Despite comics companies printing books more furiously than ever, the last Wednesday of 2009 was weirdly silent, with only one comic coming out from each of the Big Two companies. But nature abhors a vacuum -- and a group of writers and artists from Fort Worth got together to use this "dead week" as their platform with Indy Comic Book Week. Newsarama caught up with IDBW co-founder Matthew Warlick to talk about what their inspirations where, and how they felt it went.
Newsarama: So, Matthew, we have to ask, how did Indy Comic Book Week get started with you guys?
Matthew Warlick: It all started with a post by Kyle Latino titled “Deadline 09”. He basically called out the independent creators and dared us all to put out books during Diamond’s skip week. We thought it was a good idea and ran with it, and thus Indy Comic Book Week was born.
Nrama: Going back a little bit, what's your background? Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got to this point.
Warlick: My professional background is in interactive design but I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid. In 4th grade I discovered comics and I’ve been hooked ever since. When I graduated I took an apprenticeship with a web design firm and eventually moved up to the position of interactive designer and then art director. The past few years I’ve freelanced doing interactive art direction and illustration work.
Nrama: In terms of organizing the event, was there an overall structure to who you teamed up with? Or are you hearing from people who published who you had never spoken with before?
Warlick: The main ICBW team is Vinh-Luan Luu, Jake Ekiss, Paul Milligan and myself; It’s basically our Space-Gun Studios entity minus Evan Bryce. We’ve been responsible for putting together the website and organizing the blog, but have had a lot of help from creators and retailers in spreading the word and helping the event take off.
Nrama: What about dealing with retailers? Was it difficult convincing them to carry books from unknown creators?
Warlick: Surprisingly, no. We’ve gotten nothing but support from retailers, especially in the Dallas area. They helped spread the word, offered us shelf space and helped to organize signings and in stores events.
Nrama: Was there anything that particularly surprised you about how this turned out? Are there any lessons you've learned about the industry through this?
Warlick: We were really surprised that it took off so quickly. We had planned it to be a local event limited to Dallas/Ft. Worth but with the help of retailers and social media it grew faster than we could have hoped.
I’m not sure if I learned anything new about the industry but I’ve learned a lot about how retailers operate and how successful a tight knit community of artists can be when they all have the same goal.
Nrama: Looking at the other submissions from Indy Comic Book Week, what would you say has been your favorite comic that isn't your own?
Warlick: Hands down Brandon Dayton’s Green Monk. It was a fun read with some amazing art in a unique format. I’m partial to my studiomate Jake Ekiss’ book Solomon Azua as well, it’s got a nice sci-fi/pulp noir feel to it.
Nrama: You weren't just a co-founder of all this, you also submitted your own comic, Senryu. What inspired this, and what were your goals for this book?
Warlick: Senryu started out as an obsession with haikus. Over time I had the idea to set them all to art and see what happened, and fell in love with the format. It was directly inspired by dreams that I’ve had, as well as short stories and poems that I’ve had rolling around in my head for a few years.
My goals for the book were to produce something deeply personal and meaningful without worrying about how it would be received, and to show readers and creators alike how abstract and freeform a comic can be while still maintaining high production values.
Nrama: So often we hear about people who say they're comics writers, who, well, don't write comics. So as someone who has successfully self-published a comic, what advice would you give would-be creators to make it over that hump?
Warlick: We have a philosophy among the Space-Gun crew and that is this: “If you really want to make comics, then make comics.” And by that we mean that if your heart’s in it nothing should be able to stop you from creating a comic. With so many print-on-demand options and ways to advertise/sell a book there’s no reason an individual can’t self-publish, even while holding down a day job. It may take time, Senryu took almost 2 years, but it can be done.
Nrama: What's next for you and your colleagues, following Indy Comic Book Week? Any return to any of the concepts or characters you touched upon in Senryu?
Warlick: I’ve already thought about doing a Senryu 2 or something similar as there are a few concepts in there I think could stand on their own, but that’s on the back burner for now. Jake, Luan and I are working on a story now that we’ll be launching later this year as a webcomic and then collecting into a trade for next year’s Indy Comic Book Week, so look for that in late spring/early summer.