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ShortBox is the Uniquely Curated Comics Box of Your Dreams

ShortBox is the Uniquely Curated Comics Box of Your Dreams

It’s hard to find great independent comics. In a world filled with capes and cowls, it can often be difficult to discover new books that don’t fall under the Big Two banner. Fear not though, as Zainab Akhtar—a fantastic critic and curator—has you covered with ShortBox, a curated mail order comics box.

In Akhtar’s own words: “Each box contains five comics and an exclusive A4 print (and sweets!), with a new box releasing every three months. It’s not a subscription; there’s no signing up or commitment to multiple boxes. Instead, the box runs on a pre-order system. When a box is ready, pre-orders go live for 10 days within which period you can buy the box. You order a box, you get one posted out to you. That’s it.”

The order listing provides covers, preview pages, blurbs, and further information on each item in the box. That means you know exactly what you’re getting, which is a big deal for Akhtar. “It’s important to me, both because as a customer I want to know what I’m buying and because I feel confident about the work we’re producing that showing it off is what helps get people excited for it,” Akhtar explained.

You may have come across Zainab’s critical work under the name Comics and Cola. But with ShortBox, she’s branched out into publishing, with an incredibly ambitious release slate and fantastic content. “What really makes ShortBox unique is that I publish the comics within the box. I approach artists whose work I find interesting and good, and ask them to create a new comic for the box. So all the comics within the box are brand new books you won’t find anywhere else. Once the box has been released, books are then available to purchase individually in the online store and at cons, etc. We’re essentially putting out a slate of new comics every quarter!” Akhtar exclaimed.

Creating ShortBox came naturally to Zainab. When she realized that her time writing about comics was probably coming to an end, she began directing her passion for the medium in a completely new direction. “I’m lucky in that through my writing I was able to build a small community and their encouragement was instrumental in making this a viable option,” she explained. “I read a lot of comics and I love getting things in the post, so the mail order box combination seemed tailor-made made for me. Yet, despite looking, there wasn’t a comics box out there offering what I wanted: a focus on comics rather than a single comic being part of a larger package of t-shirts, toys, etc. I wanted someone whose taste I trusted to pull together a box of four or five comics that show me a range of fresh, diverse work—stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily come across on my own. And that’s how ShortBox came into being.”

There’s something in ShortBox for everyone, with comics spanning different genres, art styles, and themes. From the political to the personal, to sports and sci-fi. “I’ve published sci-fi, comic food recipes, silent comics, fantasy, books on sports and friendship, old Hollywood’s relationship with gay actors, veganism, more abstract work, strips on what it’s like to be a young Muslim woman, and beyond. I have broad tastes and a good eye, and I think those serve me well. As a publisher, I’m not looking to publish a fully formed work of genius. I’m looking for work that has a strength to it, that speaks to me in some way, whether that’s via style, writing, humor, voice, subject, execution, and so forth. If all those elements exist together, fantastic. But for me, a work can be–and the ‘can’ is important!–of value even if it is doing one of those things well,” Akhtar said.

With ShortBox, Zainab is creating something truly necessary. From the 28 or so books ShortBox has put out so far, 13 have been by people of color and 24 have been by women. “In general, one of my hopes with ShortBox is to bring lesser known work to people’s attention. And very often, work that is overlooked; artists who get less exposure and fewer opportunities are those with marginalized identities. I want to do even better. Publishers will often say their first priority is the work itself—the merit argument, you know? Which is a massive cop-out, because there’s an endless supply of white men who have had every advantage, access to every resource, been given platforms, etc, whose work has benefited from all that to reach a decent level. Does this mean that no-one else is producing merit-worthy work that fits whatever you’re looking for? Absolutely not. The onus is on you as a publisher to learn about and find artists who are doing the kind of work you’re looking for who instead of churning out the same old perspectives, the same old stories from straight white men,” Akhtar stated thoughtfully.

“I’m genuinely passionate about all the books I publish. I’m not in a position yet where I can afford to publish work I feel lukewarm about!”

You can pre-order ShortBox #7 right here!

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Images: ShortBox 

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