Friday, December 3, 2010

On Self-Publishing: Elmer Damaso

The following is the fifth in a series of email interviews with some recently acquired contacts in the komiks community. If you'd like to share your own story, or just be a contact, please email me at

Today's article comes from Elmer Damaso, one of the original creators of Culture Crash:

I am Elmer Damaso. I studied BFA Visual Communication at the University of The Philippines, Diliman. Comics was a self-taught project for me. It was never taught in College and I never studied in any special art school or comic book making courses.

Below are some of the titles/comics I drew locally and abroad:
-Cat's Trail (under Culture Crash Comics, Philippines)
-One Day Isang Diwa (under Culture Crash Comics, Philippines)
-Unearthly (under Seven Seas Entertainment, USA)
-Ravenskull (under Seven Seas Entertainment, USA)
-Speed Racer (under Seven Seas Entertainment, USA)
-Ninja Diaries (under Seven Seas Entertainment and Metromix LA, USA)
-10 Beautiful Assassins (under Seven Seas Entertainment, USA)
-various K-LEB comics (serialized under K-Zone Philippines)

I also do other graphic services for other companies outside of comic books.

1 What made you decide to publish your own komiks?

I decided to publish my own comics because I wanted to give the original readers of Culture Crash a proper Cat's Trail ending. I think they deserve one. Initially, I just wanted to make it an online comics instead of printing it. It was my wife's idea to have it printed. She didn't want to settle for photocopy or risograph. She said if we wanted to give Cat's Trail another try, we should do it properly. I'm glad we did it her way.

2 What did you need to do to get into komiks?

Originally, I was lucky enough to be in the company of friends with common interests as me. I was lucky to have met Mr. James Palabay (the head honcho of Culture Crash) who not only had the financial capabilities to start a comic book company, but also had the connections and the necessary experience to start it. I was lucky that Culture Crash made waves in the local comic book industry and was actually successful in promoting the comic book business and its artists. Therefore, when my wife and I decided to re-launch Cat's Trail and self-publish it, there was already a fan/reader base to begin with.

With regards to distribution, our resources are a bit limited to direct selling it via conventions, selling it via email requests or via Comic Odyssey Galleria. Since we live in Rizal (very far from the big city), it is a bit inconvenient for us to personally deliver it to more outlets. That is the only limitation.

3 What are the main hurdles to overcome in self-publishing, and how should new komiks makers get over these hurdles?

The main hurdles in self-publishing (in my experience) are:

1.) Finances - You really have to be ready to shell out a big amount if you want to go the printed route. The photocopy or risograph method is relatively cheaper but you still have to commit a good amount of money. Be prepared to go broke. Don't expect a new title to be an instant success. It doesn't work that way all the time. Before self-publishing your work, be prepared to finance a good 4-6 issues first (If it's a short mini-series, it's best to be prepared to finance all issues). Don't rely on your first issue to pay for your next.

2.) Promotion - Being an individual (or a small group of friends) without corporate backing will be tough. You can't always rely on your friends to buy your stuff and stop there. You have to get more attention somehow. Word of mouth is good but has its limitations. Thank God for the Internet and social networking sites like Facebook, Friendster, Twitter, etc. These are a faster way to get your message across with little to no cost at all. Of course, if you have friends in high places, that always works wonders. Being visible during conventions also helps a lot.

3.) Commitment - In my case, Cat's Trail is more of a hobby and not exactly set to get food at our table and pay for our monthly expenses. So my common problem is prioritizing work. I have to work on my main projects before Cat's Trail. Sometimes I get too tired to work on it at all. You have to be committed to work on your comics. You can't always say, "I'll draw it tomorrow". Not when you've got readers waiting for the next issue. It's best to have a proper schedule set everyday or every month.

You can check out Elmer Damaso's deviantART here and his personal blog here.

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