From the web to the world
Local comic artists have big future plans
In a year when the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo is pulling in more major stars than ever — from Stan Lee to the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, to name but a few — how can the local producer of an independent web comic possibly hope to make an impression on fans flocking to the event?
In the case of Jason Primmer, the creator of Zombie 2012, it’s a matter of all-out, guerrilla-style promotion.
In the weeks leading up to the Calgary Expo, April 27 to 29 at Stampede Park’s BMO Centre, Primmer’s toiling tirelessly, converting a dune buggy into a “zombie assault vehicle” complete with an imitation Gatling gun.
When he rolls the mean machine up to his Expo booth at the event, Primmer will be accompanied by five hired actors, two playing zombies and the others portraying characters from his online publication. It’s an elaborate promotion wherein Primmer intends to sell T-shirts and selfpublished comic book compilations of the Zombie 2012 web series.
Primmer’s not the only Calgary-based web comic creator out to promote his baby at the Expo.
Writer Ryan Ferrier, whose superhero comic Terminals (co-created with a local tattoo artist called Rove) has been coming out in twopage instalments since the summer of 2010, will also be releasing print collections of that series. In addition, Ferrier will be launching two brand new comic books at Expo.
Then there’s Damian Wilcox, who had been home-producing his own quirky comics — notably the adventures of Dorkboy — for a decade before he shifted over to the web comics world in 2005. Wilcox, too, has produced a collection of his comics with the selfpublished book Well . . . This Is Awkward, which he’ll be selling at Expo.
Though their respective works get as many as 2,000 web hits a week, these creators know that comic book conventions and the distribution of a traditional print style publication is still hard to beat when it comes to drawing an audience to their work.
“Nobody’s going to give a damn about your comic … unless you make people pay attention,” says Primmer, who produces Zombie 2012 with writer Josh Bertwistle and artist Mark Cromwell. “I’m shameless . . . but I think that’s part of the reason we do well and actually sell our comics and shirts.”
Primmer, 36, has his hands full in life with a window-washing business and a wife and toddler at home, but that doesn’t stop him from dedicating early mornings and late nights to Zombie 2012. He dreams that it will one day make an impression on this zombie-mad pop landscape, getting picked up by a publisher and maybe even turned into a movie.
But for now, he thrives on the validation he gets at events like Expo. “When somebody tells you they appreciate your story, that’s what it’s all about,” he says. “We’re definitely not making any money. Someday, hopefully, we will.”
For Wilcox, the prospect of making a buck off his creations is certainly not the motivating factor. The 37-year-old software designer has been creating his own comics since the mid’90s when he used to photocopy, fold and staple each issue, distributing them to coffee shops for free.
Eventually Wilcox began selling his comics on the convention circuit. This led to interest from a perspective publisher and a “Hollywood type” who wanted to turn Dorkboy into a TV series, Wilcox says. Things went sour when the TV people tried to change the concept. “That whole process I found very stressful,” Wilcox says. “It sucked the enjoyment out of making comics.”
That’s when he decided to pull away from the business and simply release his work online. Wilcox is a big be- liever in web comics. They cut out print production costs for independent creators and he loves their easy accessibility. “Anybody can hop onto their computer or even their phone now and go over to any web comics site,” he says.
But despite the benefits of self-publishing online, Wilcox still had a yearning for traditional comics.
“I’m part of that camp that has a tough time seeing print go away,” he explains. “With a book I’ve got an artifact, an original. Whereas with digital, I felt like if I’m not producing something tangible or physical, it could disappear. ”
Currently working on three titles, to be released both online and in print versions, (one self-published and two through small publishing companies) Ferrier feels like his work is being noticed and that he’s making progress in the comic book industry.
“I don’t even use the term web comic anymore,” Ferrier says. “I use the term comic, because that’s what it is. The only difference is in the way people consume it.”