This week we’re hearing from the organiser of INDIE COMIC CON, Nathan Onias – and how he went about creating this new event in Melbourne.
Indie Comic Con was really born out of necessity.
As a Melbourne-based comic creator, there was nothing on the calendar in my city that I felt was the right event for launching my book, Commander Canine.
I had stumbled upon Homecooked Comic festival in 2016 and had an awesome experience seeing what people were producing. It was really my first introduction to independent comics in Australia and through that event I was able to meet local creators and talk about their work. I brought some pages with me so I was able to get some feedback on my own stuff. At that time, I was kind of doing it on my own, not knowing much about how to put together a comic and really not knowing how to connect it with an audience.
From there, I got involved with the Melbourne Comics Creators group, just a casual monthly meet-up, which was great for making connections and having others to bounce ideas off. So, following all this, my intention was to finish my book and launch it at Homecooked in 2017. Well, it so happened that Homecooked didn’t happen as they didn’t get the funding they needed. So then I set my eyes on Oz Comic Con. It wasn’t my first choice as I wanted to table at a smaller event first but I had been there before and seen the calibre of indie work so I thought I’d give it a try. I organised to share a table with another creator, Pierre Lloga, who was then just finishing up the first part of his graphic novel, Excitement City.
We put in a really strong application but weren’t offered any space in the end. That was a real bummer and I thought, ‘man, if we can’t get a table for our comics at a comic convention, where are we supposed to go?” So I was frustrated and angry for a few days and completely lost motivation for working on the book. I took some time to consider my options and thought, ‘right, the event I want doesn’t exist, so I’m going to create it.’ And that’s when Indie Comic Con was born. I went to my studio and created a little black & white ink illustration, a logotype and a Facebook page. It was a little nerve-wracking putting it out there in public because I was shouting out ‘hey everyone, this event is happening!’ and really I had no certainty that I’d be able to pull it off. Right away it started picking up likes and follows, the train was slowly starting to move.
From the start, I wanted Indie Comic Con to be purely about creator-owned comics and nothing else.
I envisioned an event like the very early comic conventions which were simply artists behind a table sharing their work with fans. It was clear to me that most of the big events that call themselves ‘comic-cons’ were really not about comics at all and instead served as pop culture focal points where fans were mostly preoccupied with cosplay, celebrity signatures and bobble heads. I think that’s a lot of fun and I do enjoy the bigger pop-culture events but I really wanted to put a spotlight on comics and, in particular, comics by independent creators.
Speaking with other creators, I heard of lot of feedback that tabling at the big cons was not a great experience because the audience wasn’t interested in taking a chance on an indie book. You know, it’s really difficult to compete for attention with your own IP in an artist alley filled with fan art and merch. People tend to go for things they’re familiar with, like Spider-man.
Really that’s not on, because people are making a profit off of someone else’s intellectual property. For ICC, it was important for the spirit of the event, that we had exhibitors exclusively offering their own IP. This made the playing field fair and attracted the right sort of audience. Those who were looking for something unique and appreciated the craft of comics. The comics scene in Australia is so diverse, I really wanted to show it off and throw a spotlight on it. Also I was determined to offer it as a free event so that it was as accessible as possible.
The Northcote Town Hall was a natural choice as it’s a great space, well located, and already known for a comics event. Reserving it was easy, coming up with the money to pay for it was the challenge. Being a new event with no following whatsoever, it was a big obstacle I had to overcome. Immediately, I reached out to potential sponsors, telling them about the concept and asking for their support. Comic Books On Demand jumped in really early and Doug Affleck, the owner, was very enthusiastic about the event. He saw the value to artists and fans in having a creator-focused comic festival. His support gave me the confidence to push forward. I used that money to promote the event on social media and began to build a wider base of followers with the intention of running a Kickstarter later. Other sponsors followed: Media Arts Lawyers, The Comic Place, & Workshop Melbourne.
Something else I had never done before! I researched successful Kickstarters that had a similar focus and started gathering people from my network to help contribute to its success. I can’t say enough good things about Vinnie Botton, who shot and put together our Kickstarter video- it really gave us a boost. I knew the strength of this event was the comics themselves so I began featuring artists on our social media channels. I invited creators to lend their skills and work. Pierre created an amazing poster that captured the essence of the indie scene. What a talent! Metcop Wonderland creators Katie Marx & Mel Rowsell offered their book, as did that Killeroo guy :). Angie Spice & Tom Tung also contributed their work as bonus rewards. Even then the Kickstarter was nerve-wracking and never seemed a sure thing. I was blasting it out every day for the whole month on socials. During a live-stream with Tom, we finally hit the mark! It was an amazing feeling!
The event creeped up quickly and with so many things to organise the time went in a flash. I have a chuckle thinking about it now because I was getting messages from so many people who thought ICC was this big organisation with a whole team behind it when in reality it was just me. The plan was always to keep it simple. No gimmicks, no distractions, just the creators with their comics. I was taking on feedback from creators who had tabled at other small events and trying to create a great experience for them as well as the punters. I think I did that.
The night before was a restless sleep. What if nobody came? The day went on smoothly and after a nervous, slow start it turned out to be a fantastic event. It was exactly as I had envisioned it. I was so thankful.
People in the comics community keep me asking me, ‘are you doing it again?’ I shrug my shoulders and grin. Right now I’m taking a well-earned break. It’s in the back of my mind…but yes, I want to. The ICC model is very much dependent on the creators themselves and the fans. So if they want it, and get behind to support it, we’ll go again. At the moment, I’m trying out Patreon (www.patreon.com/crispycola), colouring Commander Canine, and collaborating with another artist on a new comic project.
I’ve got some things in mind I’d like to do for the next ICC, but I like to play it close to the chest 😉
– Nathan Onias
People can find me on my website www.crispycola.com as well as FB & insta as Crispy Cola Studio.