B&N Week 136: Hard Truths (Or, If…Then You’re Wrong)

| July 30, 2013


It’s Tuesday! And do you know what I’ve seen a lot of, lately? Thunderstorms. Flood warnings. Flash flood warnings [which are different and more dangerous than flood warnings]. Rain. Frogs. No, not a rain of frogs [technically, that’s called a fall of frogs], but after the rain, the frogs come out in force here. The storms come fast, and then they blow themselves out. Right now, it’s cloudy outside, and I expect to hear thunder in the next hour, get some kind of severe weather warning, and then have it all be gone in a few minutes. [Most of the storms here blow out within 30 minutes or so. We’ve only had a single soaking rain since I’ve been back. It’s a bit depressing.]

But just as the weather comes fast, hard, and furious, I will also follow suit. Lots of hard truths are about to come your way, in relatively bite-sized morsels. Ready? Let’s get to it.

If you don’t keep all steps of art separate from each other, then you’re wrong. This is what I mean: you create a comic, but the only files you have are the finished pages. You don’t have the pencils, inks, colors, or letters. I’ve run into this problem a few times with creators, and the only thing I can do is shake my head. It may be harsh, but they deserve what they got.

If you ask so many questions that you end up confusing yourself, then you’re wrong. Making a comic is not difficult. It is not rocket science, brain surgery, nor do you have to defuse nuclear devices. There are relatively few steps when you get to it. That being said, every project is different. The only time questions will be answered is once you’ve actually come up against it as you work.

If you think someone is out to steal your idea, then you’re wrong. It’s pretty simple: your idea isn’t so unique that it’s going to cause someone to steal it. It has either already been done, or creators are too busy trying to get their own stuff off the ground that they’re too busy to try and steal yours.

If you think that you’re going to get rich and famous from doing comics, then you’re wrong. There’s a difference between internet fame, comic book fame, and real fame. Internet fame is extremely transitory. Comic book fame is also transitory, unless you’re able to continually reinvent yourself. You know who has real fame? Tom Cruise. Oprah Winfrey. President Obama. There are very few pro’s who can say that making comics is their only job..and that’s in all disciplines. And they’re continually looking for work, or creating something. Know what you have? Pen-Man.

If you don’t understand that making comics is a long, frustrating road to travel, then you’re wrong. There are much easier ways to make money. Writers can work at other things, as can editors [who are also very often writers]. Artists, inkers, and letterers could all be graphic designers. Artists and inkers [who should also be artists in their own right] can get into commercial art, or video games, or sketch cards, or other things. There are other, easier ways to make money than creating comics. Do it for the love, not the pay.

If you don’t understand that making comics is very expensive, then you’re wrong. This is, of course, assuming you want to create a quality book, and not something slapdash that looks like your typical 3rd grader did it. More than likely, you’re going to have to pay someone for some skill at some point in time, and you’re going to have to pay for printing. The costs start to add up very quickly.

If you don’t pay attention to the system of creation-distribution-getting paid, then you’re wrong. Making money in comics is not a mystery. What’s a mystery is how many of you are willfully ignorant of the process, let alone actively look for ways to continue to be ignorant of the process for as long as possible. If you aren’t interested in your money, why should someone else be?

If you think that the publisher doesn’t understand your vision and that’s why they rejected your pitch, then you’re wrong. The publisher’s job is to publish, and publishing means being able to sell a book. If you’ve been rejected, it means that they couldn’t find a way to sell your book. That’s all. Know whose fault that is? Yours, for creating something that won’t sell, or for picking the wrong publisher.

If you don’t have a publisher in mind when you create a story, then you’re wrong. It’s pretty simple: before you go through the expense and hassle of creating a comic, know which publisher you’re going to go after first. And don’t say Image Comics.

If you don’t understand how Image Comics works as you try to pitch to them, then you’re wrong. Image is pretty simple: they don’t pay you to create comics. You get a deal with them, the production cost is all on you, and you won’t get a check for at least three months after the first issue has gone on sale. You need to understand this intimately. You need to have carnal knowledge of this. This will save you a lot of shock, heartache, and frustration later.

If you think that all you’ll get your comic published without getting some editorial notes or changes, then you’re wrong. There is little chance that your book is going to make it to the shelves exactly the way you envision it. There will generally be some sort of editorial input, either that you hire, or that the company provides to you. And if you give up part or all of the intellectual property, then you won’t have any wiggle room to complain about the changes.

If you don’t understand that comic books is a business, then you’re wrong. It is all in how you approach it, really. If you treat it like a hobby, then it will only be an expensive hobby and you won’t get far. If you treat it like a business, then it will become a business, and will go as far as your business savvy will take you.

If you don’t watch the comic market, then you’re wrong. I’m not talking about slavishly watching the top lists every month, but you should be cognizant of what is selling, who’s selling it, and in what numbers. This isn’t just about titles, either, it’s also about creators. Understand who’s doing what.

If you believe that print is dead, then you’re wrong. While we may not have the numbers that comics sold in their heyday, the market has been getting stronger over the past few years. Understand the pendulum swing, what shaped it, what’s leading the pack, and draw conclusions from there.

If you don’t have a small library of how-to books on creating comics [or books that could pertain to creating comics], then you’re wrong. There is more material out there than ever before, and even if the information can be dated at times, it can still provide a solid foundation for current work being produced. With a firm foundation, you can then do anything.

If you don’t know at least some of the history of comics, then you’re wrong. And by history, I mean the whole megillah: the history of comics through the decades, controversies, major companies, work practices, the evolution of positions, and how comics are viewed today, as well as the spread of their influence. Knowing your history never hurts, and you might get an idea or seventy out of its study.

If you’re not working on your craft every day, then you’re wrong. This is both simple and obvious, but it is amazing how many creators don’t do it. We let other things sidetrack us, like sleep, food, porn, movies, and video games. Or we chitchat on our social networks. If a writer sat and wrote a page a day, they’d have a full script in less than a month. If an artist drew a panel or two a day, there would be forward movement. If a letterer worked on a page a day, or studied logos and worked on them, they’d be that much better that much faster, with a body of work under them to show for their effort. Simple and obvious.

And that’s really all I have for this week. Well, that’s not true. I could keep going, but that’s enough for now. Homework: take a look to see how wrong you are, and then take steps to fix it.

See you in seven.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Comics

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 stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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