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Prism Comics Seeks Donors
posted December 20th, 2004
[Print-ready Version]

The president of Prism Comics, the nonprofit organization that advocates for greater inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) characters and creators in the comic book industry, announced today that the organization is seeking support from the comics community to reduce its debt and prepare for its activities in 2005.

"In today's political climate," said Charles "Zan" Christensen, "with renewed challenges to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, we appeal to the comics and LGBT communities to help us spotlight those people who are producing creative work that goes in a decidedly different direction. We ask you to help us support those who are celebrating—instead of vilifying—the spectrum of differences in our society."

Since Prism Comics is a 501(c)3 charity, donations are tax deductible in the U.S., a fact which Christensen hopes will encourage a last-minute push as the year draws to a close. Today, he urged comics professionals and fans alike to visit PrismComics.org and make a donation before December 31st. The nonprofit has put together a new donation page featuring testimonials supporting the organization from a wide variety of creators working in comics, including Eric Shanower (Age of Bronze), Tommy Kovac (Autumn, Stitch), Donna Barr (The Desert Peach), Tristan Crane (How Loathsome) and many more.

"Prism Comics is vitally important to both the comic industry and the GLBT community," writer Devin Grayson (Nightwing, Batman: Gotham Knights) said this weekend. "In addition to being a social bastion, political spearhead, and organizational triumph, Prism has been a fount of proud, celebratory, and inspiring creative energy and innovation since its inception. What qualities could be more important to our industry, especially now as we prepare to begin a new year with mainstream publishers consistently more self-referential and circumscribed and reliably less willing to take artistic, political, or even marketing risks? We can't let any more of our small, independent factions go under, especially not one like Prism, which in mission and accomplishment is large enough to encompass and support each and every one of us."

"Since I started cartooning in 1992," said Leanne Franson, creator of Liliane, "I have always had to go it alone in the world of cartooning, seeking out other creators and queer-friendly shop owners and industry people in a shot-in-the-dark haphazard manner, keeping an eye open for any welcoming material and like voices. Then Prism Comics came on the scene and we have not only a voice, an advocate and a representative, we have a face to the world and a place to hang. After five years away from the comics world, Prism has given me a living room in the comics and internet worlds, a home away from home, from which to spring forth with a new book and a new website."

"Please support Prism Comics," she continued. "Make sure that there is a meeting place for all us LGBT creators, a mouthpiece, and a beacon to all readers and future creators scattered here and there around the world."

Prism Comics fulfills its mission to promote the work of LGBT creators and LGBT themes in comics in several ways, including their feature-rich website, convention appearances and nightlife outreach events. One of the most high-profile ways is their annual resource guide Prism Comics: Your LGBT Guide to Comics, the 2004 edition of which was a 128-page paperback profiling 80 different creators and featuring a full 50 page anthology of exclusive and preview comics.

The 2004 edition debuted in July at Comic-Con International: San Diego and was welcomed as a creative success by critics and fans, but it has also been a financial burden on the fledgling nonprofit.

"We were very ambitious this year," editor Dakota Mahkij said. "We went from a 48-page comic book that was mostly text features to a 128-page guide incorporating several full-length comics' worth of great material. Because we wanted to reach out to bookstores, we went with a squarebound format and went through the process of getting an ISBN and barcoding the book. We partnered with Quebecor for the first time to produce the book, and with Diamond to distribute it."

"We gave out over 3000 copies of our last edition without any distribution to speak of," Mahkij continued. "Mostly we handed them out at conventions, where they were free of charge, and filled orders from visitors to our website for a little more than cost plus shipping."

"For the new edition," Mahkij said, "we were determined to still make them available for free at conventions, and we distributed more than 1000 copies at Comic-Con this summer. But we knew we would need to pay for our printing costs, so we put a cover price of $4.95 on the book for comics shops, bookstores and online sales, knowing full well that in today's market a book like this usually sells for much, much more."

Despite a "Spotlight" in Diamond's Previews catalog and a successful appearance at Comic-Con, the book's initial orders from comics shops were disappointing. Attempts to find bookstores to stock the guide didn't fare well, either. The organization continued to bring the guide to outreach events and funds have been trickling in from sales in their online store, but it hasn't been enough revenue to cover costs.

When volunteers raised the possibility that the organization might not be able produce an annual guide in 2005, Christensen responded by donating a thousand dollars of his own money to help pay down the debt.

"I usually end up buying things like stamps to send online orders and candy for our booth in San Diego, so yes, this is a little different," Christensen joked. "but I wouldn't do it unless I believed in the organization and thought it had more potential."

"Comic books, like any artistic medium, can be a tool for inspiration and social change," Christensen said, "and I'm very proud of our efforts to connect new readers to positive voices in the industry. A few years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find lesbian and gay characters in mainstream comic books. Now, they're not a news story, they're almost a given. I think we've helped encourage that. And the variety of small-press and independent comics by and featuring LGBT folks is even more impressive today."

"What Prism does is highlight gay comics and creators," said Paige Braddock (Jane's World), "but they aren't promoting some 'gay agenda' by doing this. The way I see it, they are helping everyone understand the texture and diversity that has existed in comics all along. If we're ever going to reach some sort of equity between minority and mainstream comic artists then it will be because of efforts by groups like Prism. As a gay comic creator, I truly appreciate all the work they do in the industry on my behalf."

Donations can be made to the organization with a credit card or PayPal account by visiting their web site at http://www.prismcomics.org/donate.php or by sending a check or money order payable to "Prism Comics" to Charles Christensen, President, Prism Comics, 2621 E Madison St, Seattle, WA 98112.


Prism Comics promotes the works of the LGBT community in comics. It does not implicitly endorse any other material or products associated with those works. Any opinions expressed are those of the author(s).


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