A Chat with George Alexopoulos

Creative Challenges Outside the Mainstream

George Alexopoulos is an award-winning cartoonist who has self-published over a dozen indie comics and draws satirical political cartoons under the name GPRIME85. He also makes a point to be vocal about his artistic opinions on creations both mainstream and non. George's most recent collaboration Ghost of the Badlands smashed $300k. If you'd like to hear an interview about it in particular you can read or watch here.

Below I've transcribed, and sometimes heavily paraphrased, the first portion of our discussion. This is only a small slice of the interview which I encourage everyone to watch in full here or just scroll down.

I saw you talking recently on Twitter about art and the conservative space and being one of the more prominent artists within the political right, I was curious how have you felt with the attempts from various conservative factions, do you think they’re making good faith efforts to make art? Do you feel that that could be improved? And what do you see the future of art in the right wing space?

There’s a lot of different factions on the right. You got the Libertarian-ish types. Obviously, Eric July recently, I think his campaign’s been going for like, three days or something. He broke a million last night. Although I’m not sure if he’d call himself “right”.

Yeah, he’s pretty solidly Libertarian, I would say. He’s certainly not left, which is a big tent umbrella, seems to catch a lot of people these days.

Yeah it’s hard to say, like if I say, “us”, what do I even mean anymore. I’m not sure, because you have people like the Matt Walsh right, who I am definitely not on the same team as, as far as how they feel about culture and the arts. I’m not hard Libertarian, either. I’m not a Republican, but I’m not Left-leaning, so I don’t know what I am. Someone said I’m an Overton Right-leaning, something like that. I think that might be accurate. As far as all the different factions go, I think we would have to go down them one by one as far as what I think they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong.

Well do you think there’s a particular group, or you mentioned Eric July. Do you feel like he’s an example of somebody who is sort of outside the mainstream, that is doing things well in your mind? I mean he’s certainly being very successful.

Yeah, I mean he’s doing well financially. As far as, does this have longevity? We in the Indie-space, whatever that means, I would even see it as an apolitical space, to be honest. Part of it is that we are fighting against the, see because the mainstream media has been taken over by the left and the far left, so by default it’s people who they won’t hire who are going to start running Indie campaigns and you end up with people who have YouTube channels and big social media presences and they run campaigns and because they have such a huge audience the audience is willing to invest in anything they’ll make pretty much. So by default, we are fighting against the mainstream comics, image, DC, Marvel, I don’t know about Dark Horse, I don’t ever hear anyone talking about them anymore. But you know, the general, you’ve gotta get past editors and you’ve gotta get past publishers and generally they operate about of big cities like Portland and New York and they are left-leaning. So, are we doing better in the independent sphere? There are definitely high watermark campaigns going on. I suppose Ghost of the Badlands was a high one as well. But I had no control over that, really. My posture was that, I’m going to make a book with a really awesome YouTuber who I really respect a lot and whatever happens, happens. And I won’t speak for him, but I think that was his posture as well. I’m just gonna launch this thing, and see what happens. I guess we would have to look at all the campaigns being run right now and look at sort of the median. How much are we making as a huge community?

I think that you have a very different insight into the space than a lot of other people. Even myself, you know, I ran one campaign and I was happy with it, it did well. But, I’m not necessarily a creator in the sense that I am the one creating the artwork or the stories. And so, I think it’s interesting to get the perception of someone who’s on the other side. It’s very hard to get a number, because like you said, everything is so fragmented and we do have these high watermarks. Do you think this is a viable path forward in the long term? Or do you think there needs to be some sort of corporate buy-in or a big cultural change? Do you see any of those things happening?

That’s a very deep question. If I was a publisher, I would be pooping my pants because I imagine the outliers in the Indie-sphere are making so much money, even just gross, and if we had the contacts that they had, we would be making so much more profit per unit than they are or were. But, they’re not selling enough copies, I don’t think. Considering their vast reach, a self-made YouTuber like Eric July, I don’t want to speak for him, but he’s right now kicking so much ass that if I were a publisher I’d be looking at this and saying how could we possibly replicate this and the truth is they can’t because they don’t have it. From a marketing perspective, what’s happening for someone like him is he has an active, passionate audience that tunes into his stuff everyday and they will support pretty much anything he makes and they are showing that with their dollars. The big American publishers, the Japanese ones are very different, have been pumping out garbage for decades and we’ve been eating their scraps. As far as longevity goes, will the projects that are getting funded be delivered on time, will the quality be at least up to par with the competition on the store shelves, and will the creators be able to pump out more in volume over the next few years? Because making a book or two per year, per creator is nice, but we’re dealing with an industry that craves hundreds of pages of content per month across various creators. So, we have a very big hill to climb as far as not just quality but volume. How much we put out per year. And even if you give a creator a million dollars every six months or something that one creator is going to have to hire people to help him or her, and now you’ve got other problems because even if I make a million dollars, I now have to pay a staff. It seems like a lot of money at first, but then we’re talking gross and I don’t think a lot of people realize the net you collect for yourself is actually shockingly low. Once you factor in production costs, shipping costs, you’re paying for a warehouse now. I’m sure Eric would like to talk about this, he has talked about this. You’re paying so many other people just to help you deliver the product that you don’t even have time to spend whatever you have left to spend at the end of it. Not a lot of people realize, oh he made a million dollars, but how much of that million is he really gonna keep at the end of all this. And he has more books to pump out after this. It’s exhausting. So, longevity is really the challenge.