Before they were made into blockbuster movies and showed up weekly on television, comic books were once publications advertised as “All in Color for a Dime” and almost exclusively produced in New York. Over the years, not only has the price per-issue increased exponentially, but the production of the books has become radically decentralized. Industry titan Marvel still resides in New York, while their closest competitor DC has moved its operations to the West Coast and hundreds of indie publishers have taken to the space between. The internet itself has helped decentralize too, offering creators chances to work outside of a publisher’s base, settling instead in areas where they find inspiration.
Welcome to Richmond.
This article was featured in RVAMag #28: Spring 2017. You can read all of issue #28 here or pick it up at local shops around RVA right now.
Long-time Richmond resident Chris Pitzer is one of these creators enjoying the freedom offered by comic books today. Inspired by the four-color heroes he discovered in elementary school, he eventually joined the ranks of Eclipse Comics out in California, while also offering freelance work as a designer and colorist. Upon returning to the East Coast, he founded AdHouse Books back in 2002 and these days, he hosts a local comic creators group called RVA Comic Creator-ish.
The group sports a Facebook page and also, according to Pitzer, meets four to five times a year because “It’s always good to meet people face to face,” a notion he describes as an excellent way “…to meet new people, exchange information and experiences, talk comics, TV, movies.” At one such meeting just prior to Christmas, he brought some boxes of AdHouse inventory and gave copies to everyone there. “I think that was a pre-Christmas get together, which feels appropriate,” he smiles.
Image from Comic Creator-ish member J. Robert Deans
Online, the group’s growing presence includes comic book aficionados with several credits to their name such as Ken Marcus (Super Human Resources), Tim Shinn (If Anthology, Green Arrow), Kelly Alder (Project: Romantic), and even Patrick Godfrey, owner of local store Velocity Comics.
“It’s like a wave in the ocean,” Pitzer says. “The amount of comic creators in Richmond comes and goes. Obviously, the magnet is VCU, but then it depends on whether each creator is finding what they need in our city.”
Someone finding what they need is Gary Cohn who helped create the characters Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, and Blue Devil for DC Comics in the ‘80s. Two years ago, Cohn retired from his job as a teacher in New York City and relocated to Richmond.
“When I decided to leave New York City, I wanted to find a new home where I could find a creative community to help me re-energize and reawaken as a comics creator,” Cohn explains. “My two years in Richmond have taken me a long way towards doing that.”
Many like Cohn are finding new inspiration from Comic Creator-ish, a group that’s becoming more like a true community with members offering to give advice or even help someone move to a new apartment. Pitzer states that it isn’t necessary to be a working professional to “become” a member. To the group, all that’s required is an interest in comicbooks. If you have it and live in the area, then by all means — visit their page, attend a gathering, and join the community.
Words by Robert J. Sodaro, top image via Adhouse Books