Thursday, November 27, 2008

Breaking In

In one of the forums I frequently visit, I was following a thread about breaking into the business. First off, the forum was at Rantz Hoseley's Panel and Pixel site which was inspired by Warren Ellis' Engine. ( It's primarily for comic creators and often times, has interesting conversations. One of the most common themes regards breaking into the business, whether as a new voice or establishing yourself after you had your first taste of being published. I find this topic fascinating not because of the pitfalls that people face or the daunting task of standing out from the pack, but rather from the excuses that people make for NOT making it. Yes, I realize that there are some people struggling to grab that foothold and doing everything that they can to "make" it, but that's the same in every business. And just the same are those who face obstacles that seem insurmountable...and often constructed by themselves. A common question about people trying to break in is "what's the secret?". It's as if there is a magical method to get into comics. But the problem is there is more than one...there's thousands. Because for everyone that got in the business, they probably got in completely different than the person they're sitting next to at the upcoming convention. There is no easy way, no secret. You just have to prepare yourself by honing your skills, sending out submissions, or what seems to be the most successful method nowadays, publish yourself to get your work out there. What I do find confusing is what constitutes "making it". For some people, it's simply getting published. I have a professional friend who struggled to make it and when he landed a job at Marvel, he completed the assignment and felt that he had made it. But he also decided that he wanted a different career path so the work at Marvel sort of vindicated his struggles. He "made it" and walked away from it. Another person struggled for years and finally got the editors from Marvel to send him tryout pages. He kept getting short pieces to do in a specified time. He became frustrated with these endless streams of samples and even after I explained that they were likely seeing how he worked under deadline pressure, he decided that it no longer seemed fun, but rather a job and a job that he didn't particularly like. So, he left...and left comics completely after years of struggling to make it. A job at Marvel seems to be the qualifier for a lot of people. Some prefer DC and some view them equally. But realistically, there's only so many jobs at Marvel and DC that go around so not everyone is going to get them. I think newer creators are not so geared towards the Big Two as the artists and writers from 10-15 years ago. There's success with other publishers and in some ways, an even greater respect. For those people who thing making it is being able to make a living at comics, well, that's going to be a harsh reality check for most people save for the few that can actually make a good living from comics. Of course there are those who do quite well at it but generally, most people cannot make a living from just doing comics. That's true of most creative fields...most writers, artists, musicians, actors, etc. can not make a living solely on their creative craft. But for many people, that's okay. A lot of times, people just want vindication that they are "good" enough to get in the door. Opportunity and luck is often what swings the door wide open. Back to the point I started off with before my does seem that a lot of people have the wish to make it but not necessarily the desire and by desire, I mean the effort and perseverance to succeed. I see all kinds of examples of derailment...sick kids, disabled parents, financial troubles, etc. All good reasons but is that truly what is stopping people from "making it"? Far too often, these barriers are not true impediments but rather excuses in not making it. Before anyone asks, do I think I have made it? That depends. Am I a well known writer that can live solely off my writing. Nope. Sure, I've gotten some good gigs and did quite well with them. I'm not likely to make a living wage in comics and in the novel field, well, I'm just one of millions out there with a "book". But I'm content. I do what I want to do and I have plans to venture into more things that tie in with my biology teaching so I feel very comfortable with my situation. I guess that I can say I made it but certainly fans of Marvel and DC comics probably never heard of me, therefore in their eyes, I haven't. Not really sure where I intended to go with all this. It started as a response on the afore-mentioned message board that I decided to expand a bit instead of having my message truncated...but I think the point I wanted to make is that if you want to make it in this field, I think a definition (to yourself) of what making it represents and remembering that having a good reason in NOT making it doesn't change the fact that you didn't make it. Hey, just got notified about the KID'S COMIC CON coming up in June. I don't know yet if I'll be able to make it (Chelsea, MI) but they promote my Spirit of the Samurai young adult novel on the front page, so that's cool.


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