I was recently presented with the opportunity to interview the artist and writer of ‘The Frumps’, Saeed Faridzadeh, about his views on the British Comic Book Industry.
Over the course of the British comic book industry spotlight I have mostly focused on creators working in a sole or semi print format but in the British comic book industry that is only one side of the coin. Saeed Faridzadeh is one of many artists and writers putting their work out through the medium of web comics and digital content. With his main series, The Frumps, beginning to find a wide following among fans of the industry I thought Saeed would be the perfect man to discuss how the digital medium is effecting the industry in general. Going into the interview I was aware that Saeed had experience on a more global scale as well so I wanted to compare his experience with the British Industry to his experience with comics industries in other companies.
PL: Would you describe the British comic book industry as growing especially at events such as Thought Bubble and London’s MCM Expo?
SF: I haven’t really done Thought Bubble but I’ve done MCM for around three years now and it definitely feels like its growing bigger and bigger. Before I set up I do a little walk around and it feels like it like it’s really expanded but I’ve only been on this scene for a few years. I came from the US and in comparison it’s a different feel and vibe out there.
PL: How does the British Scene compare to the US for you?
SF: I feel that, especially with web comics, a lot of the humour in the US is definitely different. It might be more in your face and slapstick which I don’t see in a lot of the web comic artists over here. It seems to be a different style of humour. Which can sometimes work against me but in other ways it kind of works for me because the British readers don’t expect this type of crass, over the top, humour.
PL: A lot of the creators that I have interviewed seem to be more focused on the print aspect of the medium and while you do have some print items you are most well-known for your work in web comics. Would you say that changes how you interact with your audience and how import convention are to you compared with other creators?
SF: I’m very focused on my own stuff instead of creating prints and things. First and foremost, I draw comic strips. I’m a cartoonist. I don’t really tend to do artwork or individual art pieces, I just try to tell funny jokes and silly little stories with my cartoons. That’s what is fun to me, so I just keep doing that. I always seem to end up going back to that. I tried doing pop culture pieces but to me it just felt kind of forced. It’s like ‘I’ll just draw a Ninja Turtle to get people to come over’ but to me that just felt false. So I just stick to the comic strips because if I do something that is fun for me then I hope that will shine through.
PL: Do you see MCM as more of a chance for exposure than a chance for sales?
SF: I think it’s both. I hand out flyers and even if I don’t necessarily see a spike in numbers on the website I find people who come back six months or even a year later being like ‘Oh a got your flyer, I want to buy a book’. It doesn’t usually do much for me on the day but over time those events create fans who come back again and again.
PL: One of the things I’m examining throughout the spotlight is the life of a creator, how hard would you say it is to make a living as a creator in the British comic book industry?
SF: I think for the majority of people it is very difficult because there is no middleman. There is no one to edit or hire you. It’s just down to you. Anyone can just throw up a web comic, so there is just a lot of noise out there which makes it harder to get yourself noticed. I post on Reddit and Monday on Reddit is just jam packed, so if you don’t get a few up votes in the first ten minutes you’re going to sink right away. A lot of people who go into trying to make their own web comics don’t really have don’t really have much of a business sense either. They really don’t seem to want to market much or learn how to. They’re more like ‘I just want to make art and people are going to like it and come’ then after a few weeks they’re like ‘why aren’t people coming’. I normally ask people like that ‘do you advertise?’, because if you don’t advertise and use social media to its fullest you’re going to have a problem.
PL: Do you have any more advice to other artists and creators?
SF: You have to put yourself out there. People might get annoyed about it but you’re just going to have to accept that not everyone is going to like your work or engage with your marketing but a lot of people will. It’s a huge gross over simplification but we artists are a sensitive group and the vast majority of us are emotionally broken people which is why we feel the need to create art and express ourselves. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of us do have trouble with criticism and we want people to come in and like what they see but we also don’t want to be judged. There is a fear of exposure for a lot of creators.
PL: If someone was to read this article and wanted to start out in the world of web comics and comic book creation. Starting from day one, what would be your advice to them?
SF: Just do it. If you want to do it then do it. There is no reason anymore to not just start right away. I’ve had a lot of people just come up to me and they have all these big ideas for a huge graphic novel that they simply don’t have the time to manage with their other commitments. If you have to start small then start small. Do a one-page story, even if it takes you six months to finish. Do it. Then move up to a two-page story. Develop your art and style. Start building an audience. Stick to a schedule. Make a schedule and stick to it because if you don’t stick to it and people come to your website and it’s not updated they’re just going to forget. The audience’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter so if you make a promise to your audience you really need to keep it. If it means you have to miss out on the occasional social event or pull an all-nighter then do it. If you want success you’re going to have to make sacrifices.
PL: Is there anything in particular that you’ve released recently or are planning to release soon that you would like to tell our readers about?
SF: Well, I’m still doing the comic strips for The Frumps and stuff. I’m currently trying to expand into other creative avenues so that’s about it for now. I’ve started doing open mic stand up, which is really throwing yourself out there. That’s actually been really good for my other work because I get to try jokes out with a live audience and I think it’s really beginning to have an impact on my writing which has led to The Frumps audience growing a little further.
How can you get involved?
If you’re looking to pursue the digital side of the industry then Saeed’s work on The Frumps is a great example to look at and support.