Daniel Humphry is the editor of the upcoming Off Life, a new comics anthology by way of alternative newspaper. Seeking only to introduce new readers in the UK to the medium while assisting struggling cartoonists themselves trying to break in, we of the LP applaud his grassroots initiative. You should too. Or else.
Daniel, has publishing comic strips long been a dream of yours? Are you a journalist by trade, or by passion?
I known it might sound trite but I’m a journalist by trade and passion. When working on a piece you believe in – and that you think has significance – there’s no better feeling. Launching a whole publication then, one where you believed in every page, felt like the next logical step for me – especially in comics which have been my love since I was knee-high.
Had you ever pursued anything like this before,or been drawn to any creative work for that matter? How did the idea for Off Life first take shape for you?
No, I’d not tried to publish a magazine before. I’d worked on a few street press magazines (Three, Crack and Pickles) and lived in Melbourne where there’s a real culture of offbeat street press magazines that maybe wouldn’t get the backing of major publishers. These magazines had real unique voices and loyal readerships who respected that. After coming back to England I realized that there’s no real arts anthology published in the street press model and that comic books lend themselves to it perfectly. The mission really is to provide a platform for up-and-coming and indie artists who have something to say, while opening up the comic medium to a larger audience.
That really was the underground boom of 1960s underground comix, where greats like Robert Crumb sprang into the public conscious. I’ve always wanted to see a return to that energy and aesthetic. What format will you be going with- weekly or monthly? Slick or newsprint? I understand copies will be free, so will adverts pay the way, or are you on the run from the law for a series of bank robberies?
Hell, I’d happily fund the magazine with wanton robbery but everybody in the UK is so hard up at the moment I don’t think it’d get a dozen copies run! So advertising it is. Details for any companies looking to buy space can visit our site for contact details. Sorry for the cheap plug!
Anyhow we’ll be starting bi-monthly while we build up a bank of contributors and running on a high quality newsprint. It feels right sticking to that tradition at least.
I’d imagine word of mouth for a project like this would go a long ways in and of itself. Would you be offering copies to comic book shoppes, coffee shoppes, etc? And would mail order be a possibility, as for subscriptions?
Word of mouth will be huge for us, not just in reaching an audience but on discovering the talent too. Regardless of whether the magazine hits a mainstream audience it’s the comic community that will get this project off the ground.
We’re looking to distribute in places like bars, coffee shops, music stores, galleries, comic expos – places where the casual reader would have time to pick it up. Mail order is an option but we’ll also be running a free, beautifully designed online edition for people to read.
And what of the content- will there be articles to go with the comix? Is there subject matters or themes that you wouldn’t deem appropriate for the prospective readers?
There will be a short editorial opening, a Q&A with an established comic writer/artist and potentially a feature here and there, but 90% of the magazine will be dedicated to comic stories.
As for subject matter we’ve no set genre or style for writers. We’d like the stories to have something to say for themselves and as the magazine is intended for adults there are no real handcuffs on how they say it, but we also don’t want something to be ‘shocking for shocking’s sake’ – it has to be honest and clever. I’m personally big on the dark slice-of-life guys like Clowes and Burnes, but we’re open to everything.
What turns you off about comics, something you wouldn’t care to repeat?
I guess as in any medium there’s a slice of work that’s not for you. Some comics can be a little trite, or stuck within comics own tropes, for my tastes but for every formulaic piece there’s another breaking the medium’s conventions or pushing new frontiers.
Do you have a team in place, or is this a one man show? How did you all meet up? What’s your overall philosophy?
There’s a small team of us, made up of people I’ve met during my years in publishing and even designers I knew back at university. We’re looking to keep it a close knit group as we don’t want to dilute our basic ideas.
Where would you like to see this girl in say, five years down the road?
Ideally the magazine would be established with a monthly copy and a dedicated readership, have broken many new talents in to the comic industry and gotten a whole new audience in to comic shops. They’re high ideals but something to strive for.
I think your plan sounds perfectly feasible. I can’t wait to see it all come to life.
You and me both! It’s going to be a busy month now that word is out and submissions are coming in, but if even one of our contributors were to be picked up by a major or even a handful of new people tune in to comics after reading OFF LIFE then it’ll have been worth it.
For additional information, bookmark the Off Life website, and follow them on twitter. Or else.
Tags: Daniel Humphry, interviews