A Small Press Fan Has His Say

Posted: Tuesday, September 5, 2000
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of A Small Press Fan Has His Say

A while ago one of the contributors to the smallpressnet discussion list asked a series of questions about small press and gave his own answers to get things going. As we try to give an overview of all the facets of the small press scene here at Silver Bullet we asked a few more questions and present the results here.

Question: How long have you been interested in drawing and/or writing

Small Press Fan: I have doodled pretty much all my life, and have been writing since junior high. I think my interested in drawing comes from my paternal grandmother. When I was young, she used to sketch out bunnies and horses and such, and I was always in awe of how she could take a simple lead pencil and a blank sheet of paper and create something out of nothing. It was nothing short of miraculous to a little kid who couldn't make anything recognizable with his crayons and paper. My interest in writing came strictly out of homework assignments and my obsession with trying to shock the teachers, while still complying to the "guidelines" of an assignment.

Q: Did you do well in art classes (or English for writers) while you were attending school?

SPF: I took art classes throughout my school years, but high school was my undoing. I unfortunately attended a small parochial high school with only one art teacher for the whole four years I was attended, and we did NOT click. She was called "art lady", and if she liked you she could make your classes with her an adventure, exploring new art materials outside of the set curriculum, letting you pursue extra credit assignments outside of class, etc. If you were not one of the chosen few though, you were chattel meant to be reigned in and herded, taught by route with no room for variances from the planned lessons. You were trapped. I went into that woman's class having loved art all my life, I stuck it out for four years with her (three of those being electives), and came out of high school never wanting to pick up a pencil or pen again...and I pretty much haven't since. As for writing, I did pretty well with my creative writing assignments, but never excelled in English classes in general (and was actually labeled a sadist and mentally warped one year by a teacher because of a poem I wrote that the students wanted to include in the school literary magazine (which I never even knew we had...but that's all another story).

Q: Were you encouraged to pursue your interest in art or writing by anyone when you were young?

SPF: My Dad was always fairly encouraging, and my parents always bought me art supplies (even if my Mom strongly disapproved of the monsters and such I became obsessed with during junior high). I had one art teacher for a trimester in junior high I liked very much, but that class didn't last long. I'd have to say that friends have always been my main supporters, after my parents.

Q: How old were you when you read your first comic book?

SPF: My memory stinks, so I'm not really sure.

Q: Were you a regular comic book reader as a child?

SPF: No, just the occasional comic if I visited the drug store or magazine shop.

Q: What non-comic book art forms were you exposed to as a child?

SPF: Well, I did get the opportunity to visit museums as a child. I have always loved documentaries and news & information television shows, so I was exposed to artists that way also (Da Vinci being one of the earliest). Also, Hollywood bio-pics were always favorites of mine as a child. Two strong pictures that opened up the world of French art and artists were Moulin Rouge (1952) with Jose Ferrer playing Toulouse-Lautrec (whose art I love to this day) and Lust for Life (1956) with Kirk Douglas as Van Gogh and Anthony Quinn winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Gauguin. Both pictures spurred me on to do a lot more reading...books being one of the main resources I was exposed to as a child. Biographies of Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Lautrec, Dali, and others.

Q: Who or what would you say have been the major influences on your art or writing?

SPF: I doodle, so this one doesn't really apply to me. Sorry. I hope that you all will take the time to answer in detail though.

Q: How did you first learn about small press?

SPF: I picked up a copy of Factsheet Five in a magazine shop. I started reading it regularly and ordering zines. One of the zines I ordered was a small press comics reviewzine, but the publisher stiffed me (not the last time that was to happen to me), but luckily we was affiliated (distantly) with a small presser names Lee Erwin who took it upon himself to write everyone this guy had swindled, and he sent me a package of his own fanzines and comics to make it up to me. We became friends, started exchanging letters, then cassettes, and finally phone calls. Through him, and his brother I met other small pressers and was eventually introduced to the SPS (Small Press Syndicate), to which I still subscribe.

Q: What was your first "official" small press comic called?

SPF: Sorry, none. I'm just a fan (though Steve Keeter published a few of my doodles as spot illustrations in one of his publications once).

Q: How man comics or publications would you say you have contributed to or published to date?

SPF: See above.

Q: What is your fondest small press related memory?

SPF: Becoming friends with several really wonderful people, and growing to know them and coming to care about them, even if I've never met them in person. This hobby attracts some very special people.

Q: Why do you create small press comics or publications?

SPF: N/a

Q: What small press co-ops or clubs do you belong to?

SPF: I subscribe to the SPS, BPP & UFO, but I am a member of none.

Q: What are your three favorite small press publications published by someone other than yourself?

SPF: I enjoy Alan Groening's Frank & Jolly, Troy Hickman's Holy Crullers!, and J. Kevin Carrier's two series (but I also love the work of Jim Main, Tim & Amy Kelly, and a host of other wonderful artists and writers).

Q: What three "pro" comic books do you read regularly?

SPF: None right now...lack of funds.

Q: What is your work process when you create?


Q: How much time are you able to devote to small press activities in a week?

SPF: I read and reread small press comics, surf websites, exchange e-mail and participate in online chats with other small pressers at least three to five hours a week.

Q: Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?


Q: What are your long time plans or goals that you wish to accomplish in small press?

SPF: To keep on supporting small press and small pressers I admire with orders for their publications and LOCs of support and constructive criticism.

Q: What are you working on now

SPF: Several LOCs that I owe people.

DPS: What's the biggest mistake that a small press creator can make?

SPF: I'm not sure that there is one over arching short coming that encompasses all small press. If you were going to hold my feet to the fire however, I'd say the one that is most wide spread is over enthusiasm. I know that seems a hard thing to believe, but I've seen time and time again where a small presser will get on a real tangent about self-publishing, make lots and lots of plans and promises regarding all the comics he is planning to put out, only then to procrastinate for months before completing even one book, or worse, totally dropping out of small press completely. I'm not sure what is behind this phenomenon, but after watching it happen many times in the past, my best guess is that these creators get caught up in the moment, flooded with ideas and bewitched by all the possibilities and challenges that small press has to offer. Then, once reality sinks in and the real work must be done, inspiration turns to hard work, even drudgery, and they loose steam.
My one main suggestion for this syndrome would be to tell small pressers, especially recent converts to the hobby, to take it slow. There is no rush here, this is not a competition. Dedicate yourself to one title to start with and put all your best efforts into that. If you are flooded with ideas, keep a journal, write them all down for latter use. If they are good ones, they will still be worth pursuing once you find the time and energy. If you just can't stand the idea of doing one series dedicated to one genre or set of characters only because you are just so brimming with story ideas, I would suggest doing an anthology. If you publish an anthology style comic or fanzine, you can experiment with different story ideas and genre to your hearts content (as well as the being able to collaborate on shorter stories with your fellow small pressers if you like), and you can always spin a successful story idea off into it's own series somewhere down the line when you feel you're ready.
On a related note, I am all for collaboration in small press, it's what this hobby should really be about...making new friends, exchanging ideas and suggestions, and working together to put out comics and have fun. But, if you are going to promise someone something, really consider it before agreeing to work on a project with someone else. I have seen, more than once, small pressers make promises rashly (without really considering if they really had the time and/or inclination to finish a project), only to delay a book for months, ruin a perfectly good friendship, and often diminish their fellow collaborator off to small press in the process. I know this is only a hobby, that it is done for personal enjoyment and satisfaction, but I would urge every small presser out there to truly consider any offer of collaborate seriously before agreeing to a joint project, and then to do their utmost to keep up their end of the arrangement.

DPS: How much do you spend on small press comics a month?

SPF: I tend to spend in spurts, whenever I have a small financial windfall and the "royal coffers" are refilled with gold...but, if you average out the amount I spend in a year, I would guess that it is somewhere around $10-$15 a month.
One of the main drawbacks to only being a small press fan, as oppose to a publisher with something to trade, is trying to come up with the cash to order comics and fanzines, as well as having to decide which I can afford, and which I will have to pass up {sigh}. But, such is life though.

DPS: Do you follow any particular genre of comics?

SPF: I have rather eclectic tastes, so I have ordered all types of small press publications and comic books in the past (from mini to full-size): super-hero, horror, sci-fi, humor, slice-of-life, as well as fanzines, reviewzines, & letterzines.
I'm more interested in reading small press publications by people who love what they are doing and are enthusiastic about it than any particular genre I guess.

DPS: What is the highest price you would pay for a small press publication?

SPF: It really depends on the type of publication. I can't see spending more than 75 cents to one dollar for a mini-comic, but I have paid upwards of $3.00 plus for a digest or a full-size small press comic. I've even bought professionally printed small press collections for upwards of $10.00, so it truly depends on the type of publication you're talking about.

DPS: Have you been to any comic conventions? If you have, what did you think of them?

SPF: I'm afraid that I have only been to one very small comic book convention in my life, and that was almost twenty years ago...and there was not one small presser in sight.

DPS: Are you more likely to by a comic if it has a color cover?

SPF: I rarely see a small press comic or it's cover before I buy it, so the answer is no. I tend to base my purchases on several different criteria. One, I know the creator/publisher (or of them) from one of the three small press co-ops whose newsletters I subscribe to. Two, I receive a recommendation from one of the small pressers I am in regular contact with. Or three, I read a particularly positive review in a small press reviewzine.

DPS: Do you get most stuff by mail or from a comic store?

SPF: I order all my small press publications directly from their creators/publishers.

DPS: How do the comic shops close to you rate for their selection of small press titles?

SPF: Well, it's been awhile since I stepped foot in a comic book store, but the one that I used to frequent did not carry small press comics.

DPS: Do you get many comics from overseas?

SPF: Not really (the money differences intimidate me I guess). I have ordered a few fanzines in the past (one from New Zealand even), but usually only if they are willing to accept American checks or money orders.
I do wish I was more in the loop as to what is being self-published outside of the USA though.

DPS: What's your favorite web site?

SPF: I'll assume that you're talking "small press" website here. My favorites general small press related website would be Brent E. Erwin's Mini-Comics.Com (http://www.mini-comics.com/), though there are many individual small presser's home pages I visit regularly, as well as the small press co-op websites.

DPS: Do you keep all the comics you read or are they a disposable medium?

SPF: Yes, I keep them all...and they take up a lot of bloody room!!!
Seriously, I could never just toss out something someone had worked so hard to create, I just wish that I could find a better way to store them. They are currently sitting in several boxes in the corner of my bedroom, which makes it rather hard to just pull one out and reread it when I want.

We will be presenting some of the other resposes to Small Press Fan's questions in the following weeks.

Contact Small Press Fan smallpressfanSTOP-@-SPAMuswest.net

If you have a comment or question about Small Press then feel free to contact me