Monday, March 28, 2016

University of Alabama students self-publish and sell comic books

(From left) Ethan Jackson and Kristofer Pearce, both students at University of Alabama, now sell their comics in six different stores across the United States.
Courtesy of Dream Ink Comics
(From left) Ethan Jackson and Kristofer Pearce, both students at University of Alabama, now sell their comics in six different stores across the United States.
While most students spent their Thanksgiving breaks with family, two seniors at the University of Alabama worked tirelessly at finishing a comic.
Kristofer Pearce and Ethan Jackson finished the comic, “Ghost Phase,” which was the first book for their new company, Dream Ink Comics, on Thanksgiving morning. Four months later, the book has taken off and is being sold in several stores across the United States.
Pearce, a new college production media major, and Jackson, an aerospace engineering major, met as freshmen and quickly realized they shared an interest in comics. Pearce’s primary interest was in the writing aspect and Jackson focused on the art.
“One day we just sat outside with a notepad throwing out ideas. It was a lot harder than we thought it would be. I sort of thought it would be like boom, bam, pow and done … comic,” Pearce said. “It was a continuous strand of why nots to get from one goal to another. We’d ask ourselves things like, ‘We created the character, why not keep going and make the story?’”
One challenge in creating the comic was financial limitations, Jackson said, as the pair only had the money to print books that were about eight to 10 pages.
“At first, I was like, ‘You want me to make a story that’s only eight pages?’ But then I brushed up on my history of comic books and reviewed some of the older comics, like the first appearance of Batman, which also used this format,” Jackson said. “I was ready for the challenge of squeezing all the elements of a good story into just eight pages.”
Pearce said that after finishing their first comic, they were left wondering what their next step would be.
“When we finally got done we were so proud of it. We wound up ordering like 80 printed books. Then we were left like, ‘Well, we each only need one copy, what do we do with the 78 other books?’” Pearce said.
Pearce had ties with an employee at Oxford Comics in Atlanta. He contacted the store, which became the first one to sell work from Dream Ink Comics. The book quickly sold out, and that’s when Pearce said they knew their business had potential to really succeed.
They now sell their comics in six different stores: Oxford Comics; Chicago Comics in Chicago; Kapow Comics in Sherwood, Arkansas; Forbidden Planet in New York City; The Comicshop in Vancouver; and The Comic Strip in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Liz Ray, the manager at The Comic Strip, said that although the store primarily sells vintage comics, it was excited at the opportunity to sell comics from local talent.
“Most people who come to the store have wanted to write, edit, draw or do something with comics before,” Ray said. “So, to see someone actually doing it is a huge thing. Especially someone from their hometown. That was the initial draw, but people read it and loved it.”
Ray said the store is currently sold out of all of Dream Ink Comics’ work except the second issue of “Ghost Phase.”
“I have people calling at least once a week asking if they’re in yet,” Ray said. “Someone has even put their comics on their pull list, which means they have a subscription.”
Ray added that she thought Pearce and Jackson’s work is one of a kind because of the passion they put into developing characters.
Jackson said that even if he and Pearce end up in different cities after they graduate, they will continue to collaborate on comics because they are best friends.
“I don’t see it as a hindrance to our daily lives,” Jackson said. “In fact, I think our day jobs will be 9-5 and then we will work on the comic books as a way to get away from the real world for a bit.”
In a previous version of this article, Ethan Jackson’s and Kristofer Pearce’s positions were misstated. Jackson is the writer and Pearce is the artist. The Daily Orange regrets this error.

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