I accidentally sort of invented a weird cheap comics format in 2005.
This is just slightly technical. Comics are printed in what are called signatures – eight pages to a signature. Comics have generally been four signatures, 32 pages – either with a cover on a different stock, or, increasingly from the early 2000s, what are called “self-cover” – the cover is on the same stock as the interior signatures.
Comics were getting expensive — there was the beginnings of pressure to go from a standard $2.99 to $3.99 — and also getting less dense. So I came up with something stupid. A three-signature self-cover comic. So the whole thing, including the covers, was 24 pages, all on the same stock. And the story inside was sixteen pages of comics, with backmatter notes to fill out the page count.
(None of this was radical. Previous to, say, the early 1980s, many comics still contained only sixteen or seventeen pages of material. History is there to be learned on and stood upon to reach for something hopefully new.)
I set up many difficult problems for myself on this book, with the additional work involved to make it look not-difficult. The main one was this: each issue would be a self-contained story. A new reader could join the book at any point, not be lost, and get a complete experience out of it.
And it sold for USD $1.99.
Oh, the hate mail I got from retailers.
Until the first issue went to a fifth printing.
And my email instead filled up with shock and pleasure at a comic that wasn’t trying to gouge their pockets.
For various reasons, that project came to an end. My friend and co-creator on that book, Ben Templesmith, went on to bigger and better things, became completely independent and runs his own show through Patreon now. https://www.patreon.com/templesmith
LIke I say, I set myself a whole bunch of things to solve, and this was one: in 1984, Alan Moore did an interview in a fanzine called Arkensword, and the interview is not, to my knowledge, online, but there was a bit in there that hit me so hard that I’ve been quoting it ever since: that you can walk into a conics shop with the change in your pocket and come out with, in Alan’s phrase, “a real slab of culture.”
Most things you want to read are $3.99 now. Laying down a line of books in this format at — well, it’s fifteen years later, so say $2.50 — would be a significant statement.
Image produced, to my memory, three series in this format. The other two gave you Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon.
So, you know, don’t tell me the format is bad and evil and cannot add to the culture.
(all notions herein Not Fully Baked)