Lizzie Boyle Says: What does 2014 hold for small press comics? Three big trends and one bold prediction!

Lizzie-Boyle-SaysEmerging from the fog of Christmas and New Year, our intrepid columnist Lizzie Boyle finds herself looking forward to an intriguing year for small press comics.

Lizzie BoyleThe thing that’s unusual for everybody – small indie publisher or Big Two – is that comics are everywhere. Movie and TV screens are showing endless adaptations of comics, schoolchildren are creating comics for projects creating comics for projects, conventions are getting bigger and more numerous (over 400 creators were selling their wares at ThoughtBubble alone last year).

If you’re used to being a counterculture, it’s kind of weird to be the mainstream.

I expect that the mining of comics by other media will carry on in 2014, and through into 2015. The big movie franchises are obviously planning longer than that, but I do think there’s a challenge for comics creators who want to be adapted for television or for smaller budget movies: how can we create interesting and important stories that aren’t plain old derivative?

That’s always been a challenge for the small press: how do you tell a zombie story without borrowing the tropes of The Walking Dead? Publishers like FutureQuake can probably teach us something here: they are the official derivative comic for 2000AD, so their stories use established settings and characters, and they work hard to combine fan familiarity with fresh perspectives every issue.

“If 2014 is the year where we cope with being mainstream, it may also be the Year of The Girl.”

I’ve been going to comic conventions for four years and selling my own comics (via Disconnected Press) for two. And in that time, it’s been clear that the number of female creators is growing, as is the number of female customers. I’d take an informal bet that the number of female creators at ThoughtBubble in 2014 could be well over 30%, if not pushing 50%.

And, given that this is a digital comics website, I guess I should say that 2014 will be the year of digital. Well, it’ll be the year of a few more baby steps towards digital by small press creators; I wrote about this in my last column. As I mentioned then, I think that small pressers will be exploring the digital opportunities around their comics as much as the opportunities for digital publication, but I expect to see more digital previews and one-shots, and perhaps more simultaneous publishing of digital and print copies too.

So: three predictions. A continuing existential dilemma about our obscure corner of creativity actually being front and centre of public attention. A lot more women creating and consuming comics. And slow progress – with a few pioneers making great leaps forward – in the small press / digital world.

Now you’re going to tell me that all of those predicitions were extrapolations of trends rather than anything really bold. So, here’s something a bit more adventurous: at least two of the five winners at this year’s British Comic Awards will be female.

Happy New Year to all!

Lizzie Boyle is an author, blogger, small press comics aficionado and founder of Disconnected Press. You can find more or writing or follow her on Twitter @lizzieboylesays