ARROW COMICS 3.0
By Randy "Zimm" Zimmerman

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Part One: The Beginning, Our "Death",
And Our Evolution

Looking over the previous history statement, written some four plus years ago, I have to wonder at my sense of naiveté.

Arrow Comics 3.0, as I refer to our different stages in software lingo, sure had its share of intense ups and downs, and though we never matched the volume of books sold from our first incarnation we did pass it for the amount of content. By the end of this period we had published around fifty different products, covering almost the entire spectrum of the industry at the time, though we also shared in every problem possible for a small press independent company at the time as well.

Two of our main problems that this era of Arrow always seemed plagued with was under-funding (the monster that stopped Arrow 1.0 and never allowed 2.0 to get rolling very far) and under marketing. Personally I feel, like any proud parent, that our product line was very high quality, we just didn't seem to get that message out enough. I honestly think we spent more time fighting to convince folks that knew of us that we were not "dead" as opposed to getting a new audience to realize how accessible and high quality our product line was.

I knew going in that we needed to be properly funded as well as well staffed, and had meticulously devised a business plan for that purpose. I was looking for five investors, each donating five grand each for us to work with as a capital base. Unfortunately we ended up with much less than that.

Arrow was meant from the start to be a democracy. Five equal investors with five equal votes all working towards the same goals, all with equal input and powers, each assigned a specific arm of the business that they were to call their own and run as they saw best as long as the results were there;

One to handle the creative day-to-day (Editor-In-Chief duties)

One to work on marketing and publicity

One to handle the accounting (for I knew we would need to handle our funds carefully)

One to work solely on getting us distributed and deal with any/all distribution problems.

And the fifth and final investor was to search for outside opportunities, other medias to tie our work into, primarily to work as an in-house agent.

I had five investors lined up, including myself as one. We all seemed committed to the cause and were ready and excited about what was happening, or at least I thought they were until "life" happened.

One investor pulled out because he couldn't raise the initial funds, though I kept reminding him that they were as close as a credit card, he was already over extended.

One got thrown into a divorce.

One decided to start a gaming company on their own, because that's where their heart truly was.

At this point I should have seen the writing on the wall. There was no way we should start up a company of this nature without proper help and start-up capital. Starting a company like this would be sheer suicide, and looking back at it I SHOULD have known better, but I didn't. We were already well along at the point when it came time for everyone to pony-up the funds, and we were well into production on our first set of products and running headlong into the first of many stretched deadlines. I then figured that we needed AT LEAST fifteen grand to get any kind of running start, and not wanting to postpone and cancel any books (because I had gone through that kind of thing before with LAZER), I desperately began looking for options to get us rolling.

In the end a five-man operation turned into a two-man operation with Scott Moore (our esteemed Publisher) producing his share, and myself (as Editor-In-Chief) borrowing my own, plus an additional "share" to get us airborne with a wobbly fifteen grand for start-up.

From this point on we always seemed to be chasing the Deadline Monkey, as our schedules never quite caught up to our release dates-and no wonder, we were stretched way too thin in manpower right from the start. Scott handled the distributor and accounting end with me handling the creative end and what little advertising we could do. Marketing and Agenting were gone and quite frankly always hurt us. Over the course of our existence we never handled a single property that wouldn't have worked as well, if not better, in other media and we were never able to take advantage of the growing attention comics were getting for that over this period. We were "making do" when we should have been blazing trials and making marks. Our time, especially with our need to keep full time jobs in order to pay for our "investment capital", was stretched way too thin. In the end it cost us both dearly.

Our opening marketing strategy was a pretty simple one: give retailers a product that they could recognize and easily sell to their walk-in customers. We dedicated ourselves to publishing three series of books and an open anthology of good quality, using short stories and properties that could/would be easily enjoyed by all. Our approach seemed sure-fire to us at the time, as all those start up strategies always appear to be.

Our three masthead titles would be; OZ (restarting the VERY successful run from Caliber), THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (which also had a good selling arc printed from Caliber Press), and WONDERLAND (an Oz spin-off updating Alice and company), three recognizable properties everyone knew that were in the realm of public domain. Everyone who read, especially comics, knew all three properties like the back of their hands. With a little work we had made them uniquely updated and felt it made us unstoppable as a "point-of-purchase" newbie company. Folks walking into a comic shop for the first time could see those titles and automatically know what all three books were about. We ran full page ads in Previews (Diamond distributor's primary selling tool) pointing this idea out and were ready for helping the retailer attract new, outside normal comics, business.

Initial orders were not even close to opening expectations. Still we thought, with re-orders and shelf life, we would gain momentum and build a good successful company. "Sure the numbers on the Anthology were below break even, but anthologies were always hard sells until folks get to see your quality" was our thinking.

It took a few more months of declining sales and a vacation from my home here in mid-Michigan to Orlando Florida for me to learn the fatal flaw in our marketing strategy. What I never had anticipated was how the comic market had evolved from my actual, previous perception of it. Scott's experience with his ownership of a comic shop hadn't prepared us either because Scott, following his own retailing philosophy which was very indy friendly, had never counted on our meeting such a huge wall of anti-"small press" prejudice that had infiltrated everywhere else in the market.

We had become what is called a "pulls only" company, in fact the majority of the comic companies listed in Diamond's monthly Previews catalog behind the bigger companies (who had signed sweetheart "exclusive" deals with Diamond for promotion and pricing) were looked at as more of a hindrance than anything else (one Diamond rep told me off the record that they wished we would all "just dry up and blow away"). That meant that we were going straight from being ordered from the catalog right into the ordering person's "pull bag". We had become "special orders" and were given very little, if any, shelf life on a good 95% of the retailer's stores. Most all our sales were "made" sales, some even paid for in advance before we ever shipped.

Again, hindsight being what it is, we should have at least cut back, if not totally abandoned our printing efforts let alone keep printing as a company at all. We were stunned, let down that our basic selling strategy was so off, and we worked quickly to devise another sales plan, anything to help keep us printing and the company going. Instead of abandoning ship, we decided to pump and bail.

It was around this time that we received an odd "cease and desist" order from Avatar Press and their lawyers. We were told that our logo, a five-pointed star rising up into a triangular arrowhead was too similar to their nine-pointed comet falling into a flat-bottomed pyramid. I remember staring at both logos for a long time wondering who the hell would ever be able to confuse one logo for the other, let alone try to take a stance of wanting to charge us 10 grand for each future use of it because of their "similarities".

We consulted our lawyer, who in his great lawyerly like bulldog way, wanted them to sue just to get the court time (assuring us that the damages would be substantial enough to help keep our company rolling for some time), we were already flooded with problems and didn't want the extra burden of a court battle on our hands. So, looking things over, Scott and I decided that our five-pointed star, originally designed to represent our five key investors, no longer properly represented our company anyway, so we altered the logo and informed Avatar (in a letter I think worded so lawyerly that our lawyer wanted to not only show us his worth but piss off Avatar's lawyers at the same time), that they had no cause for alarm. I'm sure Avatar looked at it as a sheer victory, where we looked at it like another hassle somewhat handled and now onto the next one... We never heard from Avatar's lawyers again, though I have to say I've talked to Avatar's head guy since and all seems pretty friendly between us.

Discouraged by numbers, with a sales strategy so incorrect it was funny, in a market that just wanted us to "blow away", we decided to look at who our sales base REALLY was and cater to them. So our sales were hardcore comic readers who wanted cool stuff. Fine, we can do that easier than "literature" based material. We kept Oz going, Wonderland, floundering from bad sales and deadline hassles was cut off at #3, and War Of The Worlds, my own title which was already plagued by deadline cut-offs brought on by Diamond's "rules" was restarted with a Special Edition and attempted again, this time with an inker on board to ease my production hassles.

Also it was around this period that two things began to happen; first our marketing/advertising budget, what little there was of it, was not yielding any better results or higher numbers (we were spending more in ads to Diamond's Previews than it was costing us to print the books we were advertising, all with shrinking sales) and secondly we started hearing at convention appearances and from e-mails that we were rumored to be DEAD.

It was bad enough dealing with the day-to-day operations, the constant catch-up and jockeying of talent, plus the regular day jobs just to pay down our investment, now we were hearing that all our efforts, publications, attempts at publicity, seemed to be working AGAINST us and some regular readers had come to the mistaken understanding that we were dead.

It didn't take long to discover that those "rumors" tied back almost directly to a communications breakdown between us and our web-workers, who posted a rather vague, gloomy, easily misinterpreted message in place of our site which led a lot of folks to believe that we had stopped producing books, and ceased totally to be. This pretty much frosted all our efforts to be noticed to date and was nearly a deathblow to our entire operation, one that forced us to change web personnel quickly (the web company who did the initial work went on to eventually go out of business themselves- Scott eventually took over the web reigns, and he still holds them today), and made us worry about our marketing strategy even more, just to try and regain whatever readership was lost.

This was such a deathblow to us, financially and mentally, I feel we never really recovered from, at least until we published Spank The Monkey #1. We received such a drastic sudden dip in our regular numbers, which were already low mind you, directly tied into these events that we considered suing the now fired "web company" for damages and defamation (again our lawyer, being the great bulldog that he is, wanted to go, was ready to go, but after consideration we decided it wouldn't be worth it). It led to quite a few friendships being broken, and even a change in my personal employment (one that I had been working at for some ten plus years- I had recommended half of the "web company" to work for my then employer), and hard feelings that are still far from mended today.

Instead of folding up shop, Scott and I gritted our teeth and started turning talk of death and dying into talk of tenacity and temperament. Silly us. We even started a zombie title (named aptly The Dead) to poke fun at our situation.

Our new philosophy was to put out good quality products that Scott and I would pay to read, seeing as our readership base, and the retailers who ordered us, were our demographic anyway, while keeping some semblance of "good taste"; which again in hindsight probably cost us more sales than it brought us considering the way the market was going towards a lot of cheesecake material at the time. We always threatened that we could easily "Out Avatar, Avatar" with gratuitous cheesecake books if we had to, but The Dead was as close to their content as we really ever came, which probably explains why we continue to sell so many of them at conventions and through the Marketplace.

I have to admit to you that Diamond was a constant hindrance here to our productivity. Their placing all the small press behind their "exclusives", leaving the customer to wade through not only their "exclusive's" current listings, which were growing even bigger because of their prosperity, their merchandising, all their trades, toys, apparel and sculptures, their trade collections, their ads, and their back listing of all their still available merchandise not sold from months prior before getting to us in alphabetical order definitely hurt a lot of our business. Even with us running full and half page ads we were fighting an uphill battle. Add to that their constant rule changes and changing restrictions, rep hassles (the rep we first had treated us, and the other publishers he "represented" with such indignity that there was talk of "taking him out back" at a convention by a number of folks who just wanted to take out some of their frustrations on him-not us mind you, but others.) that it became a kind of game to compare "screws" with other publishers at shows. It was obvious that they didn't want us around and was doing everything they could to get us to leave the market.

Advertising in Previews was eventually stopped and we saw no visible change in our numbers. In fact an entire ad campaign valiantly brought forth from Scott Rosema for his superhero/science fiction series AUGUST netted us such a loss and low number that I don't think we ever advertised with a full page in Previews, or anywhere else after that. It became apparent that taking ads out in Previews was the equivalent of flushing money down a toilet, money we shouldn't have spared in the first place.

Around this point came our first "awakening" of the power that Diamond wielded on the market. We had found a great creator-owned property named Korvus that both Scott and I were crazy about and wanted to bring under our imprint. Korvus was best described as a cross between Conan the Barbarian and the best of H.P. Lovecraft; a barbarian prince before recorded time fighting off a demon horde that was invading his world. Korvus was the personal creation of Mick Fernette, who was working hard to produce the title entirely on his own. Mick, we felt, was a superb writer, and we convinced him to allow us to bring on an art team to bring the art side up to the quality level of the writing side. Mick has already produced two issues under his own Human Monster imprint. We solicited for a number three to disappointing numbers as we gathered an art team to restart the title. Upon soliciting for a volume two number one we had an incredible product in the works. The art team was top notch, and Korvus #1 still stands as one of the best products that Arrow 3.0 ever produced. It took longer than we had wanted to produce issue one, and we solicited for a number two right before it was able to come out. Folks hadn't seen the new quality the book had and ordered almost the same numbers for the second issue as they did number one. We were disappointed but undaunted. Issue three's number would be much better because the product was incredible. We went to solicit for a number three and was told by Diamond that since they had solicited for five issues of Korvus, all to "below minimum" numbers that they would not solicit for a volume two number three. Appeals for reconsideration fell on completely deaf ears. It was as if they had seen how great the product was and decided for themselves that Arrow was not going to print something this good. All of us were stunned and devastated. The work for number two was never completed. Korvus died as a title right then and there, and Mick has never written another word for the comic market since, much to the comic market's loss in my opinion. In anger I included a Korvus short story in the back of Spank #1, but that was the last we have seen of Korvus, and Mick's flat-out genius. It was then that I realized that the art form and it's growth was the very least of Diamond's concerns.

Diamond's tenacity to make us go away only helped our stubborn streak to stay, and we tried our best to help out as many folks as we could to join us. Each new "Hoop" as I came to call them added to our stubbornness. In the end Diamond made more money off of Arrow Comics than Scott and myself ten times over, yet they still kept treating us like dirt. We tried as wide a spectrum of titles as we could during this period, like the above mentioned The Dead (zombie horror), August (superhero/science fiction), Korvus (a unique barbarian/horror cross), and Dr. Goyle (Humor) but kept hitting the same level of ever shrinking numbers. Arrow was barely breaking even on everything-and taking an occasional hit here and there-and desperately needed a hit, an angle of some sort, to plug our shrinking capital boat.

There was one month in particular, we were restarting The War Of The Worlds book and had also solicited for another creator owned product that looked way too good NOT to print called Happy The Clown's Manga Special #1. We were REALLY proud of both products and had taken out a half page ad in Previews to advertise them. When we received Previews we noticed that our ad was four whole pages away from our solicitations (three of which were ads), and that our solicitation listing that we had sent them was severely butchered. The Diamond "editor" had left most of the War Of The Worlds solicitation, but had gone to great lengths to cut every last reference to the word "manga" from Happy The Clown's listing. In fact, if the word "Manga" hadn't been part of the book's title there would have been no indication that the book carried a Japanese influence at all.

Of course, we protested and were told that it was Diamond's right to edit our listings however they deemed fit. Going back and comparing what we sent for previous listings and what was actually printed in the Previews was astounding. What came off as nearly incoherent in Previews made perfect sense when we sent it in. This incident led us to believe two things; 1) It was not Diamond's intention to remotely play fair- especially since they wanted us all to "dry up and blow away" and 2) Manga was a key word in their minds and was a hot word to use on the market.

So Arrow Manga was born.


Part Two: ARROW MANGA
The Good, The Bad, and The Fugly.

I always enjoyed Manga and felt it was a viable avenue for revenue, especially with the way Diamond seemed to be treating it, so we began looking for Manga influenced properties to print under their own imprint, thinking also that the Manga distributors would also be more prompted to pick up a line as opposed to a specific product. Once again, looking back, it was just over extending us even further than we were before.

Creator demands and missed deadlines plagued us terribly right from the start, I'm sure due to my not staying on the individual creators to keep performing, added to that their ambivalence to the product once they realized that it was a break-even proposition at best. Our Manga line was probably our most boneheaded idea, but seemed worthwhile at the time.

Our first product, Descendants Of Toshin, fell barely short of breaking even and we waited for a number two, a special, or anything from the creative group. It never came.

Miss Chevious, which was a property I owned and granted should have stayed much closer to, was way below breaking even. I cut an original eight issue pitch down to four, then after the second issue the talent dropped out of sight, and later decided it wasn't worth her time to even attempt to finish the story. At this time we began considering trade collections, and thought that whatever up front loss from Miss Chevious: The Armegeddon Project to start with would be returned once we collected the story (which, after reading the two issues we did, actually read better straight through as opposed to individual readings), sadly that was not to be and we took a solid loss of at least a grand on the title.

Semantic Lace was a fantastic product, solid in every fashion and very comparable in quality to Korvus #1, that never received even a fifth of the notice it deserved. I blame myself for not working harder to market it better. The talent lost interest after two low selling issues, and despite our constant reassurance to him that we were committed to all four issues, plus a possible collection the artist, not making any money from the book, decided to miss all the deadlines on the third issue. To date the project is still not completed, though he's had a couple of larger publishers make him offers, with I'm sure much more capital that Arrow had, to collect it.

On both Miss Chevious and Semantic Lace we had firm contracts, and legal standing to pursue enforcement, but decided against it in both cases because we didn't get into this business to FORCE anyone to do something they didn't want to do, plus we hadn't the time, money, or ambition to pursue it.

Then there was Butterfly Gunn.

Out of all of Arrow Manga Butterfly Gunn stood out not only as our best, most complete product, but also our greatest triumph, not to mention Arrow 3.0's second largest seller.

Our anger with Diamond and their treatment with us during the above mentioned Happy The Clown Manga Special debacle lead us to canceling the orders on Happy the Clown and hanging onto the material/property for six months until re-soliciting it as Butterfly Gunn, promoting it as a classic underground manga style effort, with Arrow being awarded the first print rights in North America, of which both claims were totally true.

Butterfly Gunn was the one solidly good thing to come out of Arrow Manga, and in my opinion, one of Arrow's best moments. We had taken a shafted book and turned it into a winner. I was expecting the same kind of numbers we had received on all the rest of the Manga product, but Butterfly Gunn easily outsold all the remaining Manga line combined. We had folks sending us fan mail, talking to us at shows begging for the next installment, and felt as if we had, in perhaps a small way, beaten Diamond at their own game. Unfortunately by this time, with the six month lapse as well as their other commitments, and second issue was never solicited for or produced. Still, I consider Butterfly Gunn to be our second biggest surprise.

Our biggest surprise was, of course, Spank.

Part Three: SPANK
Would You Like To Touch My Monkey?

A few years before Arrow's rebirth I had created a mouthy little monkey named Spank and his brain dead cousin Shock as a kind of an inside joke with the indy company named CFD. Shock and Spank commented about life, comics, the comics market, and whatever else was pissing me off at the time. CFD even allowed me to publish a one-shot special of the pair, calling it Shock and Spank:The Monkeyboys Special #1 because the name "Spank The Monkey" was considered too risqué by the publisher. I had an open invitation to do more, but Arrow soon started and I was off and running with that. Like I said before, I ran out of time on a lot of things, and they were all about to come back and bite me on my ass.

Soon afterwards at Arrow we were watching our numbers dwindle and our frustrations with Diamond and the market in general growing. I jokingly told Scott that I was thinking of doing a one-shot Spank book that would be nothing but Spank telling everyone about our problems, naming names much louder than I am even doing here, and flipping everyone off at the end. Then Arrow would quietly go into hibernation yet again. Scott and I had had enough and were ready to get out. We WANTED to get out and I wanted to go out with as big a bang as possible. So we decided to solicit for Spank The Monkey #1, sending in the longest over written solicitation that we could pulling things out of thin air for Spank to cover when we had planned this big switcheroo. We placed our duo in the middle of a pair of breasts for a cover, joking that this would be just what the market wanted, and sent both cover and solicitation into Diamond.

Amazingly Diamond ran the solicitation pretty untouched with a "Spotlight On" classification, privileged attention that we RARELY got, plus another up front mention of the book at the start of that issue of Previews, giving Spank some very unasked for attention. Adding to that Wizard magazine picked up on the attention Diamond had given the book and listed us in the "On The Edge" section of their magazine. We were suddenly on "The Edge" of the market with nothing but a cover, a false description, and frustration and contempt for a market that was suddenly lovingly embracing us.

Spank the Monkey #1 was Arrow's most popular book. It had one of the largest print runs, matched only by Dark Oz #1 and Land of Oz #1, and was the fastest of all the Arrow books to totally sell out. It felt odd to have a product that everyone seemed to be loving and backing, though I made it a point to turn my book into a kind of "flip" book first featuring a Korvus short story in #1, just as a flip-off to Diamond and their idiotic policies, and then a Max Velocity one shot that was serialized into three parts. On the Spank side I quickly re-wrote the first issue to include most of the things that we said would be in the book and started planning additional issues as well.

Spank gave us a small upswing to our history, and eased the cash flow burden that we had been plagued with. Unfortunately it also ate up more of my time, especially in the writing aspect, time I already had too little of.

The second issue of Spank, though not as good a seller as #1 still sold amazingly well and is a personal favorite of mine in all of Arrow 3.0's history. I consider it truly classic Spank, and still turn to it whenever I want to show folks the true potential that a title like that should have. If/when Spank gets his own series again, whether with Arrow or not, I will be using the second issue as a touchstone of sorts to aim for, content and quality wise, it is that solid of a product in my mind.

Spank was only able to take us so far, and we watched as the numbers slowly slipped from high profit to doing well, to breaking even. We were soon hanging on by our fingernails again by the time the fourth issue came out. Then everything happened at once and by "everything" I mean everything BAD.


Part Four: OUR YEAR IN HELL

Our year in hell was actually about eight months long, but if anything bad could happen it happened to us in one way or another, privately as well as publicly, and it was an experience I never want to relive, especially in the order that we did.

For Scott's part I believe that this was the time he was getting a divorce and watching his store sales shrink. Frankly, he had it rough but still lighter than what I went through.

For me, it was the fact that the wife and I were buying a house, and were caught in the middle of buying, taking six months to sell the old house (located in "scenic" Flint city proper), all amidst my being fired from my regular job, dealing with all of us being sick, and having, according to the wife's calculations nine relatives die all around us in a period of two months. Privately it was no picnic.

Add to that Arrow's problems and it's amazing that I'm still mostly sane; though looking back on it there was a period where I question even that.

Loosing the job was rough. Trying to come up with enough commercial work to compensate was worse, but not making any money from Arrow's endeavors and getting horribly screwed by a couple of unfortunate events was the breaking point.

Arrow Manga was failing, both Miss Chevious and Semantic Lace were abandoned by the talent, and the Butterfly Gunn profits went to help compensate their current losses, losing the chance to collect either series into a trade I thought was the death knell for that particular branch of the company. Quite honestly we couldn't hold it together.

Then there was Zombieopolis, which I refuse to get into here, you can read about that by reading the first Randy Rant elsewhere on this site, suffice to say that it changed our entire attitude towards taking on outside talent and even looking or accepting any kind of outside solicitation again.

So reeling financially, plastered against the wall creatively, watching the personal life and what little publishing reputation Arrow Comics still retained going down the toilet, I decided that it might be time to re-examine what I was doing. At this point I was a frayed mess to say the least, and just barely hanging on to my own sanity. There were whole evenings where, after looking for any kind of work I could find commercially, I went home and curled up in the easy chair with a blanket and shivered in a kind of nervous sweat spasm. No real work got done, correspondence went unanswered, orders were lost-which I wholeheartedly apologize for, and time seemed to flash by in a very scary fashion. After doing this more often than I want to admit I figured it was time to pull back.

There were three key points that happened during this time that, quite honestly, kept me sane. The most important of which was the wife and kid's support, not to mention Scott's moral support. The relationships there literally became my anchors, as I imagine they are with most of you reading this, "anchoring" yourself with family and friends, and I never really realized how much I valued it all until after this period of my life was over.

I also had begun the Randy Rants section here to vent on the market, so that's what I did and still do to this day. I find having that spot to answer to once a month or so to be a good way to stay somewhat sane, especially in keeping my head screwed on straight as far as the publishing and comic career go. For a large part I have Zombieopolis to thank for that.

The third thing that I did was to stop the regular Spank The Monkey run [which had dropped down to breaking even despite my continual lateness], and vent once again by doing a three issue mini-series about all, or at least most, of the problems we were facing as publishers trying to survive in this crazy market. Thus Spank The Monkey On the Comic Market was started. This three-issue mini-series really put things into perspective for me, personally. I did some very gratifying research into comic market history and took the time to really examine where we were as an art form as well as a company. The mini-series has been required reading in more than one graphic storytelling class, one at least at college level which kind of blows my officially12th grade educated mind, and still stands as a touchstone for me creatively. Again, the series came out late, at least the last two issues did, because I was not only stretched thin but also in a fashion fighting for my livelihood and in general sanity.

It was during this period that Diamond delivered to us one of our final blows. They decided that despite the upswing in sales, that Land of Oz needed to end. They were unwilling to carry the book much farther because it just wasn't worth their time to carry us, we were "below their minimums for far too long (five issues straight) and we needed to go. We began negotiating terms of surrender, which may sound dramatic but was exactly what this was considering that if Diamond didn't carry the title all of our Oz works would be dead, and had "settled on the next issue or two after the one we had just sent to them, which was issue nine, and in fact we were told that we could probably go to issue twelve if we were to take out an ad in Previews. We considered the last maneuver on their part to be a kind of "blackmail", but still told them we would consider it and took the situation up with the creative team. As with Korvus Diamond's news completely blew the wind out of the creative team's sails. Nine ended a story arc pretty well and the writer was ready to go. Bill Bryant, who by the way was by far the greatest, most professional, easiest to get along with, and the most fun to print artist we had the privilege to work with and print, was willing to still continue but we felt that it would be a lost cause and agreed to stop the title at issue nine.

An additional factor in Arrow's decision to cease printing comic books, the 32-page pamphlet at least, was a sudden sharp increase in printing costs brought to us by our printer. We had gone through a lot, had taken abuse from literally all sides of the market. And with our print bill jumping some twenty plus percent per issue we could only stand to print one or two books before we bottomed out all our capital. We made the decision that if Arrow was to continue we would have to print trades, that way we wouldn't be relying on Diamond as our dictator over what we could or could not produce.

Diamond bent over backwards, much to their credit, on the release date of our final pamphlet, Spank the Monkey On The Comic Market #3, because we had assured them that we had decided to concentrate on trades. That fact still mystifies me in that out of all the work we produced that issue was the most critical of Diamond and their practices, and yet they bent their rules to allow us to release it. I still figure nobody there ever read the book, or cared, and still believe that to this day. My biggest regret over the Spank The Monkey On The Comic Market series was that I wasn't honest ENOUGH about all our hassles. Even this history only brushes the frustration that Scott and I lived through over our four years of printing funny books.

So, the lessons to learn from all the above, at least in my opinion, are:

  1. Be prepared (like any good boy scout).
  2. Be more than adequately funded.
  3. Grit your teeth and realize that every step you get in this market, every bit of ground you gain comes with a fight.
  4. Marketing is ESSENTIAL; you just have to figure out how to do it successfully.
  5. Printing comics is something that gets under your skin and in your blood. You can't get away from it no matter how badly you're screwed, and once you do this you'll NEVER get out of the business completely, there will always be a part of you tied up in it.
  6. Never loose track of why you got into doing this, and never, and I had a REAL rough time realizing this, NEVER let your work suffer to cover someone else's ass. The fact that everyone else's book came first has put a kind of stigma on my performance as a freelancer I believe. Personally I KNOW I can do the work on time as long as I don't have everyone else's product to worry about.
  7. If you're going to do something like this, and I probably am far from never self publishing again myself, always surround yourself with enough support and friends that your own self esteem isn't directly tied to the company. I took way too many things too personally, and some other things I should have taken more personal than I did.

So, do I think it was worthwhile? Was all this worth doing? Well, maybe not the last year or so, I think. There are always things you would re-do if you had the chance. Did we print some great product? We sure as hell did! Did we learn some hard lessons? Oh yeah, and many of them were pretty painful!

But we're still going. The Arrow site is getting stronger all the time. Folks are stopping by more often, if only to look around (you need to buy more back issues folks, I still have a basement full of them), The Rants continue and the Spank Web Strip goes on and like I've said before Arrow as a concept never dies, just goes into hibernation every once and a while. I've still got a couple of trade collections available and am looking at probably printing more soon as Arrow 4.0, but the output will be much slower and I plan on enjoying myself a lot more when doing them.

Arrow IS eternal, the idea of a truly creator owned company open for the creative to create and TOTALLY own their work will never go out of fashion. All of us involved here are far from done and you'll see us in one aspect or another in this market, this art form, somehow, some way. It's in the blood, and we just won't feel right if we're away for too long.

Thanks for being here.

Randy Zimmerman

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