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.
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!
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.