Self-publishing is often perceived with a certain disdain that I always struggle to understand especially when it concerns publishing comics. Self-publishers are usually viewed as purveyors of “Vanity Press” or unrefined rebels, void of editorial and quality control, rather than the enlightened, creative entrepreneurs that they often are.
For the record, I have always considered myself a self-publisher though I have spent a lot of time publishing the works of others. I self-published my first comics in high school. Those comics were printed on a mimeograph machine and distributed from class-to-class and sold for a nickel apiece.
In college, where I met my long time publishing partner Bill Cucinotta, we published a student newspaper, DUCKWORK , with a bunch of like-minded friends that all had an interest in comics. We were doing our own thing and doing it collectively so I still considered what “we” published as self-published.
Few people remember or realize that Comico began as a self-publishing venture. Our earliest projects all featured comics that we created ourselves. AZ, Skrog, and Slaughterman were each works of the individual Comico partners, Phil LaSorda, Bill Cucinotta, and myself. Primer was intended an introductory product for our personal projects but became our first vehicle to present the works of others, most notably our former DUCKWORK pal, Matt Wagner, and his signature work Grendel.
It was only fitting that when Bill and I began publishing on the web as CO2 Comics the first features we launched were our earlier works Skrog and Slaughterman . We were self-publishers again!
Because we do enjoy publishing others, we set up CO2 Comics as a cooperative venture where we work closely with creators to present their work on our site. When we do publish works in print we consider the creators our partners and insure that they receive the lion’s share of net profits from sales of their books.
I don’t ever want to lose my perception of being a self-publisher because I consider it a virtue and a right. Cat Yronwode, esteemed comics critic, and editor once questioned our rights to publish what was admittedly amateurish material. Her comment in the Comics Buyer’s Guide sent me into a tizzy back in 1983 because I am so adamant about a creator’s right to have control over their work which is my primary endorsement for self-publishing. I argued that as Americans we should have the right to publish whatever we want and that the market will determine our fate.
Self-publishing, in fact has integral responsibility for the birth of our nation. Forefather, Ben Franklin, was a self-publisher and champion of freedom of speech. He used his press, his writings and his publishing skills to inspire and encourage the American Revolution. He valued those rights and so should we as comic creators.
This is the sense of independence that comic creators needed when it became obvious that the big comic publishers were taking advantage of them. By the late seventies when people started demanding rights for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster followed by champions for Steve Gerber and Jack Kirby it became obvious that alternative publishing was necessary in the comics industry
For us, like many others, self-publishing was the answer. Thanks to the nature of the Direct Market in the comics industry at the time, self-publishers could easily get their foot in the door. A lot of good and bad publishers proliferated but what became clear was that comics could be more than just superheroes and the opportunity for diversity in the medium exploded. Self-publishing opened the door for creative opportunity that may not have existed otherwise.
The new generation of comic creators with this expanded view of the medium quickly moved to the world wide web and launched a self publishing assault that proved anything is possible when creating comics. Stick figures capably replaced the anatomically exaggerated superheroes as dominant reading material on the web.
Now, with digital advancements in printing and distribution, the opportunity to self-publish is as accessible and affordable than ever before leaving the greatest challenge to be that of being discovered by an audience.
More than ever, self-publishing is the doorway to creative freedom. As creators, now is the time to encourage each other to embrace the opportunity to swelf-publish, to control your intellectual property and not be victimized by unscrupulous publishers who continue to exploit the antiquated work-for-hire business model.
This is our goal at CO2 Comics. We recognize that not every creator wants the burden of all the details that self-publishing requires wether it be on the web or in print. We want CO2 Comics to be a safe haven for projects to be published while creators retain ownership and control over their property.
More importantly we intend that creators are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve and would warrant as a self-publisher because we know personally what a virtue self-publishing is.
Making Comics Because We Want to,