David F. Walker has been writing comics for over two decades, so it came as no surprise earlier this month when he decided to start his own publishing company, Solid Comix. What is unexpected however, is how he's going about doing it.
Not only is Walker the only writer on his roster, but he's also not taking a salary and mostly relies on crowdfunding to publish Solid Comix's work. This method is not unusual in the indie comics space, especially for creators who hold down day jobs and are trying to get their work out there, but that scenario doesn't apply to Walker, who has been writing comics almost non-stop since his Power Man and Iron Fist run with Sanford Greene. His most recent work, Bitter Root (Image), Lazarus Risen (Image), and Naomi (DC), written with longtime friend Brian Michael Bendis, are all on the shelves right now.
So SYFY WIRE sat down with Walker and asked him about Solid Comix and why this ambitious passion project is so important to him.
You've been in the comic book game for a long time, with both Marvel and DC as well as on the indie side. What made you decide that now is the time to start your own company?
I started out in self-publishing over 20 years ago, so this is really me returning to my roots. This wasn't a decision I made lightly, but ultimately there were several projects I wanted to do that either didn't fit within the current mainstream comic publishing landscape, or the offers being made by publishers wasn't advantageous. I didn't want to take these projects to publishers that were offering little or no money and wanted to have a piece of the intellectual property rights.
At the same time, I also didn't want to have to worry about meeting the minimum orders that dictate success or failure in mainstream comics. There's a limited amount of space on the shelves at comic book shops, and that dictates what publisher put out and what retailers carry.
Why did you decide to partially crowdfund the company rather than seeking out individual investors?
Investors want to own a piece of your property, and you have to answer to them. With crowdfunding, you still have responsibility to your backers, but they aren't your business partners. You owe you backers the final product, but you don't own them a percentage of your earnings, provided there are earnings.
And the fact of the matter is that I do have investors — each of my creative partners are my investors. None of us are getting paid to do these different projects. We're doing them because we believe in the project, and we're hoping people will connect with the stories we're telling. To a certain extent, the backers are investors as well.
Will you crowdfund every volume?
That's the plan for now.
One Fall is a five-issue series. The Hated is an original graphic novel. Thanks to developments in publish-on-demand technology and crowdfunding it is now possible to do smaller print runs based on the immediate demand for whatever you want to publish. The self-publishing landscape has changed drastically since I started back in 1996, and I wanted to give it a shot.
Your first offering, One Fall, is described as a supernatural wrestling drama. Can you expand on that for us?
One Fall is set in a world of professional wrestling, but it is also a world populated by werewolves and necromancers and people who can come back from the dead. This story revolves around Jimmy King, a third-generation wrestler who can't be killed. Every time he is killed, he comes back to life — until the one day he won't come back, and then the curse will be passed on to one of his kids. But for now, Jimmy is forced to fight in something called the Intercontinental Gauntlet, with the lives of his family at stake.
Your artist on the new project is Brett Weldele. How did you two end up collaborating?
I've known Brett for a very long time. We met years ago when he did the art for Gary Phillips's Shot Callerz for Oni Press. Brett and I bonded over our love of grind house movies, and we've talked about collaborating on something for more than a decade. He came to me and asked if I'd like to develop a project with him, and I asked him what he would most like to do. He said "professional wrestling." Then he said he'd like to do something [that] not only drew on our interest in wrestling, but in everything from Shaw Brother kung-fu movies, horror, and Italian exploitation cinema.
You are Kickstarting One Fall now, but you have announced that it's dropping in the spring. So, does that mean it's complete and you're just raising money for distribution?
The first issue of One Fall is completely drawn. Brett is coloring right now, and it will be done within the next week or so, maybe even less. We have the remaining issues mapped out, but we wanted to make sure there was interest before we jumped head-first into the remaining issues. The first issue of One Fall sets up the characters and the world, but I crafted the first issue in a way that serves as an introduction to what is about to come.
At this point, the response to One Fall has been very positive, and we've exceeded our crowdfunding goals, so I can say without any doubt that we'll be doing all five issues. In fact, once Brett is done coloring, we'll be moving full steam ahead on the second issue, which will be ready to go in a few months. We may attempt to do the second and third issue back-to-back. But because we're doing this ourselves, and we don't have to answer to a publisher, we can set our own pace. That's not to say we'll be slacking — we just won't be killing ourselves with brutal schedules.
How big is the Solid Comix team?
Solid Comix is me and whatever artists I'm working with on each project.
I have a small crew helping me with some basic operations like sending out press releases, but for the most part, it is me turning to my friends for help as the need arises. My friend Sean runs a company called Strange Solutions, and he's been helping me with the marketing and publicity side of things. When it comes time to ship the books, I'll be throwing a party at my place, and me and my friends will be stuffing envelopes.
What is your ultimate goal for the company?
Honestly, I'm just looking to produce quality comics with artists that I like, and get people reading these things. This is a passion project for me. If I can release two to four projects a year, I'd be happy.
Everything I'm doing at Solid Comix are projects that hold a special place in my heart. I'd like to do small events at comic retailers, where I do signings as well as host writing workshops. But more than anything, I just want to make fun projects with cool artists.