Local comic book publisher finds audience during pandemic

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The idea began as a conversation among friends holding beers in Long Beach apartments. 

Their plan was to create their own universe with superheroes, villains and stories full of conflict and adventure. And they wanted to create their own publishing house for the new characters they planned to create. Birds Eye Comics was eventually born from these meetings, an upstart still finding its feet.

What You Need To Know

  • Birds Eye Comics is a local publisher that found its audience during the pandemic
  • It used Kickstarter to fund “The BeBop” an anthology of stories 
  • The publishers, who began as a group of friends just swapping ideas, plan to publish new issues of BeBop in 2022 and 2023
  • With several hundred copies sold, Birds Eye Comics has its start in a competitive business

Franky Sampieri, a product of Lakewood High School, stepped forward to handle the marketing and some other business tasks.

“It’s a labor of love,” he said.

Eventually it came together in 2018 once they understood how they might begin putting together the comics and what U.S. printer would be the right fit.

The friends all had different personalities, interests and voices, and a universe was the perfect way to branch off in different directions without separating altogether.

The pandemic changed their strategy and taught them a lot about how to gather interest and raise money for projects. Their initial plan had been to attend comic conventions known fondly by attendees as “cons.” There, Sampieri expected to encounter a critical mass of people who all love stories and the art that goes along with them.

Instead, he noticed more enthusiasm for existing characters and stories from blockbuster brands like Marvel Comics.

Other comic book publishers have brands as well as a host of fantasy and science fiction book series. It’s a competitive type of storytelling with many beloved, well-established characters and stories.

Birds Eye Comics started by launching “Aydyssey,” but after pushing a few books decided to add a new annual anthology it’s calling “The BeBop.”

One of the founders, Jeremy Askegard, is still developing Aydyssey, but Sampieri said they needed to add something smaller and more accessible.

BeBop follows in the footsteps of other comic book companies, like Dark Horse Comics, now a major name in the business. Dark Horse Comics also began as a publisher of anthologies and now is one of the best-recognized brands in the industry. 

The first issue of “The Bebop” featured over 100 pages produced by 26 creators, including writers and illustrators. And it showed Sampieri and company the power of Kickstarter, not just as a money-raising platform but as a means of advertisement. A whole community of indie comic enthusiasts exists there, he said. Their initial fundraising goal was $1,500, the funding response surpassing that number to the tune of more than $4,000.

It was more than enough to make their plans work.

“You have to have a love for it and you have to be okay if it doesn’t pay the rent,” Sampieri said. “But we do see a path forward to make some money.” 

Comic book writers and illustrators have limited opportunities to earn some money while learning their craft. Even talented, working artists can struggle to find outlets that pay for anything. But Birds Eye Comics has managed to establish a small foothold in the market through crowdfunding platforms allowing it to pay all of its creators something.

They try not to pay less than $50 a page, but for many of the people coming to them, it might be the first dollars they’ve earned in the industry.

And for Sampieri, it scratches a creative itch.

“The community and the creative setting that brings is really what interests me,” he said. “I get to write my stories and work with all these interesting people and bring their stories to life.” 

 

He also sees it as a way to broaden the footprint of the BeBop anthology. The more people who get excited about working on the anthology, the more people there will ultimately be to spread the word.

The other benefit is accessibility. A universe like “Aydyssey” can take time for audiences to become invested in.  

“With an anthology as a consumer you say hey I can pick this up and read a few stories at a time,” he said.

As it continues, he hopes it can inspire animated short films and expand into other mediums. 

While some of the team continue on the “Aydyssey” universe, Birdseye is forging ahead with the anthology. It has another coming out in 2022 with a third, inspired by sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick, planned for 2023.