Quince, a comic book series about a Latina teen who discovers her superpowers on her 15th birthday, broke out last month at the Long Beach Comic Expo, when it was named a finalist for the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics. The buzz around the series is a testament to its publisher, Fanbase Press, and its focus on building a pop culture business steeped in the fan community.
For the past eight years, the Los Angeles–based publisher has divided its editorial resources between two interconnected projects: to publish comic books and graphic novels and to create editorial content on the publisher’s website that will nurture the fan community. “We celebrate fandoms and create new ones,” said cofounder and editor-in-chief Barbra Dillon, “because everyone is a fan of something.”
Besides links to the company’s comic book and graphic novel projects, readers can find free pop culture content on the site that includes interviews with comics creators, “Geeky Parent Guides,” and features about crowdfunding efforts. “We started building our community by writing reviews of other people’s material and doing interviews with other creators,” Dillon said. “It’s a rising tide, and we’re all in this together.”
Quince creator Sebastian Kadlecik met the Fanbase team at a comic book shop four years ago. Dillon wrote an article for the Fanbase website about Penguins vs. Possums, Kadlecik’s comic book chronicling a clandestine war being fought between two seemingly harmless animals. Soon after the interview, Fanbase offered to publish the final four issues of his series, and they joined forces for the rest of the run.
“When Quince started to come together, they were the first people I went to when looking for a publisher,” Kadlecik said. “A small publisher should be taking risks and looking for perspectives and stories that aren’t always told.” Quince is written by Kit Steinkellner, with art by Emma Steinkellner.
Dillon and her husband, comic book writer Bryant Dillon, cofounded the press in 2010 under the name Fanboy Press. Both had busy day jobs in the entertainment industry but sought an independent creative outlet. “We really wanted to provide our very talented friends and colleagues with a platform to share their talents,” she said. They built the press with a core group of five contributors who all volunteered their time.
Fanbase receives between 30 and 40 submissions a year, but the list has stayed small—around one project per year. It publishes comics digitally, as well as a 1,000-copy print run of each comic or graphic novel. The publisher accepts ideas at any stage of development, from a raw idea to a fully realized comic book. “As the publisher, we take on the cost of the print run,” Dillon said. “Once that cost is recouped, we will split the profits with the creators.”
In 2016, the publisher rebranded with a more inclusive name: Fanbase Press. It now counts eight core comic book projects published in digital and print formats. Most recently, the publisher announced The Margins, a young adult graphic novel written by David Accampo and Paul Montgomery and set for July.
The publisher has never been confined by genre or medium. Fanbase released Fearworms (2014), Robert Payne Cabeen’s Bram Stoker Award–nominated book of poetry, and audio has become a key platform as well. In 2011, the core Fanbase team worked together to produce an unlicensed fan adaptation of the Hunger Games series in audio, The Katniss Chronicles. “We just loved the book so much,” Dillon said, noting that the project was not released under the Fanbase banner. “We didn’t make any money from it; it was just a fan project.”
The audio offerings have expanded into a scrappy podcast network that now includes The Fanbase Weekly (in which fans discuss pop culture, currently in its third season), Quality Time with “Family Ties” (fans rewatch and review episodes of the ’80s sitcom), and The Arkham Sessions (fans rewatch Batman: The Animated Series through the lens of clinical psychology), and Tread Perilously (fans rewatch the worst episodes of TV shows). In addition, the publisher is currently scripting a 12-episode audio adaptation of Robert J. Peterson’s 2015 novel, The Odds, described by the publisher (Rare Bird Books) as “a postapocalyptic action comedy.”
The website now counts 30 volunteer contributors, and some of them end up publishing books with the press. After four years of writing articles and working on The Fanbase Weekly podcast, contributor Clarissa Thorne is now working on her own newly announced craft book with 25 original cross-stitch patterns: A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space.
“What I do with Fanbase Press is really more about family and being able to exercise the creative side of what I am,” said Thorne, a compliance analyst who appreciates the community she found through the publisher. “About 80% of it, for me, is getting to sit and meet and enjoy creative things other people are doing.”