Q&A: Nix Comics founder Ken Eppstein

From the August 9, 2012 edition

Lifelong comic book fan Ken Eppstein started Nix Comics, Columbus’ independent comic publisher, two years ago because he wasn’t interested in available mass-market products. As the lead writer and editor-in-chief of Nix, Eppstein makes sure the stories maintain a fast-paced, compelling arc and are as subversive as they are appealing.

The overarching theme of Nix Comics is modern fables. All of the stories are very much geared toward — “morality plays” would be a little heavy-handed, but that’s basically what they are. Nix Comics Quarterly, which is my flagship book, is an anthology which … is all in the spirit of the “Tales from the Crypt” [books], which were basically morality plays.

Recently I’ve gotten into some longer stuff. I did a full 20-page kids comic with one basic story arc. The western I just put out is a single 28-page story, but still has the same kind of cautionary tale aspect to it.

Nix Comics is a modern mythology, a modern set of fables. It runs a little contrary to the mainstream character-driven books of today, but I don’t think Aesop ever worried about the fox’s upbringing or origin story. If you’re playing to a smart audience, they can fill in for themselves and probably much better than I ever could.

I take a take-the-mountain-to-Muhammad point of view on it all. I’m selling at coffee shops, independent book stores and boutiques like What the Rock?! as well as Laughing Ogre and conventional comic bookstores. I very much tailor the books to be popular with record store crowds. They’re in Spoonful, Lost Weekend, Used Kids and Elizabeth’s Records.

I like to put in stuff for my record store friends, a lot of musical and pop culture references. I’m an old “Star Trek” guy, so I like putting in “Star Trek” references that only some people get. It’s important to have those outside touchstones to modern culture because modern comics have become so insular.

The X-Men was the first comic book that was kind of my own. When I was a kid, usually my older brothers would quickly lay claim to whatever I brought into the house. X-Men was the first one that I brought home where they’d go, “What the hell is this?” It’s not the Flash or Superman, so they left it alone.

I’ve always been a big Superman over Batman booster. One’s a rich boy with mommy issues who buys expensive cars to save the world instead of sinking it into education; the other is what we aspire to be. He’s the son of a farmer and a scientist and a crusading journalist.