“Just when you think you’ve reached the epicenter, the VIP room within the VIP room, a shift occurs, a reversal of perspective, and you find that you’re on the inside looking out with much the same sense of longing and displacement you felt when you were looking in. There’s always another, cooler party behind the next locked door.” – Walter Kirn on attending the Oscars after the film adaptation of his book, Up in the Air, was nominated for Best Picture.
If only you’d get that big break. If only you knew the right person. If only your family was more connected. If only you had just a little more luck. If only you had more money, more free time, more guts, then you’d be doing your passion full time, right?
If only… If only…
The truth is, the only thing separating you and the professionals in your field is the amount of time you’ve put into your craft.
I’m not basing that on my own experiences, but on the experience of those professionals. In the words of three writers from film, comics, & books:
Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean, Aladdin)
I made the observation that anyone who worked at a job for ten years invariably became an expert at that job. This insight freed me from the fear of picking a so-called ‘impossible’ job. I could pick any field I wanted, free of intimidation, because it was guaranteed I would become an expert… if I was willing to stick to it for ten years. So I picked the job I really wanted deep in my heart: writing for movies.
Since Ted and I were going to be working and studying screenwriting for ten years, that took some of the pressure off. It doesn’t make sense to kick yourself after failing at something for four years, when the path you’re on is designed to take ten. This allowed a period of time to undertake an analysis and exploration of the business, the techniques, the craft, the history, etc. Step by step, from style to format to character to concept to theme, etc. In other words, we gave ourselves room to practice.
Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Lost)
Write more, do other stuff less.
That’s it. Everything else is meaningless. You can take all the classes in the world and read every book on the craft out there, but at the end of the day, writing is sorta like dieting. There are plenty of stupid fads out there and charlatans promising quick fixes, but if you want to lose weight, you have to exercise more and eat less. Period. Every writer has 10,000 pages of shit in them, and the only way your writing is going to be any good at all is to work hard and hit 10,001.
And this isn’t just some tired cliche, I believe that’s a provable mathematical equation. I started writing five pages a day, every single day, when I began my senior year of high school. That means I hit 10,001 roughly a year after I graduated NYU, which was exactly when I pitched Y: THE LAST MAN to Vertigo.
Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers, Blink)
An innate gift and a certain amount of intelligence are important, but what really pays is ordinary experience. Bill Gates is successful largely because he had the good fortune to attend a school that gave him the opportunity to spend an enormous amount of time programming computers-more than 10,000 hours… The Beatles had a musical gift, but what made them the Beatles was a random invitation to play in Hamburg, Germany, where they performed live as much as five hours a night, seven days a week. That early opportunity for practice made them shine. Talented? Absolutely. But they also simply put in more hours than anyone else.
…to invest an extraordinary amount of time in pursuing that particular passion. Again, not just for a little time. The magic number for them, for Mozart, and for so many outliers, as I call them, appears to be 10,000 hours.
How close are you to these milestones? How much time have you spent deliberately practicing your craft today? Be pro-active. Get feedback. What area’s are you weak in? How can you work to actively build those skills? Give yourself time. Be patient. Enjoy this period in your life.
It’s easy to create one piece of art and then sit around complaining that no one wants it. You can blame luck, you can blame nepotism, you can blame your financial situation, but there’s only one thing standing in the way of your success.
If you want to be a professional, you’ve got to put the time in. There are no short cuts.
Here’s another great post by the king of great posts, Seth Godin, in which he proposes “an antidote to a corporatized, unfeeling, profit-maximizing world.”
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, no matter how creative or rewarding, I can bet with 100% certainty that it often feels corporatized, unfeeling, and profit-maximizing. Your industry will probably chew you up and spit out your soul. There’s a good chance your industry will take all of your wide-eyed ideological wonder and turn it into bitterness and regret. So how do you slay these cynical dragons of crass commercialism?
Godin gives us examples: “No one reports liking Steve Jobs very much, yet he was as embraced as any businessperson since Walt Disney.” Steve Jobs. Walt Disney. These are men that we remember for their brands, Apple & Disney respectively, not for their personality. Brands that not only sold a product, but sold a lifestyle, that sold passion and heart. What did these two men do to elevate these brands above their corporatizing, unfeeling, profit-maximizing worlds?
According to Godin, THEY CARED. He suggests that we have to care about the people we are marketing to, and that we have to care about our product. And that’s certainly true. These two men were so successful because they were passionate about their craft. They didn’t make products for a target audience, they made products for themselves. No one loved Apple products as much as Jobs and no one loved Disney movies as much as Disney. Their passion comes through in their product.
I feel like the “care more” mantra is cut short though. I believe that what you really have to do is care more about your product than you do about yourself.
Jobs & Disney certainly weren’t ego-less, but their goal was not to get famous, rich, or universally loved. Their goal wasn’t even necessarily success. Their goal was to make the BEST PRODUCT POSSIBLE. And when that’s your central goal, all of those other things will follow.
As a writer, it’s easy to get frustrated that I’m not at a certain level or not making a certain amount of money or not attracting a certain kind of attention from certain types of people. What kind of stories am I going to generate from this mindset? Stories of bitterness and cynicism. Stories that no one wants to read.
If it’s my ambition to find personal success, then the message I’m sending out into the world is one of selfishness. But if I choose to care more about my stories than myself, if I choose to care more about my readers than myself, the message I’m sending out into the world is one of caring. A message of passion. A message of hope. A message that inspires people.
Is your goal to find personal success or is your goal to inspire your audience? I really believe the latter always leads the former. But it rarely works the other way around.
I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my very favorite films, Jerry Maguire, as Jerry (the sports agent) points out to his only client, Rod Tidwell (the football star), why Rod is holding himself back:
Here’s why you don’t have your ten million dollars yet. You are a paycheck player. You play with your head. Not your heart. In your personal life? Heart. But when you get on the field, it’s all about what you didn’t get, who’s to blame, who under-threw the pass, who’s got the contract you don’t, who’s not giving you your love, and you know what, that is not what inspires people. That is not what inspires people! Just shut up and play the game. Play it from your heart. And you know what? I will show you the Quan. And that’s the truth. That’s the truth man! Can you handle it! Just a question between friends, you know!
To which Rod responds:
I don’t want to be friends no more!
“Follow your dreams.”
A mental picture immediately arises at this phrase. Maybe it sits in your brain somewhere next to rainbows & unicorns. Or maybe your mind goes to those American Idol-ish kids who want SO bad to be a singer, but they are vocally & socially terrible at it.
The phrase “follow your dreams” has an air of UN-reality to it. I mean, dreams aren’t real right? They are things we WAKE UP FROM, born in our imagination. Things that get in the way of “real life.” It’s something lazy people do when they don’t want to get a real job, right?
But I don’t think “following your dreams” is an accurate description of what that phrase really implies when people use it.
I think a more accurate phrase is FULFILLING WHAT YOU WERE MEANT TO DO.
Whether we believe in a divine creator or not, I don’t think it’s a far stretch for us to believe that we were put on this earth for a reason. That our life has a PURPOSE.
Riki Lindhome recently had a fantastic interview with Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, the Avengers) on her Making It podcast. Riki talks with Whedon about a particularly dark period of his writing career and she asks him if he wrote every day during this time. His response:
“You know, not every day. Sometimes I’d go weeks without writing and then I’d be depressed and I wouldn’t be able to figure out why. It’d be like ‘I don’t know why I’m depressed!’ And then I’d be like ‘Oh, I’m not writing. So stupid.’ Like, every time I’d forget.”
Anyone who connects with the phrase “fulfilling what you were meant to do” can relate to what he’s saying here. For Whedon, his decision to be a writer is not a choice. It’s not a “dream.” It’s not a cop-out. It’s WHO HE IS.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in the very same position, sitting around, being bummed out, but not understanding why. Circumstances may be in my favor on any given week, but if I’m not writing, I don’t feel alive.
“For four years, I stopped making music, and really doing anything creative. When you’re in school, you can put your head down and focus. You have goals. You have stuff to get done, whether you like it or not. When you have a job, you come home at the end of the day and just sit there. You wait for the next day of work. It took me about four months to realize I had fallen into a deep depression. I was drinking by myself, a lot. I was refusing to go out, I was always tired. One of my best friends, a former hobbyist rapper himself, pulled me out of the mire and told me that I needed to make music again… I reluctantly agreed, and suddenly everything cleared away. Suddenly I was making music every night again.”
“When I first stepped on stage to perform, I could’ve made myself throw up if I just let a different stomach muscle flex in a weird way. But when I start performing, I lose all sense of self awareness. I lose inhibition. I don’t feel scared, I don’t feel insecure, I don’t feel anxiety. I just feel like I’m the person I should be.”
This to me doesn’t sound like someone who is “following his dreams.” It’s not some random desire that pops into Ahn’s brain. He is empty without making music. It makes him who he is. Being on stage is like being at home. And I know most of us can relate to that feeling. This is what it means to fulfill what you were meant to do.
Another important difference between the two phrases is that “following your dreams” implies that one day you magically arrive at your dreams, whereas “fulfilling what you were meant to do” is more immediate. It’s something you can wake up and do every day. Success really has nothing to do with it. That period of time that Joss Whedon references above – none of his scripts were getting made. Yet, just the very act of writing fulfilled his purpose. I believe 100% in setting goals and achieving them, but we don’t need to find “success” in order to fulfill our purpose.
So lets leave the fruity “follow your dreams” talk at the door… What’s inside of you dying to get out? What are you built to do? What gives you energy? What inspires you? What makes you feel like you’re at home? What pulls you out of those moments of depression? What gets you up in the morning?
What were you meant to do?
And the answer to that should leave no question as to where you should be spending your time and energy.
My brother is a born salesman, he’s constantly rising the corporate ladder of whatever fill-in-the-blank company he’s currently working for. He quits one job, immediately gets a new higher paying one. He started a coffee shop from scratch, only to turn around and sell it six months later. He’s one part Gordon Gecko, one part Patrick Bateman.
If “born salesman” is at one end of the spectrum, then “starving artist” as at the other. One look at my bank account, and I’ll let you guess where I land (usually in the negative).
I have a theory for this. I believe that creatives usually have some kind of pain in their past, and as a result disappeared into their imaginations to deal with it. This is certainly true of myself. And while this has led to a rather creative & talented mind, it’s also led to a terribly shy, somewhat bumbling personality. If you’re anything like my brother, then this essay is not for you.
For us creatives, the problem is that if we ever want to be successful (read: pay our rent) then we have to be salesmen. We have to master self-promotion. Here is my 4-step process to doing so.
1. Get out of your comfort zone.
I would much rather sit at home typing safely into my computer than put myself out in the real world. The real world is harsh. Rejection is personal. Technology provides us with a buffer of safety. You don’t have to look in the eyes of someone who is telling you your life-long dream is a terrible idea (there’s also nothing more satisfying than looking into the eyes of someone who “gets it.”) But in the world of writing, at least in film or comics, it is extremely hard (if not impossible) to “break-in” from behind your computer.
In the past month I’ve gone to two events – Nashville Screenwriting Conference in Tennessee and HeroesCon in North Carolina. Both provided me with experiences and contacts that would never be made sitting at home. I personally believe that you don’t have to move to a new city to follow your dreams (some professionals disagree with me), but I do believe you have to at least travel to where others in your industry are from time to time. Both comics & film are about relationships. Talent takes you a long way, but nothing replaces relationships.
2. Look them in the eye.
Craig Mazin, the screenwriter behind Hangover 2, told a story at the Nashville Screenwriting Conference about an anonymous writer who slid a letter under his hotel room door. In the letter, the author introduced herself and stated that she had left her script for Craig to read at the first desk. Craig said that this person made the wrong decision and he refused to read the script.
This was of course an awkward story as the author was sitting in the room, but it was a very important lesson. If you want to make it, you have to have the guts to put yourself out there. Nothing replaces a handshake. Nothing replaces looking someone in the eye. Craig will forever know this writer as the writer too afraid to face him in person. Would he have read it if they did talk to him in person? Maybe not, but they would have at least had the opportunity to make a good first impression.
3. Sell a personality.
Great stories are about great characters. The first ten minutes of a film should set up your character so that the audience falls in love with them, so they are invested in that character’s plight for the next 90 minutes. No matter how great the plot is, if the character’s aren’t worth investing in, the story suffers. The same applies to your career. You could have a great plot (written ten screenplays, shot a bunch of shorts, created a 1000 page graphic novel) but if the powers-that-be are not interested in YOU, then they won’t be interested in your art. (And by powers-that-be I mean the gatekeeepers: agents, publishers, pros, managers, producers, investors, etc.)
If you stay behind your computer screen, you are nothing but a product. A faceless, personality-lacking, dime-a-dozen drone. Your greatest product is yourself. Get out and sell you. BUT your first goal should not be to “sell them.” Just like a bad salesman, the gatekeepers can see you coming a mile away. Don’t be the telemarketer.
I don’t know much about sales, but this sounds like something they would say: “You have to earn someone’s trust before you can sell to them.” The key is trust. The key is friendships. If you come up to someone and immediately start in with your pitch, they never get a chance to know your personality, only your product.
4. It’s a date.
Practically speaking, how do you “sell yourself?” Well, think of it as a date. What’s the worst thing you can do on a first date? Talk all about yourself. The key to getting that second date is asking questions (and to actually be interested in the answers). Getting to know the person sitting across from you. If it’s a good date, they’ll be interested in you as well, and that will hopefully lead to a second “date” where you can talk more about your career and goals. And if they aren’t, then you politely move on to the next suitor.
The thing is, in the grand scheme of things, these friendships are going to be more important than whatever career you have anyway. The friendships I’ve made in the industry, I wouldn’t trade for anything, not even “success.” Life is ultimately about relationships – the people we bump into while we’re busy living life. Those are the moments that really matter.
In the opening paragraph I made my brother out to be this superhero, but the truth is his success lies in the same principles I’m discussing here. This was made clear to me when he recently shared his definition for success, quoting Sir Winston Churchill: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
- Just like dating, you’re going to have some bad ones. You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to be beat down and disappointed. You’re going to fail a lot. But if you keep at it, you will find what you’re looking for.
I don’t think there is anyone who would disagree that the comics industry needs kids. Without them the industry dies off. And as of right now, the overwhelming majority of comic book readers are not kids. I’ve read a number of people state this, yet have seen very few solutions.
Michael Chabon has a fantastic essay in his book Maps and Legends where he offers those solutions. What follows is his list (along with my summary) of how to successfully write stories for kids.
1. Let’s not tell stories that you think kids of today would like, tell stories that you would have liked as a kid. I would add to that: tell stories that you would like NOW as well. The greatest “children’s” stories work on both levels. For me personally, the kinds of stories I like are generally the ones that are enjoyed by both audiences.
2. Let’s tell stories that, over time, build up an intricate mythology that is also accessible and comprehensible at any point of entry. Kids want to explore, go on a journey where new information is revealed along the way, challenging what came before. But at the same time need an entry point, especially in comics – to tell a complete story (or part of the story) in every issue.
3. Let’s cultivate an unflagging readiness as storytellers to retell the same stories with endless embellishment. To give the comfortable, but something new. Kid’s love repetition, anyone who has ever told a story to a kid can understand that. But they also want
4. Let’s blow their minds. Their minds are not blown simply by thrilling action sequences, but by taking them to places they’ve never been, both mentally and emotionally. When you make their dreams come true, and at the same time create new dreams to fill that space.
5. Let’s tell stories about children. An overwhelming number of stories in comics, that are aimed at kids, are about adults or teens. If you want kids to relate and go on the journey with these characters – kids relate to kids.
6. This last one is not from Chabon, but from Jacob Medjuck – writer and director of the film Summerhood. “If you want to reach kids with a moral, wrap it in the dirtiest joke possible.” Now, you have to take that and apply it to your own story & audience, but his point is valid. In other words – Let’s share our values, yet not hit them over the head. Even kids can see the moral coming a mile away. Simply tell stories that are honest and unique to your life.
Do any comics you read fit the above descriptions? What are the cartoons, books, or films that do? Can you help fill that void in the comics world? Go create.
I had the pleasure of listening to a dialog between the great cartoonists Lynda Barry & Alison Bechdel on a podcast called “Live Wire!” recently and Lynda in particular hit on something that I had been thinking upon a great deal lately. And that’s the idea of purpose behind art.
I struggle with art a lot of times because it feels like such a selfish endeavor. Many times it’s driven by pride or money or fame… particularly in the movie industry (although I imagine it’s true of all art, I just have less experience with other industries.) Even the idea of struggling artists who create art “just for themselves” really turns me off. I think anything done “just for yourself” is a bit of a waste. I think it’s why I am happiest when I’m creating in a collaborative environment, whether that be a comic book artist or a writing partner, where I’m forced to bump into people. I believe that we’re put here on this earth to touch people and change lives, through our friendships, through our giving, and certainly through our art.
Lynda spoke to this during the conversation with this brilliant story:
“You all know what phantom limb pain is? That’s that thing where you lose part of your limb but you still have the sensation that it’s still there. There was a guy who had a particularly intractable case of it. He had lost his hand from here down. But his sensation was that his hand not only there, but it was in a really painfully clenched fist. He was in misery, the pain was constant. His life was really deteriorating. They didn’t know what to do for him.
And there’s this brilliant neurologist named V.S. Ramachandran who has done a lot of amazing work with imagery on the brain. And he had this idea, and his idea was, well, let’s make a box and we’re going to put a mirror in that’s slanted this way and there’s a hole on this side so that the guy can put his hand into the hole on this side, and then when he looks down it’s going to be the illusion of seeing two hands. You follow me on that? And so the guy did it. So he sees two hands. And Ramachandran says, ‘Open your hand.’ And he did. And he saw the other one open. And the pain went away.
And I believe that’s what images do. That there’s something about – whether it’s in another book, or it’s something that we make – there’s something about seeing something – and I don’t mean literally, necessarily, although with art that’s true – there’s something about working with images that can unclench something that we have no other way to get to.”
I was listening to the program in my car and after hearing this, I literally cheered. It was exactly everything I had been thinking, put into a simple, beautiful illustration.
What got me thinking about all of this was a lunch with a very good friend of mine named John Ray. John’s son, Marcus, was one of my best friends growing up and he took his own life almost 10 years ago now. After the death of his son, John became a pastor. And he did this in part, I believe, in order to help the hurting. Here is a man who has been through the worst pain imaginable, who very easily could have turned all of that pain inward and slowly morph into a twisted bitter old man. But instead, he took that pain, as inexplicable as it is, and used it to help others. Myself included.
When I had lunch with John, I was really struggling with my place in life. I was broken, not sure of what I should be doing. Just burnt out on trying so hard to be successful, in life and in art. And John said to me with such clarity, “Hudson, what you should be doing is taking the gifts God has given you, and using those gifts to tell your story. To share with others the questioning and the brokenness and the hurt that you’ve been through in order to help those who are on similar paths.”
This, to me, is art. Art is personal. It’s vulnerable. Art is not teaching. Just like John, I have no more answers now than I did before the pain. A lot of times, there are no answers. But I do know how to come through to the other side.
After the above illustration, Lynda goes on to talk about how Alison’s fantastic graphic novel Fun Home “opened a lot of fists” with it’s auto-biographical portrayal of a girl dealing with the death of her father who was a closeted homosexual. It is a story exploring death and life and sexuality and father/daughter relationships in a way that is completely unique to Alison.
The greatest desire all of us have in life is to know we’re not alone. It’s these unique, personal stories that speak to the hearts of the lonely.
We create, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. To share beauty and to ask questions… to challenge minds and to warm hearts.
Tell your story through your art. You never know whose fist you might be opening.
The Spring 08 Issue of Nylon Guys has a great article:
“Comic Relief: Comics aren’t just made by a bunch of nerds. Here, meet five artists with some of the coolest jobs on the planet.“
They interview 5 artists including Alexander Maleev (Daredevil), Paul Pope (Batman:Year 100), Cliff Chiang (Green Arrow / Black Canary), Gabriel Ba (Umbrella Academy), & Ronald Wimberly (Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm). It’s a wide range of artists from all different genres. The article has a photo of each artist as well as a sample of their work. It’s a beautiful thing to see such varied, yet impressive artwork on display right next to each other.
This article, along with those we’ve already seen in other magazines from EW to GQ, verify what many of us already know: comics are cool.
It also helps show off the diversity of comics’ creators & readers: Maleev is Bulgarian, Pope is Caucasian-American, Chiang is Asian-American, Ba is Brazilian, & Wimberly is African-American.
“In the old days, it was embarrasing to tell people you were a cartoonist because they would automatically assume you were a weirdo or a bum without a job. Now it can get you into nightclubs.” - Paul Pope
“I had a Batman T-shirt, Spiderman pajamas with the slipper feet, I played the hell out of every Marvel Comics-themed arcade game and I rushed home after school every day to watch the Batman series. The iconography hit me like Campbell’s soup cans must’ve hit a young Andy Warhol.” – Ronald Wimberly
“It’s like being in a giant nerdy candy store” – Cliff Chiang (on comic conventions)
Seen any other great articles about comics? COMMENT BELOW.
“I have lived such a wonderful life! I’ve lived enough for two people.” - Charlton Heston
Both will be missed.
The WonderCon 2008 Podcast Panel featured personalities from the podcasts “iFanboy”, “Around Comics”, “Comic Geek Speak”, and “I Read Comics” discussing the state of comics podcasting and comics in general.
One of the highlights was when the moderator asked the panelists what they thought were the most encouraging trends in comics today. Here are their answers, (along with my comments in italics):
1) “More Collected Editions.” Brian Deemer (Comic Geek Speak)
“Books in bookstores, because they reach a much huger audience than the comic book stores ever will. Original graphic novels, cheap trade paperbacks, all of that stuff is very, very, important. I think that’s the future of comics. I think the floppies’ days are numbered. It’s all going to be books in a bookstore.”
Ron Richards (iFanboy): “I love single issues, but we look at success by the number of comics sold on single issues in the top 300, but we don’t see any reporting on how many Amazon is selling or how many Barnes & Noble is selling or how many borders is selling and that’s going to be the real key.”
HP – If the floppies do disappear, this would be a major shift in the financial model of comic book companies… and it would shut down all the “mom & pop” comic book stores. It would make it harder on publishers because it would be more money up front to pay the creators for 144 pages instead of just 22.
And you would reduce two financial models into one – these companies make money twice from the same story – once from the floppies, then again from the collected editions. If this shifts, it’d be like television shows being released straight to DVD in entire seasons. You find that many readers buy the same story twice, much like television viewers will watch it on TV and then buy the DVD.
Most companies offer original graphic novels (OGNs) already, that is, they aren’t collected single comics, but a story meant to be printed all together… Except for (as far as I know) the big two (Marvel & DC). Some companies, like TokyoPop release only OGNs and their sales are through the roof.
I’m not sure this shift will ever take place, but it could be heading that way. I suppose it all depends on if the chain bookstores are ready to embrace the floppies. History has shown they aren’t. It’s a very small profit margin for a large amount of in-and-out inventory and floor space.
2. “The best trend in the past 5 years is the return to quality.” Ron Richards (iFanboy):
“You can put as much as you want out there, but if it’s crap, no one is going to buy it. You can have 17 “X” titles and if only one of them is worth reading, then the whole line is not worth anything. It’s got to be really good creators writing, drawing, & making good comics.”
HP – This, of course, is everything. There are some great comic books out there. And there is some crap out there. I wish that comic readers would be harsher with their purchases. Many readers will buy a book just because of the character or to have a complete set, even if the story sucks. This creates a model where publishers can put out any so-so story and readers will buy it. Money talks and if readers stop buying crappy books, then publishers will stop making them. I find that the more willing you are to explore smaller publishers, Top Shelf, Oni, Image, TokyoPop, the better stories you’ll find.
3. “Borders is doing the comic book store inside a store, folks, that’s the future.” Christopher Neseman (Around Comics)
“The Local Comic Book Store’s I love them, I go every week, but that business does not have a real bright future to it. It comes down to foot traffic. Plain and simple. The internet is cutting into that. Other entertainment forms is cutting into it. The bookstores are really looking like they will be the future of mass market sequential art. I firmly believe that’s where it’s going. And that’s a good thing.”
Ron Richards (iFanboy): “We all just lived through the music revolution of the late 90′s to early 00′s and it’s going to be the same thing. You’re going to see the mom & pop stores go under, unfortunately, which I hate because there’s stores like Isotope here in San Francisco, Meltdown in L.A., Rocketship in Brooklyn, that are just awesome stores , but as soon as the big boxes get involved you’re going to see the small stores go and you’ll see the internet cut in.”
HP – I’ve talked about this on numerous occasions and I completely agree. It is time that comics moved past the geeky little subculture it is and become a media in the forefront. The main reason I got into writing this blog is for this very reason. I want to see the comics I love be loved by millions. In order to break past that stereotypical subculture (whether it lives up to that stereotype or not) the industry needs to prominately settle itself where the majority of people already are – the chain bookstores.
4. “Digital Comics.” Ron Richards (iFanboy)
“I know the digital comics thing is a hot topic and we don’t know how that will play out but you can’t avoid that. The moment someone figures out how to read a cood comic on the iPhone, you’re going to watch it explode”
HP – This is a big “wait and see.” I personally can’t imagine reading comics on an iPhone, or Kindle or any device. But if the quality grows and the size, it may be a very natural transition. I’m excited about those that are experimenting with this. It will be fun to follow.
5. “There’s a lot more diversity in the comics you’re reading.” Josh Flannigan (iFanboy)
“Most comics are still superhero comics, but there’s stories about other things than super heroes. Y: The Last Man was a huge book, and having stories like that and having places like Vertigo and Oni and Image. They’re doing all sort of different things. I love that there are books that you can give to people or recommend to people that can challenge all the expectations of what it is. “Read this comic book.” “Well I don’t like superheroes.” This is a story, it moves you like any movie or any book you’ve ever read. I think that when you wanna talk about growing the whole base of everything like like putting them in bookstores and having collected editions, that’s really important.”
HP – This also plays a huge part in marketing comics to a larger audience. Comics need to be easy to find, easy to access, high quality, and of a diverse amount of genres. A lot of people still consider comics books Superhero-only. But this hasn’t be the case… well, ever. But that still sits at the forefront (in public opinion, and sales). But Josh is right, there are graphic novels out there that rival anything in movies, TV, or books. And more and more publishers & creators are embracing other genre’s, from romantic comedy, to horror, to drama, to action.
6. “I think in mainstream comics, the move to other media has been huge.” Lene Taylor (I Read Comics)
“Especially DC doing the direct to DVD stuff that they finally figured out that they should be making animated movies that aren’t shit.”
HP – This, of course, includes comic book movies on the big screen, not just with the big superhero movies (Spiderman, X-men, Batman) but also the smaller graphic novels being adapted well (V for Vendetta, 300, 30 Days of Night, Stardust, Sin City, A History of Violence) This could also be said of books that cross over into superhero territory & television shows like Heroes. I’m not sure how much these works bring in new readers, but I know with movies like Sin City & 300, where you can pick up the stories easily in collected editions, sales have sky-rocketed.
You can view the entire panel at iFanboy.com.
Jonathan Hickman is the writer of the boldly creative new comic books The Nightly News, Pax Romana, & Transhuman, all out through Image Comics. I believe he is doing a lot to “change the face” of comics by pushing people expectations of what a comic could be. His books merge heavy design, prose & screenwriting techniques, as well as exceptional traditional comic book storytelling.
He also writes a great column for iFanboy.com titled Concentric Circles. Here is some of his great writing advice from a recent column:
“I write stories that I want to read. If at any point in the ‘writing process’ I mentally check out of a story I throw it away and start over. Accept that it’s shit and move on.”
“Here are a couple of other tips that we in the hack writer cabal find useful:
1. Keep it simple.
2. Don’t telegraph. A good story doesn’t turn, it unfolds.
3. Always have a theme.
4. Action should explode – think of this like a Pixies song – soft, soft, loud.
5. When a character becomes interesting, kill them.”
“It also helps to not have an ego about yourself or your work. Remember, it’s just a single story that you drew from what you believe to be an endless well of ideas existing inside of you. Not everyone is going to like your story because it’s not for everyone. Create. Move on.”
I recently ran across Brian K. Vaughan’s blog on his myspace page and found this fantastic nugget. This is probably the best, most concise advice I’ve ever read about writing comics. A few quotes:
“All that matters is quality.”
“WRITE MORE, DO OTHER STUFF LESS.”
“Every writer has 10,000 pages of shit in them, and the only way your writing is going to be any good at all is to work hard and hit 10,001.”
“Writing is like starting with six hours’ worth of hangover to enjoy a few minutes of feeling drunk.”
“Writer’s block is just another word for video games.”
“‘Go get published, because nothing will make you become a better writer faster than knowing that complete strangers are reading your horrible, horrible writing.’ – Neil Gaiman”
“No two people ever break into our medium in the same way. New WOLVERINE scribe Daniel Way got the attention of Dark Horse Comics editor Diana Schutz when he gave her a copy of a comic that he self-published with the help of a Xeric Grant (if you don’t know what that is, get Googling). BIRDS OF PREY writer Gail Simone wowed major companies with the hilarious online humor column she did at Comic Book Resources. And ULTIMATE HULK VS. WOLVERINE writer Damon Lindeloff hooked up with Marvel after he co-created LOST, one of the hottest television shows of the last ten years. Three drastically different paths to breaking into “the majors,” but all three writers have one thing in common: they were working their asses off while other wannabe creators were sitting at home, waiting for the phone to ring.”
“Stop making excuses and start making art.”
“Today is the tomorrow I was so worried about yesterday”
- Anthony Hopkins