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Editor’s Note: With the recent discussions going on around the comics community about creator-owned comics, we’re pleased to welcome one of the voices in those discussions, 30 Days of Night and Mystery Society creator Steve Niles, to Robot 6 for a series of columns on creator-owned comics. A big thanks to Steve for agreeing to do the column, as well as to artist Stephanie Buscema for creating a killer image for it.
by Steve Niles
Welcome to the first installment of my new column, Creator-Owned Spotlight. I tried to think up an amusing title, but then decided to just settle on what it was: a spotlight on creator-owned comics, publishers and retailers who support the need for more creator-owned books.
I guess the first order of business is to define what I mean when I say “creator-owned comics.” I’m talking about ANY book where the creator has ANY ownership in their book. So basically, if you sign a work-for-hire agreement, you don’t generally have ownership. It doesn’t make those books bad, or the enemy, or anything like that. We’re just not talking about them here.
Why am I doing this? I’ve been called insane for wanting to promote my competitors’ work. All I have to say to that is: it isn’t a competition. And yes, I am crazy. I’ve drawn a line in the sand for myself to be positive. I hope you’ll try, too.
First up is such an obvious choice; I really don’t need to write much at all. His name is synonymous with creator-owned books, because he’s one of creator-owned comics’ greatest success stories. He’s also a friend and hero of mine.
This interview with Joshua Hale Fialkov (creator of the acclaimed Elk’s Run from a few years ago and current noir work at Archaia, Tumor [which reunites Fialkov with his Elk’s Run artist Noel Tuazon]) took an interesting route before finally getting here. The initial interview started as a suggestion from Johanna Draper Carlson back in October 2008 (thanks, Johanna) and was intended for my pop culture blog, Talking with Tim. Fialkov was more than game to do the interview and we completed the initial interview in late 2008, right around the time I signed on to contribute my comics interviews to Robot 6. So, savvy, yet disorganized guy that I am, I set the interview aside–and promptly misplaced it. When news of Fialkov’s Tumor (available here for Kindle and here for free for those of without Kindles) started making the rounds, I realized my mistake and tracked the emails down. I contacted Fialkov (offering my sincere apologies) and he was kind enough to entertain new questions about Tumor. So please note, after the initial Tumor discussion, the interview moves on to the initial 2008 interview, which while it is understandably dated in some aspects, much of it is still quite engaging and relevant. My thanks to Fialkov for his understanding and for his time both in 2008 and 2009.
Tim O’Shea: How pleased have you been with Tumor’s Kindle sales? How much has the story’s word-of-mouth been boosted thanks to the website?
Joshua Hale Fialkov: Well, just using our placement in the ranks on Amazon, the fact that a Kindle only comic book can get up to be the 8th most ordered graphic novel on all of Amazon, including print, is pretty damn amazing. I think there’s a lot of reasons that we’re up there, including that we’re giving the first chapter away for free, but, still, that says to me that there’s an audience for comics on the device, and it’s one that in some ways may soon rival the audience for print comics. At least, for those readers who use Amazon to get their fix. My whole career has been built on a lot of goodwill, and from the support of friends and fans with big mouths and wide audiences, and, frankly, in a niche business like comics, that’s really how the whole thing works. What I hope to do is go the extra mile to really reward my readers, first with what I hope is excellent content, but secondly by giving them access to the stuff over on the website, including behind the scenes material, and special features that not only enhance their enjoyment of the book, but hopefully show them a side of the process they haven’t considered. To that end, there’s a healthy amount of traffic who make it over to the site every time we release an issue, so, I know that in some respects, it’s working.