Self-publishing is now an accepted form of direct communication with the readers, with both long-time pros and newbies having hands-on control of their product. (Even the mighty Pat Mills is publishing his own books.) Nevertheless, I still occasionally hear criticism of self-publishing. Accusations of "vanity press" and things like "things must be bad if they need to generate extra income by self-publishing". Such mean-spirited comments should easily be ignored of course, but sometimes that only leads to others accepting such unwarranted criticisms as fact if they go unchallenged.
Truth is, a lot of us enjoy self-publishing simply because of creative control. As enjoyable as mainstream comics work is, it often involves working on characters created by others, following an editorial remit, scripts that can be altered editorially, and (most likely) characters that are owned by the publisher. Self-publishing gives the creator(s) complete freedom to do things their way, in their own style, in their own time, and to design the comic exactly as they wish. We're artists. We're all hippies at heart, and we like our freedom, man.
("Hang on a minute", some of you might be thinking. "Wasn't Combat Colin done to Marvel's remit in the 1980s before you regained the rights?" Kind of, yes, but my editors gave me so much freedom on the strip that it always felt I had near-complete creative control anyway.)
As for the accusation that self-publishing is a desperate attempt to increase one's income, well, amusingly that's kind of flattering and insulting at the same time. Print runs for self publishing are often small, so profit is minimal unless a character really takes off. The point of doing it is not one of financial gain, but I understand how that might be a hard concept to grasp for some coldly commercially-minded people. It's all about the enjoyment of creating a comic that's 100% by yourself, from the cover to the last page, including layout, logo design, and all. If it breaks even, great. If it makes a small profit, even better, but if you're doing it solely for greed then you'll be disappointed. It's for the love of the art, mate, innit.
I must admit there are some practical reasons why I'm self-publishing again. There are a number of characters that are my intellectual property that were just languishing in limbo. It seemed silly to devote all my time on strips I didn't have the rights to and let my own creations fall into obscurity. So, in 2015 I brought back Brickman, last year I revived Derek the Troll (with Rock Solid as back up) and this year Combat Colin finally gets his own comic (with Suburban Satanists No.1 to follow either later this year or in 2018). I know that each of those properties has a following, and hopefully their individual comics will generate new readers too. Apart from a few contemporary references, I've always tried to make my humour feel timeless, so my 1980s material should work for modern readers too.
Most of my working time has to be spent on mainstream comics work though, as that's what pays the bills. That doesn't make it less enjoyable of course. Toxic, Epic, Doctor Who Magazine, and Beano each have their own identities and are great to create strips for. It's a privilege to work on the top comics titles in the UK and long may it continue.
In my spare time I'll continue to develop my self-published titles, and although I may only have time to do two (or three at a push) per year, the plan is for them to continue. I hope you'll enjoy what's to come, including Combat Colin No.1, out next month!
(If you're interested in my comics, and I guess you must be if you're reading my blog, you can buy them directly from me here:
Getting back to my initial point, ignore the critics. Some people just want to nitpick and sabotage what others create, to drag everyone down to their own level of misery and hopelessness. Other people will support such projects, financially if they like them, or even just by spreading the word on comics that don't appeal to them personally. The comics industry has evolved from where it was 50 years ago, and self-publishing is as legitimate and slick as mainstream publishing these days. Check out the tables at the many comics conventions around the country and you'll find comics that appeal to all tastes.