Rolling it Alone – The Challenges of Independent Comic Publishing

November 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog | 1 Comment »
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I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a fan of comics. I don’t have anything against them; I’ve just never felt drawn to them. That being said, as a student of publishing studies with an avid interest in all aspects of the industry, I happily went along to a discussion hosted by the Society of Young Publishers in Glasgow recently, where the question of ‘Do comics need publishers?’ was debated.

Although I found the debate itself to be very interesting and enlightening, what had the greatest impact on me that evening were the discussions I had with Gary Erskine, one of the panellists, and his wife Anna Malady. As well as taking part in the actual debate, they were also showcasing a sketchbook of sample artwork and character sketches to raise money for their forthcoming comic – Roller Grrrls. The characters come from all walks of life: a nurse; a teacher; a librarian; a scientist; even a pregnant young woman. Yet they are all united in their love of roller derby.

My publishing course places a great emphasis on thinking about the target audience for a publishing product. Well, comics are only for comic lovers, right? Not necessarily, according to Gary and Anna. Rather than aiming their product towards general comic enthusiasts who might frequent the Marvel and DC Comics dominated aisles of the high street shops, Roller Grrrls is primarily targeting fans of roller derby itself, and, by extension, a wider audience of sports enthusiasts.  Of course, if they are able to sell their comic to mainstream retailers, then that would be fantastic, but they were very clear that this is not their primary aim.

Of course, coming up with a great concept is only the first stage in producing a finished product, and there are often challenges to be overcome and lessons to be learned along the way. This has certainly been the case for Gary and Anna, who were more than happy to chat with me about their experiences so far.

A major problem has been the actual distribution of the sketchbook. As with any publishing product, once the fun part of actually designing and producing it is over, attention necessarily turns to more mundane concerns – like postage costs. The Roller Grrrls sketchbook has been printed on high quality – and therefore heavy – paper, and as a result the postage costs are very steep, especially for international locations such as Australia.  Customers might be willing to pay a higher price for the product itself; however, many will baulk at being asked to pay for postage that might exceed even that amount. In light of this Gary told me that, when the actual comic series is produced, it will be printed on significantly lighter paper in order to reduce postage costs.

Issues like this are the unfortunate reality for the smaller, independent publishers like Gary and Anna, whose only real desire is to produce a beautiful piece of artwork to be enjoyed by people with a passion for comics – and roller derby. I may not be a comics fan, but I did buy a copy of the sketchbook. So, I guess this proves Gary and Anna’s point – you don’t have to be a comic geek to pick one up every now and then.

Joanne Marjoribanks

Below are the links to the Roller Grrrls website and social media pages. I highly recommend that you check them out.





*Images used with permission. Credit: