Robot 6

Comic Book Independents explores mysteries, struggles of creativity

Now available On Demand, the documentary Comic Book Independents by director Chris Brandt receives wider distribution at an interesting time. In the midst of a migration of comic book creators from work-for-hire to creator-owned projects, and just as a renewed discussion about creator rights gains momentum, this documentary offers fascinating insight on what it means to go it alone in comics.

It’s not your usual comics documentary, and if you’re a creative type yourself, or are interested by those who are, you’ll probably find yourself inspired. Framed by information from cognitive psychologist Dr. James Kaufman, the human process of creativity as it is realized in comics is broken down and explored by some of the art form’s most interesting thinkers and voices.

The interviews also show us a side of these industry figures that we don’t often see in the usual interviews promoting their latest projects. Featured in the documentary are Craig Thompson (Blankets, Habibi), Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics), Jessica Abel and Matt Madden (Drawing Words & Writing Pictures), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), Eric Powell (The Goon), Tony Millionaire (Maakies), Jim Woodring (Frank), Linda Medley (Castle Waiting), Keith Knight (The K Chronicles), Wendy Pini (ElfQuest), Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon), Robert Williams (Zap!), Batton Lash (Supernatural Law) and more. Fantagraphics’ Gary Groth, Isotope owner/curator James Sime, SLG Publishing’s Dan Vado, Top Shelf’s Brett Warnock and Dark Horse’s Scott Allie also provide fascinating perspectives.

The documentary is available On Demand through cable providers Verizon, AT&T, Charter, Mediacom, Suddenlink and Insight. You can also buy the DVD and get some bonus content, including extra interviews with Johnny Ryan (Prison Pit) and Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise, Rachel Rising). For even more bonus material, check out Chris’ YouTube channel for more unedited interviews and clips.

Here’s the trailer that was made back when it was titled simply Independents:

(Additional self-serving commentary: Chris Brandt’s work on this documentary led me and director Miguel Cima to compare notes on our own documentary Dig Comics, and we eventually teamed up for an additional Dig Comics demo created for a potential investor of a long form version of Dig Comics. Both of these shorts can be viewed in their entirety at



Seems pretty cool, but I’ve got to wonder if Gary Groth only agreed to be interviewed if they agreed to title him an “art critic.”

Gary Groth *is* an art critic. It may seem more natural to label him, “founder and editor of The Comics Journal” but “art critic” makes sense as well.

Gary was very amiable, as were all of the interviewees, and made no impositions upon the documentary. On the contrary, he and all people interviewed were very candid and generous in their support of the documentary at all stages of its inception, completion, and exhibition.

I hold sole blame for all editing and directorial decisions.

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