Publisher creates a plan for Jamaica’s comic book industry

With the successful launch of the second issue of his comic anthology series ‘I-Land Chronicles’ in July, publisher Kevin Jackson hopes to jumpstart the Jamaican comic book industry, much like how Stan Lee did with the Marvel brand in the 60s.

A young reader enjoying ‘After Dark’ by Stephen McLeod in issue one of ‘I-Land Chronicles’. (Photos: Contributed)

Having been a part of many international award-winning animation projects, Jackson turned to his first love – comics – in 2016. He set up ‘I-Land Chronicles’ as an experiment financed by his pocket and that of two other business partners.

“I’m very proud of I-Land Chronicles. We went from concept to production in three months, launching test issues at the Kingston Book Festival in 2016. Two months later we were on sale,” said Jackson, who helped to set legislation as the head of the influential Jamaica Animation Nation Network (JANN).

“We don’t have a comic book culture or industry.”

— Publisher Kevin Jackson

The first issue hit the shelves of Bookophilia on May 10, 2016. The aim of the book was to provide a place where local comic book content creators could show off their talent or experiment without affecting their core products. All creators retain the copyright to their material, and they also receive royalties based on sales.

“We don’t have a comic book culture or industry. Creating a monthly book with a single creative team would be a problem. Using the anthology format like Manga allows us to not be dependent on a single artist,” Jackson explained.

Kevin Jackson (centre), the publishers of ‘I-Land Chronicles’, poses with part of the creative team behind ‘Duppy Conqueror’, Davia Morris (left), and Inker Akein Bantin.

Whereas North American comics tend to favour a single story and production team on a monthly basis, Japanese comics like Shōnen Jump fill their pages with multiple stories from different artists providing a wider variety to readers weekly. For Jackson, this option solved several problems.

To this, issue one featured four Jamaica comic book artists and their tales – ‘Maroonblack’ by Henry Grandison, ‘Children of Insurrection’ by Stephen Roper, ‘Knock Knock & Track Star’ by Patrick Allen and ‘After Dark’ by Stephen McLeod. Each artist is given five pages for their stories.

“It’s not just about the money for me. It’s about legitimizing the industry as a whole.”

— Publisher Kevin Jackson

And based on the knowledge he gained in production and marketing for ‘I-Land Chronicles’, Jackson was to help other creators.

“We also discovered that while there is an abundance of talent, there’s a lack of information and standardisation of comic book production. There’s also an unfortunate lack of business acumen in the creative community,” Jackson said.

“We want to do more than just publish creator content in ‘I-Land Chronicles’. We have the expertise to help those creators make their own comic books, market them and get them on to store shelves,” he said.

So far, creators haven’t taken him up on the offer, but he hopes that as ‘I-Land Chronicles’ grows, more persons will step forward.

“It’s not just about the money for me. It’s about legitimizing the industry as a whole. The more comics on the shelves, the more visible we become, whether they are published by us or not.”

Story written by Nichola Beckford