Introducing Fair Trade Comics

A column article, Manifesto by: Jason Sacks

This week the first chapter of "Before Watchmen" will be released, with Darwyn Cooke's Minutemen hitting the comic shops and digital publishing houses on Wednesday.

Ordinarily, the release of a new Darwyn Cooke comic would fill me with paroxysms of glee. Usually, the upcoming release of the master's new comic would bring a goofy smile on my face for days ahead of time, positive that the comic would be beautifully drawn, with masterful storytelling, a smart plot and a great mix of modernity and nostalgia. Darwyn Cooke is one of the finest cartoonists doing work in the comics medium today, in my opinion, and every comic he's created has shown that brilliance.
But I won't be reading the new Cooke comic. And you won't be reading a review of Minutemen on this website.
By now there have been hundreds of articles written about the "Before Watchmen" controversy. Heck, we've run two or three articles on this very site. If you haven't made up your mind about the ethics of these comics, you're either too busy or not paying attention.
So I'm not going to talk in this column about the politics of "Before Watchmen" or get into complex arguments about how Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons have been screwed by DC, even though they've made millions of dollars from their creation. There's plenty of that conversation on the web, and you are free to be as outraged by this treatment as you want.
We here at Comics Bulletin have chosen to take a different approach to this controversy. We've decided to take a bit of a high ground in our discussion of "Before Watchmen" and corporate hegemony and the way that companies trample on creators' rights.
Instead, we're going to celebrate what we call "Fair Trade Comics." We're going to celebrate comics and related works that embrace the independent spirit; works that could only come from a specific, idiosyncratic creator. We're going to revel in the fact that some of the greatest comics in the world have an indy vibe. We're going to take time to talk about works that are personal, specific, and reflective of a particular view of the world.
Work that's not corporate in any way, shape or form.Fair Trade Comics
Creator-owned material has always been an important part of what we like to celebrate here on Comics Bulletin. We're a website that prides itself on being fiercely independent, on taking the time and space to really give you different perspectives on the comics medium and artform. We're proud of the hundreds of thoroughly personal and hand-made works that we have featured over the years – from great and popular self-owned comics from Image to amazing personal graphic novels from Joe Sacco and Kevin Huizenga, to independent small-press work. We even consider classic reprints and single-artist works to be "Fair Trade."
The important common denominator with this theme is that creators are owning their own stake, embracing their own projects, standing or falling on the basis of their own creativity rather than having their corporate overlords determine what works they create.
Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen is, first and foremost, a work of individual creativity, brilliantly realized by two incredible creators. Though it is derivative, it is thoroughly unique. Nothing like it would not exist without the specific and unique talents of Messers. Moore and Gibbons.
What better way to protest against the rapacious corporate spirit represented by the appalling "Before Watchmen" than by celebrating other specific and unique talents?
How better to celebrate the legacy of one of the most idiosyncratic and fascinating works than by featuring "Fair Trade" comics – works that expand the artform, one creator at a time.
We hope you enjoy the material we feature this week and that you'll take the time to check out some of these and other comics, and let us know some of your favorites.


For more Fair Trade Comics, check out our other features in this series:

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