Off Life, a new street press publication in Bristol

Now and then it would be nice if life was truly surprising. If someone who had never worked in the art world decided to pursue their dream of getting those doodles they’d been scribbling over the years into a publication for all to love and embrace.

Well it’s not that easy. I was speaking to Daniel Humphry, editor of OFF LIFE, in an email exchange after I asked whether I could send him some questions.

Daniel is editor of the UK’s only street press comic magazine and it is distributed in delis and cafes around Bristol. My copy was from Mud Dock Deli just beyond the M Shed. It’s really rather good. In fact bits of it are genius. Especially one which is not only set in Australia but has Zen in the title and talks about the Buddha’s eightfold path and the four noble truths.

The magazine is new and fresh and it was the first issue and I liked the idea that some random unknown cartoonist made it work after a crowdsourcing campaign on indiegogo. It wasn’t quite like that. Daniel studied journalism and has spent the last six years working in magazines so when it came time to put his own creation into a tangible article he was able to do it very well. As he says, if he hadn’t had that experience he would “have been terrified”.

So here’s a chance to take some advice on how to get your own creation to come to life and find out more about him.

1. Just like you asked Tom Gauld, I’d like to ask you what first drew you to comics?

For me it was just a natural progression from Saturday morning cartoons. Whereas they ended at 9am I could pick up my Beano or Marvel weekly at any time, and as with books there’s more imagination required in ‘reading between the panels’ than there is in sitting back and watching the TV. You almost create your own little story when reading someone rises, if that makes sense.

2. What advice do you have to give to people who want to self-publish their creations? Practical tips are always useful.

Well we’ve done something a bit different in using advertising to fund the magazines and then just giving them away. That was our way of getting our publication, incredible indie talent and the comic medium out there to a new audience. As for how to get an anthology to sell in a comic shop, i couldn’t tell you. But I guess the principals of networking within the industry, finding a good printer, being very critical of anything you produce and being willing to take that big risk all still apply.

3. In the graphic novel industry there seems to be a perception that self-publishing is a normal way to get published. Would you agree and how long did it take you to publish the first edition from concept to delivering physical magazines to Mud Dock deli in Bristol on a Sunday?

In all honesty it took about two months. I quit my job and fortunately already had contacts in the design, printing and press industries that might otherwise have taken months or even years to make. I have to say that we wouldn’t have created anything though without our peers in the comic world kindly lending their support and spreading the word. Thankfully the comic industry is a friendly one!

As for self publishing, it of course has its draw backs and limitations but it does mean that if you have an idea you don’t have to wait for a major publisher to come along and find you. It’s a lot of hard work though!

4. You raised $1170 of your $1700 goal on indiegogo. Is that how much it cost to create the first edition? Is that the way you will fund the second one and do you envisage being able to pay your contributors at some point?

Financing the project far exceeded the indiegogo target – which we were surprised to gain such a response from – but advertising will always be our main revenue stream that funds the project. I don’t think we’ll run another crowd sourcing fund as the goal now has to be becoming self sufficient. As for paying artists, we would have loved to from the start but initially it’s impossible for a start up like ours. We’ve already heard word of OFF LIFE Issue One artists gaining paid commissions off the back of their inclusion in the magazine and that’s out main hope for all artists.

5. Zen for beginners is one of three of my favourites – Loud Neighbour and Doppelganger are up there in the number 1 slot too.

Did your trip to Australia influence your addition of the zen piece? How did Australia influence your creative vision?

The sheer quality of the zen piece was enough to influence its inclusion, but overall my time in Melbourne did inspire the magazine. Their street press culture is incredibly strong and affords very creative, little magazines to explode without the rules or guidance of a major publisher. I think if that model spreads past the music and what’s on genres that currently exist here in the UK (and many are very good!) then it’s good for readers, the publishing trade and creativity in general!

Check out more of OFF LIFE around Bristol and online.

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