Saturday, February 2, 2008

Return to normalcy

It's been a hectic couple of weeks with my mom passing and dealing with her estate and all that entails. At the same time, we were remodeling our kitchen which took a couple of weeks and completely disrupted any normalcy in our house. It's amazing how much stuff you can fit in all those cabinets that you have to take out and find somewhere to put. Then after that finally finished, it was painting the kitchen which leads into the hallway on one side and the dining room on the other...you get the idea. I also kept busy with getting Transfuzion off the ground and it appears that is going to be a bit later than I hoped or wanted. The initial launch will still be February as solicited but I wanted it to be the beginning of the month...so technically, still on time but to me, it's running late. But it shouldn't impact any books down the line. So, you can expect OF SCENES AND STORIES and JACK THE RIPPER to hit the stores shortly. Both have been proofed and now just have to finish printing. I mentioned previously that I was involved in a book project and that looks like it is a certainty. It means lots of work and the reservation I had on writing a novel based on someone else's idea was how much it would affect the Deadworld novel that I'm working on with Gary Francis. Gary has done the bulk of the work and I'm the one holding it up but I actually find that going back and forth from research/plotting the one project gives me renewed focus on the DW book, so it may actually be beneficial to be doing both at the same time. I'll try to catch up on some things that are going on. The Deadworld role-playing game is being pushed back into 2009...but that's a good thing. They want to make it the best game possible and not just a cookie-cutter adventure so I have no problem with that. I have a lot of people that ask me about some of the historical projects that I worked on previously and if those will be available in graphic novel format. I will be compiling Zulu Nation and the El Cid comics into trades. To be honest, I'm not sure if I will offer them to Diamond, as I don't know if the orders will be high enough on material like this. I know that historically based stories often do well enough but a straight out history saga tends not to. On both of those books, I will likely keep most of it as it was...in other words, not fixing it up. These were written quite awhile ago and are straight out history (just the facts, ma'am)...which is a whole other style of writing than what I do with Saint Germaine which is also history but more of a narrative blending through time periods. Speaking of Saint Germaine, it looks like the full-length story centered on Shakespeare's Falstaff character will be in the May issue of Negative Burn. Illustrated by James Lyle who also did the one shot, Casanova's Lament. The project I did with Mitch Waxman, Cortez and the Fall of the Aztecs, is something I'd like to collect as I thought it came out very well. However, since it's co-owned by both of us, it is up to him. Mitch had some health problems he was dealing with and he wanted to do some changes or re-arranges in the story, so when he can do it, it will be done. The True Spy Stories will be completely redone and fleshed out to include more sequential illustrations and include rebels and traitors. Essentially, it will be almost all new material. If you happen to be anywhere around Ann Arbor, MI on February 16...I will be doing a store signing at the Vault of Midnight from 3-5...maybe until 6 or later. The "Vault" is one of the premiere stores in the country and has an excellent selection of graphic novels. At the store appearance, I will have the latest releases from Transfuzion and I will also be giving away FREE comics. For interested artists, I will be taking submissions for evaluation as with the growing line of Transfuzion, it seems many writers need artists...so feel free to bring those in as well. I am discussing doing a store appearance with Green Brain Comics some time in late February or early March. You know, I don't think people in this area realize how fortunate they are to have some really great stores...like Vault of Midnight, like Green Brain, and even the more family oriented chain stores of Comic City are still really good stores and offer a wider selection than you'd find in the majority of shops around the country. There's a few stores that get "famous" and some deserve it but we have some stores in this area that can easily fit into the "elite" status of stores. Of course, we have many stores that only carry Marvel, DC, some Dark Horse and Image, and a smattering of independents and apparently they feel that serves their market...it's their store. Unfortunately, that is the bulk of the stores in the country. So, things are busy and I've mentioned before about staying busy. It seems like I never have time to get everything done but that's all good. I'm certainly not stressed out about it and it doesn't gnaw at me. I try to keep a very realistic and pragmatic view about it and I don't look it as an oppressive weight but rather a calendar that's filled to the brim. But outside of school, because that affects the student's lives, nothing is that important that it can't wait a day or two because usually my self imposed deadlines are far ahead of what is actually needed. That relives the stress factor. I got a great life...there's nothing to be stressed about. Time is very important to those who want to enter this business. I am continually amazed at how many prospective artists want to be in the comic field. A writer, or publisher, might be interested but we know you can never tell how someone will perform under a script and deadline. The samples look fantastic but put in the time element and many artists crack and find out they can't do it. At Caliber, I saw this 100's of times. But that's okay. It's a way for them to find out if they truly can commit to this (and usually compensation is only a fraction of the effort and time put in). What I don't understand is newer artists or artists who yet to prove themselves are offered a chance to be published and don't want to sign on because they're not getting money up front. Yes, by all means, an artist should strive to get to a status where they earn advance or guaranteed payments but you know what, most of them aren't there. Their name isn't going to sell the book...their artwork isn't dazzling brilliant that jumps off the page and screams at fandom to notice them. Most of them are competent (I'm talking about the ones that can actually draw....not the 90% that think they can draw) and there isn't anything wrong with that. Competent artists are good artists that with more work are likely to become really good artists. They're usually competent only because they haven't done enough work yet. Usually when writers discuss projects with these artists, the artists want a guaranteed page rate. Often, however, the writer doesn't have a publisher yet. And sometimes when they do, the publisher works on royalty only. Of course, the artist has every right not to accept those conditions...it's potentially a lot of work for nothing. That's understandable. Then don't bitch about it. I see far too many artists bemoaning the fact that no one is hiring them....how do they pitch their work to companies...what cons should they go to and show their portfolios, etc. The simple fact is most companies that hire newer artists want to see what you've done. If you worked on a number of issues on a series, that shows them you're committed to deadlines and simply put, you know how to "get 'er done". They can look at the art and see if you're competent or not...that's the easy part. Many artists out there haven't established a name or haven't done anything in a long time. They work on sketches, they work on some of their own ideas that are abandoned and then move onto other ideas...I just wonder why they just don't do work for something they find interesting and get published and get their names out that way. I know I'm stating it simply but in general, it seems there's a lot of artists (and writers) who stand on the fringe and groan and moan on message boards, at conventions and on their blogs yet they never jump in. At Caliber we use to get a lot of submissions from artists who spent years at various schools who thought they were entitled to regular page rates because they graduated. They were willing to spend $1,000's yet weren't willing to show their skills by doing a project even thought they had a chance to make money on royalties. And I don't bring this up now because of Transfuzion but because of a couple of artists that contacted me and were upset that I wasnt' going to offer them a page rate. Let's see...it was on a book based on royalties, on a story not owned by me nor written by me, and in both cases, these artists have done some work in comics but nothing notable and most fans would have no idea of who they were and they haven't had anything published in years...many years. If I were in a position to pay someone, it would be an artist that worked with me in the past...that took a chance. Don't get me wrong, artists do a lot of work and they're entitled to be paid but sometimes the circumstances doesn’t work out that way for new artists and new publishers. Most writers and publishers realize this and the royalty rate or page rate reflects the contributions of the artists when money is actually paid out. But when people talk about perseverance in this business (and most businesses, especially creative ones), it doesn't mean just at the drawing table.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I open my portfolio at cons or comic shops...
The first things that people notice (other than the moths )
is my published work.

It is the product.

I can spend a hundred years on a sketch yadda yadda yadda...lie my ass off about having the ability to make deadlines and who said I was the next up and coming blah blah blah. No one at a con will care. They have heard every con every hustle. They are hardened vetrens. They will eye you as someone who is wasting their valuable con time with your "grift". Every artist at a con can draw well...

but...Can every artist at a con work well with a peticular publishing houses internal machine...
the professionalism required...
the business end... The editors needs...the deadlines...the promotional schedule... the waiting on the royalty till all the moneys in and all the bills are paid...

royalty check VS reality check

sometimes the royalty IS just getting published and getting a good rep.

young artists will spend the rest of their careers building their reps, not their portfolios. Getting good word of mouth and sowing the seeds of a solid rep and career is sometimes a well invested expense to the young artist.
You should file the cost ,ie what you think you should be making on your self-imposed "page rate" in with your personal studios art materials expenses.
it's called promotional cost.
and if an publisher is willing to foot that bill for you then...
Wow!!!
maybe you deserve the good word of mouth he's going to give you.

don't think of it as building a portfolio that's going to get you work.

think of it as building up a company logo that you will be proud to publish under and whom will be able to cut checks for you for the rest of your career.

i'd much rather be known as an excellent session musician who can play anything and have a long fruitful career, than a one hit wonder milking one dwindling cash cow for the rest of a fading 15 minutes of fame. Fans want hot, new, now...
your publisher is the best partner to help you get that initial exposure that gets you out there...

"What have you got in print?"
"Have you ever been published?"
"Who have you worked for?"

just like in the Mafia...
Who vouches for you?

Food for thought,
Gary Francis, 2008

ShojinStudios said...

I'm very sorry for your loss Gary, Hope all finds you well at this time and know that we are all here for you man! I'm glad TF is taking off, I'm still on track to make this web comic up by this summer. Hope the offer still stands, Take care.

Gary Reed said...

I think you summed it up well, Gary...talent is just part of the equation.

Gary Reed said...

Juan,
Of course it still stands. Get to work...

 
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