“Indie.”  Short for “independent.”  Indie comics, indie music, indie movies. Indie.

It means the creator is not creating for a corporation; they are often a small group, or mostly likely an individual, realizing their vision to their own tastes; following their own tunes, drawing their own images, writing their own stories.

Quite often, I hear the word “indie” synonimized with “bad” or “poorly done”, and that’s just not the case. Are Indie creations less refined than their mainstream counterparts? Sure. Indie folks don’t have the budget for the high-gloss, hi-fi, high-profile presentation that mainstream creations get– but that doesn’t mean the work is “less than.”

What’s disturbing is that we as fans sometimes forget this, and we buy into the hype that this “slickly-presented and lavishly colorful perfect-bound graphic novel available from Big Company for only $15.00” is a better deal than the saddle-stitched photocopy in the Artist’s Alley for $20. It’s not a better “deal,” it’s just less money (and if that is your only criteria for your entertainment purchases, read no further).

I want to share something with my fellow creators for those times when they might feel that they’re not “good enough” because they’re indie and not mainstream:

I was reading a graphic novel put out by one of the Big Two (it’s irrelevant to specify, as the point of this is not to slam anyone but to illustrate a point), and…

…it was bad. I mean, really substandard, to the point where I thought “These pages were turned in, and an editor approved them, and people got paid? HOW??”

This was an 80-page, high gloss, graphic novel product for a very prominent title for the company. It should therefore have been its highest-end content, and yet I saw:

  • Disjointed story with inconsistent characterization, clunky dialogue, fragmented story trails that went nowhere;
  • Confusing visuals where, on several of the pages, I literally could not figure out what was happening on the page
  • Poorly-drawn people that were objectively drawn badly (poor anatomy, misshapen faces, inconsistent body type from page to page

…and it hit me, plain as day: These people are not better at their craft simply because they work for a big corporation. They are not automatically more legitimate, of a higher echelon, or somehow more valid because they have a credit in a “big name” publication.

Yes, they did have to put in the work, the time, the effort, and the professionalism to get there– I’m not discounting that or disputing that.

What I’m saying is that Indie folks are not “worse” at what they do simply because they don’t work for a big company. If any of you out there ever have that little demon voice whispering in your ear trying to get you to believe it, shoo it away, because the truth is that we all find our level. Some of us Indies might never refine our craft to the point of being able to compete in the mainstream, it’s true. But some of those in the mainstream take their shot, get published– and are never heard from again because they simply couldn’t maintain the quality of their work.

Be proud of what you do, and constantly strive to be better than you were yesterday, no matter who you are or at what level you’re creating. Do not think because the mainstream spotlight is not on you today that you don’t deserve to be recognized tomorrow.

Keep creating. Keep improving. Above all, keep working. Let “Indie” be a source of pride, not of insecurity or scorn. Live it. Be it. Create it. OWN it.

–Michael McAdam