The first comic book I ever bought was in fourth grade. It was an X-Men Adventures comic cribbed from the animated series, which itself cribbed heavily from a combination of Len Wein and Chris Claremont stories, published almost 2 decades prior. I bought it because I loved the “X-Men” animated adventures on Fox Kids, and figured the comic would further flesh out what I’d seen in the episode. It didn’t. But I still loved it none-the-less. After that purchase, I dove head-first into all manners of X-books. But I didn’t know the Brood from Bushmaster and called it quits nearly as quickly as I’d began my new hobby. It would take more than a few years after that to really be interested in comic books again.
My newly-minted best friend, Matt Wright, bicycled to my house in the freezing Chicago winter to deliver a hastily wrapped box with my birthday present tucked inside. A pair of #1 issues of my new found love of Malibu Comics’ Ultraforce and The Strangers — loved, again, because of my viewing of the soon-then-to-be-canceled animated series.
And from the moment I cracked open those books — sitting somewhere between homage and pastiche — I was adamant that I wanted to be in comics too.
With that in mind, after 9 weeks of helpful hints, tricks, tips, and too-green-to-be-called-sage advice? My last lesson is the only one that I can give you with trepidation:
Why do I make comic books? Because I have to.
Personal history aside, the fact of the matter is at my very core, I’m a communicator. Be it in print, in pictures, in song, or in actions… I strive constantly to be a vehicle of entertainment. Over the course of my life — however short or long you personally perceive 36 years on said planet to be — I have been a columnist, an artist, a singer, a stand-up comedian, a marketer, and a generally OK human being. The through-line to literally all of those mediums? That I’ve been entertaining in each; some funny, some heartfelt, some serious, and all existing likely somewhere in-between.
Of all those medium, the one I am proudest of? One guess.
No, it wasn’t stand-up.
As I’d denoted last week, there’s not a lot of schools specifically built for those interested in sequential arts. Sure, now a great place like the International School of Comics exists (in my home city of Chicago, no less!), and there will always be the Kubert School. Those two aside? It’s not like art schools across the country are regularly building out curriculum to let would-be 4-color cohorts loose into the comic making world at large. For most if not all of us in the business today? We got in by way of our own volition. Or perhaps our own idiocy. Time will tell. And because of that I tend to believe most if not all of us are pretty protective of our craft and medium. Such that once you’re in? It’s truly hard to ever leave it. We are a small and passionate bunch. And these days, we like taking credit for the zeitgeist dumping billions of dollars in and around the pulp and paper to make their franchise money off of. You’re welcome. But I digress (points if you’re playing the home game and just did a shot).
I make comic books because there is no greater satisfaction for me personally or professionally then when I’m adding captions, word balloons, and sound effects over artwork I’ve shot, drawn, edited, and colored… all to tell a single story. And whether I’m waxing poetic about female reproductive rights in an award-nominated anthology, or detailing the adventures of an immortal kung fu monkey, there’s something about that combination of words and pictures that scratches an itch I didn’t know I’d have until I tried making a comic in the first place. Such that when an editor comes to me in the middle of the night with an offer like “pitch me something”, I find myself knee-deep in an outline in less than a weekend, pestering her for notes… already calling people and attempting to schedule photoshoots for a book that isn’t greenlit. Further to the point? If the editor had ultimately passed on the idea? I told her I’d just make it anyways. That’s what goes on in my head, kiddos. Whoops. Used kiddos. That’s two drinks for ya’ll.
Over the last 10 articles, I’ve laid out to you what I felt you needed to know to get into the business I love too much. In case you’re the type who doesn’t want to work for it (lazy millennials!) I told you:
- Trust is earned.
- Your work has value from day one.
- Networking is necessary.
- Figure out where your line is drawn when it comes to your product.
- There is a cool kids club… and you’re likely not in it.
- Learn the nuts and bolts of publishing and printing.
- Learn the nuts and bolts to crowdfunding while you’re at it.
- Tabling at a convention means you must Always Be Closing.
- Grow a thick skin, and be humble.
- And now…? Seriously, just go ahead and make them.
Ten weeks to tell you that there’s no easy answer. Comic books can be consumed in minutes, yet take months to produce. They employ numerous people to pencil, ink, flat, color, edit, print, publish, and market all for a sale that oftentimes barely covers the cost to pay the aforementioned crew and have money left over for paper and the bandwidth to publish. Yet, we live in a gilded age; where school children don backpacks, t-shirts, socks, and shoes adorned in every conceivable comic character in existence. Ask a dozen ten year olds who Groot is right now. Dollars to donuts? You’ll get 11 nodding and smiling faces more than had you asked a dozen kids when I was of that age. That means something. Hell, that means everything. And as movies and television continue to extol the virtues of our craft as living storyboards to pirate for their ill-gotten gains, we’re still left in the trenches, hunched over our board scribbling, or hen-pecking away at our keyboards scripting… all for the love of the craft that will forever be referred first as being birthed in kitsch.
We do it because we love it. Because we will always love it. Because you love it too. So, what are you waiting for? I’ll leave the door opened. Be sure to leave it open for the next guy or gal. I’ll see you in the funny pages.
Next week: It’s about damn time I talk about some pop culture, Squad!