The Indy Hunter speaks with Mini-Matchbook maker of comics Brian John Mitchell about his current Kickstarter Campaign to light the Mini-comics world on fire!
Big Things Come in Small Packages...
Hi Brian, why don’t we start with what your Kickstarter is about?
I make these comics the size of a pack of matches. I’m basically running the Kickstarter to sell subscriptions so that I can pay the artists a decent wage for their work. I have 80 books done & I want to make it to 100 in the next six months or so.
What are some of the key incentives that people can look forward to if they pledge?
I’m not really doing anything too super crazy this time out. Comics, digital comics, buttons. I’ve done a few other Kickstarters that I let take over my life, so I’m doing this one in a way I can handle.
So, how has the response been so far?
Kickstarter has been really great for me on my comic projects. I set a low financial goal that just covers my printing costs, but my personal goal is to make it to 200 subscribers. I’m not sure if that is a reasonable or unreasonable goal as of yet. Time will tell I suppose.
From Flicker to Flame....
Okay, let’s get into more about how this works and how these comics are made…
Well, because of the registration errors & stuff from front side to backside, I can’t just have these comics photocopied, I have to print them myself at home which takes some time. I also have to cut them by hand & fold & staple them. So they take a little while. I’m probably selling myself way short selling them for just a dollar or two with the amount of labor I am doing, but it keeps me out of trouble.
What size do the artists usually draw their pages at before sending off to you?
It varies by artist. I've had stuff come in at roughly 500% size & other stuff at about 100% size. I think most people work at about 133% to 200%. I personally work at 133% for stick figures & 200% for more legit drawings.
Any plans to do some of these in color, whether it be the paper selection or printed in color?
I have done a couple things in color (Small Art Series, the cover for Astronaut Jane), but it's too expensive & it's actually harder to make out the images because my color printer isn't quite as sharp. But I do think about doing a black & white & red thing at times. I'm a sucker for that. As for the colored paper, one of the new ones (Insomniac) comes on gray paper. I might do something like that for some of the covers or something at some point. I probably should, just a matter of time to get something that it makes sense with.
Brian tell us about your fascination with doing comics on the size of a matchbook. What’s the appeal?
I started doing some things in weird formats because I felt the rise of the internet in the 1990s was making normal zine culture die a bit & it made having an interesting format be as important as the content. So that’s how I stumbled into the format, trying to make something that would be recognizable as kind of a cool collectible object. I stuck with it because I think it really lends to a lot of my strengths as a writer. I love doing things that are super short, but somewhat dense at the same time. I also like the idea that it takes five minutes to read or share & is a combination of disposable & collectible that I think comics are supposed to be, but have fallen away from in the past 30 years.
For those wondering what are the challenges you and your artists have encountered doing these? What are the pleasant surprises?
The challenge at times have been getting people to see they aren’t just a novelty because of their size. That they actually have stories. When I first started sending them out they got tons of reviews, but now that everyone has seen them they would have to review the stories as well, which is a bit harder & is the problem all indie comics have. The pleasant surprises are always when someone got one somewhere & then buys 20 more. It is a shame in a way that sales are so validating.
How does it work? Can you take us through the process? Do you type a script and send them on their way and worry about format later or is there a template? If there are various ways you and your creative team have gone about making these can you give us some examples?
I start out with a handwritten script. I fight writing things out by hand I’m more willing to cross things out & re-work things. Then I type it in the computer as what I guess would be a third or fourth draft & then I lay the text out & some times need to change things a bit to keep a decent amount of drawing space on the page (each page is one panel). Then I send that out as a template & some people leave the typed words & other people letter them. I try to be as open & collaborative as possible as far as letting the artist do enough interpretation to have fun. (Interesting side story, the protagonist of Worms I assumed was a teenage boy (the whole thing is in first person, so I just identified it as myself), but Kimberlee Traub drew it as a girl as the main character, which I think made the story way more interesting.)
Occasionally I might put in a reference photo or a sketch. Sometimes I’ll send a script over before I lay it out for suggestion from an artist. Sometimes I’ll ask an artist to name something they want to draw so I can work it into a story. I have done a couple things where I get the art first & construct a story after with varying degrees of success.
What’s the next ideal project novelty wise? Would you ever consider going the opposite route and maybe doing a comic larger on a vinyl sleeve? Maybe even combining your music with your comic creating?
Katherine Wirick did a comic that was a poster with a hundred panels on it or something & that was really incredible to see & I’d kind of love to do something like that, but I’m not sure if I ever actually will as when I tried to years ago I couldn’t figure out a way to get things printed as I’d like. I do want to try to do something with a story that has 50 panels on individual pieces of paper that the user interacts with making the order to tell the story, but making that happen might be impossible. I think if I do ever get the story that does that to work, I might do a guerilla thing with posting individual panels on light poles & bulletin boards around various towns & people will discover the story in that way.
A few years ago I did a thing with Remora's Mecha that was a comic & CD together that I thought was really cool, but sales weren’t great on it because it came in a metal tin so it couldn’t be stocked with regular discs in shops. I did do a music video a couple years ago with some paper doll stop motion animation & I think that might be the best way to combine those two things.
Bright Future and Expanding Ideas...
Are these the only format that these stories will take place in? You mentioned earlier about wanting to do something 50 panel large or poster sized but were stuggling for a method or approach? Could these small comics maybe see another run in a larger or collected format?
I have occasionally done stuff where I have some of the comics as two page spreads that I would put on display while at an art gallery or whatever & maybe I should sell some of them as posters in that way. I've also had a couple things appear in anthologies where I shifted the images around to fit the format. I do plan to make something collecting Ultimate Lost Kisses when I finish it that will probably be four of my pages on each page of a book & if that is successful, I might try that with some other books. It's weird, because I like the format. I know with normal comics I like to get the whole story, so you think I'd be a wait for the trade guy, but I find reading a stack of individual comics that would form a trade more rewarding. I think that the four panels on a page might be a good compromise for me. as far as it still feeling a bit like my minis do as matchbook size. I don't know.
For a while I was making a lot of slideshow stuff of the books & I still make the digital versions as PDFs, but ideally for me the physical size of the book is part of the whole package. I don't know, I flip flop a bit about things because if there was a super high demand for the books as they are now, I wouldn't be able to write new ones because I would be too busy on the physical assembly aspect of things.
Lastly where can they find out more about this kickstarter and any other works or websites you want to share with the readers?
Thanks for your interest & support.