Nicole Sixx: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your new Kickstarter, Ken.
Ken Eppstein: Sure! I began publishing Nix Comics in Columbus, Ohio, two years ago, shortly after shutting down a business selling used and collectible punk and garage rock records. Initially, the business (Evil Empire Records) had been a brick-and-mortar affair, but the overhead was too high and the foot traffic too low, so I had to switch to online sales and wholesaling to other local businesses. That was OK for a while . . . profitable even . . . but as I drifted farther and farther away from the retail experience, the less interesting it became to me. So, I sold off a bunch of merchandise at cost on ebay and pumped the money into making comics.
Turns out, I'm a lot better at making comics than I ever was at running a retail operation. A surprise to me, but all of my family and friends made "What took you so long?"-type comments.
The Kickstarter is an attempt to take the next step in my publishing operations. I know that Nix Comics provides unique products with a different style, pacing, and voice than anything else on the market. I'm successful here in Columbus, and it's time to start finding an audience across the country. (Not an unreasonable leap. Columbus is one of the big test markets in the US. Generally, if something does well here, it has a chance to do well everywhere else.)
So, what I'm hoping for out of this "Big Ask" $25K Kickstarter is to track down 300-400 of the folks to whom Nix's unique voice would speak. I figure it'll take 300-400 new subscribers and some advertisers. It's not going to be easy, but I'm hopeful!
NS: Why Kickstarter?
KE: Here's a funny story. I hadn't even heard of Kickstarter when I started Nix Comics two years ago. A friend of mine told me I should run one . . . So, I did. A little $500 dollar kickstarter. (I was sitting on all that record money, so I didn't need it, but it seemed like a good way to get some publicity/attention.) It was successful, and I was going to let that be that. When I was getting ready to release Nix Comics Quarterly #2, my friends and fans all asked for another Kickstarter. So, I ran one. Same with Issues #3 and #4 and the recent Western. The only comic in the Nix roster that didn't have a Kickstarter connected to it was Nix Comics for Kids #1.
The question I keep getting from my peers is why have I gone so big this time. The most I've gotten from Kickstarter in the past was the $1,500 from the Western. If you'll indulge me in a quick Ohio-related sports analogy, I've been grinding out Nix Comics in a conservative Three Yards and a Cloud Of Dust fashion. Making deliberate, safe, and slow gains. It’s the way to go about any business . . . but every once in a while, it pays to go long. Loosen up the defense by letting them know that you have ambition and ability.
It’s time to go long if for no other reason than to let everybody know I can and that they should watch out for it.
NS: What about Nix Comics is so important for you to make it happen?
SE: On a personal level? When I was a kid, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a comic book artist. By the time I got to college, sadly, I gave up on that dream. I just didn't feel like my artwork was good enough . . . or whatever. I was never going to be John Byrne or Neal Adams or any of the other superhero-type artists I worshipped from the books I picked off the rack at the 7-11.
Twenty years later, I see the fault in that thinking. I was looking at the wrong idols. At the same time I was despondent over my plateaued skills as an illustrator I was getting into punk rock . . . which is the ultimate "just figure it out" genre of music. You know why Joey Ramone was the singer of the Ramones? Because Dee Dee Ramone couldn't play and sing at the same time. You know why the Cramps featured two guitars, a drummer, and no base? Because no one knew how to play bass. The Replacements pulled a freakin' janitor into the band to be their lead singer. Luckily that janitor was Paul Westerberg. The common denominator is that they all just put it together and made it work.
So, here I am in my 40s, finally looking at what I can possibly do to achieve my dreams instead of worrying about who might be "better" than me.
NS: What do you think are the most enjoyable aspects of Nix Comics?
SE: Nix Comics Quarterly is an illustrated equivalent of a record by one of the great bands I mentioned above. Instead of being a monotonous, ongoing soap opera like most serials from the big two, each issue of the quarterly features 6 or more machine gun-paced fables. Twisted little cautionary tales. I'd like to think that these books borrow as much from Creem and Punk magazines as they do from Tales From The Crypt, Mad, and Creepy.
Nix's Western comics are my vision of what the genre should be: the thinking reader's political pulp. Better than any other genre, Westerns lend themselves to allegorical commentary on American society. Greed versus pioneering spirit. The fear of impending industrialization versus the potential of the rugged individual. The well-earned pride in our society versus the callous disregard for other cultures.
Nix Comics for Kids is above the modern generation gap. Hipster parents rearing the kids of today are rife with potential for humor and teachable moments. In some ways, kids are so much smarter and more capable than parents in today's 21st century digital world, so the question becomes who is teaching whom?
Now, don't get me wrong . . . these are the undercurrents of Nix Comics. A reflection of my personal point of view. A reader can enjoy the stories as simple yarns, but there's also more underneath for those who want to go digging.
(There's simply not enough of that anymore in the comics industry. Everything is based on spinning endless yard, but nobody ever knits anything out of it.)
NS: If you succeed at your goal, what happens next?
KE: Succeed or fail, I go right back to three yards and a cloud of dust. I go right into getting Nix Comics Quarterly released in January. (It’s important to me that people know that I'm not going to quit if the Kickstarter fails.)
The difference will be if I succeed, I'll immediately start doling out assignments for future issues to artists. No stopping for anything but the briefest celebration. Getting six issues completed, printed, and shipped to the Kickstarter supporters in the space of a year is a lot of work, and all that prep work will start immediately. (Luckily, I have a lot of experience getting that kind of thing done. By being a small business owner for many years, I have a lot of work at non-profits under my belt. I'm an expert at getting the most done in a limited amount of time within budget!)
Thanks for your time, Ken, and best of luck on your Kickstarter campaign!
See you guys next time with another awesome, indie, inspirational interview with my awesome friend, Michael Avon Oeming!
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