It's Hard Out Here For a Comicsmith (but it's getting better...)

A few weeks ago on this blog, I wrote an editorial stating that the Comics industry needs to begin using the weapons of the Advertising industry. I went on to make it clear that some companies and individuals were already playing the advertising game and playing it smart. Josh's post that followed clinched this by embedding the new "Fables" TV spot running on BBC America. Another whole set of ways that the world of Comics is doing better for itself was displayed to me a few nights ago at a release party for two very different collections of webcomics from two very different creators at Bergen Street Comics:

Upon arriving I was warmly greeted by Amy, the part owner of the store, who remembered my face but not my name from the Free Comic Book Day festivities and stated so up front and honestly. She then offered me a beverage of my choice. After receiving a small can of Coke, I began to peruse what was going on. The two comicsmiths gave a nice talk about their working process. This covered everything up the vertical spectrum from what movies were they watching, what elements from those movies found their way into the work, and how they found the discipline to stop watching movies and get working! A truly full image of the previous months of work was painted for the audience. After this talk, a simple PowerPoint-style video of their artwork and some photos was played allowing us a further peek behind the curtain. As this slide show played, a friend of one of the comicsmiths played an original piece on the cello. (Yes, there was a cello in a comic-book store.) Finally the event became a relaxed party atmosphere surrounded by comics on nice shelves. I got to meet both creators and learn even more about them one-on-one, so here's a bit about them and their comics:

Nathan Schreiber's webcomic "power out"
Really strong stuff.

"power out" is a story of youth, discovery, and dreaming in American suburbia. Our main character is an anti-social video gamer whose parents leave him alone with his sister for a weekend away when a black-out hits his town. Now he has to survive with nothing but his wits and his imagination. The tone is dark with flights of absurdity and the pain of adolescence is on display here in sad and truthful tragicomic relief. It is a great bildungsroman story about video games, sex dreams, and life in modern suburbia. It has been nominated for an Eisner Award (among the highest awards conferable on a comics creator by their peers!) and was already awarded the Xeric Grant.

Nathan is a reserved fellow who was personalizing a lot of the copies of his comic bought at Bergen Street that night and chatting pleasantly with each customer while doing it.
He talked about the commonalities between the two works being celebrated in terms of their common influences. He spoke about separating his work time and his play time as a constant struggle and he defended his choice of composing each page of "power out" with irregularly shaped panels.

"power out" can be bought in a very nicely produced volume one trade-paperback on Nathan's site!

Rami Efal's webcomic "Never Forget, Never Forgive"
This work is really remarkable.

An old-school samurai tale, "Never Forget, Never Forgive" is an intense story about the generational, environmental, and societal gaps that open wider and wider in times of war. It's one of a few works out there ("365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice" is perhaps among them) that synthesizes a lot of the best of Japanese manga with the best of American graphic novels and comic-strips.

Rami is as friendly a guy as I have ever met and we chatted about how he's been using Flash to give his work a bit of 3-dimensionality and the little Flash-integrated-widgets he's deigned to make his life easier while doing it. He recommended keeping a career in comics separate from a career from which you could make a living. He espoused the ease of working image by image with a regular panel size.

"Never Forget, Never Forgive" can be bought as a single thick book directly from the printer or through Rami's own site!

Both webcomics were originally serialized and can still be read for free on the webcomics 'super-collective' site Act-I-Vate and both now exist as paperback books for sale. Remarkable world, no?

Much time in my conversation with Rami was given over to the fact that balancing a creative and working life is super freaking difficult and, although I know this to be true from experience, it is always refreshing to hear someone further along than myself speak honestly about it. The discipline to finish working one job and essentially start working another for which you aren't being paid (I think sometimes we all sympathize with the 'villain' of this episode of "due South"at 0:53) is not something that comes naturally. (That scene totally blows the surprise of one of the best episodes of one of the best TV shows ever made. Be warned.)

I found the whole evening wonderful and enlightening because the retailer and the creators engaged in respect and transparency. They were proud of their achievements but also honest about their shortcomings and showed respect for the people as well as for themselves by being straightforward.

This combination of transparency and (self-)respect made me feel comfortable, both as a member of the 'press' and just as a fan/consumer of comics and encourages me to support them in any way I can. I always buy some comics at Bergen Street's events after being given a free drink! It's courtesy. It's smart on their part. In the best sense possible, Bergen Street Comics is not your average comics shop and Amy and Tom are to be congratulated for their ingenuity, drive, and respect. At one moment, as this incredibly talented musician was performing I thought: Maybe we've arrived. All of us as an industry. Comics itself. Amazing. My hats off to you both and best of luck as you continue your second year in business! I wish you many more!

~ @JonGorga

No comments:

Post a Comment