Webcomic creators: If you want to keep your sanity, don’t go looking at the traffic of other webcomics. That way lies only bitter, horrifying despair.
Quality, in and of itself, is not enough. Apparantly there has to be sex and humor and short scenes to make it big. Some creators have no problem with this, and they make it big. Some do. Woe unto you if you are trying to make a serious comic without fanservice.
Here’s the thing: there are plenty of journeyman pros who make a living (though usually a modest one) in making comics. There also are the stars whom probably make good money and live quite well. But, these folks are the tip of the iceberg. The other 90% make little, ranging from losing money, to working for free, to those who make a nice supplemental income. So, for most, comics are not a money maker. It’s not even the best way to get your creative product in front of the most people.
So, in the “here’s the thing” vein, I have to wonder if there is any sort of future in this medium. Sure, I could spend the rest of my life drawing little pictures and playing with ink, but would that be satisfying? I’ve had my run-ins with the big time, almost getting big two jobs on several occasions. After 2000, I more or less gave up trying to get work from the big two, and not for the reasons you might expect. Essentially, I didn’t give up out of despair or disgust, but because I absolutely loved drawing my own stories and characters. I had learned a long time before that you can’t assume that other writers can offer you creative fulfillment, or much of it, at any rate. If, say, Marvel called and wanted me to draw a Spider-man book, or some such, would I even find that interesting? There’s a remote possibility that it would be interesting, but only remote.
I’m just thinking out loud, here, folks. I’m not announcing any change in my current business model, but opening myself to the unattractive truths that often come with these things. I’ve got a lifetime of passionately loving comics and comic creation, but I have to wonder if that is enough to sustain me. It bears thought.
OK, a new day, and lots of Photoshopping ahead. That’s if my right shoulder can make it–come on, right shoulder!
OK, in previous posts I’ve covered why self-publishing comics for little or no profit is essentially a kind of vanity publishing thing. We tell ourselves that we can have a hit, or it will get seen by the right eyes, and riches and movie deals will follow. And, that’s true, that can
totally happen! But, I wouldn’t make that a part of your long-term business plan. That kind of success is just not dependable.
So, outside the comic world, is it any better? I’ve done covers for novels, compact discs, role-playing games, and almost every other medium you can think of. Initially, it looks like these all pay better, but that’s not necessarily the case. As a free-lancer you always have to be on the make for new art gigs, and you are at the mercy of your client when it comes to endless revisions and fighting to get the money owed you. I’ve been there, and it’s a tough market, make no mistake about it.
(For that matter, many of the same considerations apply to other art forms, such as writing, being a musician, etc. etc.)
So, if it’s all so grim, why do we keep coming back to it? I mean, being a creative is a lifestyle choice as much as it is a career choice, mostly because you give up a lot to live that way. Things like health insurance, and new clothes, and vacations, etc. Well, from what I can see, most of us have no choice but to keep coming back to it. We can’t not create (double negative intended), and if we ignore or push aside that trait then great unhappiness, even clinical depression, is soon to follow. You simply cannot turn that part of your brain off.
I’ve got more to say, but I’ll leave off for here for now. I’ve still got that work I have to do.
We seem to have a basic human need to tell and enjoy stories. Strangely, my little post above has made me feel better about spending the last 18 years in the indie comics realm, because I know I’ve made a lot of people happy, and I’ve been told that I influenced a generation of indie creators. Maybe we should look at creative endeavors more as a priesthood or calling than a pure capitalistic endeavor.
With the fall of Antioch in 1268 to the Mamluks, the so-called “Crusades” were well on their way to dying, and the Christian presence in Levant was on the verge of being wiped away. I remember the final sally, the flashing double-horned scimitars, the red haze of blood in my eyes and the metallic taste of adrenalin in my mouth. How I survived and made it into the countryside with my liberty is still a complete mystery to me. It didn’t matter, in a way—these were not my wars, not really. Soon, because of the dirt, hunger, and exhaustion, I looked more like a wondering holy man than a knight, and I ended up on what is now called Mon’s Silpia, or Habib En Nejar, the mountains to the southwest of Antioch. Before I knew what had happened, I tumbled down a ravine in the dark, breaking my right leg in the fall, and I knew this would be the end of me. I crawled into a cave nearby for shelter, but I knew that I would not be climbing out of this hole, not with this leg. I swooned for a time, a blood red nightmare of pain and confusion that finally drew me back to wakefulness. Seeking some measure of shelter, I crawled further into the cave—my dying would be lonely, hidden in the bowels of the earth. That’s when I found the giant. Lying on a bed of broken stone was a man fully thirty feet from head to foot. I can imagine you conclusions, that I conjured up this giant in some fever dream, and that such impossible things cannot exist. Think what you will. The giant’s rheumy eye opened, regarding me, and I could hear his labored breathing. “Come, little man, come closer to me.” Strangely, I found I could walk, and my senses had returned to me. How this could be I cannot say, though I seemed to be covered in the heavy dust of someone who had lain long in that dry cave. “Come to me,” said the giant, “for I would have you hear my testament. When I pass out of the world, an age undreamed of will pass away with me.” “Your kind has long called my people the Nephilum. I remember when the terrifying Watchers still walked among us, when they took human women as wives and fathered my people, the heroes of old, the giants of the earth. This went on for some time, until the Watchers were locked away in earth’s depths. I know where they lie, and soon I will be among them again, if only in spirit. In their undying duress, they lie in rocky prisons so forbidding that no man may approach. “I was there when Enoch ascended into the Heavens, and when the Melchizedec lay his blessing on my brow. When Noah began work on his great vessel, I knew what was coming, and I led many of my people to the dark places in the earth, sheltering from the coming flood. There, we shared a darkened realm with the descendants of Cain, those miners and metalworkers who bore the mark, and we traded many secrets. After the great deluge, we once again walked beneath the sun, but this was no longer our world, not anymore. When my son Golyat of Gath, who had allied himself with the Philistines, fell before the warrior king David, I wept bitterly, and I retreated into the darkness. Here I have lain for uncounted years, waiting to die. That time has come at last, with only you as witness. “Heed me, little man. Forget pride and vanity. All is as dust. In the end, we all return to mother earth. This is no bad thing.” I should have fled, yet I sat with the giant until his chest rattled and his last breath passed his lips. I was saddened, although why that is I cannot tell you. I later escaped the ravine, but I kept the story of the dying giant close, sharing it only rarely.