Written by Neil Greenaway
At my home in Denver I had the chance to sit down and talk with Phil Buck of Nematode Records about starting a movement with Buy Indie Comic Day. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 7/30/2017, and you can read their version of it here.
August 5th, 2017 will be the 3rd annual Buy Indie Comics Day — a day set aside to celebrate everything independent that comic books have to offer. I personally love all of the variety in style and flavor that can be had from indie comics, but I had never heard of BICD before. I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with Phil Buck, one of the creators behind the Buy Indie Comics Day movement. We discussed the origins of the day, the changing perception of comic books in the public eye, and what interested comic shops and creators can do to get involved.
Neil Greenaway: How did the idea for Buy Indie Comic Day come about? What started it for you?
Phil Buck: For me — because there are two other guys that are involved, and they came to it in two different ways — but for me it started with Free Comic Book Day 2014. There’s always a lot of hype for that. After it was over in 2014 I thought, how cool would it be if we could have some sort of initiative for indie comics? All of that energy and money, frankly, that ends up going into Free Comic Book Day — what if we could siphon a little bit more of that in the direction of indie comic creators? It was the same weekend as FCBD 2014, and I just took the logo — kind of as a joke — I took the logo and I put an indie spin on it. Free Comic Book Day turned into Buy Indie Comic Day.
I posted it for my own comic book (Those Shadow People) Facebook page, and it just went super viral. Beyond anything that I would ever have expected. I mean hundreds of shares. I would check on it every now and again there would be several hundred more shares again. It was clear to me that tons of indie creators love this idea. Lots of people talked about “When should we do it? What day should it be?” At that point I had put it out there, but I didn’t know what to do with it. Actually, that’s how I came back into this.
An artist named Manuel Carmona found the logo the next year, and he made a BICD Facebook page, put up the logo, and decided on the first Saturday in August. Then he started promoting it, and when I saw the page being spread around again I said, “Oh, this is my logo. This is my idea, let me get back in on this with you.” So he and I and a third person named Carmelo Chimera, all of us came together to kind of give an initiative to indie comic creators. To see people come together on this day and see what we can do.
NG: At this point, you are really looking for more comic shops or creators who would be willing to participate in Buy Indie Comics Day and help get the word out, right?
PB: Yes. I would definitely call it an awareness campaign. There is no major infrastructure behind this yet. We have created graphics that everyone can use and we are trying to be a hub for information about BICD, but yeah, at this point it’s mainly about trying to get the idea out there. In particular to the local comic shops that would want to do events, but also for any creators that would want to do something on this date. We just need to get the idea out there further.
NG: Do you feel that there is an inequity between the coverage given to the Big Two versus what is given to indie comics? (or the big four, or big seven, however many count as big these days) Do you feel the need to have this push to have a day just for indie comics?
PB: That is a really good question, and I was thinking about this the other day. And I thought about how people try to consider comics a competition between the Big Two and everybody else, but really it’s just entertainment. Everybody is just trying to come up with an idea that will hook you enough to give them a dollar. We’re all doing the same thing, so I do think that you should do what you can to help your creation stand out.
In this superhero/comic book fatigued era that we’re reaching — with comic book movies being so huge — I think it’s worth it for the folks that are making new and interesting independent comics to try to get themselves out there. They should differentiate themselves a little bit because the Big Two aren’t going anywhere. But there are a ton of smaller press publishers that are trying to break out, and there is a lot to be gained by supporting those. I think if we all band together and just say, “This is a day for the indie books,” we can make it into the mainstream consciousness. That is something that I think FCBD has had huge success with.
I have noticed that even people who don’t collect comic books regularly still know about Free Comic Book Day. Folks that I know that don’t collect comic books will turn to me (because they know I’m a comic book fan) and ask if I know about the free books. How cool would it be if we could break through to the part of the world that doesn’t pay attention day in and day out like we do? We look at indie comics all day everyday, but there’s a ton of people that don’t. If you could just get them to see for one day a year that all these people are making their own comics. That it runs the gamut as far as genres and art styles. If we could draw a little more attention to that, I think we would all gain a lot.
NG: You touched briefly on how comic book based movies have become the big thing. It seems these days that — largely because of the movies — even people who have never read a comic have at least a base understanding of the Marvel and DC Heroes. Do you think that with comics breaking into the general zeitgeist that the time is right for more indie creators to be discovered? Do you think the public is ready to move beyond the Big Two and see some of the deeper things that are there?
PB: I’ll just say “I hope so.” That is some of my thinking behind this whole initiative in the first place. Yes, the public is really primed to pay attention. But it’s hard because there are so many indie books out there. I think most people gravitate toward the superheroes, but there’s so much sci-fi and fantasy and just everything in comics. People are now primed in so many ways to give that stuff a chance in their realm of entertainment. Indies now have a better chance than ever to showcase what they offer. Now you have this chance to not only be seen, but maybe actually gain some real fans in people that are tired of what has become so popular. I know so many people that are saying, “I’m so over you know superheroes,” or “So over this particular type of sci-fi.” We want to see something that’s new and interesting. That’s where indie comics are right now. They’re taking unique and not-played-out ideas every day of the week and they’re putting them into comics.
NG: This year after FCBD, I remember thinking how cool it was to hear two non-comic collectors discussing the World’s Greatest Cartoonists book from Fantagraphics. Only a few years ago, a book like that might have even escaped the notice of people who frequent their local comic shops.
PB: That’s a good sign to me because I know so many people are coming around. Free Comic Book Day is really not about free comics when you get down to it. The idea is to get people to rally to their comic book shops. Just like Record Store Day is about support of your local record store. Its the brilliant idea of people banding together to give the public a reason to support their art. FCBD is not necessarily just about getting free comics, its also about getting people to spend money at the comic shop as well. I want there to be a day where you can say, “I know that my buddy makes a comic, I’ve never read it. This weekend is the day for indie comics.” And then you go spend five or ten bucks on his Kickstarter or something. That’s how my thinking started for all this.
NG: It is a sad story that gets told a lot in the comics industry — that friends and family can be counted on for a lot of support, but usually do not actually buy the books. It would be great if you could get the people who are already aware of creators to buy the books that you know are there, even if it didn’t mean going to a comic shop. Everyone knows someone who is selling their book on Facebook, or Instagram, or somebody who’s got a Kickstarter or a Patreon.
PB: Totally! That was my thinking when I originally came up with this. Honestly, I wasn’t trying to commit to anything bigger than “this is a great idea, let’s see where it goes.” I thought that if it got out there it’s easy enough for anybody — even other creators. We put so much time and work into our own books, but it helps so much as a creator to turn to your other buddy that’s a creator and just support them. Buy a $5 comic book or put in a $10 pledge to their Kickstarter. It would be cool if we could turn this into a day that prompts you into action on something you always would have done — if somebody had just given you the right push.
I know so many people that went into a comic shop for the free comics and found a $30 trade that they like. You can spend half of that on any indie creator and make their whole week. As much as I would love to see more Buy Indie Comics Day events in stores, because events are so essential to spreading the word, this is about supporting the creators. You don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to go online and show support.
NG: If there were retailers or creators reading this who wanted to be a part of Buy Indie Comics Day, how would they contact you? How do people get involved?
PB: We use pretty much every social media outlet, but I’d say we’re most active on Facebook. We’re also on Twitter, and we have a website. It is a little bit barren at this point, so I would encourage most people to go through Facebook if they want to talk to us. If they need help with any resources, myself Manuel and Carmelo are all pretty active in different shifts. We just volunteer, so we get back to you as fast as we can. If there is any information that people need, we want to provide it. If you are reading this as an indie creator, please use one of the graphics we provide for free and put it out there with your project. If you are a retailer, it may be too late to plan an event for this year (and it may not be, depending) but at least consider adding a sign on a table highlighting some of the local independent work being done.