CCI: Independents' Day -- Strength in Numbers with The Antidote Trust

Robert Roach was a busy man.

Any given moment of this long weekend, you could have seen him pushing his broad-shouldered Glyph award-winning frame pretty hard, making his way across the con floor from his table in Artist's Alley (FF-02) all the way to booth 828, his home away from home. There he found some of his colleagues -- corporate lawyer Sterling Ashby, online marketing expert Dale Wilson or entrepreneur Korby Marks -- doing shifts as retailers and ambassadors for a union of comics intelligentsia, doing at a grass roots level what companies like Image did in the mainstream.

Roach and other like-minded parties realized a few facts. Independent creators face a number of logistical and sometimes repetitive problems: finding and dealing with printers, marketing support, retailer and Diamond considerations, and of course the all-important presenting of your wares at Comic-Con. Many times, a creator takes on all of this on their own, perhaps trying to rely on what guidance they can find from web searches or industry-related how-to books. But Robert Roach, Dale Wilson and the rest decided to try things a different way -- by working together.

Some of the members of the Antidote Trust: (L to R) William L. Massey, Robert Roach, Andre Owens, Dale Wilson, Chris Sagovac

The Antidote Trust was founded in the shadows of the 2006 Comic-Con, originally intended as just a way to get a real booth and get out of the "ghettos" of Artist's Alley, for increased foot traffic and better exposure. What it turned into was so much more than that -- now a virtual support group for comics creators, focusing their attention on "the big show," but doing things throughout the year to help get retailer support from Diamond to sharing resources for advertising and more.

"A lot of people want us to be a publishing company," said Roach in a CBR exclusive interview. "That's not what we are here to do. We'll show you all the tools you'd need, but hard work is what gets you there."

"The best part for us is that it makes everybody's job easier," Wilson added. "At 'con alone, I don't have to stand at the booth all day and worry about pushing my books. I know that proper tallies of sales will be kept, electronic records created, and money allocated properly. But back in the 'real world,' if somebody finds a better deal on printing, we'll all hear about it. If somebody has info on how to reach media sources or a contact that's useful, they share. It's great to be a part of a team."

With two booths furnished with couches, plus chairs and free candy, they worked together to lure prospective fans (Andre Owens called out "Independent comics!" from the aisles, and when people would glance over, Roach approached them with "Take a look, fingerprints do not obligate you") and retail the diverse selection of comics from futuristic science fiction to anthologies, urban single mother super heroes to noir and ancient Egyptian myth. The relaxed surroundings of the booth enjoyed heated discussions about the Legion of Super-Heroes, making a splash in the direct market and the brutal condition of the air conditioning (it was cold in the convention center this year).

They also had support from industry legends. Comics writer and animation guru Dwayne McDuffie signed at the booth, as did "30 Days of Night" writer Dan Wickline, "Wee Pals" creator Morrie Turner (a cartoonist trailblazer with work dating back to the sixties), "Star Trek" novelist Geoff Thorne and "God of War" artist Todd Harris.

Next year Roach plans to be busier, expanding from two to four booths and continuing to push across the 'con floor, taking meetings and doing it himself ... but with a little help from his friends.

For more information about The Antidote Trust, visit their website. All photos courtesy of Dale Wilson.

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