I'm not forming a German arts movement (although sometimes I think it might mean less work). What I am trying to do is think up a new raison d'etre for Borderline Press; well, not really a reason, more a 'catchphrase' or encapsulating sentence that tells people unfamiliar with the product what they need to know about Borderline Press.
This, almost pointless, discussion was one of many we had at Bristol Comics Expo on Sunday afternoon. We had to do something because it was either that or violently attack the organisers...
No, it wasn't so busy that promoting it would have caused problems. You needed to have already bought your ticket to get through the door. If you were a member of the public, curious to see why all these brightly coloured (and black or white) costumes were descending onto a slightly dodgy modern hotel in the centre of Bristol, you were shit out of luck. If you were a local comics fan or had maybe heard about the event and travelled up to buy Borderline Press books or get Michael Golden's autograph, you were also shit out of luck.
Here's an example of a conversation I heard between an incredibly disgruntled stall holder and an utterly-out-of-her-depth organiser/helper:
"Why are you turning people away?"
"They don't have tickets."
"Let them pay at the door."
"We haven't got the facilities to do that."
"I have. Let me give you a box with a float, you can charge people to come in and maybe some of them will spend some money rather than just walk around posing in their manga costumes."
"We can't do that."
"There's about 50 people upstairs. I've barely taken enough money to cover my table costs and you're turning people away?"
This was Sunday about 2pm and because of the cramped space the dealers were forced into, 50 people was probably an exaggeration on the dealer's part.
Considering the massive success we had the week before at the book launch at Close Encounters in Northampton; we went to Bristol with a mixture of confidence and (for me) trepidation. I set my expectations low, to offset any disappointments - my low expectations were not even met...
One of the 'star' guests admitted to me that he'd had more people ask him who he was than requests for signed books or sketches; Arthur Suydam (the Zombie King and for me man behind the brilliant 70s strip Cholly & Flytrap) was telling me how he's still a student even after all these years and showed me all the sketches he'd been doing in between the lack in interest most of the attendees had for his (or anyone else's) stuff. While another of the guests made me wonder who he'd slept with the actually get a job in comics, because with one exception his stuff was rank amateur; this was a guy who would have benefited with practising a little as well...
Don't get me wrong. On the journey back, Christian and I were disappointed by the turnout and the lack of fiscal reward, but we also saw the enormous benefits from the networking and meeting and talking to people. We figured it was the best place to cut our 2014 convention teeth and make sure we don't repeat any of the mistakes we might have made. So, despite my curmudgeonly persona and (as a Spurs supporter) tendency to embrace doom and gloom, we saw enormous positives from the weekend; sadly it was despite the convention not because of it...
At the Close Encounters book launch, we struggled to sell any Zombies Can't Swim and despite it being a lovely, self-contained little book - cheap as well - we sold just one copy at the book launch. Zombre sold very well at the book launch, yet at Bristol, ZCS sold well and Zombre sold just one??? This was why we were discussing Borderline Press's reason for existing. I've always believed that even in the UK you have regional variations; when I wrote Movers & Shakers for years, I'd sometimes get feedback from, say, Scotland suggesting that what was hot in London or Northampton wasn't necessarily in Glasgow. This gave me the altruistic ideas, at the time, to try and build a retailers back issue network, where retailers could swap and/or sell their stock to other regions: if Edinburgh needs X-Men and Swindon needs Batman and both have a surplus of what the other needs ... It's not rocket science.
But, when one zombie themed book sells and the other doesn't and then the exact opposite happens 115 miles away, you have to seriously wonder if there are regional variations with more eclectic books.
What is Spoko?
Spoko means COOL. It is a Polish word that has been adopted by a lot of European countries, the same way as some idiots in this country still say 'cool beans' when agreeing with something.
The first issue of Spoko is called Birds. Therefore the first issue is really called... COOL BIRDS and a cool bird isn't an angry or flappy one...
Yes, I agree that people might look at Sebastian Skrobol's logo and think, "What the fu...?" But equally, knowing comics fans, they'll say, "What does Spoko mean?" And before you know it you have a dialogue going with a potential customer. I believe having an unusual name for something can sometimes generate more 'interest' than if I'd called it 'The Borderline Press Anthology Comic'.
Another book that was generating a lot of noise at Bristol was Jamie Lewis's Seth & Ghost - the inclusion of the Zombre story as a full colour free comic strip was, I believe a bit of a master stroke by moi, because it is vivid, very four-colour and was the thing that got us talking to the cosplay fans.
So what is our raison d'etre? Do we have a sentence that encapsulates Borderline Press to anyone still not fortunate enough to have heard of us?
I'd never thought about this as a sound-bite before. The website lists what we want to do and what I'd like to achieve, but the closest we've come to a catchphrase is 'quality over quantity' - which sounds like something from an expensive DIY retailer or a Heston Blumenthal restaurant.
Christian, my new assistant, was reading this monster opus from a US creator and could not get over just how brilliant and quick it was to draw him in. "Are we doing ### #######?"
"Dunno, it's through an agent and agents haven't got the same ethics we hope people will see we've got."
"That's a real shame, this is really good and deserves an audience."
"Then it will, even if it's with someone else."
Then why did we do some zombie books?
Because, having been out of comics for 10 years, the idea of producing a zombie anthology seemed to be a no-brainer. It was a no-brainer - the wrong way round...
So that's why I think Borderline Press needs a blunt and pithy mission statement.
My final observation from the weekend was thanks to a (I'm not being sexist, Ben) gorgeous young (blonde and attractive, in case she's reading this) lady who came back to the table on Saturday afternoon and bought 566 Frames using the last £12.56 she had in her pocket. She had returned three times to look at it and tentatively talk to the dull looking middle-aged men trying to sell them. I finally realised that she wanted the book but didn't have the cash, so did a deal with her.
"I'd love to buy this [Hunger House] and this [ZCS] because it's clear that you're a female-friendly publisher." And, do you know, I could have taken £12.56 all weekend and that would have pleased me more than being given the opportunity to have no-questions-asked-sweaty-sex with Karen Gillen (which, incidentally, I haven't ever had the opportunity... yet).
We are, essentially, a female friendly publisher! We publish women and we mainly want to publish books that will appeal to women as much as they will for men.
Verity Fair is created by a man, but is all about women. Seamonster is very much the kind of thing women would be happy to have on their book shelves. And, do you know something, I don't think this fact hinders us at all. You could say that I'm alienating my own gender, to this I say, you can't alienate quality and if they can't see that they can stick with their superheroes a spandex.