I’ve been meaning to write this all up for a while. Our contribution to the world of children’s comics, www.moosekidcomics.com, launched on 20th June this year. A 36 page, full colour, all-ages comic, featuring original characters by nearly 40 artists, all online to read or download, and all free. It was a bit ambitious, but that was exactly the point.
We wanted to make a comic completely free of financial or business decisions. We didn’t want to target a demographic, or factor in distribution costs. We wanted to create this as an ideal, a statement of intent, a shot across the bow.
So, now the dust has settled a bit, I wanted to describe everything that went into it, and be completely honest about all that was involved.
Moose Kid Comics has taken about a year to build. And while that sounds like a lot for a single issue, we needed that whole year. Partly for the contributing artists to be able to fit it into their schedule, partly for myself and Moose Kid editorial consultants Chris and Andy to chip away at what exactly this thing would look like. I think we’ve ended up with a comic which has a really nice feel to it, an overarching style (despite the huge variety inside).
I had a lot of qualms about creating the main character myself, and about taking more pages than anyone else. I certainly didn’t want to overshadow any other artists, and sought a lot of advice on whether what I was doing was a good idea. The reason I did take the lead, however, was because I wanted us to create a comic where there was a character at the front, and bumbling away behind the scenes, and waving goodbye at the end, so the reader had a point of entry. Someone to identify and empathise with, so they could be carried along through the other strips. A memorable, very visual, anchor around which everything else can spin. And making Moose Kid a kid who loves comics, being transported into comics, and chased by grumpy authoritarian figures, seemed like the best way to hook a reader in.
Anyway, as I said, it took a year. Of that year, I’d say the time I’ve spent on it equates to about a month, full-time. That’s quite a chunk (I was surprised when I worked it out), especially for a freelance illustrator like myself. That’s a lot of emails, a lot of admin, and a lot of tweaking. I’ve edited anthologies before so I knew what would be involved, thankfully on Moose Kid the artists have been pretty stone-cold amazing and made the process a lot easier than it could have been.
Financially, I’d say it will have cost me about a grand. A lot of that is on getting printed copies of the comic, to send to artists and for contests (also a limited number available for sale, more on that later). I also got a ton of leaflets printed and sent to a number of comic shops and libraries around the UK. Then add the postage of a few hundred and yeah, that’s about everything.
Since this was a non-profit project, none of the artists involved got paid. Now, that’s always quite a hard sell, when you’re asking someone to contribute to your idea for free. However, I think the mere concept of trying to build a children’s comic was enough to win the first round of artists, and I could then use their names to bring in even more. When we initially asked artists to get in touch, we had nearly 400 responses. Even Sam, the amazing web-lord who built the site, refused payment. What this showed was the sheer goodwill, the clawing urge to bring children’s comics back to the fore, and if we could in any small way contribute towards that, then hey let’s just try it.
So how did it do? www.moosekidcomics.com scored about 15,000 hits in total on the launch day, mostly through word of mouth and social media. Since then we’ve had a small but steady build to about 25,000 total. We had a brilliant amount of coverage, here are just a few of the great reviews from Forbidden Planet, Women Write About Comics, and Broken Frontier, we even got a mention in The Guardian.
Publishers too, got in touch. That’s something obviously I can’t say too much about, but they’re good names, and I wonder where these discussions might lead. We’ve also arranged to do a special one-off Moose Kid event on September 20th at The Cartoon Museum in London, where artists will be running comic-making workshops. Do book your kids in, there are only a limited number of places! Also important to note is that there will be a limited edition printing of Moose Kid Comics available to buy on the day (and after, if there are any left). This is the only place you’ll be able to buy a copy, it’ll be reasonably priced, and all profits go to the Cartoon Museum.
From all of this, the most apparent message is that there is a very real need and desire to create more original content children’s comics, and get them in front of children. Adults, kids, comic artists, publishers, they’ve all been overwhelmingly supportive in helping Moose Kid find an audience, and asking what they can do. Some even offered money to help the cause. And while Kickstarters and the like are very appealing ideas (I’d love ideally for artists to get paid, of course!) I’m concerned I couldn’t handle the huge amount of work involved in running one, and it would make any future issues take even longer. Moose Kid, for my part, was intended to be a side-project, but towards launch it became all-encompassing which is a little tricky at times.
Could we have done better? Undoubtedly, you can always do better. I worried the issue was too long, I worried that it was too frantic perhaps. However I don’t think there’s a duff strip in there, so I’m chuffed with that, and I’m very glad that all the artists liked the comic too. That was a BIG relief.
As for the future, well let’s see. An issue 2 is definitely on the cards, although it may be some time. It would be nice to get new artists on board too, although space is obviously limited since we already have so many great talents already. I can’t tell you how many emails I write beginning with ‘sorry its taken me so long to reply’, since we still get an influx of (genuinely great) prospective artists wanting to join.
I owe a massive, MASSIVE, debt of gratitude to all the artists who gave up their time, all the editors and designers who helped and advised, and to all the readers and reviewers who spread the word. We have an industry here just waiting to explode, and an ever-growing audience just waiting to grab hold of it. Reaching them is the hardest part, so hopefully with our efforts, we might have influenced at least one person to make their own comic too.