Blaming financial fallout from his former distributor's 2002 bankruptcy, Jeff Mason, owner of Alternative Comics, a Gainesville, Fla.—based literary comics publisher, has sent out a plea to the comics community for financial help, urging consumers to buy his titles at their local comic shops in the hope of stimulating reorders for the small company.
This kind of plea has become almost routine lately. The spring 2002 bankruptcy of distributor LPC, which specialized in small graphic novel publishers, resulted in a big financial hit to indie comics presses such as Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and Top Shelf. In 2003, all three issued requests to customers to buy their books direct from the publishers for a quick cash infusion.
Unfortunately for Mason, his call for help did not solve his immediate cash-flow problems. Many stores already had inventory and didn't need to reorder, and he estimated he received only a small boost in cash. Mason had hoped to weather the financial storm using credit and personal savings, while waiting for the "agreed-upon 42% of what LPC owed us." Those monies never arrived, and Mason found himself out of credit and savings.
Mason has now scaled back his list from nearly 30 titles to about 15 and delayed some releases. He has also canceled a handful of more expensive titles and recently lost his major 2005 release, Nick Bertozzi's graphic novel The Salon. Bertozzi has gone in search of a major book trade publisher. Mason will go ahead with a few new fall titles, including Waterwise by Joel Orff and Perverso by Rich Tommaso.
Mason, who is also a full-time criminal defense lawyer, founded Alternative Comics (www.indyworld.com) in 1996 with the goal of helping unheralded artists "get their work out there." He has published such comics artists as James Kochalka (Peanutbutter and Jeremy's Best Book Ever), Josh Neufeld (A Few Perfect Hours) and Allison Cole (Neverending Summer). He specializes in young, previously unpublished artists as well as more established authors, and publishes both trade paperbacks and periodical comic books. He also publishes Indymagazine, an online publication devoted to comics.
Nadel is a freelance writer who writes about comics, publishing and graphic design.