Local comic book publisher finds an audience during the pandemic

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The idea started as a conversation among friends holding beers at 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 were planning to create. Birds Eye Comics was ultimately born out of these encounters, an upstart still finding its feet.

What do you want to know

  • Birds Eye Comics is a local publisher that has found its audience during the pandemic
  • He used Kickstarter to fund ‘The BeBop,’ an anthology of stories
  • The publishers, who started as a group of friends exchanging ideas, plan to publish new issues of BeBop in 2022 and 2023
  • With several hundred copies sold, Birds Eye Comics debuts in a competitive business

Franky Sampieri, a product of Lakewood High School, has volunteered to handle marketing and some other business duties.

“It’s a labor of love,” he said.

Eventually it came together in 2018 once they figured out how they could start putting the comics together and which US printer would be the right choice.

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

The pandemic has changed their strategy and taught them a lot about how to generate interest and fundraise for projects. Their original plan was to attend comic book conventions known affectionately by attendees as “cons”. There, Sampieri expected to meet a critical mass of people who love all stories and the art that accompanies them.

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

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

Birds Eye Comics started out by launching “Aydyssey,” but after publishing a few books, it decided to add a new annual anthology called “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 is following in the footsteps of other comic book companies, like Dark Horse Comics, now a major name in the industry. Dark Horse Comics also started as an anthology publisher and is now one of the most 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 his company the power of Kickstarter, not only as a fundraising platform, but also as a means of publicity. A whole community of indie comic book enthusiasts exists there, he said. Their initial fundraising goal was $1,500, with the fundraising response exceeding that figure by over $4,000.

It was more than enough to make their plans work.

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

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

They try to pay no less than $50 per page, but for many people who come to see them, that may be the first dollar they make in the industry.

And for Sampieri, it scratches a creative itch.

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

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

The other advantage is accessibility. A universe like “Aydyssey” can take time for the public to invest.

“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 shorts and expand into other mediums.

While part of the team continues on the “Aydyssey” universe, Birdseye is moving forward with the anthology. It has another release in 2022 with a third, inspired by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, slated for 2023.