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B&N Week 171: To Be Or Not To Be–Should You Quit Comics?

| April 2, 2014

BoltsNutsFeatured-to be or not to be

It’s a windy-ful Tuesday here in beautiful Tucson! It’s great, really. We’ve got the low 80s here, so the breezes are more than comfortable. It’s great, and a precursor to what’s coming next: heat! And not the Miami Heat, either. It’ll be fine. Right now, though, it’s time to get into some Bolts & Nuts!

This week, we ask: to be or not to be–should you give up on comics?

This is a question that everyone will struggle with at one point or another during their comic book career, possibly more than once. There’s no shame to it. Comics is a challenging business [and you have to treat it as a business if you’re going to really get anywhere with it]. Really, if you haven’t struggled with this decision, then it’s for one of three reasons: you haven’t been doing it long enough, you’ve gotten extremely lucky and are getting paid work, or you aren’t doing it right.

When making a decision like this, you have to weigh the pros and cons as to where being a creator fits in your life. Creating comics means you’re giving up a lot: free time, time spent with friends, sleep, money, and more. On the other hand, you’re creating something that will outlive you. You’ve made a mark on the world, and you’ll always be able to look and say “I created that.” This is not something that everyone will be able to say.

Before continuing, this has to be said: comics does not owe you anything. The only time comics owes you something is when you’ve been consistently creating and entertaining people for more than 20 years. If you’ve created characters that people love or added significantly to their mythos, then comics owes you something. Other than that…if you think comics owes you anything, you might as well get out now.

With that said, there are things to take into account when you look at yourself and your career in comics, no matter how long you’ve been trying or how nascent it is.

Are you where you want to be, considering how long you’ve been putting in the work? This is a big one. If you’ve been consistently putting in the work but you don’t seem to be making the headway you think you should, then you have to look at yourself and what you’ve done.

While doing this, you also can’t be deluded in looking at what you’ve achieved. You have to look at it objectively. Have you been trying for ten years but have only managed to put out a single limited series? Can you consider that as giving it your all? Could you have tried harder? Given more?

When thinking about giving up, is it for the right reasons? I’ve said time and again that creating comics is very expensive, and that there are other things that can be done with the money you’d spend on creating. You could buy a car or a house, you could go on a cruise or some other kind of trip, attend multiple sporting events, pay for a college education…there really isn’t a limit to what can be done. Expense shouldn’t be an issue unless you’ve produced a significant number of issues without at least breaking even. And by “significant,” I mean more than six.

Going back a bit, just where do you want to be? I mean, in a realistic sense. There isn’t that much space for comic superstars. They’re all working either at Marvel/DC, or have worked for them previously and are now working on creator owned stuff, if not a blending of the two. So outside of the superstars, where do you want to be? In a position to have steady work? Work that will pay the bills, if it doesn’t inspire you? Work that will put you in a position to be able to turn down other work because you’ll be kept busy enough? Being in this place isn’t terrible at all. It’s really the place you want to be.

If you were to quit, what would you do with that time and money you’ve just reclaimed? Money was made to be spent, right? So, what are you going to do with it?

If you were to quit comics, I don’t recommend making the decision while you’re full of passion. People quit a lot of things while they’re passionate, and regret it later. By “passion,” I’m talking about while in a fit of frustration. That can be a rash decision. I came to the conclusion once that I was quitting, and some good friends of mine talked me down. I was in a fit of frustration, and it would have been the wrong thing to do at that time.

If you’re going to make a decision like this, then you should make it when you’re cold and rational. Make it when you’re not frustrated, and are able to think it through. And then make a plan to do so. Look at your reasons for quitting [most of the time, it’s due to not being where you want to be. Expense doesn’t come into it, because if you were where you wanted to be, money to create wouldn’t be an issue], make sure they are truly valid, and then make a plan for getting out.

The plan should include time. A last hurrah. One last ditch effort to get yourself where you want to be. That takes some time. Not six months, not even a year. I’d say give a minimum of two years. If it doesn’t happen by then, start your extraction.

To be or not to be. This is always a serious question, so the answer can never be glib or rushed. Always give it the respect it deserves.

See you in seven.

Click here to discuss in the ComixTribe forum at Digital Webbing.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at for rate inquiries.

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