Sorry. That's illegal. There's always a danger than one day Disney will turn up and shut the whole show down due to copyright infringement. Hopefully they'd do it in an imaginative way though ... get someone Cosplaying Kingpin to bring the Desist papers.

So, I think a good Comic Village will be one where :

  • There's a healthy mix of genres of independent comics.
  • Publishers / creators are honest.
  • There's a healthy proportion of comics /  artists selling their own work.
  • There is no Fan art.
  • There's a good number of artists drawing portraits 
  • The prices vary as much as the publishers want them to.

The customers will then decide what they want to buy and will do so.
I used to love watching Monkey as a kid,
he's aged really well I think ...
I guess immortality does that for you.

The Banner Story.

We've been noticing of late, mostly at the MCM events, that the people who pass our stall think that we're a publishing house, and don't realise until we get into conversation with them, that
Colin and I are actually creators too.
We need, we realised, to re-establish our own names within the Accent UK brand and help bring out the fact that we've written almost all of the comics on the table, and drawn some of them too.
So, what better way of doing this then to retire some of our banners and produce some new ones that highlight this fact.
I turned to Andy Bloor of course to help me pull mine together.
What to put on it though ?
I wanted Stephenson's Robot, Josiah Black, Jigsaw Girl, something from Strange Times ... hmmm ... that should do it.
I routed through my comic files and sent samples off to Andy for him to work his magic on.
Sorting out suitable images ... images that showed enough .. images where the character wasn't cut in two by a panel or some other character ... not easy. I had to use Gary Crutchley's Jigsaw Girl for example as I couldn't find one by INDIO! that fitted what I had in mind.
It looked pretty good, but Andy had dropped the Samuel Close image that I'd sent him, in his time travelling bubble...
Andy thought it too distracting and I found that I had to agree.
I also asked Andy if he could make Kingdom's smoke fade into The Leyton Angel's wing, which might look nice.
What Andy did though was to fill the space with Eddie Doyle, which seemed only appropriate as it was the comic with him in it that won the Eagle Award.
I like this one a lot, so I sent it to Colin and Gary for feedback.
Gary, rightly, pointed out that saying I was 'Artist' implied that I'd drawn all of the images on the banner, not that he had a problem with it himself. Whilst I'd love that to be the case I didn't want to mislead anyone, and more importantly I didn't want to face people asking me to draw Kingdom (Stephenson's Robot) just like on the banner.
I decided it would be best to change it.
Also, I was concerned that my name, being half way down the banner, would be obstructed by people standing behind the table, and so asked Andy to move it to the top.
The result still has me smiling.
I love it.
Thanks Andy.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Stephenson's Robot Issue 4 is nearing completion.

Yep, it's true.
And here's the cover just to give you a hint at the events it'll contain inside...
..oh yes.