Long ago, making it in the comic book industry used to be a relatively straightforward proposition: You work for Marvel, you work for DC, or you don’t work at all. But the rise of the indie comics movement has given more opportunities to comic book creators. Now, digital-comics platform comiXology is announcing a new portal called comiXology Submit, which aims to indie artists’ stories available on a wide variety of devices: iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire, and Windows 8 apps. Submit, which was announced at SXSW, allows anyone to submit their work for approval at the comiXology website. (Creators split the profits equally with comiXology and retain full ownership of their work.)
For the launch, comiXology got 34 indie comic creators to contribute material. Entertainment Weekly spoke to one of the artists, Becky Cloonan, an Eisner Award nominee who last year became the first female artist to illustrate the main Batman title. (You can also scroll down for a first look at Cloonan’s contribution to comiXology Submit, Demeter.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved with comiXology?
BECKY CLOONAN: We’ve been talking for about a year about getting my stuff on the site. I’m really new to digital comics. I still work on paper. But they told me, “All you have to do is go online and upload a PDF. “I’m like, “Oh, I have a PDF. I can do this.” It’s cool to be involved in a launch, to be part of something new.
With all the new digital opportunities, this feels like it’s a time of major change for the industry.
The landscape of comics has changed drastically. When I started really getting into comics, book publishers had just gotten involved. It was a huge thing to break into Barnes & Noble, or break into Borders when it was still around. Since then, it’s been a constant change. For the better, for the most part. You’ve seen more women get involved with comics, reading and creating. Stuff like Kickstarter has leveled the playing field for people who don’t want to work for the Big Two, or who never got a chance to. People are finding it easier to make a living in comics than I think ever before.
There’s always lots of talk about female creators in the industry. Do you think, as a whole, comic books are getting more gender-diverse?
It’s been an exponential growth. I think a lot of that is due to Manga. I used to teach a cartooning class at the School of Visual Arts, and my classes were half girls at least. In five years, when these ladies start making comics professionally, you’re gonna see a huge rise in female creators. It’s already happening. Hope Larson, Raina Telgemeier, Emily Carroll, are just doing some fantastic comics. And there are books more geared towards girls, which is more helpful in getting women involved. It’s being inclusive. That’s not to say there’s no place for superhero comics. There is. I mean, I’ve loved Marvel comics since I was a teenager.
Who was your favorite character back then, or a character you felt like you definitely wanted to put your stamp on?
Probably Gambit. I actually got to do a little Gambit story a few years ago for Nation X. Jim Lee’s X-Men was my all-time No. 1. You either love him or you hate him. He makes an awful main character, that must be said. He’s a better supporting character.
Can you talk a bit about your story Demeter?
It’s a short story, about 27 pages. I can’t say too much about it without giving away the huge spoiler at the end. It has a little bit to do with the Greek myth of Demeter, the god of the harvest. It follows a fisherman’s wife as she kind of waits for her husband to return from sea. She tends to the crops and the animals. While she’s doing this, things start to bubble to the surface.
Can you say anything else about it without spoiling it? Any influences?
I’ve been drawing trees in the past few mini-comics. This one has a lot of water and boats. So that’s cool. [Laughs]