WHY DO ONLINE COMICS
Issue #13 - Fixing the Notion of Breaking In
My first comic book convention was in Chicago back in 1993, when it was still the Chicago Comic Con and not Wizard World. The name change has much to do with why I have not been back since (although the 2000 mile difference between going to Chicago versus going to San Diego from my home in Phoenix is also a contributing factor). They might have renamed it "Ran Over Your Favorite Pet World," for the title would elicit as favorable a response from me. Still, back then it was still just the good old Chicago Comic Con, and it was the first time I had been exposed to such magnificence as is offered up to a fanboy at such an event. Comics and related merchandise as far as the eye could see, women who left almost nothing to the imagination (and yet imagine many would), and Mr. T on his "Mr. T and the T-Force" tour (he's so lifelike in person!); yes, it was truly a grand thing to behold.
One of the things I found out about were these things called "panels" one could go to and witness comics professionals arguing or promoting or duking it out or just generally feeling awkward, all with a microphone on! I went to an X-Men panel where I pointed out to some guy named Fabien Nicieza that in the X-Factor annual from the crossover story where seven heroines were collected as brides for some creature so he could be risen from the dead, there was a continuity hole that could seemingly never be patched because the team that was X-Factor in that annual where now back with X-Men and there was a whole new crew in X-Factor. He sort of uncomfortably "took it under advisement," looking at me with a sense of embarrassment and fear of my fanboyness. Man I was a Marvel geek then!
But I digress. The panel I'm trying to use as a clever segue into the meat of this installment of Why Do Online Comics? was one called "How To Break Into the Comics Industry." The room was packed. A bunch of people I don't remember hosted the discussion. For an hour they basically went over the same few pieces of information in different ways, trying to kill enough time to get to the Q and A session where they repeat the information they've already given. Have a portfolio. Make it professional. Show diversity. Be able to tell a story, not just make pretty pin-up drawings. Be persistent. If you submit to a big company, show their characters in your examples. And if you're really, really lucky, you'll land a job making squat for work that takes you every waking hour of your existence and then some to complete. The funny thing was, this sounded great to the people in the audience. Who cares if we get paid, we're making comics for a living! We'll worry about food and hygiene later (much to the chagrin of the aforementioned scantily clad women, who have to pose next to anybody with ten bucks and a dream).
The following year I went to San Diego's convention for the first time (for those of you this may mean anything to, it was the year of the first appearance of "ROCK!" at the Masquerade). I quickly located the time and place of that year's "breaking in" panel, hoping to be further informed and inspired so as to possibly spur myself into gear and start trying to seriously create decent comic work (I'm not sure I've yet succeeded in that endeavor, but I continue to persevere). Jeff Smith was someone I distinctly remember at that one, his Bone book just starting to meet with some great deal of success. Despite the fine talent collected at the panel, and an audience just as eager to learn, the content of the message remained almost wholly the same. I walked out temporarily disillusioned, and began to ponder what had just happened.
Two years passed before I was able to get back to San Diego, and in that time I had met circumstances which made it hard to find time and/or energy to practice my artwork. But by the time I was heading back, I was ready again to start working on a comic, and again I went to the "breaking in" panel in search of something to rekindle the flame and then pour gasoline on it.
I imagine you can guess the outcome. Yep. Same old same old, nothing new to be said. No quick answers, no magic pills handed out at the end of the panel, just some posters for the latest Batman movie or something. It was then that I realized what had been trying to surface into my consciousness for some time. I had spent a total of eight hours of my life in panels trying to find out how to break in to the comics industry. What I should have been doing with that time was drawing.
People want the easy way out, the magic cure to what ails them. Billions are spent on things that promise to help people lose weight or gain muscle or look and feel the way they imagine they'd like to. All this wasted, when the quickest, cheapest, most efficient, and ultimately easiest long-term solution is to eat sensibly and exercise. Similarly, people try to disillusion themselves into thinking they'll be the ones that find that magic instant success route in comics and just ride the wave. And you know, occasionally someone might succeed, but there's no way to tell you how to do it for yourself, at a convention seminar or otherwise.
We all know someone or know of someone who can just eat and eat and never exercise and yet never gain an ounce. These people are mutants, genetic abnormalities that the normal rules of reality do not apply to. And there will be creators who were in the right place at the right time with the right product and it just took off like wildfire. These people that get used to ordering three Whoppers for lunch without blinking an eye or gaining weight will one day find their uber-metabolism failing them, though, and will be in a lot of trouble when they find they can no longer eat the way they have become accustomed to. Likewise, unless you actually have long term, sustained talent and work diligently to keep creating and improving your work, you'll just be a fifteen minute flash in the pan o' fame.
So what it comes down to is this; if you want to succeed at making comics, you must first make comics. If you want to be recognized for your work, you have to keep making comics, and make 'em good. If you want to make a lot of money at making comics, you have to have mafia connections. Or, barring that, you have to put out a consistently high-quality comic that appeals to a broad audience. If the quality and quantity and desire is there, then your audience will find you, keep coming back to you, and at some point might just bring their wallets with them.
And what easier way for them to find you, from wherever they may be, than to have your own online comic?