Moving on from the trip to Indiana, I met with two guys I admire over Thai food last week, Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum. The fact that they are a comic strip team like Scott and I are makes me feel particularly connected with them; there is something about a project produced by a collaboration. Bill and Gene produce the daily comic Unshelved, a strip with a large cast of characters that mostly takes place in a library. When I first started reading it I had trouble relating to many of the circumstances Dewey and his crew found themselves in, but as I followed it over time I learned a great deal about libraries and began to understand it better and better. Now it would deeply disappoint me not to see it in my inbox every morning, I’m hooked on finding out what’s going to happen to them next.
Something happened to Bill and Gene that no one could have predicted; they literally stumbled upon an untapped market that was not only ravenous for a comic targeted at them but was also well-networked. In weeks they were reaching audiences across newsletters and email in the thousands and now boast an impressive mailing list count. From there came their first book, and much like us they have felt their way through the process of publishing their own property. Unlike us they had enough funds to do a print press run of their first book, while we are having to limit ourselves to a print-on-demand order. Over the time I’ve known them I’ve watched with interest as they tried out different T-shirt campaigns with varying success. One cow shirt with the slogan “Mad About Reading” caused them all kinds of trouble with the printing ink. Most shirts have done well, and they continue to print new volumes. I’m glad to have Bill writing the foreword to our book, as I really feel that Unshelved has mentored us towards the completion of this book.