Trend to encourage: indie comics apparel!

As previously discussed, lots of webcartoonists sell t-shirts — it would be hard to find a successful comic that doesn’t. It’s pretty endemic to the whole notion of webcomics. Yet for some reason, it’s considerably less common among artists whose primary work is in print form.

(maybe webcartoonists have more committed fans in general? the regularity of updates means that fans get a little daily dose of the artist on a regular basis — even, with RSS, delivered straight to them. Not to mention the community fostered via message boards & comment threads. That makes it much easier to gauge the demand for any particular merch item — John Allison can talk to every single one of his fans at once by simply adding a sentence to that day’s update, whereas a great number of Adrian Tomine’s fans are people who just bought his book somewhere, making it very difficult for Tomine or his publisher to keep track of them.)



Ad for John Allison’s Scary-Go-Round merch

(Of course, it makes sense that people like John Romita aren’t whipping up T-shirts to sell — their reputation and fanbase is based on drawing characters they don’t own, and I’m sure Marvel and DC have labyrinthine corporate arrangements regulating the production of merchandise. But the contracts of “indie” publishers are rooted in creator ownership, so the process is much simpler. And self-publishers can of course do whatever they want!)


The available “clothing” items in stock at the Drawn + Quarterly webstore.

Not to pick on D+Q — it’s not like Random House has John Grisham shirts available on its web site. Fantagraphics seems to have exactly one (XL and XXL still in stock!). Top Shelf at least has our Owly shirts, which are pretty rad. The most T-shirty of indie publishers, Oni Press, clock in with two. Overall, it seems like a lot of missed opportunity.

But this is a post about Trend to encourage, not Absence that I wish would become a trend! There is, to quote Ryan North, a lot of sexy exciting merchandise for you! It’s largely cartoonists operating independently of their publishers. A lot of the reasons why there haven’t been more indie comics shirts — namely the time, labor, cost, and expertise required to produce and sell decent shirts — are being mitigated with the arrival of sites like Threadless, Design By Humans, and Shirt.Woot, which accept design submissions from artists, and handle all the production & sales for designs that do well enough in user rankings. I hear that even good old CafePress doesn’t suck anymore.

I wear my Paul Hornschemeier “OH WELL” shirt proudly on a regular basis.

I would already have thrown down cash for Corey Lewis’s Mecha Naga Buddha shirt if not for the unfortunate fact that redheads can almost never pull off wearing red.

Also throwing some designs at Design by Humans: the totally rad Chris “Elio” Eliopoulos (also known as “Not That Chris Eliopoulos!”), whom you’ll be hearing quite a lot about, very soon…

Then there’s Paul Pope for DKNY and James Jean for Prada, which is just another matter entirely.

1 Response to “Trend to encourage: indie comics apparel!”


  1. 1 lwayswright April 4, 2008 at 8:59 am

    I think I am going to launch a t-shirt/merchandise line for my amazingly incredible, unforgetable web blog. I really think there will be a high demand for it…people are craving an unknown author to where proudly on their chests! When other’s ask them “who is that a picture of on your chest?” they can simply answer “it is the incredible web blog lady from word press that no one has ever heard of before. She’s amazing, you should buy one of her shirts too!” LOL. Keep that dollar circulating through the economy, that’s what I’m talkin about!


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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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