State of the Union

Over 2008 I wrote weekly for  ComicsVillage.com, during a very exciting time in the UK comix scene..

My columns are concerned with four aspects surrounding comics – social community, economic factors, festival and exhibition coverage and modes of distribution.

sherridancottage

 At Caption 2008 I delivered an address which went through about three different re-writes before i junked the whole thing – and reworked from a few headings off prompt cards. For eight minutes. To a diminished audience. This is a full Unabridged version, how it might have turned out.

STATE OF The UNioN
…Right…ok…We had a big boycott on a mini-comics festival in March, and some people had their efforts reciprocated and others didn’t and there was a bit of nonsensical backbiting going around, and there were a few hurt emotions  And thinking about writing this, I have to wonder…do we have a union ? Well, what do youse think ?

(pause)

(scrumbles up paper)

(leans on desk, writes furiously on next sheet)

(emerges wearing a beard)

Well

Yes, A bunch of folk got together after deciding over fifty quid for a table a day was way too much. We found out the organiser of The Web and Mini Comix Thing was reeling in as little as three grand and as much as five grand. To be fair, he does a lot of work on his website  And as the Camden stall were running a table share for 2.50, and well, you know the rest. And they’ve moved way past that, leaving Postman Shark’s efforts way behind. You’re probably sick of hearing about how brilliant they are, and if not, then you should be.

London Underground Comics – the core workers: Oli Smith, Oliver Lambden, Sean Azzopardi, Dan Lester, David Baillie, Francesca Cassavetti and Jake Harold.
(begin applauding)

All the hype is true. I’ve studied LUC objectively, subjectively, intimately, as a fan, as a professional,  and  on infinte earths. If you like to get your comics to folk this is here and now the best model. Game, set and match.

Quick summary of the lessons to be learned:

Big name endorsement. Creative application to marketing
Utilisation of new media, web 2.0, whatever you want to flute it.
Just Do It.

LUC have to make clear yet..do they stop at Camden, do they go nation-wide ? Do they stop at London, which I think is the better idea.

Peter Lally opened up a stall in Camden selling mini-comics a few months after LUC did. Peter, like Oli, lived close to Camden, so this worked rather well. However in London, were the tube is a fantastic service, he may have turned a profit exploring on of the other market sites.

Oli, Oliver and I have discussed many a time the essential of LUC as an example. And if you’d like to take the most vital lesson from LUC I refer you to  Exhibit A: Your spark of creativity and hard work. Go and find your own space. I’m doing it in Oxford in two weeks and you can do it in Scotland and Ireland too.

I’m not sure we have a union, and heres why.

LUC is a fantastic idea. Seriously. Its the best idea for getting comics out there, anyone had in a long while. It was something existed in Eddie Campbell’s Fast Fiction stall, and David Bircham in promoting his Brodies Law booklets, but I’m not aware of it being done since. Nowadays we have the internet…so go out and do it ! Oxford Council never bothered to email me back.
(I did go ahead and get a table regardless, and I’ll cover this in more detail in the next column)
Go by your local market stall and ask about how to go about getting a table. Honestly, it’ll be great exercise for you. Find out who the creators are in your area and start giving them the figures. 3quid a day, meet local people.

The information needs to be shared, The British comics journalism print copy industry is lying low. Comics International, RedEye…there used to be a practice in mini-comics of including reviews of colleagues work in the back pages, & I haven’t seen anything other than ‘this is really great’ as a reference for a long while. In some ways this may be a good thing – its economical, and personal. Though how does it work as a guide ?

COMICS JOURNALISM

Cartoonists gripe about their work being ignored should look at the pecking order and their proximity to comics journalists. Are you helping these people, using them, ignoring them ?

Comics journalists: set yourself limits. If you are everyones go-to: FAIL.
And promote these limits. Cartoonists have a history of being screwed over, and comics specialising journalists maybe are just as vulnerable.

This year I’m making a trek. I’ve hear rumours of a big place in the hills were retired comics journalists hang out. There, Pete Ashton is getting a massage, Matt Badham is at the park with sandwiches and kids. Chrissie Harper I caught a glimpse of dancing.

Comics journalists need reciprocative currency. Reciprocative currency. Cash and drinks are nice. This also means things like statistics. Comics Village doesnt provide individual stats per column as a feature except on exceptional request, but it something I can easily sort out as with any blog by slipping in some simple code and accessing that. Free comics, comments, testimonials. snogging, all payment, were applicable. (SEE ME LATER sign)

BUGPOWDER

Creators, you need to look into self-promotion responsibly. And if that means a few of you taking up writing copy, then so be it. Examine the sites you send stuff to, and ask can they handle something packaged this way ? I don’t want to see another non-url 1,000 word pdf with pdf image at Bugpowder. Bugpowder has no image storage facility. Perhaps you ought to try approaching your local town paper.

TRS2

I think TRS is actually quite vital for a return, in print form.
There was an old habit in comics and zines of a fifty word write-up of a mini the author enjoyed reading. This doesnt happen anymore. Usually its “This is by my friend and its great !” This seems insufficient – Stop at 75 words.

I’m not a technogeek. I have bad eyesight aggravated by staring into computer screens and webcomics are always going to be a challenge for me. Theres a lot of internet going around. As bad as times have been for the British comics cartoonist, they’ve been worse for the comics journalist. I’m bowing out of Bugpowder, because people need to fend for themselves. And they will. Someone will come along and do the job I’ve been doing better. Or will there be thirty of us, maybe posting there once a month ? Or, heres an idea: Talk to people like myself, get old records from Caption, and Bugpowder, and TRS2. Googlemap the cartoonists in your area. Do you have a local pub meet ? Someone should set up a local comics pub meet blogroll.

(I recently got hold of old issues of Caption magazine, and notice this was a common feature)

Theres a price, theres always a price. But if you’ve worked bloody hard on your comics you deserve the reciprocation. From your audience, from your bank account. And if you’re paying someone hefty amounts of cash to sell your work, you are entitled as a human bean to decent respect. And journalists, make sure you get stats and your links if you want them. Thats an entitlement you richly deserve. That ones for the journalists in the room.

MINI-CONS

I think this is the way its going. Zine Symposiums, meets in Brighton, No Barcodes, Jimi Gerkin’s recent thing. Low Energy Day..Comics festivals in pubs, or in a market stall, preferrably. Think minimum budget.

CAPTION

This maybe my last year on the Caption committee. I have a graphic novel to work on, and a heavy degree finish.
Caption works as its a participant manufactured festival. And prior to 2006, its been made up of a synergetic local group. I think the remote organisation lacks somewhat – a cyberspace environment defeats as well as empowers group flow. The better Captions I have seen have a Site Art Direction. This works best being representative on the committee. Writers who don’t draw can bring artists on board, and they should, and not communicate that art. Maybe if you collate the findings  the festivals that live healthiest have artists as major organisational participants. (Though maybe I just be shooting off here)

Caption is very cheap to run. The venue for the weekend is costing us about two hundred quid. Perhaps the lowest financial investment since Caption began.  I would estimate, very roughly, that the 10% SOR covers about 1/2 of our venue costs.

I don’t see that Caption should get any bigger. It would take us on a very stupid path. Though theres few reasons why it couldnt regionally franchise, run on the same value systems.and norms.
Or PeRHaPs, it already does….

THE BOYCOTT

Before the DFC went weekly I published seven new comics weekly in March. You can buy these on the Caption table, or direct from me.

Hahahaa

Ok, the boycott. I knew the boycott would upset people. I also knew that 50pounds to sell my own work competing with my peers in the same media, behind doors were an entrance fee is charged….     these things are what makes my comics a little bit closer to something called vanity press than the great British comics industry, which I think rightfully we represent in greater number.

It was worth boycotting The WebandMiniComics Thing, because asides from Pat Findlay’s huge net salary, and his repugnantly disrespectful attitude to artists…the Camden crew made the right choice.

Shane Chebsey and Mike Allwood are great guys. Mike, I don’t know so well. Shane is one of the true hubs of the uk industry in the last decade, and really, he should be up here.
(applause for Shane)

But the fifty pound vanity press line is still there. You can boycott, by all means. I think you should be at open market stalls. Or if you must lock yourself in the big paying festival hall were you’re competing with just your peers….work with these guys and find a real practical solution. I have a few,

How about rocking the festival line-up with the big Page 45 approach ? Again, there are egos and feelings to be considered. but I think I see Shane approaching calmly this way. Big pages, the flyers announcing BICS 2009 – Roll of Honour: Jeremy Dennis, creator of Scattered Leaves, Terry Wiley, Petra Ecetera,

Oli East – Trains Are Mint, That Band
Ralph Kidson – Giant Clam, Cerebus
D’Israeli – 2000 AD, Most Obscure Sp book Matt has done.
Oli Smith –  That Guy
Douglas Noble – Strip for Me, Giant Size Avengers
(just below him – Daniel Merlin-Goodbrey, tiny tiny font)

The Co-Operative Share Model. One off fee from tables as an inestment in years ahead with a self-generating income were every cartoonist promotes the festival because they can.

A proper cloakroom to raise funds

Your mini-comic distributed free in festival bags, which you could volunteer to help put together.

Discuss. Please don’t swamp Shane and Mike with negotiations, hit them were they love it. hit them with ideas. Neither of them turns a profit I reckon, and I guess they’d like to see you turn one. So, think about it, discuss, approach.

And if that doesnt work make a stand! Me, I’m disbanding the union.

*dons an Ian Paisley mask*

Don’t go to the San Diego Can , Fuck off to the Birmingham Show, Bristol Comics Expo Can Suck My Arse Biscuits !

*Aaron Smurf Murphy and Joe Meadows in cop uniforms come in and hall me out while I drag my feet along the floor*

Boycott Caption !

– Andrew Luke, circa August 10th 2008

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