I’m not a salesman.
In fact, one of the reasons I got back into art was because I hated the economical context in which most of my previous work took place. Sales, “business development”, profit and loss, budgets, targets, USPs, all of that stuff.
I hated it.
Now, as a freelance artist and small press comics creator, I find myself in the position of having to wear my business head as much as my artist head, and it doesn’t sit very well on me. Creating a comic takes a lot of time and energy, and where Gonzo Cosmic is concerned, that’s increased by being not only the artist, but also the writer, originator and funder.
Releasing small press comics is very costly. It costs time and equipment to make the thing, costs to pay collaborators like the fantastic colourists and letterers who really make the book sing, it costs to print up copies for sale, and it costs to take that book to conventions. Table costs, equipment costs, travel costs, eating and drinking costs, promotional material costs etc. It also costs in time to promote the book to reviewers (many of whom are great folk, some of whom really aren’t the best critics, and all of whom require a particular kind of approach and need courting in order to take a look at your book) and to comic shops who might be willing to stock it.
Given the sheer amount of projects I have on the go at any one time – partly because I’m easily bored, and partly because I think that challenging myself constantly is the best way to improve – what I’d love to be able to do is complete one, then move onto the next, but instead I have to go through the whole promo and marketing bit.
I find selling my work difficult. I’m from the West coast of Scotland – we grow up learning to not brag about ourselves, then suddenly find ourselves in the position of having to pimp out our wares. And I’ve wracked my brain to find ways to make it easier.
This has been a particular struggle with Gonzo Cosmic. Not only is it a 12-issue series, with the individual costs of each issue multiplied, and the need to raise funding to make and promote each issue partly contributing to the length of time it takes to get it out there. But more than that, the book is about post-Capitalism. It’s about testing ideas of post-scarcity within the context of a psychedelic cosmic superhero book. It’s about getting past money and profit.
So I had a think. What if the method of transmission and distribution of Gonzo matched the content?
Given that I never make money on the sale of the books, and given that’s not the point, I spend money to make them that I never recover. So, instead of putting that money into the book and charging for it, I considered a new way. One that grew in my mind over a couple of weeks, and finally came to complete fruition at the MCM Glasgow Con at the weekend.
From now on, single issues of Gonzo Cosmic will be entirely digital, and entirely free.
They’ll be available as DRM-free digital downloads, in PDF format and other comic reader formats such as CBR and CBZ. It’ll be available on as many torrent sites as I can get it uploaded on, and readers will be encouraged to share with anyone they know who might be interested in it.
While I reserve the right to collect it for printed trades in the future, and to take those to publishers, single issue editions of Gonzo will be free to the reader.
I reckon that some folk might see this as a publicity gimmick of its own, and while I’d find it difficult to deny that completely, the reasoning behind this is about the very thing drove the creation of Gonzo in the first place – my dissatisfaction with the current system of profit we have right now, and the complete seeming lack of viable alternatives being discussed.
While I want to have a professional career in comics, my main desire to do so is to tell stories and to make art. I’d love to be published by companies that could deal with the marketing and promotion of my books, and let me get on with the business of telling stories, only to be wheeled out on occasion to remind people that I’m there, and while that in itself is a pipe dream, I want to start my career as I mean to go on. I want the art to be foremost.
As influenced as I am by creators like Morrison and Ellis, probably the guy whose career I’d most like to emulate is Paul Pope, seriously fucking cool creator of an incredible catalogue of creator owned work. He’s carved out a career as this do-as-I-like badass who can choose which projects he wants to focus on, and I’m sure that too is a rosy view, but it certainly looks like that.
And there’s something about small press currently that misses out on that “fuck-you-diy-do-it-for-yourself-and-anyone-who-wants-to-read-it” attitude. Improving production quality for lower prices, and digital technology that makes it easier all round to make comics means that we’re in this new zone, this sub-professional but looking gorgeous zone. This we’re not there yet but boy do we look like we should be zone. That’s awesome. I’ve enjoyed being part of that. There are some truly fantastic indie creators out there, peers of mine, who are doing incredible stuff, and who are the next burgeoning wave of professional creators, and they’re great at promoting their work. But when it starts to feel more like a business than a vocation, that’s when it gets boring for me.
I want to make comics.
I want people to read them.
I want people to share them with each other, and I want to build an audience slowly and steadily of that core group of folk out there who I know will fucking love Gonzo Cosmic. And then, when this spiky, complex, unwieldy and hard-to-pitch bastard of a book is finally finished, I can say “Here, I did it, this is it.” No need for faith, no need for trust, no need to wade through my grotesque pitching verbiage to decide whether it’s any good or not. You’ll be able to read it, and judge for yourself.
And if you’ve picked up the free issues along the way, you’ll have been ahead of the game, and part of something pretty neat and anti-establishment. Fuck the system. Fuck The Man! Don’t “buy this comic”, “TAKE THIS COMIC!” And share it. Share the fuck out of it.
Gonzo Cosmic #1 print run is almost done. Gonzo Cosmic #2 Digital Edition will be unleashed around November. Some pages from it have been shared above, some uncoloured preview pages are below. Details of how to purchase digital editions will arrive then too.