Cowboy House is an independent comic collective based out of Ohio. It’s been running Cowboy House Correspondence Club, a snail-mail mini comic subscription service, for about a year now. It is reasonably priced at $25 for 6 months at Cowboy House International.
I met Jeff Gibbons, one of the members, at SPX and was interested in his work. So I interviewed him (bottom of the page). He told me a bit about S.P.A.C.E. which Becca and I attended and I got to meet some of the other members and subscribed to their comic mailer.
What am I getting each month?
I may have missed some things as all of my SPACE comics got mixed together and I haven’t had a chance to go through it all.
A month later I got this in the mail. The religious theme caught me by surprise but I enjoyed it. The short stories are laid out like children’s book rather than comics and focus on a single person’s tale. Two of the four books were in color and each came with a hand-written artist explanation/reflection card. The first thing I read was the post-card, which did a good job setting the tone of the stories. The packaging design was cute and did well in tying everything together.
Overall I’m pleased with this month’s haul. I feel like if I were to buy these books at a convention I would have spent $4-$5, which is roughly what I paid if you divide over the months. I haven’t put the decal on anything, but it’ll probably end up on a reusable coffee cup. I think people are starting to think longer term about media now between Netflix, Hulu, GameFly, KickStarter, and Patreon. So hopefully it will give people an open mind to try it out.
Why the mail and where is this headed?
I asked Fred what the comic creators’ motivation for starting a mailer subscription service. With the near-ubiquitous acceptance of webcomics, and the rising sales of mobile-optimized comics, how much audience is left for such a service? You can probably guess the answer. People who were children shortly before the internet became the mammoth it is now reminisce of times when they would get magazines in the mail. Mostly gaming magazines, but also computer hobbyist or other geekery. There's just something exciting about having a surprise at home for you, especially in the age when most mail is bills or mass mailer ads. And I'm not talking about the surprises you get from forgetting what you ordered on Amazon. But something made for you by an artist which you're helping support. I can't say I often seek out such experiences, but there's a stronger feeling of connection when you know an artist in person or are receiving something physical made for you from them rather than just leaving comments on a webcomic.
I also asked the Cowboy House if there was intent to scale their comic mailer service, and possibly get the attention of independent comic publishers. Now that I've received my first batch of mini comics / zines, I could see this becoming a full time job for them at some point, but it just wouldn't be the same thing if became too large because it would be too much work to have a personal feel to it any longer. Inviting comic guest artists / writers every edition would also change the service, but it would have a similar feel.
All the members of Cowboy House contribute to the Correspondence Club. They regularly release collaborative projects and rotate out who edits the works and design.
Fred Frances is an artist, illustrator, and writer. He creates mini comics and prints.
Jeff Gibbons is a comic artist and illustrator. He recently released Ghost Hunters and his web comic, Helper Bot (http://helperbotcomic.com), starring a small-fry assistant robotic helper who is working for a robot-for-hire agency. Jeff also writes and illustrates Pretty Jeff (http://prettyjeff.com), a semi-autobiographical webcomic.
Mike Madsen is an artist and designer. He creates mini comics and t-shirts.
I didn't get to meet Matt Glove, but I believe he often does design work for the group.
You should definitely subscribe. Just head over to Cowboy House International or try to drop by their tables at Appleseed, Zine Fair, GenghisCon, or Glass City Con.