Interview – Chatting with Ken Eppstein
14 Nov, 2012
It is our honor to introduce a fascinating indie comic publisher. Ken Eppstein is force to be reckoned with. He not only published six full length comic books in a couple of years, a regular web comic, successfully completed five Kickstarter campaigns, employed 17 different artists, he also distributed books to over 20 Ohio book, comic and record shops. We got a chance to sit with him and learn more about his process and ambitious projects.
To start things off: Thank you so much for being our first interview!
My pleasure. I hope I can help launch a great tradition!
We hope the same! Well lets start off by learning a little bit about you Ken.
I’m a comic writer and publisher from Columbus, Ohio. I specialize in comics that are spawned as much from my love of records and music as my love of comics and pulp genre lit. I’m pretty new to it… making comics that is… I’ve been self publishing for about two years now. I began shortly after wrapping up a business selling used and collectible garage rock and punk records.
Glad you mentioned music, comics and Pulp Lit, in your Nix Comics Quarterly I can sense an EC comics and rock influence. What are your other influences or sources of inspiration?
Well, I hate to even limit the comic influences to just EC. Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror are certainly big influences on the quarterly, but so are Creepy, Eerie and the other Warren publishing titles. I used to swipe my older brothers copies of Heavy Metal and National Lampoon too. (And of course I cut my teeth on the stuff I picked up at the 7-11 as a kid… superhero stuff like the Byrne/Claremont X-Men and Len Wein stuff like Green Lantern and Swamp Thing.) That stuff all feeds into what I do in one way or another.
Where I think that my books differ is that I let things like pacing, tempo and plotting develop as if from a music perspective. The rapid pace story telling style of Nix Comics Quarterly is meant to be a reflection of a good punk rock record. Illustrated power pop.
And the Kids book is all about bubblegum pop sensibilities…. A lighter homage to heavier themed music.
I’m also a big fan of Star Trek (60s please) and B-Movies. Sometimes I feel like my goal should be to become the Roger Corman of Indie Comics. So far, only one person I know have has caught the Star Trek Easter egg in NCQ #3, BTW.
Give us a behind the scene glimpse into how your comics get from your brain to a published piece.
Oh Gosh…. The creative stuff… Its not an easy process to quantify. You know when Edith Bunker on All in the Family used to go on long tangential stories to connect two seemingly disparate ideas or concepts? That’s how it feels in my brain when it comes top stories… Free form ideas floating in and out, bumping up against each other until a story forms out of theme.
The ideas/stories that have gravity to me, meaning I come back to the idea more than once or twice, get committed to writing, usually on google docs. Some ideas are great, and others I keep to myself because they’re ridiculous.
The publishing part is actually the easy part for me. That’s just project management and/or business planning, which I’ve done for years now. Identify the goal and all of the milestones you need to hit to achieve that goal. Schedule. Delegate. Boom! I think experience working at non-profits and small start up businesses has given me a leg up.
Your comic’s art is phenomenal! You’ve chosen some amazing artists and print a great quality comic. How do you fund these project?
To date? I’ve funded Nix mostly by myself out of pocket. I’ve run a couple of small kickstarters, sold some ad space and of course sold some books to individuals and retailers… But about 75% of the money has come from my wallet. Its pretty much my big vice… Some guys have a midlife crisis and buy a car or boat they can’t afford…. I started making comics.
Thing is, my midlife crisis is really more of a renaissance for me. I feel like a lot of the potential I basically squandered in my younger days has come back to the fore with Nix Comics. Not only am I good at making comics, I have a lot to offer the comics creating community and the city of Columbus.
Thing is, there is only so much I can accomplish within my current ways and means. I need to add resources. This is my personal renaissance and even the greatest of the classic renaissance artists would never have gone anywhere without patrons like the Medicis.
Lucky for me, in this wonderful modern world we don’t have to sell ourselves to dukes and churches for patronage… We have Kickstarter. I’ve launched a super ambitious campaign ($25K) to try and release at least six titles in 2012.
Here’s to hoping I can dig up 300 or so patrons of the comic arts!
$25k is pretty ambitious, why such a huge amount?
Well, there are a lot of reasons…. Not the least of which is that it takes huge amounts of money to be a publisher, particularly the way I like to run things. It’s my top priority to pay my artists for their hard and use of their premium skills. I wish I could pay them more! It astounds me that I get gushing praise from them for delivering $300 for a 6 page story. Then tack on printing and shipping costs. Marketing in hopes that someone will actually see and want the completed books…. Start adding up the numbers. $25,000K for six books starts looking pretty conservative.
Best part is, if I achieve this goal, it frees me up to do more of the community stuff that I like. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure that local creators have venues to sell their goods…. From my small Annual Indie Comics fair at a bar called the Ace of Cups, to making sure that Comics Creators are spotlit at the Columbus Independents Day small business festival to the month long local comics pop up shop I will be running at the Ohio Art League gallery in February 2013. I could do SO MUCH MORE of this kind of thing if my publishing efforts were paid for already.
We take it you never considered getting picked up by a large publisher?
Like the big two? Naw. I don’t know what I would do if they asked me to write Ghostrider or whatever. (Besides maybe float Gary Friedrich $17K.) It’d put me in a real conundrum. I’d be willing to do stuff for companies with strong creator owned policies. So I guess I’d gig at Image if they wanted me.
I would like to write some Josie and the Pussycats stories. I’d do that in a heartbeat if it didn’t mean dropping Nix. You got any connex at Archie?
How do you find the time to manage a day job, a relationship and publishing a plethora of comics?
Well first off, my better half is super supportive. She isn’t a comix fan, but she’s the biggest and best Ken Eppstein fan. That makes everything easier. I couldn’t do half of what I do without my Kate.
As far as finding time, I don’t. I budget my time, sometimes making draconian cuts in spending. I don’t spend a lot of frivolous time… If I take the time to read a book, its because I think it will help me with writing or publication. I try not to waste too much time watching TV. A lot of our vacations are planned around comics business. In most cases I work until I feel too run down to do anything effectively.
And Finally, what piece of advice would you give to an aspiring comic creator?
Uh uh. Not gonna do it.
Every creator (aspiring or not) is different and deserves individual advice. Some need to take their work more seriously while others need to lighten the hell up. Some need to educate themselves a little about comics history and others need to let go of bad lessons they’ve inferred from their idols. Some need to be realistic about their ambitions while others need to set their sights higher.
There’s no magic bullet. No one single path to greatness. No great over arching truth that transcends platitude.
Unless there is… Um… In which case my advice is to share. because I’d like to know it.
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— Crisp Comics (@CrispComics) November 20, 2012