The Importance of Mini-Comics & The Isotope Award

Thousands of people want to work in comics. It seems that at every convention, party or any comics themed event, I spend the majority of my time talking people who have an idea for a comic they would like to do or talk about how if they made comics, how they would do it differently. In addition to the masses of people who want to work in comics, we are constantly aware of how other people got into comics. Brian K. Vaughan got in through a college program, Dan Slott was an intern, Brian Michael Bendis worked like hell, the list goes on and on. No one has gotten a job in the comic book industry the same way.  But no matter the angle or the attempt to work in comics, everyone seems to give the same advice:

“Just make comics.”

Those words cannot ring truer, Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, or whatever publisher you have your eye on will never come knocking on your door to offer you a job unless you put yourself out there. Additionally, the more practice and work you put into honing your craft of making the comics, the better the creator you may one day become.

That’s where mini-comics come in. In addition to the world of mainstream comics, with its fancy paper stock and full color super heroes, there’s a wonderful world of independent and alternative comics. Comic books like Dan Clowes Eightball, and The Hernandez Brothers Love & Rockets and many others are byproducts of the thriving underground/alternative comic book legacy that is one of the few true American legacies going back to the days of R. Crumb in the 1960s. The mini-comic is the staple of the independent/alternative comic book universe. You have a story? Great — write and draw it, go to Kinko’s (or whatever they’re called these days, FedEx Kinko’s?), photocopy it, staple it and voila! You just produced a comic book. To quote my favorite infomercial, “It’s just that easy!” Many of your favorite creators probably have tons of mini-comics that they’d be embarrassed to show people today, but they had to get their start somewhere.

Even better, in this day and age, with these wonderful machines we call computers, it’s easier than ever to make your own comic. And with great guides on how to make comics, (even webcomics too!) if you have an idea about a comic and you haven’t created it yet, you really only have yourself to blame.

But I understand, better than most, that it’s hard. It’s hard to get started, it’s hard to create something and put it out there, and once it’s out there maybe no one will like it, or no one will ever even see it. And that is the case most of the time, but there are ways to get noticed and there is an open door for one such opportunity that just opened yesterday.

My local comic shop and friends of iFanboy, Isotope: The Comics Lounge, has an annual award for excellence in mini-comics.  he call for submissions is out (see the press release below) and if you have created a mini-comic, or you have been meaning to, or if you just decided now to make one, this is your opportunity to get noticed. Winners of the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics have gone on to get published, win awards and grants like the Xeric Award and even get nominated for Eisner Awards.

Submissions are due by October 24, 2008 at midnight — email Even if you don’t win, your comic will be read by people who know good comics and know people who know and even publish comics.

So what are you waiting for? Go forth and make comics! Because trust us, we’d like for nothing better than someone from the iFanbase to be the next big thing in comics.


Submissions Open for the 2008 Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics

SAN FRANCISCO (September 10th, 2008) San Francisco comics retailer James Sime, proprietor of Isotope: The Comic Book Lounge, announced today that submissions for the 2008 Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics will be accepted until October 24th at midnight. “There is honestly nothing that makes me happier each year than to get the opportunity to help spotlight a creator who is toiling in the underground making something wonderful,” said Sime, “And I know that many of you out there are hand-crafting some mini-comics brilliance, let us help share that work with the world!”

The Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics has been the first step in launching the careers of previous award-winners including Eisner-nominated Josh Cotter (SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST) and Danica Novgorodoff (SLOW STORM), as well as, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (THE LAST SANE COWBOY), Rob Osborne (1000 STEPS TO WORLD DOMINATION), and Max Riffner (QUICK STEP).

The five judges for the Isotope Award represent various aspects of the comic industry including creators, retailers, and press. This year’s judges are:

Josh Cotter – 2004 winner of the Isotope Award for his mini-comic, SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST. This Eisner-nominated series has recently been collected in a beautiful hardcover edition by AdHouse Books.

Jason McNamara – Xeric award winning author of FIRST MOON, CONTINUITY, and the recently-released THE MARTIAN CONFEDERACY.

Johanna Draper Carlson – Publishers Weekly writer, and the brilliant mind behind Comics Worth Reading. Johanna’s open-minded reviews and enthusiastic reporting set the bar for commentary throughout the industry.

Kirsten Baldock – The Isotope’s Special Projects Director. Kirsten is also a librarian, bartender, and the author of the SMOKE AND GUNS graphic novel.

James Sime – Proprietor of Isotope: The Comic Book Lounge in San Francisco.

To enter this competition, send five copies of your mini-comic to Isotope’s address (326 Fell St. San Francisco, CA 94102) before October 24th deadline. The award will be given out at the grand ceremony during APE AFTERMATH at the Isotope in conjunction with San Francisco’s ALTERNATIVE PRESS EXPO. Because of the nature of this award, the winner will be contacted in advance and must be present at the Isotope at 9 PM on Saturday, November 1st for the award presentation ceremony.

For more information contact the Isotope at (415) 621-6543 or at


  1. A lot of good information.

  2. I am really inspired whenever I go look at the "Small Press" shelves. I always leave the store thinking, "I’ma run red lights all the way home and march right into the house and whip out a blank piece o’ paper and draw my magnum opus to-night." That usually lasts all the way back to the car, and then I remember I can’t draw. Still, my hat is off to the do-it-yourselfers; they cannot get enough recognition.

  3. Great article, Ron!

    What an amazing amount of information.  I better get off my butt and start working! 

  4. Nice work Ron. I think that iFanboy does an amazing job at promoting the smaller stuff. I mean with POWs like Roberts and such, and your con interviews with people like Jeff Lemire the iFanbase is better educated than say people who just read Wizard. So if anyone knows how to make good comics its your readers/listeners.

    I might just make one myself.

  5. I’m trying to get some people together and establishing deadlines so we can all get our minis done in time. It’d be nice to at least enter this competition.

    I think the entire thing is a great idea. Thanks for letting us know!