Small Packages – Good Things? Meet “Mini-Comic Bundles” (Interview)
In late 2020, independent comic book creators Aaron Guzman and Jason Alexander launched a monthly subscription service for Mini-Comic Bundles, collections of miniaturized comics small enough to put in your pocket. We were fortunate enough to get a chance to discuss this unique project with both creators. As always, the answers below are represented as closely to “as written” as possible with only minimal edits.
The Splintering: I have to say that your Mini-Comic Bundles approach is one of the most unique indie comic projects that I’ve seen. What gave you the idea for them in the first place?
Jason Alexander: Aaron approached me with the idea for the minis late in August 2020 and the project immediately caught my attention. He’d started growing the idea through the a discord (aaa creators community) we’re a part of.
Aaron Guzman: I was already participating in a mini comic exchange and I figured I should package mine in a way that would differentiate it from the others. After mocking up a few, I realized that the packaging was feasible, and the overall concept of the product had potential. Essentially, the exchange was the equivalent of putting feelers out to see if the concept was sound to other members of the discord (Triple-A-Community).
TS: The five-dollar bundles have no shipping cost attached to them, though you’re able to send them in a simple envelope thanks to their size. Was this part of your thinking when conceptualizing these smaller books?
JA: I’ll let Aaron answer the question from the standpoint of logistics, as he has gotten that part down.
AG: Yes. Being able to keeping costs in check was/is key. The fact that we are able to customize the packaging and still use a standard letter envelope for distribution is an important factor.
TS: I have an idea of how you might make these little guys… What are you willing to tell us about the printing and binding process?
AG: No secrets here. Standard mini comic production. Fold a single sheet of paper into 8 equal parts a little glue and a straight edge. Printing is done on a black and white laser jet printer using newsprint sheets and an inkjet color printer for the card stock sleeves.
JA: Aaron prints, binds, packs, and mails out every bundle by hand. He takes care to make sure that each bundle looks like it came off a machine. I’d say the quality and presentation of these is the 1st thing we want people to notice when they open that envelope every month.
TS: All of the bundles I’ve received have been black and white. Are there any plans for color books? Perhaps colorized versions of the same stories?
JA: Black and white, in my opinion, looks great on the newsprint that the stories are displayed on, so, for this particular campaign there’s no plans to do any extra in color.
AG: At this time I would say no to color for the stories. Color sleeves/covers are a possibility.
TS: Any plans for a collected edition or anthology later, perhaps in a larger format?
AG: No. Part of the appeal is the collectability factor a limited print run brings. This will be the only printing of these specific stories.
JA: One of the things that I personally love about the minis is the fact that we get to tell so many different stories and get them in front of people fairly quickly as far as comics go- that being said, there’s always stories that we see could have potential of expanding and we also are always listening to our growing audience to see what they might have more than a passing interest in.
TS: From what I’ve seen, it looks like you do the lions’ share of the writing yourself, Jason. Do you accept pitches from other creators? Is there a submission process, if so?
JA: Nothing in the way of submissions for this bundle, we’ve got our table pretty much set for this campaign through September but who knows what the future holds?
TS: How would you describe your working relationship with your Aaron (Guzman)?
JA: Aaron is a great artist, and as a writer you couldn’t ask for much more than seeing your stories come to life with the care and quality that he puts into each page of our books. Being my first collaboration, I couldn’t have asked for a better artist.
TS: The mini-comics themselves are rather short, but still a bit longer than the typical comic strip or web comic. How do you approach the writing process for this format?
JA: It’s a similar approach I take to start any story, you just have to go into it aware of the size of your sandbox.
TS: Some of the stories are serialized into parts (like Hourglass). Was this done to help drive month-to-month sales, or was it strictly a creative decision based on the story?
AG: Not necessarily to drive sales, but the serialized stories are there to add a bit of consistency to each bundle; you never know what other stories/genres you’ll get in the mix.
JA: I try to start by thinking of the story first. Aaron and I started with a list of titles/story ideas and as the stories started flowing, and we knew what they were going to be there were times when the discussion was “can you expand this to three parts or is this a story we can wrap in a single issue?” The goal is always to let the stories be what they are supposed to be and we try to flow around that.
TS: There have been several genres represented in the bundles I’ve read, from sci-fi, to horror, even a one-shot boxing story. Why did you decide to bundle what seems to be random genres together rather than doing – say – a “sci-fi bundle” or a “horror” bundle?
JA: We want to embrace the variety. With the amount of minis that we’re producing we just wanted to avoid any chance of the bundles to feel repetitive, both from book to book and bundle to bundle.
AG: “The Vault” can be thought of as a living universe of ideas. Every month we reach in and grab a handful to distribute. With each bundle we try to include a 6-part serial, 3-part, and a one shot. The idea is to provide a random shot of escapism to as many people as possible every bundle.
TS: As a creator, do you enjoy bouncing between genres? Which do you feel is your strongest playground?
JA: I think that bouncing from genres has not only helped my writing, but it’s also brought us along as a creative force much faster. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. As far as my favorite playground- terror.
TS: Veteran comic book writer Chuck Dixon is on record saying that comics took a hard turn towards superheroes several decades ago, and that the industry would be healthier today if it had not largely abandoned other genres. Do you agree?
JA: Just to piggyback off an early answer- variety is the spice of life. It’s very easy to get bored when things are only different on the surface.
TS: You’re a regular on Peter Simeti’s (Alterna Comics) “Open Mic Monday” YouTube show. How much success have you had reaching a new audience through that platform? What other avenues do you use to market your books?
JA: Pete’s Open Mic show is great and it’s so cool that someone with a platform his size is willing to reach back and help Indie creators get more eyes on their product. We’re always looking for new ways to market and new people to talk to. Instagram and Facebook have both been helpful for collecting data on our product but nothing replaces us getting out in front of the masses the best ways we can.
AG: We have a Ko-Fi shop and we occasionally give out online flyers (Facebook/Instagram ads) as well as push the bundles on posts via Twitter and LinkedIn. Our primary objective is to get on podcasts and streams with reach.
TS: Aside from the Mini-Comic Bundles, do you have any other projects fans can check out? Anything new in the works?
AG: I have a short Webtoon series called DR163: a story about a long-lost graffiti artist and trauma surgeon who form an unlikely friendship when the magic of their hands turns them into midnight vigilantes. There are quite a few projects coming within the next couple of years.
JA: I share lots of my thoughts through my art on my Instagram @fogbreakerstudios, and as far as projects I’m locked in on the minis, but things change everyday!
TS: What would you do with the power of the Beyonder?
AG: Convince the world they need Mini-Comic Bundles in their lives.
JA: These minis would find their way into the hands of all people. And they would send folks into a frenzy for what was next.
We would like to once again thank both Jason Alexander and Aaron Guzman for taking the time to answer our questions and to have some fun with us. You can order your own Mini-Comic Bundles via their website here. And of course, thank you for reading!