Time feels like it’s moving at different paces, depending on where you are; we’ve been under something close to 9 weeks of various levels of COVID-19-associated quarantine in the United States, and the days of April seem to all blend together. Still, governments across the world are pushing to reopen shuttered economies, and America is being extremely aggressive in its attempt to return to normalcy. The long term effect of this move to reopen is predictable and puts people at risk for increased transmission. We hope that you are safe and well.
Late last month, cartoonist and illustrator Lucy J. Haslam made initial accusations about publisher Nobrow/Flying Eye’s business practices, with specific complaints that artists were not paid for their work on Nobrow anthologies, after going through some more general complaints about ELCAF, a UK-based comics arts festival that is heavily tied to Nobrow. This thread led to a general airing of grievances and the leak of an internal email from Nobrow co-founder Alexander Latsis (aka Alex Spiro), the son of a billionaire shipping magnate.
Nobrow issued a counter-statement that generally refuted the statements made by artists on social media.
As the publisher of SOLRAD, and the previous publisher of Sequential State, I have had a cordial relationship with Nobrow and its representatives, including Tucker Stone and Geoff Lapid who have both held the position of US Sales & Marketing Director for Nobrow/Flying Eye. This relationship generally encompasses the normal working relationship between independent presses and critics; I have received press releases, catalogs, and review materials from Nobrow at their expense, as have other writers for SOLRAD. I say this as a form of disclosure so that readers can be well informed as they read future coverage of this issue from SOLRAD.
We have approached independent comics journalists for coverage of this ongoing situation and continue to evaluate new information as it becomes available.
SOLRAD is an online literary magazine for comics art, and its publication is based on foundational realizations about the small press comics market and the criticism of comics art. We recognize that accusations of poor pay and inequitable business practices are of deep concern for our readers and the working artists in small press comics. We recognize that accusations and “open secrets” about inequitable business practices are fragmented by whisper networks and other word-of-mouth practices that require artists to be “in-the-know.” They are also not isolated to one publishing house or group.
As we continue to do our due diligence on this important issue, we ask for your cooperation; if you have information about inequitable business practices in small press comics, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also encourage cartoonists to contribute all of their experiences, positive and negative, to litebox.info. This is a website for cartoonists and illustrators to create transparency about what they’re being paid, by whom, and under what conditions. While the site is mostly dedicated to illustration and bigger publishers at the moment, there are some smaller publishers as well. Getting information for smaller comics publishers will only benefit every cartoonist who’s just starting out. It will also benefit publishers whose current practices are ethical.
Fieldmouse Press, the publisher of SOLRAD, recognizes that more transparency is needed from comics organizations and, at the request of the leadership of the organization and with the blessing of the Fieldmouse board of directors, has made both a fuller accounting of its 2019 finances and the SOLRAD Presents contract available to review. We hope that our small effort contributes to a trend of greater equity for comics artists and writers everywhere.
A few things to note as we move into May — SOLRAD Presents has really taken off, and at the time of this writing, we have signed five cartoonists and have four regularly posting work. We’re excited to bring more folks to the imprint in May — keep your eyes peeled for new work.
We continue to have writers affected by COVID-19, so criticism, essays, and interviews may be slower than previous months. We still have a great slate for you this month, and we’re excited to share what we’re working on.
This month, you can expect:
- Another of SOLRAD’s book club weeks, this time featuring the hilarious and potent cartooning of Anna Haifisch’s The Artist: The Circle of Life, published in 2019 by Breakdown Press.
- A profile of indigenous comics creators by Elijah Forbes, a new SOLRAD contributor we’re excited to feature this month.
- A review of Zak Sally’s Recidivist IV from ENEMIES OF THE STATE contributor and long-time comics critic Philippe Leblanc.
- A review of Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s Don’t Go Without Me from Keith Silva, who’s making his SOLRAD debut this month.
- A long-form essay from returning SOLRAD contributor Anna Sellheim on some of her concerns with the depictions of mental health in comics.
- Along with regular contributions from Ryan Carey, Rob Clough, Alex Hoffman, and Daniel Elkin, our core team of critics.
Finally, our weekly newsletter (sent out every Sunday) has been taken over by our Editor-in-Chief Daniel Elkin. The SOLRAD newsletter features a look back at all the great content we’ve posted in the past week and is often filled with musings about the world at large and/or comics news of interest. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter if you haven’t already.
Wishing for your good health and safety,
If you like the work we’re doing here at SOLRAD, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to our parent company, Fieldmouse Press, to help keep the lights on. Thanks!