In the spirit of many a lazy journalist at this time of year, I have decided to take a look back at the last 12 months of banal piggery, perhaps it will teach me some lessons; perhaps it will waste half an hour- we shall see.
January found me in chipper mood, sometimes you do get a bit enthusiastic at the promise of a new year, a new start and all that shit, even though time rolls on whatever us humans call it. I made another list of “Reasons to be cheerful” which included:
rowdy blues music
art that i couldnt do
the smell of a pub as you walk past
aw… I am an optimist you know.
In comics, I was collating the BP Portrait Prize Anthology which was a good experience, I enjoyed the editing side of things and it was nice to put something out fairly quickly and have a mixed selection. Top Shelf’s Brett Warnock described it as “hit and miss”, which I suppose is fair enough, but I think it’s a better quality of Antho than many out there.
Also in the spirit of new opportunities, I was attempting to raise the profile of the Banal Pig brand, and I think I have done to some extent with the Web Funnies and that, but we’ve still not cracked how to engage with punters at comic expos. I think it’s impossible.
I did this quite decent banal pig for the web and mini comix thing anthology, but they didn’t use it for some reason. I’m not doing another one.
Here’s an exerpt from my report from the Web and Mini Comix thing:
“it was quite a good day, and as the punters there are our specific target market we did probably as well in one day as we usually do over the weekend at the big cons. the new anthology went down quite well and there were quite a few of the contributors there to pick up their issues. i didnt actually buy anything but there was some decent stuff there- The Sound of Drowning, Dan Locke’s Green comics, Monkeys Might Puke, Beaver and Steve spring to mind – there was plenty of shite there too. Plenty of fucking awful shite. Gareth managed to get Man Man 3 out too, and we were also selling good old Oli East’s Trains Are Mint which also went down well.”
We’re doing it again this year, by the way.
Also this selection of Road Jokes, which I feel are worth repeating:
What does a road say when he wishes to thank you?
Whats a Road’s favourite Grandmaster Flash song?
What does a baby road do before it can walk?
But of course, March was most famous for the “Sour Grapes” post, in which I vented my frustrations about the state of british small press comics. This caused a bit of stir, particularly with those people who I (and others) vented about, and I’m not going to repeat any of it here as it is history (although you can read the post and it’s comments if you like). Maybe it was unwise to blog in such a way, but it was only the difference between me thinking it and saying it, and I didn’t think anyone would read it anyway.
April marked the end of the financial year, and I was contemplating my accounts thusly:
“Today i am taking stock of my comics business as the financial year is all but wrapped up. i’ve made a considerable loss and am wondering where my profit margins can be increased. buying a laser printer and doing the job myself is one option, not doing the big conventions, and putting up the price of the comic are all options, none of them easy. hopefully i’ll get some tax back again, but i’ve got to start being a bit more canny, which is not the side of the business i’m interested in. any ideas?”
(Whenever I write “any ideas?” no-one ever responds. I’m the same generally. A covert blog reader but not commenter, and however I try to encourage the comments, it doesn’t make a difference.)
In relation to the above, I didn’t really make any changes, but on balance this year’s Birmingham Con was too expensive (we shouldn’t have even got out of bed on the Sunday), and I don’t think we’ll bother this year. I do feel a bit ambivalent towards money making, I am in no way a ruthless business man- I always want to give the reader value for money. This doesn’t really make my business very lucrative, but value for money is my core business plan, and it has led to repeat purchases and word of mouth and all that, and hopefully that will continue to grow.
The rest of April was Ethel Sparrowhawk previews, more of which presently.
Of course, May was the highlight of the comics year, the Bristol Comics Expo, the reason I busted my balls to get Ethel Sparrowhawk finished (I actually took a week off work- dedication eh?). The reason it’s my highlight is because its ten minutes down the road from my house, so there’s no extra costs and there’s plenty of people I know. Ethel went down (sold) well, and we got some nice big ups from (small press stalwart) Paul Rainey and (V for Vendetta artist) David Lloyd, and I think it was a good choice to do a change of direction at this stage, and it was a different way of working, collaborating with the lovely Jemima Von Schindelberg, to make something I certainly couldn’t have come up with on my own.
I was also contemplating a small press community website thing, where it would be easy to sell and give recommendations and that sort of thing, but to be honest I haven’t given it a second thought since then.
One thing I have learned this year is that you really have to plough your own field, do your best, work hard, etc and this brings its own rewards. No-one else is going to do it for you (me). Although I haven’t seen any tangible rewards yet, I am confident they will appear.
Very exciting things happened in June, yes that’s right, I won £54 on a scratchcard! Happy times.
Gareth’s website, Appalling Nonsense was created too, and I laid out my hopes and dreams for BP4:
“anyway, i was also thinking about making longer comics, and i really want to step it up a notch with banal pig 4. my current vision (sounds a bit pretentious doesnt it?) involves 2 levels of comics- i.e. a main strip and a sub-strip running alongside/under/against it, and i want to continue to develop the banal pig “universe” (again this sounds a bit poncy, but it is fairly common comic speak i think) and feature more of the peripheral characters and make the general look a bit more dense, or at least vary the layouts a bit more. this means that it wont be ready for birmingham, but i’ll have JBFCSS2 and maybe another minicomic, and i’ve got my fingers in a few other pies.”
One thing that I always do is underestimate the time it takes to do anything. Jolly Bear 2 was just about ready for Birmingham, and I have decided to really take my time with BP4 and have it out for Bristol in May ’08, but it will be worth it- having started drawing it, it is actually still quite similar to this, but there wont be as many sub strips. I cant remember what other pies they were.
I was moaning because of my shit job, as is my wont from time to time, and I started doing the ROK comics thing, in the hope of winning $10,000 (ha!). I think all competitions are flawed, in as much as I never win them.
So that’s it for part one, the first six months, but I’ll be back soon with part two probably….