Uproar Comics is the brainchild of extremely talented Northern Irish duo Danny McLaughling and Kevin Logue who, has you would expect, have the brilliant personalities that come with their heritage. So grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy their own story told by Kevin; there's even a video...
Hi Kevin. So tell us, how did Uproar Comics get started?
It was the rainy summer of 2011, the vibes of culture and heritage were heavy in the Derry air as the 2012/13 City of Culture celebrations got closer and closer. We, with our lifelong love of comics decided that this town, with its ancient walls would be a great place to hold out during the eventual zombie apocalypse. Danny armed with his wacky imagination and a blue Bic pen, me (Kevin) with a block of paper, a HB pencil and a marker is truly how it all began.
It was a hobby to begin with, a few guys, one desk, one room and a big idea - A Derry set and locally produced comic book, we knew we were on to a winner when we released the first issue of our series aptly called "Zombies Hi" (that's a "Norn Iron", or Norther Ireland to everyone else, colloquialism) at the 2D comics festival. 100 copies sold in less than three hours, overjoyed we were, so much so that we ran with all the excitement we could muster and rustled up another 100 copies, by the end of that day we had sold out twice. Then and there on the 2nd July 2011 we knew the opportunity we had before us, we were going to get to do what we always wanted to, be the creative's we were inside.
Some time past, more issues were releases to great response and in October 2011 Uproar Comics was truly incorporated... then the fun began!!
Tell us a bit about the business and what you do?
Our motto is "We.Make.Comics," and has been since we began but in truth it's wrong, in actual fact "We.Tell.Stories". Our primary focus is the creation of our own Inetellectual Property, be it comic, digital comic, app, game or animation we have several original titles that span both genres and mediums.
And how have you developed?
When we began there were no jobs for creatives like us locally, in a sense without being too egocentric on it, we started an industry here and in doing so have created opportunities for local talent to work in the creative industries.
Like many other business we have moved towards the digital arena and in the past year we have found ourselves also branching out into the world of App Development to produce a series of Digital Experience Comics. These are interactive comics that really get the reader involved with the story and create a richer atmosphere with sound and even allows the user to shape the story.
A large aspect of our business model however is graphic production, from marketing/promotional materials to concept product development. If it's creative and technological, we're probably doing it!
That all sounds very exciting! Anything else?
As well as making our own comics, we provide workshops for the local community groups and schools with the objective to teach kids how to advance and improve their creative skill set. Not limited to only the creative aspect, we work with educational bodies to develop visual literacy tools to help improve students literacy and maths knowledge, and for the advanced students we delve into areas of software training mainly focused around the Adobe suite.
Are you purely online or do you have outlets?
A lot of what we do is online, however we are proud to say that our comics can be bought in all Waterstones and Easons stores in the whole of Ireland. We also have our comics in local retailers shops throughout Northern Ireland as well.
The online aspect to our business is brilliant though. We have found ourselves shipping our comics out to places like the United States of America, Canada and Australia; trading on the internet removes geographical restraints.
What’s the competition like in the world of comics? How do you make your brand stand out?
Naturally we have our competition. When it comes to the big boys like Marvel, DC Comics and Image Comics, we can't really compete, but the independent comic community is really booming here in Northern Ireland. We may be in competition with other companies but actually we all try to help each other out.
When it comes to making our brand stand out, we like to say that we have Ireland's version of "The Walking Dead." This is what really gets our international audience's attention and this is why Zombies Hi is our best selling comics series. All we have to do is mention something about Zombies Hi on our social media sites and people just go a bit crazy for it.
Do you have any cool customers?
All of our customers are cool, what are you talking about?
Point taken. Ok, Marvel and DC have featured heavily in the cinema recently has that had a positive effect on your business?
Yes it has had some positive effect on our business. When we go into schools for workshops, we know that the kids will at least know who the big names are in comics. Once the kids know who the big names are and what they do, they get a better understanding of what we do, and ultimately it makes us the coolest people in the world, in their eyes anyway.
Marvel and DC news always gets a big reaction when it comes to our blogging. Everyone wants to know what they are doing all of the time. We like to give our opinions on some of their choices, like for example, the announcement of the new Female Thor. We like to get people thinking about what these big companies are doing, and maybe their reasons behind such ideas. When people click into our blog, they are showing that they want to read about our thoughts and opinions.
What is the most difficult thing about running a comic business?
There are not enough hours in the day. You wouldn't think it, but creating comic books is a surprisingly laborious task. There are just so many things that need done and all at once. You're writing, drawing, colouring, adding text, editing, creating digital versions, marketing and so much more.
How do you market your brand? How do you feel about digital marketing and it’s growth, is it bad or good for your business?
We use social media quite a lot to help market our unique brand of comics. When we first started out, using Facebook was relatively simple and it did a lot for our reach. We gained lots of fans in a short space of time. Since then however digital marketing, and the use of social media, has changed. We now use a variety of sites that includes Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and Good Reads. Managing all of these is time consuming, and this brings me back to the "not enough hours in the day," quote. Digital Marketing for us is a 24 hour, 7 day a week thing. We have fans in different time zones and they are interacting with us at different times.
These social media platforms are ever evolving, and there are days when we come up against road blocks. We like to think we can get around any problem when it comes to social media now, as we seem to have come up against it all at some point.
What are the biggest challenges for your business when it comes to tax and business planning?
Tax and business planning? I wouldn't have put those two aspects beside one another. Tax is when unseen, unheard of people suddenly demand money off you, it's no fun, really, who wants taxes? I guess the challenge with them is keeping on top of it and making sure you're all paid up and legal.
Planning for the business however is a challenge on a daily basis, sometimes it feels like we're expected to see the future by analysing spreadsheets, that is a challenge. The biggest challenge that I had to overcome was getting here, and since our experience is all we can speak of, I'll say this:
You can plan, you can work the plan, but life is unplanned and unexpected, if you want to make sure you don't explode from frustration you have to realise that the plan you have before you is a rough road map. Every now and again you go down the wrong path and the plan falls apart, but if you step back, take a big breath and look again, you'll see a side road that will get you back on track.