WARNING – This is an old article of mine 🙂
I’ve just got back from comic-fest 2001 and thought I would write a few lines about it. Firstly though, who am I? The name is James, I write and publish ‘Captain Koala’. There’s the technical crap out of the way.
Quick disclaimer first though, the following comments are about Koala Comics but the same could be said about any number of publishers. There are some publishers (I won’t name any) that firmly believe that the industry is healthy while I don’t.
The convention was good and very fair (I will explain this later). There was no major problems as far as I was concerned and the only minor drama I had was that the music was way too loud, but it was turned down within 30 seconds of me talking to the organisers, full marks for that.
Enough of the convention as a whole though, my article is on what I know best, the Australian publishers section. When I said before that the convention was very fair I meant that all the stands got a good spot, there were no stands hidden around corners or in a dark spot out the back. Everyone who went to the convention saw all the stands, whether they stopped at them or just walked straight past is not the point, the fact that they saw them is important.
Overall though, the Australian comics did bad, very bad. Koala comics pulled in enough money to pay for the table, that’s all. It didn’t even pay for my food bill for the weekend, but the way I eat & drink I wouldn’t have expected that anyway. I may have a few little arguments from other stall holders over these comments, but before we do I would like to see the stalls revenue for the weekend, then we’ll argue.
So why didn’t we sell well? The first thing I noticed about the Australian comics is that out of the dozen or so publishers I was one of only three to be there from Ozcon! It means that there is a lot of up and coming publishers and talent coming through. But why aren’t we selling? To answer this I think I may have to bite the bullet and say ‘WE SUCK’. We don’t all suck as there is some good stuff out there. I’m not going to publicly say what I thought was awful but I will publicly admit that I don’t like Captain Koala issues 1-5. I was selling the whole set (1-8) for $10 at comic-fest but if someone only wanted one issue I advised them to buy the latest issue that was available, which was issue 8. Why am I picking on my own comic? Because I intend to clean up my own back yard first. Issues 1-5 were written in 1992, issue 6 in 1997, 7 in 1997, 8 in 1997, 9 in 1999 and 10 in 2001. (Issue 9 will be on the Internet by June 30, I promise). So what do I intend to do about it? When I have finished issue 10 I intend to put them all out in a graphic novel, with the first 5 issues heavily edited. How many other comics admit that they are not up to standard? (What is the standard?)
As a whole, the industry is making the same errors over and over, because of the youth of the publishers they don’t realise that every mistake they are making has been made many times before by other Australian publishers that are now defunct. I have personally made nearly every mistake possible, when I first spoke to people at Ozcon in 1994 I realised that I had made the same mistakes that every one else had done. As we talked more I found out about other mistakes they had done, over the next 7 years I have repeated nearly every mistake I was told about, somebody shoot me. Now it has got to the stage where I am watching others doing the same mistakes.
A suggestion that has come up many times and by many people was the idea of having an anthology of Australian comics. (Anthology is when you have lots of different stories in the one comic, ‘2000AD’ or ‘Dark Horse presents’ are perfect examples). The best Australian example of this is ‘Southern Aurora Presents’ #1(1995?), the first issue had Bodine, De Vries, Lumsden and Paulos in it. If you don’t know who they all are then you don’t know your history too well. De Vries and Lumsden did a shit load of stuff for the US market and it was high quality stuff too. Bodine and Paulos do ‘Hairbutt the Hippo’ for MAD magazine. I still regard ‘SAP’ #1 as the best comic that was produced in the Australian market by an Australian publisher, yet it only just covered it’s printing costs! If anyone wishes to do an anthology I do wish him or her well and would be prepared to help in anyway I could. Maybe some day someone will finally break through.
Bottom line – will I be going back next year? Yes. I have many reasons for wanting to go back. Maybe I didn’t do too well financially (money’s not everything) but I had a great weekend.