While the whole rest of the world, it seems, is experimenting with digital comics, Box Brown has been going the opposite direction, publishing indie print comics through his own Retrofit Comics. I talked to him when he was launching the first season of Retrofit Comics, in fall 2011, and now that he's back for a second round, I thought it would be a good time to ask him what he learned from the first iteration and what he will be doing differently this time.
Robot 6: What did you learn from your first year as the publisher of Retrofit Comics?
Box Brown: I think I spread myself too thin. I released 17 comics in about 18 months while working on a graphic novel of my own and I was working too hard. I wasn't able to give each release the attention it deserved. Also, I learned a lot about "seasons" in the retail world. Stuff slows down a lot in the Summer. And, I think I also learned that people actually wanted a comic from Box Brown the cartoonist as well. Publishing your own work until a brand like this is kind of a weird feeling. I think I was uncomfortable with it for a while, but I've learned to say "fuck it"
What are you doing differently this year?
I've broken our publishing year down into two seasons: spring and fall. Rather than just cutting the publishing list in half and delivering comics every other month, I've decided to release a comic every month in the spring and fall seasons, while taking a little break in the summer. So, in 2013, there will be releases in April, May, June, then a summer release, then releases in September, October, November. Also, each book is 40 pages plus, which is at least eight more pages per comic than last year's batch. There may be some more surprises thrown in there as well. Looking over it now it still feels like a lot of work!
How do subscriptions help support Retrofit?
Subscriptions help pay printing costs and cover shipping costs to the 30-plus retail stores carrying our comics. I buy a lot of tape and shipping supplies. I got a free mug from Uline; it is among my most prized possessions. Also some of the money goes to comic fuel (coffee, food, lights,etc.).
If people don't subscribe, will they be able to buy the comics individually?
Yes, they'll be able to purchase them as they come out, but subscribers save on shipping. Also, if you subscribe to the full year you'll receive Box Brown's summer release free.
Can you give us a quick overview of the creators and comics you have lined up? Are any returning from last year?
The first release is We Will Remain from Andrew White. I first came across his work through the Comics Workshop Tumblr blog and it constantly blows me away. This is a collection of shorts all about the theme of place and its effect on people. Simon Moreton is a U.K. artist I've gotten to know over the last few years. His work is stark and beautiful. And capping off the Spring season is Raw Power 2 by Josh Bayer. Raw Power 1 was a breakout work for Bayer and he was ready to continue the story of G. Gordon Liddy and his doppelganger Catman. Then I'll be doing a book for the summer. And in the fall we have work from young, yet extremely accomplished, artists Roman Muradov, Sophia Foster-Dimino and Ze Jian Shen.
There has been a lot of talk online about the cost of producing print comics. It often sounds very discouraging, yet here you are, ready for another year. How are you making it work?
There is a portion of the community who love comics in print and they support our efforts! It helps that the artists are brilliant as well. I just keep carving that niche.
Is there any possibility that you will go the digital route with any of these comics?
A few of last year's releases are available through Top Shelf Digital: Daddy Lightning by Tom Hart, The Ignatz Winning Monkey in the Basement by Corinne Mucha and Fungus by James Kochalka. A few other artists sell digital versions of their comics on their own as well.