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BLOG Spotlight On The UK Indies #2: Com.X

BLOGGERS’ WEEK In her second Spotlight on Indies, Stacey Whittle talks to the very lovely Eddie Deighton from Com.X , publisher of Razorjack by John Higgins and Cla$$war by Rob Williams amongst others

SW: Firstly can you tell us a little about Com.X in your own words?

ED: I will try and make this as succinct as possible! Okay – Com.X is a cool, innovative, UK-based, independent publisher producing unique, entertaining books for the comic community. We publish books that excite us and inspire us – and we hope our readership think so too.

SW: What are the high and low points of being an Independent comic publisher in the UK at the moment?

ED: The high points are: being able to have the flexibility to make instant decisions on project submissions and immediately add them into your publishing schedule (as we have done with Seeds by Ross Mackintosh, due this month); delay a project slightly for the sake of improving the quality and therefore being able to “get it right”; having the flexibility to experiment with the comic medium and innovate (eg, Forty-Five ); not be restricted by paper stock and formats for the sake of profit margins; review cool submissions and communicate with talented artists and writers; nurturing new talent; meeting people that are genuinely enthused and appreciative of what and why we publish.

The low points are: not having the buying/spending/development power and brand awareness of the bigger publishers; unpredictable sales (because each project is different from the last); reviewing bad submissions and having to justify your reasoning for not taking a project on; extra staff (or budget for additional staff) to assist in the daily operation of the business; juggling three companies because the comics side isn't quite allowing you to “give up the day job” (just yet).

SW: Com.X has had a great buzz going, especially since the launch of Forty Five ; it’s a great book and an interesting concept. How did it come about?

ED: I'm not sure if it's common knowledge, but Andi Ewington (the creator of Forty-Five ) is employed as my Creative Director at my design and advertising agency, An.x. When he started at the company, he knew that I had a comic publishing venture too and he stressed that he was keen to write something in the hope I would publish it. I don’t think he realised at the time how high I set the bar when it comes to submissions, but he soon found out!

As he hadn’t been an avid reader of monthlies or OGN for quite some time, I introduced him to some of my favourite, genre-defining books and stipulated that, whatever he created had to be both original and able to stand against the best of our (and the industry’s) titles. He certainly didn’t get an easy ride, just because he worked for me; in fact, I felt that he had to try harder so that we weren’t accused of nepotism within the company.

Andi’s wife was pregnant with their first child and he hit upon this idea of a journalist, James Stanley, who sets out to interview an array of superheroes, after he and his wife forego the "Hale-Criterion” test, which determine whether their child is carrying the “Super-S” gene or not. When he pitched it to me, I knew he was onto something special and when he told me how many interviews he was planning, I thought it would be great to commission a different artist for each interview/character. Everything just spiralled from there. The reaction has been amazing, especially for a first-time comics writer. And now, Andi has an entire world of characters to dip into, which is where BlueSpear comes in – he’s the first character we’ve expanded upon from the main story arc into his own one-shot story – and that will be followed by two other titles which will make up the first trilogy of books from the world of Forty-Five .

SW:You sell your books digitally as well as print, how important is the internet to you?

ED: Well firstly, I think the internet is essential for promoting and marketing your book nowadays anyway because, without it, we wouldn’t have a fraction of the exposure we’re getting for our titles. We’ve even cut down on our advertising spend and reallocated it to these specific areas, and it’s proving more effective because of the immediacy of awareness through the digital medium. So naturally, there is now a proportion of our readership that translate through to digital sales because they have embraced one, if not a number of, the digital platforms (iPhone, Android, iPad, PC, etc).

Whilst we’re confident as a publisher that the printed format still has a strong and healthy lifespan, the digital medium is important because it is making our books accessible to a wider audience that maybe wouldn’t embrace the traditional printed version (or feel they have “grown out of it”) but are happy to download their content to a variety of mobile platforms because, some may say, it's “fashionable” and current. Maybe digital integration is what our industry needs to promote itself back to the general population? Certainly, if other areas of the publishing industry are embracing it, we can't be seen to be neglecting or ignoring it or we will be perceived as a backward thinking proportion of the publishing world; especially us smaller companies who don’t necessarily have the staff or funding to assign specific teams to the task.

And it’s certainly a great way of being able to sell back-catalogue without the expense incurred on reprinting, which is of major benefit to us smaller publishers because sometimes, print costs and stock quantities can make or break your decision to see a book back on the shelves or not. So yes, it is important to me and it’s important that we involve ourselves in the digital environment, even though we wholeheartedly continue to support the traditional medium.

SW: What does the future hold for Com.X?

ED: Well, we’re just hitting our stride now in terms of our current publishing strategy. We have some awesome new titles coming out over the next year; including the spin-off books from the world of Forty-Five and an array of Original Graphics Novels that I’m hoping maintain our consistency for both quality and originality. Now that we have a strong management structure, it will allow us to build on the foundations and ethos we established just over a decade ago. In other words - we’re going to keep on publishing awesome comics, and more of them!