About four years back, I wrote an
article entitled Is Print Dead, or does it Just Smell Funny?
article ran in Chicago based Alarm
magazine and I subsequently posted
it in this blog. It focused on the comics industry and it's prospects
as a print medium in the face of the rising wave of electronic media.
I interviewed several comics people for the piece, including Dylan
Williams, cartoonist and publisher of Sparkplug
comics, who passed away two months back.
Dylan was passionate on the subject,
and had this to say: “I don't believe print is dead. I've actually
had a lot of time spent thinking about what I'm trying to do with my
life and the whole idea of punk rock is something I keep on coming
back to. I've been a punk since I was a kid and those values are
really my core values. If you feel bad about stuff the only thing we
can do is fight it. I love print, love drawing, and love art comics.
I hate what comics became in the 90s, things like web comics, ‘the
new independents’ and all the money-speak that took over comics
bugs me. I'm an underground kid and that is my idea. I think, all we
can do is light our little fires and stoke them. I don't ever feel
like giving up.”
Looking back, I'm impressed by Dylan's
accomplishment in building avenues for distribution in comics outside
the Diamond Comics Distribution paradigm. He distributed directly to
a growing network of stores supporting grass roots art comics, and
worked with other grass roots distributors who were springing up.
I've been publishing comics since 1981,
and have had some modest success with selling books through
mainstream distributors like Diamond. It takes a maverick visionary
like Dylan to show me that in the long run, art comics (or
underground, punk, or which ever label you prefer for auteur comics)
need their own grass roots distribution network.
I moved to Oaxaca, Mexico in 2007 and
was wondering how I would continue to publish and distribute my work.
Dylan stepped forward and offered a hand, arranging for my 2008
graphic novel Tranny
to be distributed by Diamond.
When I finished my next book, El Vocho
Dylan declined to offer the book through Diamond. His considerable
energies had shifted to where the best results could be produced,
with the nascent distribution network he was building on behalf of
his publishing company, Sparkplug Comic Books. He did pick up several
copies of El Vocho for distribution, great guy that he was.
Dylan's were painstakingly grass roots
from what I can see. He cultivated relationships with fans,
retailers, publishers and distributors to get the best play for the
artists he published, whose work he was devoted to. He faithfully hit
the indy shows and put his best foot forward in pursuit of his
This is the legacy of Dylan Williams in
my life. He showed me what I should have known all along, that
selling auteur comics is really a brick-by-brick business. You can't
depend on a large corporate entity for anything, you have to follow
Reporter Little Black Book by Dylan Williams
Many of Dylan's close friends and associates had wonderful and insightful things to say about him at the time of his passing. I've now had time to assess what Dylan meant in my life, thus this post. I was friendly with Dylan, without being an actual close friend. He was warm and true, self effacing to a fault, and unerring in his vision and taste. He had an understated but wicked sense of humor. In short, a fine human being.
Labels: diamond comic, Dylan Williams, sparkplug comic book, Steve Lafler