While stopping in at one of Denver’s more indie-centric comic shops the other day, I came to a startling realization: I know almost nothing about indie comics any more. It used to be that even if I wasn’t getting a particular small press book I was at least aware of it, and the reason came from the most unlikely source: Previews.
Dismiss Diamond as being unreasonably hard on small-press titles if you will, but they still carry a huge number of them. Without getting into distribution and business decisions that don’t concern me, Diamond is the sole comic book supplier for most comic shops, so if a comic isn’t in Previews it might as well not exist.
Once upon a time my Local Comic Shop would give Previews away to it’s subscription customers. Unheard of, I know… I pored through the entire catalog and didn’t just stop once I got past the Big Four publishers. I found tons of good stuff: Boneyard, Pop Gun War, My Monkey’s Name is Jennifer…An interesting summary, a tiny cover shot, and a relatively low cover price meant I could branch out and try books that my LCS wasn’t carrying and weren’t superheroes.
Since that free Previews stopped coming, though, my exposure to indies has drastically decreased. Newsarama, Comic Book Resources, almost all of your big comic news web sites traditionally cover Marvel and DC exclusively. Usually the only time an indie creator gets any space is when they’re moving “forward” with work at one of the Big Four. Most of the “major” indie books (Cerebus, Strangers in Paradise, Bone) that did get coverage have now wrapped up, and even though Moore and Smith have launched new series, you almost never hear of them.
Which leads me to my dilemma: how in the world are we supposed to find something outside the realm of traditional Big Four books? Obviously the Internet makes it easier for artists to put up their work and try to get the word out, but the signal-to-noise ratio is terrible and besides, I want paper comics I can hold in my hand. Go back to Previews? Well, I find the idea of paying a monthly fee for a catalog ridiculous. Maybe if there were more incentive, say coupons for books when pre-ordering, but I outright resent the idea that I should pay for the privilege of being advertised to.
Make no mistake: indies are where it’s at. These are the people making comics because they have to create comics, not because they think it’s going to make them rich or famous. Working with their own characters creates a sense of investment and (literally) ownership, so you get an artist’s pure vision. For the reader there’s also the thrill of discovery, returning to Matt’s talk of finding grails. There’s something innately rewarding about stumbling across something you didn’t even know you were looking for, then trying to spread the word of Good People Doing Good Work.
However good <insert Marvel title here>: Dark Reign or <insert DC character here>: Rebirth or Spawn: Deathblood or Aliens vs Predator XIV is, it’s not the same as that DIY ethos of trying to create something new. And it should be easier to find those people.