Finding Your Professional Membership Card
A quote’s been bandied around the comic industry that makes me smirk “I don’t have fans, just people after my job.”
With the comic industry shrinking, and contact with your favorite creators as simple as posting to a message board or sending an e-mail, it can seem like the community is more intimate than ever. Heck, if the latest issue of Batman wasn’t as good as you’d like, now you can tell everyone at DC how YOU would have written it. Let’s take it one step further: Marvel’s opened the floodgates with their Epic initiative and now ANYONE can submit story concepts and break down that professional barrier. The playing field is a lot more level, isn’t it?
So, where do individual artists and voices fit into this odd equation? Is a webcomic artist with thousands of fans who have never paid a dime for their work a “professional”? Is someone with work in print a “pro”, even if no one’s read their work? With so many shades of gray, where do we draw the line?
With all these questions, you may wonder if we should form a committee; a ruling body that stamps “yea” or “nay” on professional membership cards. Some authority that tells us who’s in or out. We could have secret handshakes, big meetings, clandestine votes and special pins for 25 years of service.
Or, we could throw out the definitions and just create the work. Leave the titles and definitions behind… just go with the flow. Respect the work on its own merit and treat creators like people. Praise great artwork and storytelling and leave the rest be.
Everyone in comics started off small. One of the most wonderful things about the medium is that it can be a one or two person affair, through and through. A creator with a great vision can shoot through the ranks and make an impression without a PR committee and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Scott Kurtz can go from doing a fun little web comic called PVP to a PVP Image comic, merchandise and thousands of online fans, with hard work, good timing and a bit of luck.
Mike Kunkel can make a little print comic called Herobear and the Kid, make a big splash at Comic-Con, and turn it into big circulation and exposure.
Independent artistic freedom and the only road you follow being the one you make for yourself. How many other mediums can lay claim to that?
You could start a website today, lay out a vision and tell your own stories. You could make a little photocopied comic and show your friends, no high tech equipment or knowledge needed. They’re as valid a start as any other.
You become a “professional” when you put in the time and effort to hone your craft, not by doing work for a big company or by having an audience of a certain size. Don’t worry about the fame before you’ve even got some work to show. Don’t worry about the credentials before the education even starts. There’s no membership card needed, so don’t bother looking for one.
Jim Zubkavich is a contributing columnist for Comixpedia.