2020, by and large, was a total dumpster fire. But, for indie comics, 2020 was a boon. Kickstarter announced that independent comics raised over $22 million on the platform in 2020, an increase of 30% over 2019. New indie creators were inspired to jump into the industry. Hell, The Indie Comix Dispatch launched in mid-2020. And, indie comics went out with a bang in December thanks to the Indie Comic Union.
If you’re unaware of The Union, it’s a group of creators “helping one another level up as comic makers and follow-through in [their] sequential art ambitions.” In December the group sponsored the #indiecomicteamup, an effort to bring more attention to indie comics by encouraging artists to take a classic comic cover and replace the characters on the cover with their favorite indie comic characters. The event was a huge success, and I was recently able to catch-up with two of the brains behind the Indie Comic Union, John Osborne and Bradley Littlejohn, to get more details on The Union and the #indiecomicteamup.
First, can you explain the Indie Comic Union? What is it, how did it come to be?
Bradley: The Indie Comic Union sprouted out of friendships made in predecessor comic chat groups on Instagram that included me, Bradley Littlejohn @theseahorsie, and fellow comic makers Drew F. Lee @incandescencecomics and The Authorbot @theauthorbot. We formally took on the name Indie Comic Union while bringing aboard John Osborne @Johnosborneart and Kevin Curley @bucketsofsighs -creating a Discord server to have more liberty and control over our growing comic conversations and efforts. Last Spring I pulled together the #indiefanarts event by hustling everyone to support one another and promote indie characters instead of corporate characters while doing the #sixfanarts challenges. That piggyback event proved successful and it united a lot of people for a moment. Founding the union gave us confidence and a place to plot in earnest to attempt bigger and better things.
Social media can look like a ‘me first’ event for a lot of people. It really does get pitched to us as a GO FOR IT proposition where you are climbing over one another to be seen as the biggest hustler or hardest worker. But I think that is a fail for something like independent comic makers. Despite what your first instincts are or what the Instagram algorithm seems to reward, we feel that visibility goes hand in hand with community and creating an inclusive scene worth participating in, collaborating in, and sharing with others. Our October event, #drawyourOCtober (spearheaded by @gretchen.draws an Editor inside the Union), and our December event, #indiecomicteamup, built on that collaborative ethic.
Our plans moving forward are to continue with more of that and on an even greater scale for ambitious collaborations! We are so much more than the first five members just dreaming and trying to stay positive. We have joined up with a ton of wonderful creators who demonstrate positivity, collaboration and talent. It is turning into a soft place to fall and get support in a system that doesn’t always make it easy to believe in yourself. Giving back & collaborating with others aggregates into something greater. Being positive and reaching out to others DOES work, and we will be helping make a positive scene happen as we keep on gaining momentum!
Where did the idea for the #indiecomicteamup come from?
Bradley: The Indie Comic Team-up began with a list of events we wanted to plan for the next year. December seems like a bad month to run an event but this idea was small so it seemed do-able with just four posts in the month. I believe Drew F. Lee @incandescence comics mentioned an awesome hashtag #indiecember early on but we found some music makers had been using that tag previously. I brought the idea of classic covers mashed up with indie characters to @Authorbot and Drew, and we set about broadening the scope to include albums, magazines and other media just to make sure it was more inclusive since the eras in comics are very superhero centric and would leave behind some comicers we interact with who come from outside of that tradition. From that core concept we usually workshop with John Osborne @Johnosborneart and Kevin Curley @bucketsofsighs so we have a clear sense of what we are going to be doing before we jump into enlisting everyone’s support and get surprised by how the greater community shapes it into the event it is going to be.
Did the number of entries for each era surprise you?
John: I think everyone involved in the Union was blown away by the amount of participation. It seemed like each era brought in more interaction than the one prior. Between 50-75 people took part, and many of them for four consecutive weeks, even “Iron Week” (the holiday weekend) had as much if not more covers than the previous three, and we expected that to be the lightest week. After each week we would reconvene and discuss the work we had seen, and each time we were pleasantly surprised by the wave of incredible covers. I know personally I couldn’t wait to check out the new covers rolling in on the weekend, and not only loving seeing my own character featured but so many of my favorite indie characters being celebrated. It was a great way of getting to know a ton of talented creators and their work.
Will the Team Up be an annual event?
John: We are pretty sure we’ll be doing the Indie Comic Team Up again next year. It was such a success it would be a missed opportunity not to! There were a lot of characters I wanted to include in my covers, but due to time and the sheer amount of amazing OC’s just couldn’t be done with only four covers. I’m already looking forward to adding them to next year’s covers and discovering many more along the way.
What else is on the horizon for The Union?
John: We’ve been busy since December putting together a new project that we are eager to announce, and I know we want to have more going on in late winter/early spring. Having something that all indie comic creators can participate in seems to be the common theme, in whatever form that takes as we go into 2021 will hopefully be as exciting and positive if not more, than what we’ve already explored.
Check out the Indie Comic Union on Instagram & YouTube, or use the hashtag #indiecomicteamup on Instagram to see all the entries:
(Art on the banner image is from Matt Laux – https://www.instagram.com/mattdrawsdnd/)