Episode 32: Being the Big Dog at Big Dog Ink with Tom Hutchison

August 11, 2016

Today on the show we have Tom Hutchison from Big Dog Ink. Big Dog Ink merged with Aspen Comics a year ago to create a mega company of awesome.

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For the past year they have been doing reprints of their old books, but not it’s time to light the fires and get some new projects cracking again through their new Kickstarter for Lights, Camera, Jungle which launches August 6th. Here is a bio straight from www.bigdogink.com:

Founded in 2009, Big Dog Ink is an independent publisher of diverse comic book properties such as PENNY FOR YOUR SOUL, URSA MINOR, CRITTER, KNIGHTINGAIL, and REX: ZOMBIE KILLER. Since its inception, Big Dog Ink has quickly become a top publisher in the industry with its hit series, THE LEGEND OF OZ: THE WICKED WEST, which has consistently charted in the “Diamond Top 300” list. BDI has gained a loyal fan following due to our high quality art, stories, and dedication to elevating the art of small press and creator owned publishing.

I’ll be honest, even though I knew of Big Dog Ink, I haven’t read a lot of their titles. However, their company always stuck with me because when I was getting into comics again in 2010, Penny For Your Soul was one of the first books I picked up.

I definitely didn’t know Tom before this interview, like I know most of my guests, but I’ve been friends with Frank who runs Aspen Comics for a long time. He was actually one of my first general meetings I took when I came to Los Angeles. Sometimes I still think about turning Shrugged into a movie and where that meeting could have taken me.

But it didn’t. I stopped working in TV/Film soon after and focused on publishing, and Frank went on to build an amazing company full of great stories and wonderful art. After meeting Tom, I understand why Aspen and BDI merged because both their founders are amazing.

Tom came on to talk about his new Kickstarter for Lights, Camera, Jungle, but he gave wisdom about everything from how he started his company to how they launched their first title, to how the grew their title over time.

What I dug about Tom was that he is a con vet. He started by taking his comics on the road all around the country. Within the first year of his company’s formation he’d been to Baltimore, Florida, Chicago, Seattle, and many others. He is the classical touring musician of comics. Somebody that built a company one fan at a time by being in the trenches.

But Tom didn’t want to be a publisher at first. He wanted to be an artist, and then fell into writing. He went to one of my all-time favorite sights, Digital Webbing, to start his company just like I did. Once he got his book, he realized it was impossible to get into comics without having a company formed to sell them. So he founded DBI and set out to sell comics all over the country.

BDI was a means to an end for Tom, and I totally understand that feeling. He was an outsider, and nobody wanted his work, so he set out to build a brand from scratch. So many creators could take a lesson from him, and he drops value bombs galore about how he got started.

I loved when Tom talked about how he deals with submissions. Basically, even though he’s heard hundreds only three have ever made it to publication. The commonalities were these: He knew all the people involved and they already had finished product.

If I could give any two pieces of advice for getting published, it’s to know the publishers personally and have finished product. Aside from that, you are just hoping against hope, and it probably won’t work for you.

He also talked a lot about Kickstarter, and why he’s going to it with his new book, Lights, Camera, Jungle. I was interested to see why he’s using Kickstarter now after so many years, and Tom laid it out for me.

For the past year. Aspen has been doing reprints of their old material, and its time for them to get some new product out. However, LCJ is very different from their usual books. Instead of action and adventure, it’s a slice of life book which tells the story of a girl who becomes a star by being cast as Jungle Girl. The story is the casting couches, and the crappy craft services, and all the things that happen to her.

Instead of going to series first, Tom needed to validate the concept to make sure people want it. I use Kickstarter in the same way. He also wanted to expose new audiences to his work. A lot of Kickstarter people have never heard of Big Dog Ink, and this allows them to get a wider brand and a stronger audience.

That’s very smart, and one of the ideal uses for Kickstarter. Kickstarter, as Tom says, has almost become their own distribution platform for comics. They are currently the #2 publisher (if you consider them a publisher) in terms of gross revenue, in comics today. You can check out Lights, Camera, Jungle on Kickstarter starting August 6th. They will be at Dragon Con and Kansas City Con to promote the Kickstarter, so check them out!

If you want to find out more about BDI, check them out on Facebook, @tjhbigdogink on Twitter, @crittersdaddy on Instagram, or at www.bigdogink.com. He also said he’ll friend you up if you find him on Facebook personally.

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