Patrons and Patreon and the ease of supporting the arts

Earlier this year I was musing on Twitter about how frustrating poorly managed Kickstarter campaigns can be, and what that meant for the suddenly very popular Patreon. I don’t know why but the service just seemed to spring out of nowhere (though it had been around for a while), and suddenly a dozen people I followed online had Patreon accounts for whatever it was they were doing.

It should surprise no one to learn that I am a strong proponent of supporting the arts, and being part of an arts community. I skewed my curriculum towards an arts-heavy education, and have been co-curating Sequential Art Gallery for 5 years now. I want people to understand the importance of art in their city, and have worked to stress that “art” does not always come in the form of oil paintings you don’t understand.

My conversation on Twitter that day—which you can read here; go ahead, I’ll wait—made me feel more encouraged about what made Patreon different, but I still needed to experience it for myself. Well, I’ve been supporting artists on Patreon for a few months now. Here’s what it looks like to be a patron of the arts in our modern age of technology.

My "supporting" page shows to every creator whose work I am a patron of, with quick links, with a quick view of my activity with that particular artist.

My “supporting” page shows banners for every creator whose work I am a patron of, with a quick view of my activity with that particular artist.

I guess I have a “type”?

I’m currently supporting 7 creators, counting the one I added this morning. I was amused to realize that four are people here in Portland and the other three are outside the US. I find it personally amusing that for the most part, the Portland artists are all comics people, and the international artists are photographers.

Getting to know the artists AND their art

I’m not contributing much to any single artist, a few bucks here and there. Enough to see the extra content that interests me most, which is usually behind the scenes or work in progress stuff. I like seeing how the finish product is made, or the thoughts that went into it. I don’t always like pledge levels that give you physical items, but those can always be given away as a way to introduce others to the artist.

The "activity" tab for each creator shows all their posts (not just the official ones but also their Patreon-only content) and the comments people are leaving on their pages.

The “activity” tab for each creator shows all their posts (not just the official ones but also their Patreon-only content) and the comments people are leaving on their posts.

2-3 FCUs (Fancy Coffee units) per month

I like to imagine the total monetary amount I’m supporting on Patreon as units of Fancy Coffees. I don’t kick myself for spending x-amount of money on Fancy Coffee each month if I’m contributing at least that much to artists on Patreon. Lately I’m contributing more Fancy Coffees than I’m consuming (and falling asleep easier in the process).

As distant or engaged as you want to be

At first I thought I’d like all the updates being emailed to me, kind of like newsletters. But a lot of the content was redundant to what I was seeing through the artists’ other networks. I quickly figured out that you can adjust your email settings to receive only certain types of updates; I just disabled everything and enjoy visiting the site and browsing through everyone’s posts, which also encourages me to add comments and engage more with the artist.

On this screencap of Katie West's Patreon creator profile page,

You can see the links in the top right that lead you to the creator’s other online networks, should you choose to interact with them outside the Patreon site itself.

Seriously, that’s it.

Supporting the arts right now doesn’t have to mean hiring an investment firm to handle your acquisitions, or buying art in a stark white gallery space without asking the price. You don’t have to worry about whether you count as the type of person who can legitimately call you a “patron of the arts”; if you’re giving money to an artist, to do what drives them in life, you’re a patron of the arts. Thanks, Internet!

Want to start doing more to support the arts?

  • Find a few artists who are in your own city, and consider how easily supporting their passion also helps to grow your local economy.
  • Also find an artist or two whom you have never met, so that you know nothing about their lives except that they create beauty.
  • Use Patreon as a way to get to know those artistic strangers, and become a part of their digital community.
  • Look at your life and find a luxury you enjoy to use as your personal unit of measurement. Use it to set your own monthly goal as a patron.

New to Comics Lesson #1: Issues and Trades and Omnis, oh my!

Okay, so I want to start this with a disclaimer: there is  NO SUCH THING as “fake nerds”, or “fake geek girls”, or whatever sort of terminology you want to apply to someone who is perhaps not as creepily fervent as you are about your favourite thing. So let’s just not do that anymore. Okay? Okay.

I work with a lot of customers who are new to the world of comic books and want to start collecting titles with their favourite character from a movie, or who are just interested in the format overall. I don’t care HOW it is you’ve come to be interested in reading comics, be it movie or video game or tv show or you read em as a kid or your boyfriend reads them or maybe you just wandered into a store one day and it was full of beautiful comics. The fact that you are even interested enough to not just buy the first thing you see is very good!

But before you become one of those nerds (like me) who’s hitting up their local shop a couple times a month to grab the latest titles, you need to know what you’re getting in to. Understanding the basic vocabulary of comic books is a great first step, and the more you understand how to talk the talk, the less you’ll confuse the person at the register when you’re asking for advice and recommendations.

I’ll be publishing these basic guides in a series of posts, so as not to overwhelm anyone with too much information all in one go. As more posts are published, I’ll also collect all the info over onto a special “What you need to know to get into comics” page for easy linking and reference. Shall we begin?

Lesson #1: Issues and Trades and Omnis, oh my!

Comic books are published in a variety of formats, with different types of paper, covers, and spines. So why are there so many different forms if they all have the same content? I’ve found that the Walking Dead (published by Image Comics) series is one of the best ways to explain this…

A single issue of The Walking Dead comic book

A single issue of The Walking Dead comic book; you can see it says “129” at the top of the comic, near the publisher’s logo.

Walking Dead comes out with one new issue a month. After six issues, they compile that content into what’s called a trade paperback (also called a trade, TPB or TP), which is published in volumes as the story progresses. After the Walking dead has published 12 single issues, they compile those into a hardcover volume (HC). So, a HC is the equivalent of two volumes of the TP, and one Walking Dead HC equals a year’s worth of single issues, since a new issue comes out every month. After 48 issues have been published, they put out a compendium (also often called an omnibus); a Walking Dead compendium is the equivalent of four years of single issues, or four hardcovers.

The math on that is all pretty logical, right? In the photo below you can see how the same content (Walking Dead issues 49-96) look when compiled into trade paperback, hardcover, and compendium formats.

Trust me, trying to stack 48 single issues of the Walking Dead would be about as messy as a grocery store during a zombie apocalypse.

However, that’s just the Walking Dead series. Other publishers and titles follow different standards and schedules. So while almost everyone publishes single issues on a monthly basis, many companies simultaneously publish paperbacks and hardcovers with the same content (much like standard novels); whether you buy volumes of the paperback or hardcover is a matter of personal preference (and budget). Hardcover volumes often are marketed as “deluxe”, and can contain extra goodies such as scripts, character sketches and process shots of the art. But seriously, as long as you know the difference between a single issue and a volume, you’re ahead of the game.

I often make the analogy of single issues of comics being like a single episode of a TV show; it’s just a snippet of the story and you have to wait until the next episode to learn more. Trades and hardcovers are like buying a full season on DVD. Omnibuses are the equivalent of buying several seasons in a box set. This is a really accessible comparison for a lot of new readers since almost all of us have waited to watch a TV show until it comes out on DVD… and similarly, a lot of comics readers wait to get into a new series until it comes out in paperback. The compiled books definitely looks better on your bookshelf!

Processed with VSCOcam with g1 preset

Here’s a shelf FULL of Walking Dead paperbacks and hardcovers all lined up among other books at Bridge City Comics.

Next time…

My next post will focus on graphic novels vs. comic books and the common confusion between the terms. What’s the difference, and how do you know which one to use? Eventually I’ll talk about variant covers, how to keep track of crossover events, and break down the anatomy of a comic book.

DJ Decisions2Make

I spent a goodly number of days last summer learning how to DJ. I should specify: learning how to use digital equipment and software, not turntables and vinyl. They are two different beasts, and I am really not the sort to get into severe beat matching and mixing. Anyway. I talked about the casual pursuit of this possible new hobby here and there on social media. It was well received. People were intrigued by the possibility of a future that included me DJing music. People kept this potential in mind. I kept it in mind, though I’ve not been in a position to do much with/about it.

Fast forward to tonight when a friend with an event space and a grip of regular events he hosts sent me a text. He asked if I’d be down to DJ at a thing in two weeks’ time.

I haven’t actually practiced since last… August?


But, let’s set to work and see how this might play out. Give me a day, I told him, and I’ll give you an answer. Cue scrambling. Panic. Tense contemplation (pictured below). What do I have available to me? I have rad music. I have a laptop, and an external hard drive for music storage… but my desktop computer is currently dismantled with no OS due to a recent hard drive failure (thusly getting music from storage drive to portable drive would be… tricky). I have free access to software that I actually haven’t tried, and a bit of cash to throw at a pro download of what I’ve used before if doing so is preferable. I have a job that keeps me in that part of town until at least 8:30 yet the event starts at 9:30. I have… a decision to make.

This is the face of TENSE CONTEMPLATION.

This is the face of TENSE CONTEMPLATION.

As it so happened, I saw a friend today who in conversation reminded me he used to DJ. I texted him and inquired about the possibility of borrowing a mixing board. He has one; I looked up whether it’s compatible with the software I had trained on… it is, but only the pro version. I downloaded the free version and played around for half an hour to see if I still remembered the basics. I do.

Two weeks. I could get my shit together in two weeks.

And then I realized that the day after possible DJ gig is… drumroll please… Free Comic Book Day.


Plotting the resurrection

How apropos that it’s on Easter/4:20 that I have finally found a visual style for this website. This has been a heavy month for metaphysical content, with the blood moon eclipse and first moon of the 2014 tetrad PLUS the overarching themes from the cardinal cross. I spent the time of the blood moon in a hot bath, interacting with the elements: the last of my bottle of Whippersnapper whiskey, Ghirardelli Sea Salt Soiree dark chocolate, smokeables, and a vanilla-scented tea light in my favourite candleholder. Ritual is what you make it; the elements are yours to interact with.

It’s been a hard month, in some regards. March was so go-go-go on the move that April has seemed positively stagnant. The energy is there, the intent, but the motivation to get up or the will to go have been lacking. Emerald City Comicon ended on the 30th and I spent the first few days of April sleeping. The next two weeks were con drop, with things starting to turn around on the blood moon. Despite how aggressive that 3 day period was it seems to have wrought further improvement. (I wouldn’t have expected a blood moon to create such war between spirits, but it does make sense in context of the month, season, and as leader of the tetrad.)

So I stayed up late last night, and at the witching hour took to laptop and headphones in an earnest attempt to get some planning done. I listened to this commemorative soundtrack for Snow Crash, by Xander Harris for MISHKA NYC. I listened to a random scattering of Xander Harris’ other work, though its energy wasn’t speaking to me. When I joked on Twitter that I was supposed to be up late writing but instead I was up late fucking around on BandCamp, Mangadrive linked me to this album he did under the name Gheists, which got me into the right headspace to continue my work. I managed a good, solid outline of the visual direction I’d like to take my website in, and for the first time ever have a cohesive theme/structure planned out. I felt like it was the night before the first day of school and I’d already prepared my outfit for the next day.

There we have it: the first time in several years that I’ve looked forward to working with this website. This bodes well for the future.


Hello. As MMXIII comes to a close, I’ve decided to put my website on hiatus, and relaunch some time in MMXIV. The reasons for this are varied, but essentially: the goal of this year has been personal growth, pushing my boundaries and exploring the paths my future might take. While the road has not always been easy nor the weather always fair, I believe this has indeed been a year of progress. Lucky 13s all around. In its current state, this website no longer reflects my interests or activities in the way that I would like it to. It  no longer inspires me to create and disseminate as it once did. This is no good. It is time to change. There is so much I have to show you. Keep an eye on this space to watch the evolution unfold.
xox, Merrick, Dec. 18


“Therefore turn to yourself rather than to your gods or Idols.
Bring out from yourself what is in you, bring it to the light, bring yourself to revelation.”

– Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own