Interview by Brad Gischia
Onrie Kompan is in the business of making good comics. The Chicago-based author has written a successful graphic novel, Yi Soon Shin: Warrior and Defender, and is now launching a new website, freedablecomics.com, as a way for new comic creators to get their own work viewed by multiple sets of eyes, including those of publishers looking for new creators.
What is Freedable Comics?
FreedableComics.com offers the opportunity for anyone to display and promote their work online for free with a clean, easy to navigate professional platform, while retaining complete ownership of their work.
We will provide various tools to help creators gain exposure and we promote the site ourselves to continually increase the FreedableComics.com audience. Additionally, since we don’t sell the content and it’s 100% free to browse, we anticipate attracting a very large and loyal audience that will continually increase potential exposure for creators.
The comic book industry is continuously cluttered with new content on a weekly basis. Our goal is to give your comic a fighting chance in an industry that is saturated with content. FreedableComics.com is a tool to help you gain exposure, which is essential to selling your book!
As a creator, you need to build your audience. Raising awareness of your book is the best place to start. By sharing your work for free and giving your audience a taste of what you have to offer, it will enable you to attract a bigger audience more quickly and utilize those numbers to increase future sales.
What was the inspiration for the site?
My signature series, YI SOON SHIN has been out on the market for four years now. The book was rejected by pretty much every publisher you can think of and yet the series has gone on to sell over 25,000 copies to date. In order to achieve these results, I had to go from convention to convention to hand sell books directly to readers.
I’m in a fortunate position in life where I can not only dedicate my full time efforts to expanding my business but can also afford to go to these shows because I’ll do whatever it takes to sell my book. But a lot of creators don’t have the means or resources to invest that much time and money to promote their work.
Freedable Comics is a means for them to achieve the same results I did without having to do all the legwork. And the nice thing about it is that I’m giving all of our content providers access to the following I’ve built through YI SOON SHIN.
I want to help creators because I know how tough it is. I’m going through exactly what they are and I believe that if we all work together we can all achieve success more quickly than if we were working by ourselves.
Is the site up and running now?
Not just yet. We’ve finished the initial design and are still recruiting content for the site. We are planning to officially launch the site in Q1 of 2014!
What are the guidelines in posting a comic to your site?
As of right now, we’re looking for sequential comic book work. We are showcasing the work of professionals that are serious about breaking into the comic book business so all we ask is that creators give us at least one full issue of their comic for us to display online.
Do you have any comics lined up yet?
Oh yeah. We got a very solid roster lined up for the launch! Unfortunately, I can’t talk about the titles we’re featuring just yet but I can assure you that some of the freshest talent this industry has to offer is already on board!
How do you post to the site?
Folks just need to submit some sample art from their comic along with a short bio to firstname.lastname@example.org and our review board will look it over and get back to creators within 5 business days! More details can be found at http://www.freedablecomics.com.
Is there a vetting process for submitted comics?
Yes. Our review board is looking to make sure that each submission follows the guidelines that we currently have posted on our website (http://www.freedablecomics.com).
We require that the comics that creators submit be presented in comic book format and that it retains a certain level of professionalism to ensure a standard of quality for our audience.
Will you accept all work submitted?
No. As mentioned above, we are looking for a certain level of professionalism in both art and story. If neither meet the requirements of the review board then the title won’t be broadcast on our site.
How long will the comics stay on the site once they’re posted?
Indefinitely. Our goal is to keep folks coming back and reading more and more comics. Therefore we plan to continually build our content to grow our audience so creators, and readers, get the maximum benefit of our free service.
Do you know of anyone who has had success with this type of submission? i.e. Someone who has had his or her book picked up by a publisher after posting for free?
Yeah. Me. When I first started working on YI SOON SHIN, I had it posted online for free and though I haven’t had my book picked up, having it online generated massive interest from Korea. One day, we actually had over 300,000 page hits.
A few publishing deals have come my way since but I’m not ready to settle just yet. All I can say is that giving people a taste of what you have to offer isn’t going to eat up your sales. Sitting in a corner and hoping that someone will notice you over thousands of other titles out there will.
The reality is that creators have nothing to lose by joining us and absolutely everything to gain from the added exposure!
If you were to do it all over again and this was available to you, would you post your comic on freedablecomics.com?
Hell yes! In fact, I believe in it so much that I plan on posting on Freedable Comics myself! The first three issues of YI SOON SHIN: WARRIOR AND DEFENDER will be made available immediately on the day of the site’s launch along with a brand new series that I’m working on with JM DeMatteis!
On YI SOON SHIN: WARRIOR AND DEFENDER…
This is a very substantial project, even if you were doing it as just a novel. What made you want to do it as a graphic novel?
There was a very popular television show made about Admiral Yi in Korea some years ago. A friend of mine at the time introduced me to it and I really connected to the character and his story. At first, I was afraid to do anything with it but then I saw how successful Frank Miller was with 300 and I decided to give it a shot.
I figured if he could do it, so could I.
How accurate are the settings and characters? Weapons?
The majority of the characters in the book actually existed. The only characters that are fictional are our female cast. When my co-writer/editor David Anthony Kraft came on board the series, his first concern was that the book didn’t feature any female characters. And so we created two characters that not only help advance the characters but the story as well.
The settings are all based on actual locations where battles took place. While I was doing research for the series, I took multiple trips to Korea and visited areas where the battles occurred. It was quite amazing.
The weapons are all accurate as well. Japanese Ashigaru were armed with arquebus rifles brought to them by the Portuguese while the Koreans were indeed armed with cannons that had range over the rifles.
The one thing that is exaggerated is the armor believe it or not. Nobody knows exactly what type of armor was worn back in that period but I was advised by the Korean military to use the type of armor that is drawn in the book because it is way more bad ass than your standard chain mail.
How did you find this topic? Make the choice of Yi Soon Shin?
Well, like I said it was the TV show that initially introduced me to the character.
In 2006, I had graduated from college and had to figure out what the hell I was going to do with the rest of my life. No comic book companies were looking to hire me and so all I could hope for was that my one super-hero book would get picked up by a publisher.
I remember going to a convention and receiving multiple rejections from publishers. They told me that my book had nothing new to offer and that I had to go above and beyond if I ever wanted to make it in this business.
A few months later, I discovered the story of Yi Soon Shin and then I knew what I had to do.
Are the diary excerpts from the historical figure?
They are loosely based on excerpts that he wrote from his diary, Nanjung Ilgi. Of course, a few things are exaggerated but the idea is to entertain our audience and move the story along while maintaining the essence of what was really going on in Admiral Yi’s head during the war.
I would be remiss as a comic’s fan if I didn’t ask about Stan Lee, who writes a laudable foreword to Yi Soon Shin. Did you get to meet him and what was that like?
I’ve met Stan multiple times and each time I’ve run into him, I’ve had to remind him who I am. Stan sees a lot of people and so it’s not always easy for him to recall people by face.
The cool thing about Stan is that he always becomes transfixed whenever he sees art from YI SOON SHIN. Whenever I come up to him, he looks at me puzzled and says, “Who are you again?” and then I say, “I’m Onrie Kompan! I’m that guy that made that book about the Korean admiral!” And then he continues to look at me like I’m crazy until I actually show him the book and then he says, “Oh yeah! Magnificent book!”
I like to think that Stan is still a stickler for quality. After all he constructed the Merry Marvel Universe!
The first time I met him was in his Beverly Hills office in 2010 and we had a chance to talk for a few minutes after he agreed to write the foreword to the book. He gave me some of the best advice I ever received in this business, which was to keep chasing down my dream.
I admire Stan a great deal and have met many people who both like him and dislike him. But say what you will about him, the Man has always treated me with nothing but kindness and respect.
So what if he forgets my name! All that matters is that he loves YI SOON SHIN!
*I’d like to thank Onrie Kompan for his thoughtful answers and for taking the time to respond to this interview.
Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter: @comicwasteland