4.5 Self-published comics

The purpose of this exercise was to research into self-published comics, graphic novels, artist books or fanzines.

Key words from the brief:

  • Find examples of self-publishing you find interesting
  • Think about the form of this work. How has it been produced and what materials are used?
  • Can you find examples of inventive use of paper, binding, folding or printing?

How I approached the exercise

In my previous research I’ve reviewed the work of Laura Oldfield Ford who produces Savage Messiah, a fanzine about different London postcodes.

I’d also attended an evening workshop over three weeks at The Drawing Room in Southwark London. As well as having a gallery and art library they also publish numerous artists books related to drawing. These mostly seem to be connected to exhibitions or the work of artists that have exhibited at the gallery.

The genre I’m particularly interested in, and what I’ve researched for this exercise are self published comics. This short form narrative format chimes closely to my own interests, so looking at the form, content, quality of the printing/printed object and distribution were relevant and interesting.

My research involved the review of three self published comics purchased at Orbital Comics in Covent Garden and internet searches for information about design, printing, publication and distribution.

A review of three self-published comics

I visited Orbital Comics in Covent Garden and selected three self-published comics that caught my eye.

These were:

  1. Goro
  2. Ident
  3. Morning tide

Goro

Goro is the name of a series of eight comic books (to date) written and illustrated by Sarah Horrocks.

The description of the comic series is: An assassin with a past unknown even to himself comes to kill an evil wealthy matriarch whose own past is a festering open wound infecting all around her. A melodrama in 10 parts.

I bought the second issue for £10 (the cost is $10 in the US).

Goro issuse 2
Fig 1 – Goro

Issue 2 is 20-pages with a two-colour front and back cover and black and white throughout. The illustrative style is quite distinctive and uses different halftone effects to add tone and texture to the black and white line art.

Compared to the other self-published comics I saw this one is pretty high quality in terms of the editorial and illustration.

The story is well paced and pretty fast moving; it feels like there’s a lot packed into 16-pages of narrative. There’s a real strong sense of character and relationships in a very condensed space. The story has a melodramatic American soap opera feel.

Sarah Horrocks is based in Oklahoma. As well as writing and making comics, she has also done cover work for various clients and writes critically about comics.

It’s interesting to see how she uses digital and social media to raise money and sell her work.

Ident

Indent is a 32-page comic that is written, illustrated and edited by Tom Cleary and cost £4. It’s full colour throughout.

The booklet feels somewhere between a comic and a fanzine. The content is quite rough and ready and the production values are not great – edges of content have been cropped.

The content is Viz like; some is funny and some doesn’t really work.

EPSON MFP image
Fig 2 – Never parting (2017)

Morning tide

Morning Tide is 24-pages printed 2-colour throughout. The back cover credits the work to Peony Gent.

This was interesting because the book consists of one poem and a series of illustrations that start as abstract shapes and resolves into photographic snippets.

The book is bound very neatly using two large stitches from red thread.

Unlike the other two comics, this is a standalone and complete piece of work.

EPSON MFP image
Fig 3 – Morning Tide (2018)

Reflections

I’m excited by this research because it demonstrates one way that it’s possible to create and publish narrative fiction relatively cheaply. It’s instructive to see how other illustrators use self publishing as a means to market themselves and build an audience.

It seems to be most effective when it’s combined with other digital channels particularly social media and is a way for aspiring artists to ‘cut their teeth’ without taking too much financial risk.

Useful links

There is a lot of helpful information available regarding the production, printing, publication and distribution of self-published books and comics.

Here are some links I came across during the research.

List of illustrations

Figure 1 Horrocks, Sarah Goro front cover [Illustration] In: Goro Issue 2. p1.

Figure 2 Cleary, Tom (2017) Never parting [Pen and ink] In: Ident pp. 22-23.

Figure 3 Gent, Peony (2018) Morning Tide [Coloured pencil] In: Morning Tide pp. 12-13.