I spoke with indie comic creator Evan Dahm this week about his experience as a self publishing indie comic creator. Evan is the man responsible for the emotionally resonate and visually lush comic Rice Boy, he also is the creator of Order of Tales and Vattu which is updated on Mondays at his site Riceboy.com. Thanks again to Evan for taking the time to speak with me.
So my first question is what got you into comics in the first place?
I’ve been drawing and writing for mostly my whole life, and I’ve wanted to make stories of some sort or another for as long as I can remember. I drew comics for fun throughout high school, and only started to take the work and the medium seriously at all, I think, with Rice Boy, which I started in college.
How did you first develop the story for Rice Boy and how long have you been working on it?
I started Rice Boy in 2006 and finished it in 2008, and it’s in some respect the foundation of all of the work I’ve done since, and the work I’m doing now. Rice Boy started as a loose narrative framework for some characters I had doodled, leaning heavily on high fantasy tropes… and as it went along I made it into a story that turned out pretty well, all things considered.
After that I did a more serious, carefully planned adventure story in the same setting, called Order of Tales… and in 2010 I started Vattu.
Have you pitched or considered pitching any of your books (Rice Boy, Order of Tales, Vattu) to any major or indie publishers?
I was really into the idea for a while, and I remember I pitched OoT to a major independent publisher in 2008… and since then I’ve learned enough about how the comics publishing world works to not really try again. Also since then, I’ve managed to make a full-time job making and publishing exactly the kind of comics I want to make, and answering to no one.
I love self-publishing and it’s going well. There are some publishers I love too, though, so I might do stuff with them in the future, who knows.
What kind of things did you learn about the publishing industry that made you not want to try again?
People not getting paid for embarrassingly long amounts of time, people not getting paid anything approaching a reasonable amount of money for their work, people being stuck in contracts doing work they hate and have no control over…
Mostly I think I’ve become so accustomed to not compromising hardly at all creatively that I don’t know what I would do if I had to? Like, no publisher would be interested in Vattu, based on any conceivable description I could come up with for it… But I believe in it and I know how to do it the way I want to do it, so it’ll get done.
So a many of our readers feel the same way about working with a publisher, however cannot find a way to make a living self-publishing as you have. What advice can you give them for that?
The Internet is the greatest thing that has ever happened for independent artists, ever. Do work you are proud of, make it freely available and easy to find, and scan everything at 600 dpi for god’s sake.
Your copies of Rice Boy at APE and online were great quality and mot self published stuff doesn’t looks as polished. What steps did you take to make such a professional looking self-published trade?
Thank you! It’s essentially the third edition of the book, and they’ve been getting better as I go along… first was a print-on-demand version that isn’t too great, and then an edition of 1,000 which is better, and the current edition of 2,000 which is pretty gorgeous. For the new edition I worked with a print buyer who has experience getting books printed for independent publishers, who basically did most of the work and most of the interfacing with the printing company… That is not really a good answer; “I paid somebody else so they would turn out better.”
I am slowly getting to the point where all of my books are in editions of thousands, making them actually profitable and able to be really well-made.
How do you manage to develop an over 1000-page book while still being able support yourself?
The books themselves are under 1000 pages each
Merchandise and selling books. I try to put stuff in print as soon as possible, and do a lot of comic conventions. I update the comic online several times a week to keep people interested. Book sales have always been the main thing that supports this whole endeavor; ads and other merchandise are negligible.
As an artist working on your own projects, do you ever consider working with another writer and his or her story?
I have thought about it but I don’t think I can work on something unless I am completely personally obsessed with it. Also I am pretty sure I am terrible and uncompromising and would be awful to work with on anything.
Thats a more common response then you would think when I speak to comic creators and ask them that question
Yeah I bet
It’s a good medium to get into if you are selfish and don’t work well with others.
In the event that you would consider working with a writer, what would be the best way to approach you as an artist?
I don’t know, I guess with a lot of flexibility and communication. I could see working on something with someone else if there was a lot of back-and-forth and both were on a level playing field in that respect.
Ha, I just realized I demanded a writer be flexible after saying that I never ever would be.
But that is reasonable I feel that more often than not in these events the artist is asked to sacrifice the most of their vision
Yeah, it’s usually the writer with a story looking for an artist to make it real.
The disconnect between the two is what makes most superhero comics pretty unbearable for me to read.
What did you first read that really inspired you?
I don’t know exactly. Probably some young-adult fantasy novel lost in the mists of my past. The Hobbit was pretty early on, I think. I didn’t read any comics that were particularly revelatory until Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth and Craig Thompson’s Blankets… I read them both in high school and my brain connects them because they showed me different things comics can do.
Did you read Habibi recently?
I just got it; haven’t read it yet.
I think Thompson is one of the greatest draftsmen alive.
Do you have any last minute advice for aspring comic creators?
Work every day and do stuff you’re proud of.
And I already said scan everything at 600 dpi but do that.
Thanks again to Evan and do yourself a favor and visit Riceboy.com, there’s about a thousand pages of reading material on his site absolutely free. While your there why not pick up a print copy of Rice Boy, or make a donation.