By Gamal Hennessy
I’m in the process of writing a book about the business and legal aspects of making independent comics (See Your Career in Comics). As the book develops, I plan to share parts of it here for your reaction and feedback.
Since this is the first post, I’m going to start with an existential question:
Why do you want to make comics?
Before you start thinking about drawing, sales or social media, it is important to figure out exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and why. Making comics, like any artistic or business endeavor, involves substantial sacrifice and investment. If you’re going to make comics a part of your life beyond the Wednesday ritual of picking up your pull box, it makes sense to take a step back and look at the big picture.
To answer this question, I suggest you take yourself out for a cup of coffee or a cocktail (if you’re old enough, of course) and figure out the answers to the following questions. Keep in mind that the answers can and will change over time, so don’t be afraid to revisit these questions as your circumstances and the industry changes.
Goals (or What Do You Want to Do in Comics?): “I want to make comics” is a start, but there are different aspects to the industry, and figuring out where you want to be will help you make decisions on which opportunities to pursue and which ones to avoid. Maybe you want to make your own books and sell them at cons. Maybe you want to work for the Big Two. Maybe you want to be the next Stan Lee or Todd McFarlane. Maybe you want it all. You can have any goals you want. The purpose of goals isn’t to limit you. They just guide you on your path.
Reasons (or Why Do You Want a Career in Comics?): It’s one thing to know what you want to do. Knowing why is a different type of insight. Are you doing this because you have a story to tell, because you want to be a part of the comics community, or because you want more money than Tony Stark?
Like your goals, your reasons are personal. They don’t have to define you, but keeping them in mind can motivate you to overcome the inevitable setbacks and pitfalls. You can have any reason or motivation you want for getting into comics. There are opportunities for artistry, creativity, and profit at almost every level of the industry, but at the end of the day, a love of the art form will keep you going.
Plan (or How Are You Going to Get into Comics?) After you understand your goals and your reasons for wanting those goals, you need to develop a plan to help you get from where you are to where you want to go. As you follow along with this blog and hopefully read my book, you can begin to figure out which path you want to adopt for your own purposes and take the appropriate steps.
Of course, no plan survives contact with reality. The industry is in a state of constant flux. The impact of changing trends will often be outside of your control. You’re going to need to modify your plan to adapt to new conditions, so the plan you make might not be the path you ultimately take. But you have to start somewhere and making your own comic is a good place to begin, no matter where you ultimately want to go.
Resources (or What Do You Have to Offer the Industry?) The secret to success in the comics business involves making consistent ritual sacrifices on the altar of the industry. What you get from comics is based in large part on what you put in. Your offering might be a creative vision, artistic skill, a network of eager professionals, or an investment of time and finances. In many cases, the creators who came before you had to offer all these things and more. Now is the time to figure out what you bring to the table and what you need to find in the community to make your goals real.
Milestones (or How Will You Track the Progress of Your Plan?) No one goes to sleep wanting a career in comics and wakes up where they want to be. Your development as a creator will grow in stages. You get to determine what those stages are and to a large extent, in what order you want them to happen. You can start with putting your first team together, getting your first issue online, or any other basis that’s right for you. You can decide whether your goals are books created, copies sold, or views on your website. Milestones give your goals concrete structure you can use to measure your efforts.
Motivation (or What Gets You Started and Keeps You Going?) Despite the view from the outside, the art and business of comics are not easy. It can be a long road from your initial inspiration to holding your book in your hands and the road isn’t a straight line. There will be obstacles and pressures to stop. This isn’t just true in comics. It’s true in life.
Even if you get your vision into the world, success (whatever your definition of it is) may not come quickly. It is not hyperbole to say some creators did not live long enough to see the characters they created become a fixture in mainstream culture.
So what is it about your comic that’s going to bring you back to the project month after month and year after year? What is going to pick you up when life knocks you down? What drives you might be very personal or it could be the universal desire for fame and fortune.
Yes, they’re movies, merchandise, and money to be made. Yes, comics are one of the driving forces in 21st-century pop culture. But the comics business is not a get rich quick industry. For every Walking Dead, there are thousands of other titles that lose money or never get off the ground. If you don’t love comics, it might not make sense to spend the time and effort of getting into the business.
In the next installment of Your Career in Comics, I plan to talk about the framework for an independent comics company and break down the process into manageable parts. If you’d like to read more about the business and legal aspects of making comics, like my Facebook page or sign up for my free newsletter.
Have fun with your comic...
PLEASE NOTE: THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. IF YOU HAVE A ISSUE WITH YOUR COMIC PROPERTY, DISCUSS IT WITH YOUR LEGAL ADVISOR OR CONTACT C3 AT firstname.lastname@example.org FOR A FREE CONSULTATION.