Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Student Comics Anthologies: INK

The School of Visual Arts has had a long history of student-run comics magazines, chronicling the start of the careers of many great SVA alumni. We'll be taking this week at the CA Blog to look out our department's current magazine projects and what students can do to promote their work in them.

When Cartoon Allies found itself overburdened to run both a club and SVA's long-running anthology Inkstains, Amedeo Turturro and Trent Thompson responded to the call and put forward their vision of an anthology comic. By MoCCA Fest 2011, they had presented their primer of INK, and in the Fall they unveiled their first issue. They've foregone traditional print runs for a digital-only release platform, hosting each issue on their website while distributing comics straight to Apple devices with their iPad app. So how is the digital revolution holding up?

INK is certainly our department's flashiest magazine to date. One of Amedeo and Trent's major goals on this project was to create a very polished magazine, something to compete with professional mainstream releases. Tightly designed with full-color comics and magazine-style articles and interviews, their first issue proves that they're well on their way toward that goal. The project's professionalism extends beyond the magazine's actual pages; the INK team has dedicated time to interacting with press outside of the school, appearing on major comics news sites like The Beat and Comics Alliance.
By Pierce Hargan
INK's submissions process also functions like a more mainstream magazine; instead of featuring open submissions policy, INK prefers to hire on interested contributors before they even draw their stories. The editors work with contributors to flesh out the contributors' pitches and establish deadlines (usually a page a month), avoiding the shifts in quality one may receive from multiple cartoonists rushing to get a multi-page story done before an open-submission deadline. This commission-based structure shows a great degree of organization within the project, but also makes the magazine a bit inflexible and bound to form.
By Jose Feliciano
INK's certainly got the flash, but does it have the substance to back it up? The magazine's editors picked a notable group of students to pool work from; all of the contributors in the Fall 2011 issue presented great-looking and well-told stories, and their distinct styles cater to a broad audience as a whole. Unfortunately, most of the scenes presented are fragments; you get ejected from their worlds as soon as you get pulled into them. While I understand that this issue was originally meant for print, putting a hard-limit on the page limit, I'd like to see the digital platform taken advantage of to put out a bigger book with longer, more self-contained stories. (As a contributor, I regret not drawing a self-contained piece myself.) Also, the colors in some of the comics are rather muddy, with the page 6 story suffering from overdone effects which obscure the original lineart.
By Kat Fajardo
For all of its effort to break out of our school's walls, INK is rather reserved when it comes to releasing information. The INK website is bare of any tangible information about the magazine aside from links to the comics and accompanying iPad application. It resemble a full-page advertisement more than an informative webpage. A third of the Fall 2011 issue's credits page is made up of the magazine's logo, while no distinction is made between comic and article contributors. The artists of the included comics aren't even properly connected to their own work; there's no way to concretely confirm an artist's contribution without contacted INK directly. This poses a tremendous problem for a magazine with the original goal of student promotion, especially in an industry with a long history of mistreating creators. This, along with the added emphasis on professor interviews, makes the magazine seem more like a promotion for the school than its students. Even if proper credits within the magazine go against its aesthetic sensibilities, the sparse website could be used to list contributors, cite their contributions, and maybe even include contact information.

INK is our department's most ambitious anthology in recent years and has great potential. The magazine's leadership flaunts an ideal of control, which has been used to craft a very professional and efficient organization that publishes a nicely-polished magazine. However, Uncle Ben warned us of the great responsibility that comes with great power, and this model could make INK resemble those two corporations which ignore such catchphrases to repackage them and make a buck. Still, I trust the dedicated crew behind INK to continue pumping out a magazine which represents some of the shining aspects of our department, and I'm sure that as long as they're open to the concerns and dreams of our student body and faculty, INK will grow to meet its goals and more. I'm proud to be a part of its journey and look forward to see their future publications.

Check out INK's website to find current and future issues of the magazine. If you're interested in contributing to or participating in INK, contact them at INK (at) sva (dot) edu

Eric Alexander Arroyo is a hot-blooded junior who wears a fedora, digs giant robots, and obsesses over flowing scarves. He's spent his life wandering Florida and Las Vegas, and hopes to find an apartment in the bowels of a volcano. Although he's training to be a cartoonist, he'd rather be a crime-fighting cyborg when he grows up.


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