When it was announced that December 30, the last Wednesday of the decade, was going to be a skip week with Diamond Distributors not shipping any new books to comic stores, a number of independent creators took it upon themselves to implement "Indy Comic Book Week" as a way to encourage people to create comics of their own and find local outlets to sell the books.
David Hopkins, one of the creators behind the idea, has been writing comics for years, authoring two ongoing comics for Dallas-area weekly newspapers and contributing to numerous anthologies including "Popgun" from Image, "Western Tales of Terror," and "The Tick's 20th Anniversary Special." His graphic novels include "Karma Incorporated" and "Emily Edison."
For Indy Comic Week, Hopkins has written a comic entitled "One Night Stand" which is a series of one page vignettes centering around sex, awkwardness and confusion. The comic, which features the art of thirty different artists, was made available free to retailers, something that was made possible because of the support Hopkins received on kickstarter.com. For more about Hopkins and his projects, check out antiherocomics.com.
CBR News: David, could you just introduce yourself for people who may not know you?
David Hopkins: I'm a writer. I've had a few published comics, all independent small press stuff: "Karma Incorporated," "Emily Edison," "Astronaut Dad," and an adaptation of Antigone. I also write for two Dallas area publications: a one-page comic in "D Magazine" and another one-page comic in "Quick," a weekly entertainment newspaper. It's kinda funny, because within the Dallas city limits, I'm fairly notorious. Outside of Dallas, I'm not sure too many people have read my work.
For people who may not know, can you explain what Indy Comic Book Week is?
Indy Comic Book Week is an initiative to encourage locally-made and independent comics on December 30th, which corresponds conveniently with Diamond's "No Ship" week. Their loss is our gain. Three things need to happen for ICBW. First, independent comic book creators need to get off their asses and create something. Second, stores need to take the time and energy to spotlight these comics. And finally, customers need to take a risk, try something new. I wrote the copy for the website, and I'm sure it's much more eloquently worded there. Space-Gun Studios is taking the initiative to organize everything. However, whether or not you get involved with the site, any retailer can decide to dedicate December 30th to promoting their home-grown talent. It's pretty simple. I know that my work will never outsell Spider-Man. I'm not that presumptuous, but ICBW is a request to save some part of that shelf for me and other small time guys.
So where did the idea for "One Night Stand" come from?
I did a similar project in 2008 called "Mine All Mine," where I collaborated with several artists, wrote one-page vignettes, and it all centered around one theme. "Mine All Mine" was about theft. "One Night Stand" is about casual, no-strings-attached sex. I want to explore that idea probably because it's so foreign to me. I'm just not good at keeping things superficial. There are some people who are built this way, and so, the other side intrigues me. I also wanted to write about sex, because I don't think many people write about it in comics. I'm talking about sex as sex, not sex as a dramatic extension to a relationship or sex as a form of power exchange. Alan Moore wrote about sex in "Lost Girls," but he was dealing with some fringe aaafanciful scenarios. It was cool, but I know the story put off some people who aren't comfortable with erotica and pornography as literature. My take on sex is much more pedestrian and mundane. It's a lighter glimpse at intimacy and the awkwardness of being naked in front of another person. As a writer, I'm always looking to challenge myself, and this project was a challenge.
Was the idea always to do it in one page installments with each page illustrated by a different artist?
Yes. It's easier to get artists to commit when it's only for one page. I hope someone picked up the fact that this story is called "One Night Stand" and here I am: engaging in brief, non-committal relationships with a variety of artists, one page after another. Writers are such sluts.
You really took advantage of that form, making each story completely different in terms of style, design, content and format.
That's the nature of this project. I'm experimenting here, trying new things to grow as a writer. With a graphic novel like "Astronaut Dad," I've carefully outlined it and have gone through a disciplined editing and re-write process. It's very deliberate. With something like "One Night Stand," the whole purpose is to be more reckless and stream of conscious. See what happens, and some pages will work better than others.
Was it a challenge finding artists willing to take part in this?
Not really. Over the years, I've become friends with a lot of artists. I don't always get the time or opportunity to work with them. Something like "One Night Stand" is fun. It's nice to work on something without worrying about how many pre-orders it will get, to enjoy the art form for its own sake. Then, we each go back to our own caves and try to get stuff published.
One thing which makes your project stand out, besides the number of stores carrying it, is the fact that you're distributing the book to comic stores for free. What led you to do this?
"One Night Stand" isn't something I can make a profit on. It's worth more to me to send this comic to as many stores as possible. If I can build a good relationship with a few indie-friendly retailers, if I can do something fun with a few artists, and if I can get a few more people reading something I wrote, then this project is a success. I realize some people might nag about the whole "perceived worth" issue, i.e. if I give it away for free, people will treat me like I'm worthless. However, the comic shops are selling it for $2. So there. The retailers are making the profit on this one. It helps that I raised money through Kickstarter.com to cover expenses. Otherwise, I wouldn't have had the resources to do it. I won't do projects like this very often, but in this instance, I'm happy with how it's going.
What has the response been from retailers from what you've heard from others putting out comics this week?
All positive. The retailers are happy to get my comic and try their best to sell it. As for other artists putting out comics that week, I get the impression we're all a tad worn out. Definitely, it was a learning experience. A lot of new creators got a crash course in working with printers and retailers. Some people missed their deadline, which is a learning experience in itself. I learned that the printer I worked with has no concept of 1/4 inch bleed and cutting the cover to 8.5x11. It took three attempts for them to get it right, and I'm still not 100% happy with how they trimmed it. I learned shipping is freakin' expensive when you don't have time for USPS media rate. That aside, I'm excited to see everyone's work. I haven't been checking the Indy Comic Book Week blog as often as I should, but every time I visit, I see something cool.
Why did you end up posting on kickstarter.com, and what was your experience like with them. Can you see yourself doing it again?
I found Kickstarter.com through Jamie Tanner, very talented comic book creator of "The Aviary." He had a project on the site. I was completely enamored by Kickstarter. I spent an entire day just watching videos of people talking about things that inspired them, things they were passionate about. I could care less about circumnavigating the global in a sailboat, but it was cool to hear someone with such enthusiasm. And hell, just try watching the LaPorte, Indiana video without getting a little choked up. Kickstarter is not for the cynical. It was a good experience for me. It's not only about raising the money; it's also about finding that supportive circle of friends and family. I was very moved by the encouragement we received. The only problem I had was collecting everyone's mailing address. (If you don't send me your address, I can't mail you your pledge rewards!)
Would I do it again? Probably not. If I did, it wouldn't be for a few years -- and only if my back was against the wall, I needed to get something in print or my life would be over. A true passion project. I mean, Kickstarter is great, but it's just that: a kick start. It's not intended to be a sustainable means of having a career in any creative field. Yes, people do get good rewards for their pledges. There is a fair exchange going on, but there still is a "hat in hand" quality to what you're doing -- and you can't keep doing that over and over again. So, Kickstarter was good, but I've had my experience and I'm probably not going to do it again. However, I will keep supporting other projects on Kickstarter. I just pledged $3 to the "Dear Mr. Watterson" project.
Having gone through all these production hassles, would you do a project like this again? Or knowing how much it costs to ship to Singapore, Canada and everywhere else, would you throw up your hands in horror?
Production wasn't that bad. Was it? Maybe it was. The printers messing up the bleed and trim bothered me, because they're professionals. They should know about that stuff. And shipping costs are what they are...I'm glad I raised beyond my Kickstarter goal, because I seriously underestimated the costs. I still had to pay quite a bit out of pocket. I probably won't do another project like "One Night Stand" for awhile, but not for those reasons. It took four months of [the last] year to manage the project and the artists. This is a side project, and that's a lot of time to dedicate to something on the side. My priority is getting another graphic novel in print. But who knows? It's dangerous when I get bored. I might write 200 one-page stories, all about health care reform.
Your other current ongoing project is the ongoing bi-monthly comic "We've Never Met" that you just started. Would you like to talk a little about what it is and where it came from?
This is that comic for the weekly entertainment newspaper. This project has been incredible. I think the editor saw what I was doing for "D Magazine," which is going on two wonderful years, and he wanted to brainstorm about some original content for their publication. During our meeting, I didn't know if he wanted me to only consult on how to make this happen or if he wanted me specifically to write it. I threw in some ideas, and next thing I knew, I had two weeks before my first one was in print. I had a comics project with only the faintest premise, no characters, no title and no artist. Unlike my work with "D Magazine," this one would be an ongoing storyline. Continuity! It wasn't just me reporting on local events, nor did I want it to be another gag comic. I wanted something that had my voice and dealt with stuff I cared about. Hopefully as people get invested in the story, they'll care about it too.
Everything came together in 24 hours. I contacted my friend Chad Thomas who I've always wanted to work with, and I shared with him my idea: a girl named Liz leaves her protective bubble of high-class Dallas society and tries to survive on her own, find love, and start a band. Along the way, the comic will be a commentary on high and low culture in this city. I sent Chad a script, and he went from there. We just recently got a title logo, designed by Jenni Leder. I feel like the bus is moving, and we're still fixing it up. Sometimes, opportunities come along even if you're not ready for them. This is not something I could've done when I first started writing.
Is there anything else you're working on right now?
This year has been weird for me. I have quite a few projects that are ready for a publisher. Paul Milligan and I have a graphic novel called "How To Lose Big." Brent Schoonover and I finished all 160 pages of "Astronaut Dad." Michael Shelfer and I are working on "Frontier," which should be cool. Brock Rizy and I are ready to start on a new "Emily Edison," and looking for a new publisher. Lots of stuff floating in limbo. There are no words to describe how incredibly restless and excited I am. I published a short story in "PopGun 3." I have my work for "Quick" and "D Magazine," and "One Night Stand," which is all great, but I'm anxious for another graphic novel to be in print. That way, I can "plug" stuff instead of just telling you what I'm working on. I update my website regularly. Be prepared for an uncustomary flood of exclamation marks next time something gets published.
Finally, where are you going to be celebrating new comic day this week?
I will be in Los Angeles at Golden Apple Comics, signing with Christopher Higginson, Cat Staggs, and Sina Grace. All artists with "One Night Stand."