COME SEE BOX BROWN! “How to Make Comics Every Day and Still Be Alive” -Box Brown, Sept 17th Sharadin Arts Bldg. Kutztown U, Rm 120, 7pm. Free! This is the same talk he is giving at the Library of Congress earlier in the week.
K.Mc: Is there a big comics scene in Philadelphia?
Box: Yeah, pretty big. There is the Philly Comix Jam, a monthly meeting of artists at a bar. Anywhere from 10 to 40 artists show up. It’s been going on for about 5 years now. There’s about 5 or 6 comic shops in the area and a few small conventions. I hear about new artists all the time via internet and stuff. too. Of course, Charles Burns also lives in Philly but he’s not really part of the comics “scene.”
K.Mc: Did you study illustration, take a course in cartooning?
Box: I didn’t r-e-a-a-a-l-ly study art formally, at all. I just started drawing comics one day in my 20’s and slowly got more and more interested until finally one day I decided to pursue it in earnest. I was really inspired by James Kochalka to do a diary comic strip in 2005 and since then I’ve drawn at least one comic page a day. I did take Tom Hart’s continuing ed. comics class at SVA twice in a row.
K.Mc: You created Retrofit Comics. Promoting and working with other artists must take time away from your personal work, but did it pay off for your personal career?
Box: Well, I think ultimately it’s raised my profile. I made money the first year, lost money in year two, and then found a business partner who knows what he’s actually doing. So, at this point I’m only editing really, whereas before I was doing every thing including shipping. I think working with other artists this closely has been really beneficial to my own work.
K.Mc: Willing to share something about the economics of your comics income?
Box: It’s hard to say where money comes from. Ha-Ha! Lately, I’ve been doing freelance poster design and other illustration jobs as they come. I have hopes that Retrofit will again turn a profit (at least enough so I can get paid again). Selling my personal zines and stuff helps too.
K.Mc: How much does the sale of original art help?
Box: Over the past year original art sales have become a decent amount income, believe it or not. It’s not constant, but once in a while it’s a great boost.
K.Mc: How did it come about that Andre the Giant is published by a major publisher?
Box: At one point I had a literary agent who was trying to sell my “Everything Dies” project as a graphic novel. Through that process I got to meet my editor at First Second. So, when I started working on Andre and conceived of it as a long book I sent Calista (my editor) an email submission (along with other publishers) and :01 liked it. (Note :01 stands for First Second Books .)
K.Mc: Can I take images from your site, like your round self-portrait and one of your original pages for Andre?
K.Mc: Got some advice for students who want to break into to indie comics?
BOX: Work. Work. Work. Self-publish! Self-publish the hell out of everything you can. Online, zines, go to conventions interact with other artists, get on twitter and follow your favorite artists and interact with the community. Read comics a lot, immerse yourself in the culture. If after a decade you feel it wasn’t a worthwhile pursuit you can give up.