Year in Review

In 2019, after over 20 years away from publishing, I re-launched Black Eye Books.


My tentative first steps began in the Spring with the crowdfunded release of the ‘lost’ issue of Pickle 11 by Dylan Horrocks. Originally slated for publication in 1997, the comic was cancelled in favour of folding its content into the collected Hicksville. Cancelling was a decision that had made sense at the time, but it definitely felt good to be able to get copies of that comic into the hands of Dylan’s die-hard fans all these years later. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported the project, and especially to Dylan for working with me on the project!


With the publication of Pickle 11, I felt I learned quite a bit about crowdfunding, social media promotion, short-run printing, and the logistics of shipping copies around the world to backers. I had been keeping my dear friend Jay Stephens up to date about what I’d been learning, and when he saw how Pickle turned out, he was (as I was) suitably impressed with the print quality. I planted the bug in Jay’s ear: were there any projects he might think would work with this exciting new publishing model?

From top left: Dejects; Jay Stephens at Lbrairie Drawn and Quarterly; Jay with Aaron Broverman from Speech Bubble Pod at the Guelph Comic Jam; Jay at the Beguiling; Jay signing a Land of Nod #2 for a fan; Pickle 11; Dylan Horrocks.

It turns out he did! Jay had been revisiting some previously uncollected strips, colouring them for fun, no specific project in mind. I was excited at the prospect of releasing a new Jay Stephens collection, and in colour no less! Some number crunching showed that not only was colour a possibility, it was an affordable one! Black Eye Books launched its second crowdfunded pre-order with Dejects: 136 pages of Jay Stephens comics that had never before been collected. Jay wanted to have a portion of the initial sales donated to Mental Health Research Canada, and once the campaign was complete, we had raised over $500 for the institution.


Come the fall, Jay had been invited to Cartoon Crossroads in Columbus, Ohio to talk about his animation and cartooning career. We wrapped a few other East Coast dates around that appearance with successful Dejects signings at The Guelph Comic Jam (hosted by the Dragon), The Beguiling in Toronto, Librairie Drawn and Quarterly in Montreal, and Strange Adventures in Halifax. A big thank you to all the shops who hosted!


Special thank yous to: Jordan at Rapido Books – excellent customer service and print quality from this Montreal printer; Ingrid Paulson from fellow micro publisher Gladstone Press, for turning me onto Rapido; Drawn and Quarterly Publications for extending permission to use material from Hicksville for the Pickle 11 project; the team at Fundrazr for their support on both crowdfunding efforts; Shannon Whibbs for her perfect proofreading; Jennifer Blais for giving the files a once-over with her eagle eye before they went to press; to Rowan Kennedy for his insightful article about Jay and Dejects for Concordia’s Link, and to Dylan and Jay for trusting me with their work once again!


There are more exciting things in store for 2020. I can’t wait to share them with you!


Michel Vrana,

Publisher

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