B&N Week 177: Peers–Who Are Yours?

| May 13, 2014

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It’s another bright and shiny Tuesday! I’m loving it!

That’s all the introduction for today. Let’s just jump into this week’s B&N question, shall we?

Peers—who are yours?

Interesting question, don’t you think? Perhaps some definitions are in order, just so that we’re all on the same page.

Merriam-Webster defines the word as one that is of equal standing with another. Pretty simple, right? [It’s a simple definition, without going too deep and without giving examples.]

Methinks one more definition is in order, and that is contemporary [from which, we get contemporaries]. Again, we go back to Merriam-Webster, which defines it as happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same period.

So, we have peers, and we have contemporaries. But, let’s break it down a bit more, just to round it out fully. Are your parents your peers? No, they are not. Your brothers and sisters, cousins, or whatever, are more likely to be your peers than your parents. Just as long as you’re on equal footing with someone, you’re peers.

This is a roundabout way of saying that there are peer groups. Just because you’re not the peer of one doesn’t mean you’re not the peer of someone else.

Just because you’re working in comics does not mean you’re a peer of Brian Bendis, Robert Kirkman, or even Rob Liefeld. Even if you’re making a living off of comics, these guys aren’t your peers. When you have a 10+ year career making a living off comics, selling millions of books, and your name is mentioned to other creators and they don’t have a puzzled expression on their faces, then you can consider them your peers. Right now, though, you are their contemporary.

See the difference? Your career, however long or short it is, is contemporary with these luminaries. You aren’t at the same level, but you’re definitely within the same timeframe.

None of this should be a shock to anyone. If anyone reading this thinks they’re a peer of Kirkman but others have to look up your name, then you’re deluding yourself. Sell a ton of good books, make a buzz, and then maybe you can change your peer group from one to another, but there is definitely a rarified air in comics. In terms of crossover name recognition, Kirkman may be the next Stan Lee.

Who are your peers, then? I believe that my peer group is relatively slim. My peer group as a writer is larger than my editorial group. I am, however, contemporary with all of you.

Why do you want to know who your peers are? It’s a simple thing, really: to check your own career path. Once you [correctly] identify your peers, you can then check their progress with your own, and vice versa. Is it possible for your peer group to change, for better or for worse? Most definitely. Can you belong to several groups at once? Sure, as you transition from one area to another.

Now, when I talk about peers, I don’t want you to think as narrowly as your role as a writer or inker or whatever. Are you a cartoonist? Are you a sole individual creating webcomics? Are you a collective, creating comics? You have a circle of peers, as well, and you would do well to check to see what they are doing. I also don’t want you to think that you have to know them personally.

I don’t want you to think of your peer group as competition, either. Not really. Competition means an adversarial relationship, and that isn’t something I want to engender. While a peer could have a job you want, or traffic you’d like to have, that doesn’t mean you are in competition with them. That’s just the wrong way to think about your peers. They will more than likely help you—or you could help them—rather than be in competition.

Know your peers. Look at them. By knowing your peers, you’ll more accurately know yourself. While everyone wants to be near the top, as long as you take an honest look at yourself, you’ll give yourself an honest gauge of your abilities, your career, and your career trajectory.

That’s all I have. 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 stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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