Australian comics finds a new home as web developer turns publisher.

Shane Syddall, Founder of ComX and co-founder of ComX Studio.

From web developer to comic promoter, to comic book publisher Shane Syddall is aiming to become Australia’s largest independent publisher and promoter. With one question in mind, why are we not supporting Aussie talent.

Shane Syddall has been a long-time comic reader of mainstream comics for as long as he could remember but fell off as publishers began to both rehash and reboot their comic lines in the 80s. In 2019 Syddall stepped back into the world of comics when he discovered the Australian indie scene. When asked why he came back to comics he said, “to be honest I missed them”. Mr Syddall elaborated “comics have always given me such great joy, but finances were my main issue, plus my OCD need to have full collections which is a VERY expensive need”. Mr Syddall believes it was indie comics that helped overcome the original issues that were key factors in why he parted from comics years earlier, “Indie Comics have shorter runs and no arcs that ran over years, that made me realise I could bi-pass my OCD need and still read comics.”

But why are creators shifting from pursuing a mainstream career with the bigger publishers, e.g., DC Comics, Marvel or Dark Horse and taking a chance on themselves? Over the last decade even mainstream creatures are making the transition away from these major publishers and seeking out creator own agreements or delving into publishing their own material with the aid of Kickstarter and other fund-raising platforms. This shift has been made easier because of how the world has become connected through the internet and social media, making finding an audience and distribution a lot easier than say twenty years ago. Once creators relied on distribution companies like Diamond and the marketing of the publisher to get their work out there, but the internet has helped the creator to become fully in charge of their career in many ways.

After his reconnection with comics Mr Syddall started his website, that would act as a directory to link comic collectors and the casual reader to a database of all Australian stores to help finding these stores easier. “During the process of listing these stores I discovered the Australian Indie Comic scene. I felt quite stupid at first that I hadn’t considered there were Australian Comics. Not sure why I remember the date, but on Boxing Day 2019 I started building the part of the site that would house the directory of Australian Talent.” Mr Syddall continued “I figured if this was news to me, how many other comic fans didn’t know about Indie Comics in Australia?”. It was this thought that pushed the websites focus on making people aware this scene existence in Australia

Looking to continue the push of Australian creators in the comic scene, and with the encouragement of others, Mr Syddall ventured into the role of publisher. In July of 2021 Mr Syddall launched the first ComX Studio publication titled Presents, followed by Presents: Noir.

Both Presents and Presents: Noir are anthologies, the first in full colour and the later in black and white. Each book features four stories from four different Australian creators, some stories are one offs while others are ongoing instalments. These publications were released in August followed by Presents: Noir in September and was available initially through a pre-order on Kickstarter and now on the publisher’s website .

ComX Studio holds similar values to Image Comics in many ways, the main similarity being, the creators come first. As a publisher ComX Studio only acts as publisher and distributer and retains no ownership of the material printed. The creators are free to move on and take their material with them if or when they choose to depart company. This arrangement, also held by Image Comics is a way to counteract another reason for the departure of creators from pursuing mainstream careers. This reason would be the warning tales from older creators who previously worked in mainstream comics expressing how they have been used and receive no compensation, especially with the use of the material they created that led to the boom of the comic-based media.

In many cases past deals have granted both the studios and the publishers a loophole in not paying them royalties for their work, one recent example of this is Warner Bros using the work created by Alex Ross for costume designs and promotional material. One case would be in Wonder Woman 1984 which borrowed heavily on a costume design created for Wonder Woman in the DC Comics Book Kingdom Come which was the base design and influence for the golden armour shown throughout the film. The Promotional material also recreated his paintings of the DC Comics characters to promote 2017s Justice League without crediting Ross as the original source for the concept.

With these first publications now out and available to the public, Mr Syddall is oncourse to release the publishing house’s follow up issues continuing focusing on the Australian talent. Many of the original contributors are returning to the next editions with a few new additions to the talent roster leading to a November release for the next instalments of both Presents and Presents: Noir.

This momentum in releasing content to the public has allowed Mr Syddall time to reflect on the time and effort that goes into this side of the industry, Mr Syddall explained “there is more to printing than meets the eye, and Kickstarter are WAY more work they look. Help is invaluable when doing both”. Mr Syddall continued “maybe it’s because of recent events and its front of mind, but I would have to say the social politics of the scene is something difficult to navigate too.  But I any industry is like that, I guess I just hoped for more from a community based around something I loved. Second would be organising a group of people with different goals to share just one.

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