Something that sticks in my craw is the idea that I hate mainstream comics. Let me back up. I have an indy comic pedigree. I have an MFA from the Center for Cartoon Studies. I won the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini Comics. Fantagraphics has released my work. I do work for SpongeBob Comics, which is a haven for indy cartoonists. These opportunities came about from self-publishing my own work, and telling my own stories.
On occasion, I’ll get asked by younger cartoonists to look at their portfolio (I’ll stop you right there; I don’t know why either). And it will contain sample pages of Spider-Man or Batman. I’ll ask, “where are your stories?” The answer almost always is “I’m going to work for Marvel/DC. It’s my dream. It’s my dream. I like your work, but my heart is in superheroes.”
I wish them luck. And I tell them the truth.
Know what you are getting into.
I love Valiant Comics.
If your goal in comics is to draw Batman, your sole goal, you are setting yourself up for heartbreak. It isn’t the 90s anymore. The Big Two aren’t picking kids off the street to draw variant issues. But I get obsession. I don’t want you to not want to draw Batman, believe me. But the only way you are going to get there is to do your own stories. And if you get the opportunity to draw your favorite superhero, you should have a lawyer look at the contract. Many creators have gotten screwed by these companies in the past.
And despite it all, I love superheroes. I don’t read Marvel or DC because they’ve become so complicated, but I do dip my toe in from time to time. And I love Valiant. I don’t need years of reading to understand the whole universe they are creating. The contracts I mentioned earlier? They’ve become much better today. Working in mainstream comics pays. If you want to make comics for a living, there’s no better way to do it.
Superheroes are fun!
Look, who doesn’t love The Silver Surfer?
And the simple truth of it all? Without superhero/mainstream comics? There wouldn’t be much of a comic industry as a whole. I don’t know if there would be a place for indy comics. I assume so, but I don’t want it to get to that point. For many readers, superheroes are how they become enamored with the medium. Some readers grow out of superheroes and into the indy books. Some don’t. Some stick with superheroes. And honestly, there is no better time for superhero fans. There are great creators working for Marvel and DC. This is a great time to be a superhero fan!
No, I don’t hate Marvel and DC (or any other superhero company). If I ever have an opportunity to work for them, I would consider it. My only doubts about it are about myself as a creator, and if I have anything unique to bring to the table as a storyteller. And that’s why I don’t seek it out. My issue, cartoonist to cartoonist, is, why don’t you have your own stories to fall back on? Because that’s what these companies look for. Can you tell a story?
Get to work. Tell your story. I wish you all the luck in the world.
Rockwell Kent illustration from Moby Dick. Check out the Plattsburgh State University of New York collection of his work from the book. Stunning.
I like setting creative goals instead of making New Year’s resolutions. I feel I’m less likely to accomplish “resolutions.” But I do think it is a good time to take stock of the previous year. And rather than set resolutions, I like creating goals. Lots of goals. Sometimes creative goals change mid-year, and I can drop their pursuit without a care if needed.
For example, I’m sure many people resolved that January 1st was the date they were going to get healthy. I can’t make that a resolution. I became healthier due to heart surgery. I’m on a low sodium diet. I exercise. I have my blood chemistry monitored every 6 weeks. I get 7–8 hours of rest a night. So my goal for 2016 is to keep doing that. Keep making adjustments to my diet and exercise habits so I keep being alive. It’s not an option, so I feel like it’s a poor resolution for me. Resolutions take discipline. Goals are something you work towards.
Another popular resolution is to create something, like a book or a graphic novel. Again, I’m working on a graphic novel. And I’m in the early stages on three others.
2016 Creative Goals
I do have some creative goals for 2016. If I get one quarter of these accomplished, I will consider the year successful for me. If I only get one accomplished, I’ll still feel good. And I’ll re-adjust my expectations for the coming year. There is only so much one can do with all their other obligations in life. It’s important to remember that.
- Conventions. I’ve avoided going to conventions for many years now. But I miss seeing all my peers and friends in comics. And this year, I should actually have some work to show now that the ticker is fixed. I stopped tabling at conventions over 6 years ago because the costs were getting too high. But I may find a couple to target and just chalk it up to a marketing expense.
- Finish The Walk. I’m well underway on getting this done in the first quarter of 2016.
- Make mini-comics and collect them in an annual. I’ve been thinking about printing my own self-anthology. Is it weird that I’ve been getting stuck on what to call it? They all have cool names! Regardless, I’d like to make mini-comics again and collect them into a nice package at the end of the year.
- Webcomics again?! I think most cartoonists are figuring out that webcomics are a good way to keep your work out in the world. I thought about how many fans and friends I made when I was producing Drunk Elephant Comics. I miss that. Hell, I’ve even thought of reviving Drunk Elephant Comics. But I have an idea for an all-ages adventure comic that I would love to publish. It would take me just over 5 years to complete the story.
- Work for hire and/or collaboration. I’ve enjoyed my work-for-hire comic jobs, because I get an editor. I like collaboration. It might be fun to find more opportunities for me to work with others.
- Finish rough draft of graphic novel. I have another graphic novel that I’ve outlined twice and have under control finally. Now I just need to do a rough draft of it. I’d love to get that done this year. I was thinking about trying out Tumblr as a platform for publishing the final product. But you know Yahoo is going to sell that off along with everything else soon.
And now, one 2016 resolution.
Okay, I just made this big deal about how I don’t believe in resolutions. But I decided to make one this year:
Finish reading Moby Dick.
I’ve been reading Moby Dick for over 6 years now! Seriously. I started to read it on my first iPad when I downloaded an electronic ePub from Project Gutenberg for free. It’s hard to read a book like that on a screen, so I didn’t get far. And I kept not getting far for a few years. In 2013, I picked up a physical dead tree copy of the book and began reading in earnest. It’s great! I love this book. People complain that Melville goes on for chapters on obscure whaling processes. Guess what? I love that shit. But I’ll put the book down and forget about it for months. I read on average a book or two a month (not counting graphic novels, comics, magazines and the huge amount of text I read online). So it’s not like I have a reading problem.
Moby Dick has become my white whale. Right before I went under for surgery I thought, “well, I didn’t finish Moby Dick. Hey, that smells goooodddddzzzzzz.” I’m not letting this damn book beat me. The year 2016 will be the year I finish Moby Dick.