Support Memphis Artists For the Papercuts Comic Anthology Project
Ed. Note: Contributor Wesley is here to tell us all about a new project coming from a group of MCA alumni – and they need our support to get this project done! Their Kickstarter is only until July 4th at 9 a.m. so time is running out. Donate here and get all kinds of fun things – including their 170-page color anthology, enamel pins, t-shirts, and more.
A group of Memphis College of Art alumni are coming together to produce Paper Cuts—a comic anthology of over 170 color pages created by 16 artists living across the country. Spearheaded by Art Director Elliot Boyette and Editor Shane McDermott, both MCA alumni, the project was brought to Kickstarter to raise money for the printing and shipping of physical copies that’ll hopefully find a nice new home on your bookshelf.
The comics included range from post-apocalyptic fast food chain restaurants, to cavemen on a wooly mammoth hunt and apes telling jokes, to gunslinging witches, and other stuff I can’t wait to read.
I sat down with Elliot, Shane, and Paper Cuts contributors Olivia Logan and Mathis Ryan at the cafe in Crosstown Arts to talk about bringing Paper Cuts from conception to completion.
Elliot Boyette is a graphic designer for the City of Memphis and Paper Cuts’ Art Director
Shane McDermott is a former Memphis College of Art professor and Editor of Paper Cuts.
Wesley: You were all independent working artists before deciding to collaborate. What are some of the benefits of doing an anthology versus instead of trying to release stuff individually?
Elliot: I think that’s a divided approach, when you go individual. It’s hard to get attention for a new artist just starting out, and a lot of us were just coming out of college and still are. We were inspired by Kazu Kibushi’s Flight anthology, and a lot of those people are big name artists now who got their start with an anthology. So as a way to start our comics careers, we thought we’d come together and make a book with everybody in it.
Mathis: It’s good to either start a new project with a one-off or just do a palate-cleanser. It’s a good excuse to just create, and a lot of people kind of needed it. I know I did.
Olivia: In the unstructured life that came after the structure of school, it kind of gave us a purpose that wasn’t a vague goal that was unlikely to happen.
Wesley: When did the idea of creating a comics anthology come about?
Elliot: The project’s been kinda going on since 2014 or 2015 I think. We started having these meetings at Memphis Pizza Cafe where we brought in all these people that were interested in being a part of it. It was very fun and loose, no name idea, no nothing, let’s just get together, make comics, and see what happens. From there, we were breaking up into groups, making stories, come back every once in a while, have another pizza meeting, and then talk about what was going on.
Olivia: The name was probably the one thing we deliberated on for the longest amount of time. For the full three years.
Mathis: You would think that a big group of creative people would be able to name one thing easily.
Wesley: Is there an overarching theme in the anthology between stories, or is it a collection of non-connected stories?
Shane: In the beginning, we intentionally decided against having a theme. A lot of the anthologies we were looking at did have themes, but I figured since this is our first foray into this, let’s just see what we can do, put it all together, and let it be its own thing.
Elliot: I guess the theme is it being a mixtape of everything we’ve wanted to write comics about.
Some Paper Cuts panels from illustrator Robert Burns’ comic
Wesley: I feel like comics in particular are more accessible to new career artists because you don’t necessarily have to be a master illustrator to make a good comic, since the narrative is just as important as the art. Does that make sense?
Olivia: Definitely. For example, Questionable Content is a webcomic I’ve been following for about ten years at this point, and when the guy started out, he sucked. You’ve watched him grow as the years have gone by, but everyone came for the writing and jokes, basically.
Elliot: Which is funny, because there are a lot of comics that are just gross to look at or neutral to look at, but the writing’s so good. There aren’t many comics that I know of that look really good, but you just hate reading them.
Wesley: Are there any dedicated writers on your team?
Olivia: It was all very free, choosing how we wanted to put this thing together. There were people who decided to team up on one story, but there were several of us who did it all.
Elliot: I think there are three writer-artist teams. There’s Angel Bonesteel with Rory, Chris Haley with Lan Pitts, who’s actually done some work for Boom Studios. And Robert Burns has a writer buddy, Tyler.
Wesley: You brought the project to Kickstarter, which as of now has raised a little over $3,700 of its $12,800 goal. How else are you getting the word out about Paper Cuts?
Shane: We’re looking at other things now, like ads we’re going to take out and press releases we’re going to send. Bleeding Cool emailed me last night asking me to write something in the first person for their site basically talking about the project and linking to other work. So I cranked out this article in three hours that went up a couple hours actually. Elliot and I talked about not milking the whole “MCA is closing” thing, but as I was writing, I was feeling really connected to the school and to our friends, so I definitely turned that up a bit.
Wesley: Speaking of which, how does Memphis College of Art closing up affect this process?
Shane: We started talking about Paper Cuts late 2015, just under a year before the school announced it was gonna close. At the time, our connection was MCA, but we weren’t broadcasting that it was this MCA thing because we were open to bringing in other people from the community as well. But once the school announced that it was closing, there was this collective feeling of, “Oh, well we kinda want this to be a tribute to the school and the programs.” It’s definitely heartbreaking.
Wesley: But artists nationwide are contributing to this, right? Or is it just MCA alumni?
Shane: There are 16 of us total, 3 of us aren’t MCA alums.
Olivia: And there are people living all over contributing to this even though we’re centered in Memphis.
Wesley: Is there another plan if the Kickstarter doesn’t reach its goal? Have you worked with any other agencies or organizations in Tennessee to get Paper Cuts out there?
Shane: We’re not out to make money on this. If it made any extra money we talked about distributing it amongst the artists, but ultimately we just want Paper Cuts to exist as a physical book. We want it to be on bookshelves. There are other things we could do, like Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand thing. Maybe get a grant to get it printed and then sell it in local shops or something. Part of the reason the Kickstarter goal is so high is, not only are we printing it, we have to get it shipped here from China, and then shipped to all of our backers.
Mathis: Sponsors and grants are cool and everything, but the real goal we want is books in hands. So instead of people being independent contributors and just covering the cost, we want people to actually have it. We’re making something we want to give to people. Money is cool, but even if we just end up giving it to 90 people, it’s like, I hope those 90 people like it.
Shane: I’m not opposed to just making .pdfs and giving it to everyone if the Kickstarter doesn’t make it. Then if people want printed copies, we could try again.
Wesley: Anything else you’d like to add?
Shane: I wanna throw some kudos to our contributors. I may have gotten the ball rolling in the beginning, but these guys were talking about doing this a long, long time ago, way before I said, hey, let’s finally do it. Especially after the MCA announcement, I’ve dropped the ball on this and it shifted to the backburner for me, but Elliot has kept it on track. He’s really the heart and soul behind the Kickstarter campaign. Olivia got her comic done really, really early on. It’s a 100 percent collaborative effort, we’re peers, and we’re all equal in this endeavor.
Here are some very important links to check out if you’d like to support Paper Cuts:
Paper Cuts Kickstarter campaign: http://kck.st/2ERLOV7
Project website: papercutscomics.com
And, check out Shane’s post on Bleeding Cool here: https://www.bleedingcool.com/2019/06/15/comics-art-school-alumni-anthology/