Friday, February 19, 2016

The Comic Book Creator’s Struggle

The Comic Book Creator’s Struggle

(The Road Less Taken)
[Written for the magazine Mir Fantastiki, copied here with permission]

Comic Page for Liberty: Deception.
Art by Raymund Bermudez & Joana Lafuente
Anyone thinking about creating a comic book should know that it is a difficult road. Many abandon the path after the first few paces, petrified after catching only a glimpse of what lies ahead. You will almost certainly not make money. You will almost certainly spend far too much of your own time and money. At every possible turn of the creation process you will battle against a hoard of invisible pitfalls, trials, and psychological struggles that will make Frodo’s adventures in the Lord of the Rings look like a holiday picnic. You will encounter problems you did not think could even exist! You will lose days, months, and probably years off your life (if you take yourself too seriously), like in the machine from the Princess Bride, learning about distribution chains, ISBN numbers,  grammar, file formats, fonts, and the differences between RGB vs CMYK. You will gain experience, learn to multi-class, become a jack of all trades, or you will undoubtedly give up.

Even Vulcans have bad days...
In the miraculous event that you are able to complete your first book, you will experience firsthand what H.P. Lovecraft meant when he spoke of depression, as you try to find individuals who might simply read your book. You will embrace rejection time and time again with a smile. You will likely spy on your critics, become close with the harsh criticisms that you’ll receive, and possibly grow from them. You must suppress your emotions using the ancient Vulcan rituals as the potential readers insist that five dollars US is too much to pay for your book, the sum of years of your life. However, above all else you must remember that you are only in this situation because you truly care about what you are creating.

Frodo knows a thing or two about struggles
The life of a comic book creator is one of passion and struggles. You are passionate about your story, but it takes time to create. The little victories each week will one day lead to a moment of personal triumph where you’ve fought the world, fought nature, and fought against your very psyche and won! No one is obligated to like your work, or even give it glance, and as a project of passion you have to be accepting of this and not take personal offense. There are many many mistakes to make as a comic book creator. I know because I’ve made most of them over the last decade. The creation of a comic book is a very slow and time consuming process and it is always important to remember that you should not expect fame, success, or money. Create something because you find it enjoyable.

Stabbity Bunny: A delightful
independent comic book series!
I am an American comic book writer/creator who has attended over 50 fan conventions, expos, and festivals. I was always intimidated by the amount of information needed to really understand the plots of the X-Men, The Green Lantern, or many other mainstream comic books, and as a result I’ve always been drawn to independent comics. I’ve supported and read dozens of books ranging from extremely low quality (in both art and story), to the most captivating of adventures and I found that I’m personally drawn to dynamic interior artwork, pretty cover art, and stories that seem genuinely interesting. I have a habit of taking notes on what I like about the things I read, and when you switch hats and suddenly become a “comic book creator” the first thing many people forget is to focus on creating something that they themselves would appreciate.

A panel from my first comic book
My first venture into comics sought to explain a comic book world I’d created in 18 pages or less. However, it didn’t really have that much of a story, and I honestly didn’t put too much effort into truly developing the world. The art was created by the first artist I bumped into, and the cover was as dull as an 18th century legal document. It took me almost a year to realize that I wouldn’t be selling the other 5000 copies I’d printed, and it took a few more years to realize that perhaps I’d created the very type of exposition-heavy comic that I myself didn’t enjoy.

The same character, now in my newest book.
Illustrated by Casey Bailey!
The lesson to be learned in this is the most important reminder a comic book creator, or a creative mind in any other field, can have: To create what you enjoy and to enjoy what you create. Otherwise you might as well be getting paid for your time.

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