Comic News

Silver Sprocket opens e-comic PDF emporium

The first Friday in 2023 saw Silver Sprocket add a digital wing to their print shop. In an unprecedented period of micro-press comics being able to print with intentional paper weights and color combinations, spot gloss finish on covers and French flaps, many small and independent publishers are also embracing the global, intersectional audience access digital distribution provides.

Some publishers like ShortBox (whose print subscription service ended as they began the annual ShortBox Digital Comics Fair) and Youth in Decline are totally embracing digital comics. On the other hand, the Peow Studio digital shop is closing at the end of January 2023, following their print shop closing at the end of 2022. The availability of the art we love being strategically removed is something we’re all familiar with these days (though not normally in this context). So it’s nice to report that the good baddies of comix are expanding their reach.

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The mainstream print-and-digital comics pairing has been on a long journey that Silver Sprocket and co. conform to in some ways and eschew in others. The general consumer feeling is if there are no printing (true) or distribution (false) costs, they want to pay less. Comixology provided not only this but an emergent deep discount culture buying large blocks of comics only when they are massively marked down. But only buying comics from the dollar bin at a loss to the shop got the message across. What was once centralized digital comics has split into a bevvy of streaming services where you get access to a copy of everything– per publisher, as each publisher has their own separate platform up for subscription.

In the e-zine scene, you get it when you buy it. The only person who can delete your PDF is you. There are reduced prices for digital books. But not as much as the corporate deep discounts. Because the money is going to a person, a creator (or creative team)? Maybe so. It is valued at a higher rate than those other comics because we value the people who make them and walk the walk. Also, in the case of most Peow books, extended and deluxe editions are available, bundled with new stories or old work, at a price closer to the print edition.

I’d like to think that digital access is also about access, not just cost. Just going to the comic shop is still not an option for a disproportionately pigeonholed but nonetheless real and significant part of the globe’s population. Beyond the core of safety and accommodation being the right thing to do, there are overall cultural benefits to expanding digital access to comics. TCAF has gone digital (just sales not content), giving folks like me who can’t scoot to Canada to buy comics the ability to read an international smorgasbord of self-published art. Silver Sprocket has done an excellent job of infiltrating the direct market (to its detriment, don’t disregard the power of the arts) and making itself available for shops to order, but do they? Depends on where each shop’s priorities are at.

But now it’s in our hands. Where do you want to start? Silver Sprocket publishes graphic novel and single issue length works. Serious, silly, sexy, sacrilegious, and all points between, you can browse their catalog and find great short descriptions and bizarre pull quotes for every title. Here are a few stand out books just from last year:

becca t

Rock Collector by Becca Tobin is a short about some aliens who get into a misunderstanding on our planet. Did you know that everyone on this planet is a living bag of bones? There are elements to the story that are pulpy science fiction or even horror genre conventions, and they don’t lose any edge, but the storytelling is pure Lynda Barry friends casually hanging out, sweet and goofy. A short and satisfying read indicative of how thoughtful and mischievous Silver Sprocket can be.

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Al Dente by Grayson Bear. This one taps the same Tuca and Bertie vein as Rock Collector, but Al Dente lives on Earth and thus is way more emotionally unhinged than an alien. A black comedy about kind of a jerk with an utter inability to cope you can’t help feel sorry for as well as laugh at. I wrote a full review of it immediately after reading so go read that if you’d like. Another short.

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The Paradox of Getting Better by Raven Lyn Clemens. This was a book I put on our Best Writers of 2022 list over on DoomRocket, I also covered it there when it came out. There are a lot of Silver Sprocket books that use fiction as a facade to confront deeper personal issues in a way that a straight biopic would isolate the author from their wider audience. This book hews as close to the bone as possible, the metaphors unpeeling themselves over the course of the read.

iggy craig

Sad Girl Space Lizard by Iggy Craig. This book was so good. Another entry in my top ten comics of 2022 NQA no notes. Lizard mecha pilots, repressed and expressed desires, actually about dealing with artistic burnout? This one is half book, half supplemental materials dipping behind the scenes or taking the story and expanding the universe it occupies.

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Hell Phone by Benji Nate. Nate is a staple of the Silver Sprocket roster and an ambassador of its aesthetic. And the first collection of her Hell Phone series is fun- I reviewed it when it came out. Friends find a haunted cellphone, maybe a ghost who wants revenge, but who and against whom? The atmosphere is more lovable loser Altmanesque than Lynchian, but the super supernatural tied to murder in the community thing is kind of Twin Peaks.

You can and should go further back and deeper in than a single year when it comes to Silver Sprocket. A roster of distinct voices well worth exploring. Ben Passmore, Michael Sweater, Alec Robbins, Jenn Woodall, Elisabeth Pich… And as always, the best thing in there is the random book you’ll find browsing, outside the notoriety and hype, something that speaks to you directly in a way I can’t describe because it hasn’t happened yet. So go find it already.

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