Shilling for the Little Guy
Despite the amount of “populist” material I cover here, you may be surpised to learn that I’m a fan of the “indie.” And I don’t mean indie as a genre, but indie as a movement. Not indie as an ideal, but indie as a process. Breaking down barriers to an audience that are put up by The Man seems like a noble thing to do and all, especially if you’re a hippie, a punk, or any combination of metalhead, street performer, visual artist, or author. Go ahead, stick it to The Man if you want. But dear god, if you’re going to do something on your own, do it right. People aren’t going to want to buy your product (because that what’s going on, don’t kid yourself) because they’re helping the undergound movement of art that’s subverting the status quo. They want to buy your product because it’s good.
All those “buy local” people, and people like them, seem to forget that the internet has done something that nothing else before has done on the scale that it has: it connects people. Shocking! Fifteen years ago, when we were marvelling over burning our own CDs with seven hundred megabytes of data on them, people were saying the same thing. “The internet connects people like never before!” they were saying, and everyone was shocked and amazed.
But what has it done for you, you might be asking yourself. You don’t make anything. You’re not a musician, or a photographer, or a writer, or a webcomics creator, or anything like that. You know what you are, though? You’re a consumer of all of those things. And I’m here to tell you that you should look past some of that mass-media, manufactured stuff and take a gander at some of the following awesome products from people that are indie not because the aesthetic pleases them, and not because the scene and their indie cred is more important to them than producing a high-quality product, but because they can. The following fine folks are producing some of the best product and content you’ll find on the internet—or anywhere, for that matter—and they’re doing it all themselves.
The internet, as they say, is the great equalizer. And with the cost of professional-grade hardware and software coming down, and enough talent and market sense, anyone creative can produce a product. Some people actually go the extra mile to make sure those things are actually good, and that’s why I’m voicing my support here. Remember: just because you can afford Adobe software doesn’t mean you know how to use it. (Proof? Check out Photoshop Disasters.) The following people know how to use it, if you get what I’m saying.
Disclaimer: I bought or support these of my own accord. I’m passing the information on to you because I believe these people are deserving of your money, as well. I may be shill from time to time, but it’s only because I well and truly believe in these people and their output.
A dual blog/magazine venture, Coilhouse bills itself as “A Love Letter to Alternative Culture,” and I’m inclined to agree with the editors. The triple editorial powerhouse of Nadya Lev, Zoetica Ebb, and Meredith Yayanos direct an all-star stable of writers and contributers as they inject every page of Coilhouse with art-house chic, techno-futurist cool, and a sci-fi blend of photography, line-art, graphic design, fashion, and full-on futurism. From the website’s bizarre YouTube findings courtesy of Ectoplasmosis‘s Ross Rosenberg, to the print magazine’s brilliant linework by editor Zoetica Ebb, every bit of the Coilhouse ethos of “INFORM, INSPIRE, INFECT.”
Everything about the project is high-quality, culminating with the “quarterly-ish” publishing of the print magazine in glorious, glossy, full color. I’m not going to lie, US$15 plus $5 shipping seems a bit steep for a magazine, but… well, here are some shots from the current issue (not sold out yet!):
I have gotten all three issues that have been produced so far, and will continue to do so until either my funds run out or they stop printing such wonderful dead tree matter.
And it’s not just the magazine, either. From stickers to T-shirts, everything Coilhouse produces is top quality. The t-shirt I purchased from them rivals only my U2 tour shirt in quality, and that’s saying something. U2 have notoriously high-quality shirts, and this is no different. In fact, it might even be a tad softer. But I digress.
TEAM MUMMY and SPACE SHARK
Team Mummy is the brainchild of Chris Graves, who I think may have had a seizure and turned into a wisecracking superhero himself. His main comic, Team Mummy is a blend of noir, superhero cliche, 4chan, and a powerful love of Red Bull. The product of someone that is clearly insane would probably be less interesting if it weren’t so damn funny. Volume One is available as a print-on-demand comic from IndyPlanet, and collects the first three chapters of the story of Mr. Mask, Ninjarella, Slater, and the rest of the Team Mummy gang as they fight crime, a bald-lookin’ blady-villainy guy named Rooster, and a coked-up, half-naked Santa Claus.
I can’t wait til Volume Two gets printed, with the Werebots:
Mr. Graves (I have a strange feeling he’d say “Whoa, dude, Mr. Graves is my father.”) claims that the whole POD thing was too much hassle, but I can assure you—and him—that holding the finished product in my grubby mitts, with its crisp black-and-white composition and bizarre anime-and-noir-in-a-blender style, it’s something that a) you should buy, and b) he should facilitate by continuing to submit work for POD.
And then there’s Space Shark. Let’s face it, a shark in a space suit is the coolest thing anyone has ever come up with. We have reached the zenith of human artistry. Anything from here on is simply a pale imitation. Of a shark. In. A space. Suit.
Best. Idea. Ever.
Finally, we come to Kemper Norton. This loose collection of musicians are producing, wholly and totally for free, some of the best ambient and hauntological music you will ever find. While some of the “packaging materials” are a bit lacking in the sense of being high-quality finished products, the music is what’s important here, and it delivers in spades. I highly suggest all of their available downloadable works, and if you can ship them a few bucks, help out there.
Now, I’m not one of those protective people that will tell you to ahead and buy something and then complain when too many people like what I like. My elitism and ego don’t need that much service. The goal that any artist, writer, musician, hobbiest, whatever, has is to get their work out to someone and make a decent living doing it. If you have a problem with me promoting things like this, or with your “starving” artists making some money, go read why i am not afraid to take your money by Amanda Fucking Palmer (solo artist and of the Dresden Dolls.) And if you don’t have a problem with it, read it anyway.
Finally, at the end of all this shilling for other people, I’m going to shill for myself a bit. If you like reading my random dribbles, let me know in the comments, and more importantly, let other people know about my little corner of the internet. I’m still not charging anything, I’m still not advertising, and aside from people I genuinely believe in, I’m not asking you to shell out a single dollar to anyone else unless you want to. I’m just asking you to read my words and share them with as many people as you think would be interested by them. As long as they stay attributed to me, of course. I’m a writer… all’s I gots is mah wurds.
Honors also go out to Brian Clevinger, writer of Atomic Robo, Warbot in Accounting, How I Killed Your Master, and 8-Bit Theatre (collectively based at Nuklear Power); the people at This One is On Us; Jamaica Dyer, the writer and artist of Weird Fishes; and dozens of other DIY people, great and small. Their work is stellar, and only lacks recognition because it is not distributed through “normal” or “big name” channels. And any word of mouth I can pass along is the best I can do for them. Go check them out. Buy things from them, if they have stuff for sale.
Remember: support your indie people. Not because they’re indie. Because they’re good.