Mike Schneider on Readymade Comics

 

Mike Schneider is an interdisciplinary anti-artist best known for his mass- collaborative productions, such as ‘Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated.’ Currently working in comics, Schneider is the editor and publisher of Octal Comics ( www.OctalComics.com.)

Octal has already proven to be a very successful venture. Can you explain what that is and how it works?
As an anti-artist, I tend to look for creative solutions in traditionally non-creative aspects of production. Octal allows creators to pitch their series to dozens of comic publishers at the same time!

The templates and manual on www.OctalComics.com guide creators to a succinct, editor-friendly presentation. Editorial feedback and group critiques are available throughout development via our production group ( www.fb.com/groups/OctalComics ). The resulting pitch packets are then curated into volumes. Nearly three dozen publishers have subscribed to receive those volumes and review the featured proposals. So far, more than half the featured packets have gone on to further talks with one or more publishers and a quarter have already locked down series contracts. It’s a good start.

 

 

 


Lately you’ve been working on a new project. What can you tell us about Readymade comics?
Let me preface this by saying I absolutely adore comic anthologies, believe they serve a vital role in the comics field, and personally try to start every new working relationship with a short to ensure compatibility before committing to something longer. That all being said, they are not without their pitfalls. A lot of anthologies fall through or fall flat. Great comics might not make the cut because they missed the deadline, didn’t conform to the guidelines, weren’t the right fit for the resulting collection, were too similar to another story, etc. Even if the work is selected and the anthology ends up published, there’s no guarantee that the anthology will connect with an audience, nevermind the right audience for a particular story. While most only ask for first print rights, second run options are few and far between and depending on the guidelines, it can be difficult placing that comic elsewhere.

With Readymade, www.OctalComics.com/Readymade , we’re calling for all previously produced comics and framing those existing stories in new and interesting contexts. As submissions come in, we rate and meta-tag them. Issues are built around common threads in those submissions. Issues will stand alone and be titled rather than numbered. If a story connects with a large enough audience, our production model is designed so it can advance from digital to print to one-shot to series. If it doesn’t, the creators are welcome to resubmit those same shorts and have them framed in different contexts and geared toward different audiences.

What inspired the creation of this new anthology series?
The term Readymade was coined by Dadaist, Marcel Duchamp. One of the more famous examples of his Readymades was ‘Fountain’, a urinal displayed in a gallery to put the focus on its aesthetic rather than utilitarian value. In broader strokes, the idea is simply that context can change the audience, their expectations, and their experience of an existing object. The same is true of comics. A horror comedy plays differently in a funny book than it would in a collection of scary stories because the context flips the reader’s expectations. Take it a step further and focus on some detail ( character, setting, object, relationship, etc. ) and suddenly both the horror and comedy aspects become the innovation/ point of distinction within that collection. The connective thread, whatever it may be, gears the book toward a particular audience and framing the story in different contexts increases the odds of it eventually finding an audience large enough to justify continued production.

The production model is something I’ve proposed to publishers in the past. While some have been on board with the prospect of earmarking profits to fund the advancement of titles from the anthology, they wanted to rely on their gut rather than hard numbers to determine which/ if/ when series would advance. From my perspective, the problem with relying on one’s gut is that it robs creators and readers of tangible goals they can understand and push toward.

Are you currently editing any anthologies beyond Octal and Readymade?
I do developmental and copy editing on a free-lance basis. Sometimes I work for publishers and other times creators. I’m currently editing or consulting on a handful of indie comics but Octal and Readymade are my only anthologies at the moment.

How many stories have been submitted to Readymade so far?
We’re still in early days. I thought it best to kick things off by doing a few interviews so we could answer questions someone might have after reviewing the materials and information on the website.

So far, we’ve only received about 20 or so submissions but considering we’re just starting to promote the call, that’s promising.

What should creators know before submitting their own stories?
While no submissions are rejected, some comics will take longer to place than others. Unless the creator opts to put an expiration date on the submission agreement, the comic will be kept on file until its ready to run.

The narrower the appeal, whether due to content or execution, the fewer contexts there are where that comic has something to add to the collection. For example, drawing a comic in ballpoint pen on lined notebook paper would result in automatic elimination from most anthologies but if there are enough submissions of stories drawn in ballpoint pen on lined notebook paper, that limiting factor could be the glue which holds together a collection. There are entire folk art museums full of work which require a specific audience viewing it in a specific way. The same can be said of content. A comic which is overtly religious, pornographic, or political might not have wide appeal but may speak strongly to a specific audience when presented in a specific context.

The anthologies are digital first. There is room for a story to advance from digital to print to one-shot to its own book/ series but most comics probably won’t. There is no expectation that every issue will be a hit, rather that the losses will be minimal enough for the series to keep swinging. Creators promoting a release can increase its odds of advancement but that is not required. No matter how an issue performs, as soon as you are notified that your story has been accepted, you’re welcome to resubmit it for potential inclusion in another issue/ context. All comics should be previously produced but prior publication is irrelevant so long as you retain the right to submit. Terms are fully non-exclusive and Readymade welcomes simultaneous submissions. No original production is expected without separate contracts and advanced payment.

Do creators have any control over what sort “theme” their submission is collected under?
Yes and no. The comics are previously produced so creators decided what’s in their comics long before that work was submitted to Readymade. If it’s in the comic and it’s a common thread that runs through enough submissions to pull together an interesting issue then it’s fair game.

Is there an editing process for Readymade submissions, or are comics accepted or rejected “as-is?”
Comics are considered in as-is condition. Submit the clean, high-res files ( not a preview ) along with the signed submission agreement. You may submit multiple versions of the same comic ( color, b/w, with and without narration, etc ) and each will be treated as a separate submission.

It is advisable that you put your title and credits somewhere within your comic pages. While we will consider running a comic with a title/ credits page, that tends to bring down your per-page quality.

If there’s a glaring error that is easy to fix but dramatically impacts the overall quality of the comic, we may notify the creator… but even then, the comic will be considered as-is until or unless a revised version is submitted.

Do you have any plans for additional projects geared towards the independent creator in the vein of Readymade or Octal?
Generally, yes. Specifically, no. A year and a half of research into the comic pitching process led to the development of Octal. Then the production group, website, manual and mailing list took shape over this past year. The concept of Readymade predates that research but was tabled until Octal was up and running. Readymade really took shape when I began discussing it with its co-editor, Bill Williams ( former DC Comics writer/ First Comics editor ). Basically, the gestation period is longer for less conventional projects because there’s a lot of measuring three times and questioning if a cut is necessary. While I monitor posts in a few creator groups, am constantly chatting with creators, and have google alerts set for various topics, right now, the focus is on Octal and Readymade.

When do you expect to release your first collection of Readymade comics?
We expect the first issues to be dropping later this year. The more submissions we receive, the faster we will turn issues without compromising quality or choosing threads which are too open-ended to establish a new and interesting context.

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