Recently I was able to conduct a short interview with the writer and editor of Accent UK, one of the many successful British independent publishers.
There are many different aspects of the rising British Independent Comic Industry, in my previous two interviews with Adam Vian and Peter Cooper I have focused on creators but that is only one facet. Accent UK are a rising publisher in the British Independent Comic Industry, with several different series under their collective belts, including the fan favourites ‘The Troll’ and ‘Westernoir’. Recently, at MCM Expo, I was able to meet one of the company’s prized writers, Dave West, and editor, Colin Mathieson. As a slightly larger scale and more business minded enterprise I wanted to look into Accent’s perspective on the British Independent Comic Industry.
PL: Would you describe the British Comic Book Industry as growing?
CM: Most definitely. Dave and I with Accent UK have been involved in the British Independent scene for about twelve years and the last two or three year particularly have seen everything expand. There have been several successful shows like MCM Expo which bring independent comics before a new audience. So at the moment it feels like we’re on a nice up swing.
DW: I think also the number of shows that you have makes a big difference. When we started there were about two or three shows in the UK and that was it, now there’s normally two or three a month. So there is much more opportunity for people to see your work.
PL: Why do you think the Industry is growing?
DW: Personally, I think it’s got something to do with the films. With all the media out at the moment, I think people are becoming more aware of the wider super hero universe. Where the public only used to know about Spiderman, Batman and Superman, now they are learning a lot more. I work in IT for a bank and when people find out my hobby is making comics I know what they’re thinking, they’re thinking ‘oh like the Beano or Spiderman’ and I’ll say ‘no, it’s more adult than that’. I’ll take batches into work sometimes and to a man they’ll say ‘wow I didn’t know comics were like that’.
CM: I think as well that the growth of the graphic novels over the last five years in more mainstream bookstores such as Waterstones, which now has a good healthy graphic novel section, has led to the public being more aware. For us, producing independent comic people don’t query it like they used to, they understand the super hero and also understand that there’s something else. Which means that there is now more of an audience for comics set in different genres. It’s good time to be involved in comics.
PL: Fantastic, so do you think there is more of a demand for non-superhero comic books and graphic novels?
DW: That’s an interesting one. I think there is, but not amongst the masses. For example, I brought my daughter up on the Marvel and DC stuff and now she has gone into manga, so she likes all the Anime and Manga stuff, but she started by liking super heroes. I think superheroes are everyone’s entry into it all but then they discover other things.
CM: Most certainly. As I was saying, with Waterstones and other retailers, graphic novels are more accessible and I think you find that once you get outside the fanboy audience of super heroes then people want to read more dramatic stories. We’ve got several series like our western-horror (Westernoir) and our steampunk series (Stevenson’s Robot) and those are finding their own audience, made up of those readers who have either moved away from super heroes or simply don’t like them. People are interested by a strong independent story.
PL: Exactly. Dave, you mentioned that you have a job outside of the industry, do either of you think it is possible for a creator to make a living off the industry at the moment?
DW: I think it’s very hard. For instance, if you read the blog posts of some of the professional artists in the industry they’ll say how much they earn for a page and how long it takes them to do it, it’s not a great amount of money compared to the time spent on it. Most seem to have a partner, wife or husband, with a more economically stable job to support their income. I think it’s really hard, I think if you’re a creator your major outlet are conventions like MCM Expo, there’s quite a lot of conventions but there is equally there is so much competition from other creators. The quality of publication and self-publication is getting better, so the standard of expectation is much higher than it used to be. I think the way new creators might be able to do it is through the web and patronage systems such as Kickstarter. Patronage allows people to produce their work on line without a huge outlay and then they can put all their work into a book and sell it at conventions. I think it may be possible that way but it’s really not easy.
CM: There’s not really much to add to that. Accent UK has always been very careful about money and how we choose to spend it. Basically any profit is going back into the business and that system has let to us not really losing any big amounts money buy also not really gaining any big amounts of money. That sort of ‘break-even’ point is important, we have been lucky and had one or two minor hits here and there but as Dave said it is rather difficult.
PL: How important would you say that social media is to get your work out there and interacting with your audience?
CM: This is something we fail on at times. Dave and I are a wee bit older than many other creators and although we try to embrace social media it’s probably the weakest area of our enterprise. Dave’s IT experience is probably more relevant here.
DW: Yeah, so we have a Facebook group and we have a Twitter account but we don’t use either as much as we’d like to. We tend to make announcements like if we’re coming to a particular convention or if we have a new issue of something coming out, but we don’t work it daily as we many other creators do. I think it’s very important but we are kind of behind the curve.
PL: Finally, is there anything you would like to tell our readers about that is coming out over the next few weeks?
DW: Of course. We have now moved into a few ongoing series and we have a books, we have our western horror (Westernoir) which is a bit like ‘They live’ meets ‘Deadwood’. So it’s an old western setting with lots of strange things going on. We also have Stevenson’s Robot which is a Victorian steampunk alternative history, so when Stevenson was competing to build the railroad in this he is instead competing to build the first robot. There are also several anthologies we have worked on over the years as well. If someone is really into the comic scene and wants to understand what’s going on then maybe they could come see us at one of the small MCM Expo events across the country or Thought Bubble.
CM: Just to finish off, it’s a really exciting time to be involved in comics. We’ve got some great projects going at the moment and if you come and see us at any of the shows or conventions you’ll find we always have good content at competitive prices.
How can you get involved?
If you’re looking to pursue the industry it really is worth picking up ‘Westernoir’ as it serves as a great example of some of the amazing new genres being explored in the industry at the moment. You can also follow Dave West, Colin Mathieson and the rest of the Accent Uk team on their website at: http://www.accentukcomics.com and on Twitter at: @AccentUk.
If you want to locate your nearest convention try: http://www.mcmcomiccon.com