FAKE GEEK GUYS: A MESSAGE TO MEN ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT
By Andy Khouri
“I think this woman is wrong about something on the Internet. Clearly my best course of action is to threaten her with rape.”
That’s crazy talk, right? So why does it happen all the time?
Honest question, dudes.
That women are harassed online is not news. That women in comics and the broader fandom cultures are harassed online is not news. That these women are routinely transmitted anonymous messages describing graphic sexual violence perpetrated upon them for transgressions as grave as not liking a thing… that is actually news to me, and it’s probably news to a lot of you guys reading this.
So what do we do about it?
THE COSPLAY OF EMERALD CITY COMICON 2014
Emerald City Comicon 2014 has come and gone, but memories of its plentiful colorful cosplayers needn’t only live on in your hearts. We’ve assembled a gallery of the show’s costumed fans spanning some three stories of Seattle’s Washington State Convention Center, which includes AIM agents, Ewoks, Goblin Kings, Arkham Aslyum escapees, cosmic bounty hunters and more.
By Betty Felon
Fashion brand Shoes of Prey used its customizable design website to style some superhero-inspired heels and flats as examples of footwear that customers can tweak and purchase for themselves with the Shoes of Prey 3D Designer, which gives the wearer selection of colors, materials, and alter various detailing parameters such as heel height, toe and heel detailing.. Each pair of shoes is handmade to fit the customer’s chosen aesthetics and run at least $100 per pair.
As a fan of both Shoes of Prey and comics, customer Mandy Kerr designed some heels and flats inspired by Batman, Iron Man, and more (seen in the grahguc below). Inspired by Kerr’s excellent Robin-inspired oxfords, I utilized the Shoes of Prey 3D Designer to create a few of my own shoe designs, including flats and platformed wedges inspired by Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Batwoman, and more.
JH Williams III’s work in Batwoman over the last few months has to be one of the best pieces of comics work in the medium right now - not just the gorgeous quality of his artwork but the experimental, dynamic, frequently kinetic layouts that help carry and expand the story. Superb
Comics are awesome. And some of the most awesome comics are the ones you create yourself, and then print and sell yourself. (We’re calling these sort of comics “minicomics” for short.) And we love seeing an amazing new minicomic, whether it’s someone’s first work or an established “professional” who is doing something personal for themselves.
As a store, we love selling minicomics! They are far more diverse than comics put out by big publishers and showcase an amazing array of talent. But, as a comics retailer, we’ve also noticed a lot of things that make it hard for minicomic creators to sell us comics, and for us to sell minicomics to customers. Here are some of our tips!
You’ll be competing with a lot of other comics, so make sure you do your best! Get your more honest friends to look over your comic before you take it out into the world.
Have someone edit your comic. Are there typos? Is anything unintentionally confusing?
- Cover Design
Minicomics on sale often get put together with other minicomics (due to display sections, their size, infrequent release schedule or whatever). So make sure yours stands out! Good design is key. Color covers aren’t necessary, as many minicomics catch the eye for their homemade characteristics. But you could print the cover on color paper for not too much more.
- Cover Price
Put a price on there. Barcodes are a decadent and expensive luxury, but it helps both us and a casual browser who picks up your comic in a store to know how much it costs.
- Pricing Properly
Full-color comic books of around 20-22 pages from a mainstream publisher sell for $2.99 to $3.99. Smaller presses and minicomics can sell for a higher price, since we all know that you’ll sell fewer copies and often your costs per comic are higher. These days, minicomics usually range from $4.00 to $8.00. As low as $1 is a great price for a short one, a sampler, or a small (in size) one. In general, aim for the mid range. Most people buying minicomics won’t balk at paying $5-6, but any higher and you will start losing sales. Why buy one $10 mini when you can buy 2 or more for the same price? Plus people just balk at high cost things, unless they see they are getting something extra for it - more pages, deluxe covers or design, bigger physical size… and even then, it will be harder to sell.
- Print Costs
The flip side to pricing a book to sell is pricing a book to make you money! Many minicomics are passion projects, done for the love of comics or just to create something. But even in these cases, losing money isn’t a good idea! However, if you break even or are just selling a book for fun, your print costs determine how much you can sell to a store for.
- Wholesale Costs
Stores tend to buy comics at 50% of the cover price. So if you plan to sell comics to stores, figure on selling at around half of the cover price. But if it costs you close to that to print your comic, you won’t make any money!
A lot of stores offer consignment, where they will take your comic and see if it sells, then pay you for it when it does. This is a cheap way for stores to do it, but it is also a lot of work to keep track of. Make sure you find out the exact terms of when they will contact you and how they send payment. The people in charge of maintaining consignments at a store are usually pretty busy, plus it’s a lot to keep track of, so don’t be surprised it they are a little off schedule.
- Keep in Print
Fulfilling demand is another thing to keep up with, and luckily minicomics are easier than most comics to reprint, especially if you are doing it at a copyshop yourself! This is another thing to consider if you are going to do a very complicated minicomic, would you be willing to make more if you sell out or is it too much effort? And if someone is interested in getting more, you should make more for them!
- Contact Info
Make sure you have current contact information in your minicomic. You never know where a copy will end up or who will read it. Plus, if we need to reach you, it’s often easiest to look inside a copy of your comic.
When you search for yourself online, make sure something shows up and it’s accurate! And on your website or blog or tumblr or whatever you have, if you are selling your comics to stores, make sure you include all the relevant information. What do you have for sale? Do you charge for shipping? How much do you sell your minicomics to stores? How can you be paid? (Paypal is increasingly popular but you will lose a percentage in the fee paypal charges, so consider that. On the other hand, if someone wants to pay with a check, make sure you have a mailing address on there, and that it says who to make a check out to, especially if you can NOT cash checks written out to your publishing name.)
- List Stores Who Carry You
On your website, list any stores that you have sold minicomics to. Not only does it tell people where they can find your work, it tells OTHER minicomic creators (your friends!) where they might find a receptive store to buy their work as well. Plus it is a nice benefit to us as a store, that by supporting your work, we are getting our name out there as well, helping both maintain a good reputation and helping other minicomics creators find us!
- Range of Options
This applies to conventions in particular, but is good for stores too. Try to have a variety of options for people to check out. Do you have something cheap for someone interested in just sampling your work or who doesn’t have a lot of money? In general, we might only get 1 or 2 copies of a $20 art project or graphic novel, but several copies of a cheaper comic.
- Team Up With Others for Distro
Distribution is the trickiest part of getting your comics out there. If you do it by yourself, not only do you have to mail everything, you have to do all the promotion and solicitation too. If you team up with just one friend and offer comics together, you have doubled the amount of comics you offer and made it at least twice as easy for stores to order comics. If there are 400 great minicomics out there that we are interested in, the amount of work on our end to contact 400 different people is immense. If just a few of you work together, it makes it more appealing to us to order from you, and less work for you as well. But the biggest advantage is that it makes even small orders worthwhile. If we only need 1 more copy, we probably won’t place an order. But if we need 1 copy of 5 different comics, that makes it worthwhile.
- Submit to Distros
Even better is if someone else is doing all your distribution for you! They often can dedicate more time to promoting your comic, plus the chances of a store seeing your work goes up. It is often that we will order something from a distributor and ask them to “throw 1 copy of that one in the order too” when we just want to check something else out. Make sure that you maintain a good relationship with your distributors! Keep your contact information up to date, fill their orders quickly, let them know when you are running low on a title, and when you reprint books so they are available again!
- Find the Good Stores
Finding a store to buy your work is hard. There are some lists out there of “small press friendly stores”, but really who would NOT want to be on a list like that? So if the list is really long, it’s probably a bit suspect. Again, this is why it’s important to list on your website who sells your comics. Check with your friends and on the websites of people whose minicomics you like and admire. Ask around, there are some good conversations about this pretty often, and share your own tips. Keep an eye out at conventions for retailers and people who work for comic book stores.
- Retailers at Conventions
When you do see a retailer at a show, especially one who asks to buy something, be prepared with your sales terms, discount level and so on. Some conventions have special deals on the last day of the show for retailers. If you have already sold out of something, be ready with information on when you will have more and how they can order it. Stores will get a LOT of business cards, so make sure to get their information too, and do a followup after the convention to make sure you stay in touch and they have all the info on ordering more from you.
- Selling to Stores in Person
If you are traveling, or are in another city for a convention, go by the local stores with some of your comics. Some stores won’t be interested, but others will. Often you will have to talk to a manager or owner, so call ahead of time if you know you will be visiting to make sure you know who to talk to and what day they will be there. Check with them about their policy on buying minicomics.
- Shipping and Minimums
Finally, shipping is expensive! But offering to pay for shipping yourself is a nice bonus to encourage someone to order your comics. Media Mail is a special service for heavy print items that is relatively cheap. Make sure to pack your comics well, if they show up bent or mangled you may have to replace them or the store may just not order from you again. Also, consider if you have a minimum order amount. It’s best if you don’t, but consider how much shipping will cost.
We hope this will be useful. If you have other tips or suggestions as either minicomics creators or retailers, please let us know!
Ah, yes. I’ve just made some more coffee, and sat down at my desk. I usually do a little “year in review” post on my blog, but I don’t use my blog much anymore. Tumblr is kind of the new blog, right? Does one even need a blog these days? I mean, really.
So I was cleaning my room the other day and I found some disks with some old artwork on them. On one of them was this old comic I drew and posted anonymously on 4chan back in 2009. I never signed it because I drew it in a rush to troll* the comics board (it was a few days before the film would come out and everyone was feeling very emotional about Watchmen) and I was just in the habit of posting doodles anonymously around then. There was a short thread, a few people reposted it for awhile, and then after the movie hype and Watchmen discussions died down I kinda forgot about it.
I found out a few years later that the thing kinda blew up on reddit and some other sites some time after that, and some people even wrote articles about it. Someone even drew an alternate happy ending lol.
It was pretty cool but kinda weird haha.
*When I say troll, it doesn’t mean I take any of the subjects represented here or in Watchmen lightly. I just mean I made it with the intent to cause extreme emotional impact.
A study in panel borders:
Inspired by this awesome post about making comics quickly, I took a look at some comics I own to get some sense of different kinds of panel design choices.
I came away feeling like I’d learned a little less than I’d hoped, but here are some takeaways:
* You can get away with smaller panels than you think
* Extremely weird comic panels CAN work, but when it fails it looks painful and forced.
* Simple is not bad.
* There are actually a LOT of possible combinations.
Scott McCloud uses a 4x3 sliceup of the page, and it’s four VERTICAL slices and three HORIZONTAL ones, which is weird because it makes the panels, on average, LESS square. This works with the particular comic really WELL though, because he draws himself in closeup, talking, a LOT.
DAR and Narbonic both are webcomics mashed into book format, but both worked surprisingly well as page layout in the end.
Blacksad is REALLY variable and the page layouts are hand-crafted on a per-page basis. No speed gains here, but perhaps a message that full custom has its place.
The Resonator is fairly formal but never *too* rigid with panel choices. Lots of narrow or tall panels, which works as a way to alternate between big establishing shots and dense dialog. Very tall panels for single speaker, long ones for two-person dialog or to combine a lot of text and visuals. In general, Resonator is print-native and has TINY text…
Ultimate X-Men is a fun read but the panel design is a disaster. Almost none of the choices of graphic design work at all. Occasionally an establishing shot hits home, but in general the layout is trying WAY too hard.
Watchmen. Formalism raised to the ultimate. It’s precise, it’s a 3x3 grid, it’s piss-on-a-plate-with-no-spills precise and that’s fine, for two reasons: one, everything is about time, and two, it gets the panels the hell out of the way of the story.
Augustus is an example of what Ultimate X-Men was trying to do, except it succeeds. Lots of variation, but on average very orderly. Kind of strikes me as the sort of thing you “have to be GOOD” to pull off well.