Hope Nicholson

ComicsVerse talks to Hope Nicholson about her freelance work on THE SECRET LOVES OF GEEK GIRLS, Comic Book history, Canadian Nerd culture, and more at New York Comic Con

ComicsVerse: Welcome to New York Comic Con 2017. My name is Rachel Davis. I am with Hope Nicholson. Hi Hope. How are you doing?

Hope Nicholson: Good, good enough. Yeah.

ComicsVerse: So, I was mentioning all the caps that you carry. Maybe we can count them off real quick. You are the publisher of Bedside comics. You are also a freelance editor for such comics as THE SECRET LOVES OF GEEK GIRLS and THE REDUX, which recently came out from Dark Horse. You’re a comic historian. You run the Prairie Comic Festival, and you’re a Kickstarter work.

Hope Nicholson: Yeah

ComicsVerse: So, wow, that is quite the resume. You are quite the comics person. So let’s dig in to as many of those topics as we can, starting with your Kickstarter work. How do you run a successful Kickstarter campaign, cause you’ve done several successful Kickstarters, but most recently, GOTHIC TALES OF HAUNTED ROMANCE, yes?

Hope Nicholson: Haunted Love.

ComicsVerse: GOTHIC TALES OF HAUNTED LOVE, excuse me. So, what have you learned from kick-starting your own comics. What are the rewards and challenges of that?

Hope Nicholson: I mean, it’s a great opportunity because a lot of times the books can’t get out there unless you have enough people. And it’s a huge financial risk if you decide to just try to self-publish a book or to publish a book in general, and you don’t know how well it will sell. So, Kickstarter is the ideal test market. You could put it on there, and if people really like the idea, great. You get it made, and there’s no financial risk. Then if people don’t like it, you don’t lose anything, just by trying it out. That’s what’s really great. If you don’t get your money, then you can move on to the next project. So, Kickstarter is an ideal testing ground for new projects. And you see a lot of innovation and a lot of comics that mainstream publishers, just, wouldn’t touch normally.

ComicsVerse: Do you have any tips to running a successful Kickstarter?

Hope Nicholson: Definitely put in as much work as possible into asking questions of other people, and a lot of that includes things like budget. So, get multiple quotes from printers, get multiple quotes for shipping. Make sure you visualize everything in advance. There’s no way to over-prepare for a Kickstarter, unless you are delaying it by years and years. But yeah, definitely a lot of the work has to be done in advance before you can start it. And make sure you have people to reach out to.

A lot of people think that people just wander past Kickstarter like it’s a shop, and they throw money at projects. But in actuality, it’s all you. You have to do the pushing, and you have to reach out to people. So unless you … If you don’t have a dedicated fan base, it can be really, really hard to get a Kickstarter to work. So sometimes, in those cases, you should actually try to borrow other people’s fan bases. Get them involved. Get them as artists or writers or collaborators and that’s how you can help make projects succeed.

ComicsVerse: And with Bedside, a lot of your catalog or comics that represents so much diversity, in terms of racial diversity, gender diversity, sexuality, religion, why is it so important for you to have such wide representation?

Hope Nicholson: I think it’s really important for us all not to just see ourselves on the page, but also to see other people that we don’t normally encounter in our daily lives. So I think, for a lot of people, especially if they grow up in things like small towns or small communities or suburbs, they’re really limited by the people they encounter. Meanwhile, people who are lucky enough to live in urban centers, they get a much wider breadth of who the entire world is. And so, having books that are able to reach out to perspectives that aren’t usually available in publishing, means that everyone can get the sense of what it’s like to live in a larger community and meet people from everywhere.

ComicsVerse: Absolutely. So can we talk about WOW COMICS #01? For our viewers, can you explain what that is and why you felt that it should have been reprinted?

Hope Nicholson: Sure. So, I do a lot of work with 1940s Canadian comic books. The reason why is that during this time period, American comics are actually banned from entering Canada during World War II. So, we had to create our own industry in Canada. This was really short-lived, and basically, once the protection measures dissolved after the war, American comics came flooding back and our publishing industry, kind of, crashed again.

So, that’s unfortunate, but you get a lot of really weird, rare gems, and no one had done any work in reprinting them until I came along, about four or five years ago, and started working to reprint and restore and get knowledge of these comics out there again. So, Wow Comics #01 is actually the first color comic ever published in Canada. And shortly after its appearance, color comics went to just black and whites instead because they were a lot cheaper to produce. And because the kids didn’t care as long as they could read something.

ComicsVerse: So, full disclosure. I do not much about Canadian Comics industry. And I feel like, as in most Americans, I’m probably not in the minority. Could you tell us a bit about what the Canadian Comics industry was like? How did it differ from American Comics industry, and how so today?

Hope Nicholson: It’s different a lot because, in terms of comics specifically, it’s been mostly over ran by American comics. And that’s mostly because the distribution system in America works so that, you guys have a lot of people spread out across the country. But in Canada, we have a few people spread out very far and few between. So distribution is really hard in Canada, physical distribution, shipping, things like that, when in America, it’s a lot easier. So to expand into Canada, it’s just an added extra step.

But for Canadians, it’s a struggle to reach just our own population. So it’s always been a big struggle there. The 1940s measure really helped out. There’s a resurgence in the 1970s when people got really excited about Canadian National products again. And so, we had a resurgence then with characters, like Captain Canuck was probably the biggest one and Northguard, and then John Byrne, who was Canadian, went to Marvel and created the Canadian team Alpha Flight as well, ripping off a lot of the 1940s Canadian comics, and actually Captain Canuck himself too.

And then yeah, we had a big place in the independent scene in the 1980s. We had a little bit of an underground boom, too, in the 70s. So kind of like mirror versions of what was happening in America. And I think today, we really defined mostly by our really successful web comic cartoonist. So people like Ryan North with Dinosaur Comics or Kate Beaton with Hark! A Vagrant, or even Jeph Jacques, who lives here now with questionable content, are all Canadians … Well, Jeph’s kind of like a new Canadian because he’s an American who lives in Canada, maybe he doesn’t count. And we do a lot of independent work that’s really good, like Drawn and Quarterly is probably the country’s biggest comic book publisher. And they focus on independent comics that also reach out to audiences not traditionally served by the mainstream mass market of comics.

ComicsVerse: Is there any difference in the content that you find between Canadian Comics historically, and even now in American Comics?

Hope Nicholson: Yeah, I think for sure, what we don’t do really well in Canada, because the spread of our population base, is we don’t do strict genre really well. So, that means things like super hero comics, western comics, war comics, things like that that are really specific and very action-focused, just don’t reach the right audience in Canada. They just don’t seem to be of interest.
Meanwhile, like graph novels, more serious books, history-oriented books, and personal memoirs are really popular in the Canadian publishing scene for comics.

ComicsVerse: Do you notice a difference between the comic fans in Canada and America? Briefly before, we were talking about the different between conventions, such as New York Comic Con and most others.

Hope Nicholson: Yeah, I think what’s really neat about Canada’s, probably … We do have the convention scene, but pop-culture doesn’t necessarily dominate it as much. It’s not necessarily dominated by comics either. So unfortunately, it tends to be mostly kind of like autograph and meet and greets with older celebrities, mixed with a little bit of an artist alley that people usually have to pay to attend. So, it’s okay.

What’s really cool about Canada are the independent comic arts festivals. Toronto Comic Art Festival being the biggest of the batch, and being a really cool festival where it’s free to attend. So, everyone actually takes all their money and they spend it all on comic books. It’s just comic books, no merchandise, no big publishers. They really support Canadian publishers like myself with Bedside Press and Annie Koyama’s Koyama Press, and Drawn Quarterly, among others.

ComicsVerse: That’s wonderful. Now, let’s talk geek girls. How would you define a geek girl?

Hope Nicholson: I think a geek girl is just anyone who’s really obsessed with a certain fandom. Yeah. So, I mean a lot of people branch it off into technology, and I think that’s relevant as well. But I’m mostly focused on fandom geeks and trying to bring them together.
THE SECRET LOVES OF GEEK GIRLS was a book I published last year, and it started off through a Kickstarter, through my own small press. It got big enough that, luckily, I was able to work with Dark Horse to bring it to a much larger book market. It’s been super successful and really exciting. All they are are short little stories about love, dating, and sex by women who identify as geeks. And so, it’s been something really fun to do.

Earlier this year, Kickstarter asked me if I wanted to do a sequel, and do it on Kickstarter. Something that was low pressure and low budget. Just something that could be quick and easy to get out there. So I thought, “Well, that would be great.” I would love to do a sequel that focuses on the writers and artists involved in the first volume, telling new stories, but limiting even further, from five pages down to one to three pages. Then, Dark Horse is actually publishing an all-gender sequel with all new creators, for the most part, and that’s coming out in February 2018. So, that’s THE SECRET LOVES OF GEEKS.

ComicsVerse: So, now that we have these different genders, like all different types of gender representation, not just male and female, I imagine, right? For SECRET LIFE OF GEEK GIRLS, What does that bring to the table? What kind of voices or stories can we expect to see from that?

Hope Nicholson: Well, that was something that was really important to me, ’cause in THE SECRETS LOVE OF GEEKS, I think it was really important to emphasize women’s place in the comic industry. But by that very definition of feminism and the role of gender, it also limits anyone who doesn’t believe in the gender spectrum, or who doesn’t identify in the gender spectrum. So, it excludes a lot of people who identify as non-binary, in a lot of ways, and that’s unfortunate, and that sucks.

So, I wanted to do a book where everyone felt included. Included with that, so we do have non-binary creators involved in the second volume. And in addition, there are also male creators. The biggest reason why I let men in the second volume is the fact that a lot of men really feel discouraged from discussing vulnerability and emotion, except for if it’s among women. That can be a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure on both parties, too. So, having these stories that, hopefully, people can relate to from people of their own gender, or other genders, is something that I think will make the second volume really unique, and help to bind people together even more.

ComicsVerse: I’m definitely looking forward to seeing that. Do you have any other upcoming projects you like to share with us?

Hope Nicholson: Yeah, I think GOTHIC TALES OF HAUNTED LOVE is probably the next one that you mentioned. So Kickstarter recently funded that. And it’s an omage to the 1970s Gothic Romance genre that was really short-lived, but very popular in American comics. But, because those are also limited and kind of constrained, usually just featuring white women running away from scary, rich men … We really want to make it a lot more diverse. Not only is it focused on different sexuality and different genders, but it also has a much much global spin than previous Gothic Romance have had, with me hiring artists and writers from all over the world.

ComicsVerse: Oh I can’t wait for that!

Hope Nicholson: Yeah, I’m really excited.

ComicsVerse: Thank you so much for your time, Hope.

Hope Nicholson: Yeah, thanks for having me.

ComicsVerse: For more interviews, as well as reviews and more, make sure check out ComicsVerse.com. My name is Rachel Davis, and we’ll see you next time.

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