Featuring an Interview with Great Beast Plus Comics from the best indie talent around
issue #8 feb / mar 2014 free
COMICS 2 — 27 INTERVIEW 15 YOU HAVE BEEN READING 28 — EDITOR Daniel Humphry @Daniel_Humphry DESIGN Steve Leard @SteveLeard COPY EDITOR Lucy Rice COVER ART The Project Twins theprojecttwins.com
Well, that was a longer break than anticipated. Our last issue came out way back in November and we thought you’d be too busy for us in late-December, but then January melted away in a fog of gift vouchers, leftover Baileys and new pants... and now we find ourselves in February. How the hell did that happen? Since we last graced your eye holes, this country has flooded, frozen and, according to some hateful rags, been overrun by ‘hordes’ of Romanians. Welcome, by the way. The right honourables floated five more years of cuts, broadcasters leered at the poor and some dick DID SOMETHING. It’s a bleak new world, but sombody’s got to fill it with comics. Lucky for us then (and hopefully you), artists seem to have been hard at work while the rest of us gorged on sentimental films and cold meat. It’s been a bumper submissions period and we’re thrilled to be featuring the likes of Lizz Lunney and Robert Ball once again. We’ve also got new talent on the horizon in the form of Ryan Gillett and Becky Barnicoat, plus more dark musings from the imitable mind of Ana Galvañ. We’ve also launched our free Talent Matchmaking service at offlife.co.uk, a place where artists and writers can list the sort of collaborators they’re seeking and then go create together. It’s only in beta stage and will develop greatly when our site is redeveloped in the next month or so, but already some great work has been produced from it. So, go forth and brave 2014 with your free comic in tow. We’ll see you again in April... so long as March doesn’t get the better of us. Daniel Humphry
talking pop an interview with Started by comic artists Marc Ellerby and Adam Cadwell, Great Beast is a unique UK publisher where artists retain the rights to their work. In the two years since launching, they’ve published a who’s-who of the UK indie scene, including OFF LIFE favourites Isabel Greenberg, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell and Dan Berry. We sat down with Marc and Adam to discuss why they made the jump from artists to publishers and discover what they think of random triangle comics.
artists can make as much money as possible from their work. ME: We’ve heard from artists who work with other publishers about the lack of financial reward they can sometimes get. Independent comic artists are pretty unique in that they create the work and also handle a lot of the publicity and marketing, so why should they give 50% of the cover price over to a publisher? There’s a bigger incentive if you’re keeping 100% of the cover price yourself, which is why our artists keep ownership and effectively publish through Great Beast, rather than on Great Beast.
Great Beast is coming up for its second Birthday. What was your initial motivation for starting?
ME: We’d been a little frustrated with the UK comics industry
ignoring a whole genre of comics, anything that was vaguely funny or cartoonish. Work that didn’t take itself too seriously. Traditional publishers weren’t particularly welcoming to it and so we just thought, let’s do it ourselves. AC: We’d both self-published ourselves on a smaller scale for years and so really we just decided to step that up to a professional level of publishing. Once we’d done that for our own titles, it made sense to help other people do the same. Now it feels like strength in numbers and so helping people self-publish to a professional level has become what Great Beast is all about.
How does it work financially for Great Beast? Where’s your incentive to publish their work if you’re not taking a cut?
ME: So Great Beast as a company doesn’t take any
percentage from its artists’ sales. All we charge are a couple of quid each month to help cover web hosting and admin costs. As the artists put up the money for their own print runs, taking a percentage cut from them would feel a bit weird. AC: We’re set up as a not-for-profit and so the focus really is just getting work out there. The benefit to us – and to everyone involved – is that the more quality work we put out and the bigger the Great Beast name gets, the more of a
You’ve got quite a unique model, with the titles remaining creator-owned and self-published. Why did you choose that route and how does it work in practice?
AC: Effectively, we’re a self-publishing collective with the
face of a publisher. Marc and I do the behind the scenes ‘publisher’ work for our group and the aim is that creators can self-publish to a professional standard, with our channels and audience available to them. Hopefully, it means our
From The Snow Queen by Isabel Greenberg
indie shipment, but nothing in there speaks to me. I noticed in at TCAF [Toronto Comic Arts Festival], this boom of art comics. While that might say something about my intelligence, I just do not understand them. They’re super random, and I worry that cartooning is being pushed aside by experimentation. There’s no problem with a bit of that, but experimentation will only get you so far.
stamp of quality it becomes. It’s like helping our own work by helping others. You’ve made a point of saying you don’t think pop is a dirty word in comics. What is it about the industry that made you feel the need to set that out?
AC: Comics have been seen as a lowbrow medium for so long
that when UK publishers are deciding on their identity and the style of books they want to be known for, they almost distance themselves from the widely entertaining, accessible, pop side of the medium. People want to say, ‘This isn’t a silly comic book; it’s a serious graphic novel.’ But, hey, we like silly comic books! Just because they’re fun and pop, it doesn’t mean they’re devoid of worth.
“I’d very much like to stop reading narratives about triangles at some point”
There seems to have been a lean toward either very
The Great Beast roster is a who’s-who of British
earnest, artistic comics or very surreal ones.
indie talent. How did you go about choosing who to
ME: Yeah, I’d very much like to stop reading narratives about
triangles at some point. AC: They’ve got narratives? ME: You’re right, random triangle stuff on a page. It does worry me as quite a cartoony artist that sometimes I’ll go into a comic shop, and they’ll be excited about a new US
ME: We did an open call and then thankfully they chose us.
It was pretty nice. Although everyone’s styles are different – I mean, Robert Ball’s and mine are miles apart – I think everyone’s heart is in the same place. We’re all singing from the same hymn sheet if you will.
Cotton Buddy from The Everyday by Adam Cadwell
almost shut to small publishers. We’ve been trying to get in with Diamond [Comic Distributors], but to be honest they take such a huge cut that it’s just not worth it. I’m also not sure that Great Beast’s comics would sell in the types of stores that focus on Wolverine claws and Hulk Smash Hands. Even bookshops are tricky, because they want weighty graphic novels but our titles are typically smaller comics. So yeah, it’s tricky to find the right places to distribute in.
AC: Yeah, like we said we try and avoid art comics.
Superheroes have been done to death and so we avoid them, and the same goes for mature-only work. We want most of our catalogue to be really accessible People say the early-mid nineties were a golden era for UK comic talent.
Where are things at
ME: I think the great thing is that there are so many diverse
publishers about these days. Although we don’t publish mature or superhero or art comics, there are British publishers who do… and that’s great. AC: Nobrow, Avery Hill, Improper, Soaring Penguin… there are so many great publishers filling niches that don’t normally get name-checked. Half the reason we don’t publish certain genres is just because someone else is already doing it really well. We’re on that very brink of comics being accepted in the mainstream. They’re appearing in more book awards and broadsheet reviews than ever before, so it’s a pretty exciting time.
Great Beast has fully embraced digital distribution. Has the demand been there?
ME: We decided quite early on that you can’t tell people
how to read their books anymore. In terms of demand, our biggest digital seller has been the Chloe Noonan omnibus and that’s probably because it collected everything that already existed in print and almost re-mastered it. That, plus it was quite cheap. Being cheap is really the key with digital comics, as you’re not actually selling anything that people can hold, but the problem there is that it’s very hard to make a profit on cheap digital comics. If Blood Blokes is 69p on Comixology, they’ll get a cut, Apple will take a cut and we’re left with 10p! So demand is there, but it’s not making anyone millionaires.
What challenges do you face as an independent publisher in the comic industry?
ME: Distribution is difficult because the doors are
Above: From Show Me The Map To Your Heart by John Cei Douglas Right: Blood Blokes by Adam Cadwell
Is there a fear or snobbishness about digital within
And for Great Beast?
ME: It’s all a bit hush-hush at the moment, but we’re talking
AC: I think there was when Comixology first started,
to a few new creators and will have some announcements around our second birthday in April. AC: Blood Blokes #4 should be out in spring, Robert Ball’s Winter’s Knight: Day One should have a follow-up and Isabel Greenberg is going to work on another Tall Tales for the spring conventions. So it’s going to be more of the same: more fun books, more shows, new creators…
especially from print publishers, but now the success of titles like Brian K. Vaughan’s The Private Eye – which was pay what you want digital only – has opened people’s eyes to what digital could be. At the moment the devices to read digital comics on are really expensive too – just look at iPads and Kindles. That creates a barrier to lower income families, and while that exists I don’t think digital will be the medium for serialised, floppy comics.
To find out more about Great Beast, visit greatbeastcomics.com
What do you think the future is for UK comics
or follow them @greatbeastUK
publishing? It seems there’s been a lean to smaller independents?
AC: I think that print graphic novels will continue to take
off because there’s that collectability and quality to them. Floppy, serialised comics on the other hand will either have to up their production values to become as desirable as larger graphic novels, or once the technology becomes cheaper just go fully digital.
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Published on Feb 6, 2014