Comic Fodder

The Search for a New (Comic Book) Idol

The three judges don't consist of a former dancer/singer with slurred speech, a music producing "dawg" who thinks he's still hip and a sarcastic, critical English ponce.

Instead, the three judges consist of an artist/animator, a publisher, and last but not least, some dude (sorry Keith, but you'll always be "some dude" in my book). What are they judging? If the title of this article and the teaser weren't enough of an explanation, then I suppose I'll have to spell it out.


This is possibly the most interesting comic book contest in recent years. An independent publishing company called Dimestore Productions is hosting a no-holds barred comic book talent match. The prize? A 4 book publishing deal through Dimestore for the winner.

The contest is open only to those who don't make a living creating comic books in the industry. But just because one doesn't work as an industry professional doesn't mean the talent well has run dry. Not by a long shot.

Over 100 competitors have entered since the contest opened nearly two months ago, more than twice the number of entries posted last year. Word of mouth is spreading and the contest is gaining quickly in popularity. So, what makes this contest special? What sets it apart from other contests? Why are the contestants so stone-cold serious about winning? I think it lies in its structure.

It's set up like this. Round 1 was a weed out session. All contestants were required to submit rough pencils of cover art as well as a story synopsis. The judges then decided yes or no based on these submissions as to whether or not to pass the project onto the next round. This is similar to SImon, Paula and Randy's gigs on American Idol. This round quickly established the experience of the art team. More experienced creators knew to leave space at the top of the page for titling and logos. Less experienced creators sometimes obscured the title completely with their own artwork. This is an amateur contest, however, so some missteps were to be expected. Out of the initial 100+ entries, only 69 passed into Round 2 with at least 2 yes votes from the judges.

But what was invaluable, here, was the incredible amount of constructive criticism shared between the judges, the contestants and their peers. Even for those who didn't pass into Round 2, the criticism received should prove invaluable to the creators as a lesson for continuing forward in their careers.

Round 2 upped the ante. A lot. Out of the 63 projects, only 30 would pass onto Round 3. This time, however, the vote was turned out to the public. Yes. I said "turned out". Like a whore.

The creators were all required to submit up to 5 pieces of finished character artwork, along with some sort of bio for each character and the "finished" titling for the book. This time, the judges would make some critical comments, then pass the project out into open public voting. Votes would take place on the forum, with each "YES" vote counting as one point. The top 30 projects would then pass on to Round 3, a guarantee of publishing at least in the Dimestore anthology book "Mysterious Visions". With 69 projects in the mix, it quickly became evident that the majority of projects would fall below the cut-line. Several projects resigned (with one scoring a paying publishing gig elsewhere!), but the remainder are fighting tooth and nail to publicize their projects and bring in voters. Creators have created fliers, posted on forums, e-mailed friends and family and begged co-workers for help.

Seems kind of "commercial", huh?

Well, like it or not, comic books are an industry. Industries need marketing. Companies can't publish books if the books don't make money. So consider Round 2 as a test of how well a creator can engender fans who will buy the book and make it successful. It's been difficult, with many projects falling below the line simply because not enough people knew about them. As such, some gloves have come off as contestants scramble to break the top 30.

But guess what? ROUND 2 IS STILL IN PROGRESS. Saturday, May 12, 2007 is the final day of voting so by this post, you'll still have a day and a half to make a difference in the contest. Show the publishers what kind of books you want to read and go here to vote: SMALL PRESS IDOL ROUND 2.

Round 3, as stated before, is a guaranteed publication round, requiring all creators to sign a contract stating that they will each complete a 12 page story to go into the Mysterious Visions anthology. In addition, for Round 3, they will turn in 3 pages of sequential art at the finished inks stage. Votes will be public with final say/veto power from the judges. Only 5 projects out of the 30 will advance, so it promises to be tooth and nail mud ditch fighting.

Round 4 will be the money round. Out of the 5 projects, one will succeed in pulling in the 4 book publishing deal. This gets unique. All 5 projects will be required to finish out their 12 page story. The Dimestore will package everything from the contest including the finished cover, the initial character artwork and bios, the cover sketch and the new pages and SELL them on their site. Votes in this round are cast by how many people BUY THE BOOK.

Interesting, no? Sure, some might say Dimestore is being opportunistic, with each book costing $3.00. But 90% of the profits will be turned over to the creator. I count this as a win-win investment, and I sincerely hope the general public will take that to heart and buy a book to support the creators. The good news is, since I've been following the contest, nearly 3,000 new people have signed onto the forum site to vote on the current entries.

So I think we might just have a quorum.

At any rate, if you're a fan at any level, go check out the contest. Vote. Yeah, it's not one of the big companies, but every industry can use a little bit of competition, don't you think? It makes everyone have to work that much harder to put out a product that YOU want to see. And independents can do some things you won't ever see the big guys do because independents can take more risks. They've got nothing at all to lose, after all.


Did I mention I'm a contestant? More info as the contest progresses!

Here are a few links:
Contest Guidelines
Round 2 Voting

Daniel Fu is the Comic Fodder Webcomic Reviewer
He lives in Austin, TX and is the creator of The Retriever webcomic.

Congrats on making it to round 2. I can't get your links to work though. It's either the host site or your links are bad.

-- Posted by: Lisa at May 11, 2007 5:18 PM

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for the interest. Yeah, the host site was down for an hour or two last night. It should be working, now!

-- Posted by: Daniel at May 12, 2007 12:27 PM