You Need Creativity And…

Now that Furfright 2011 is out of the way, I have gotten a better perspective on the challenges I face…and no doubt others who make comics face. It’s not enough to have strong writing skills for making characters and building worlds nor drawing skills to make that world and characters look presentable. There’s something else that is needed if you hope to become professional. Do you know what that is?

My experiences at Furfright 2011 made me realize it more so as did something else. Recently, I got my hands on a DVD set of the 1980s animated series Jem. The 1980s and its popular culture have been very influential on my work. The series Jem is no exception. Let me tell you about it some and what it has to do with what you need to work in comics.

Jem was a 1980s TV series produced by Hasbro, Marvel, and Sunbow Entertainment, the same minds behind GI Joe, the Transformers, and My Little Pony.  Running in syndication from 1985 to 1988, the series revolved around a fictitious rock band known as Jem and the Holograms.  The title character was the lead vocalist and had many adventures in between performing concerts and recording albums.  Jem however was not what she appeared – she was actually the alter ego of Jerrica Benton, a businesswoman who was the head of Starlight Music, a recording label.

Jerrica switched back and forth between her identity of Jem and herself thanks to a special pair of earrings that projected holograms, provided by a supercomputer called Synergy.  For those of you who are not children of the 1980s, check that above link to Wikipedia for more details about the series and its characters.  At the time of this writing, the series is being rerun in the USA on the cable channel, the Hub, and in Canada on Teletoon Retro.

Okay…I know what some of you are thinking.  This is good and all, but what does this 1980s cartoon have to do with making comics and what I need to sell them?

Jerrica Benton and her alter ego, Jem, were too completely different aspects of the same person – Jerrica was serious, levelheaded, and business savvy. Jem, in contrast, was more creative, flashy, and spontaneous. Believe me, the various adventures in the series demonstrated the pull on Jerrica of these two conflicting personalities. In the end though, these two sides made Jerrica whole. And that is the point I’m trying to make.

If you want to turn professional at making comics, then you have to be like Jerrica Benton/Jem…no, you don’t need a holographic supercomputer. What you do need is to have both creativity AND business acumen!

Jerrica was a serious and focused woman who knew how to run a business corporation and Jem (her secret identity) was a talented performer. But these two personalities were one person…and that’s what you must do to make a living at comics. You must not only have considerable skills, but you also must know how to market yourself, sell your work, run a business, deal with taxes, handle finances, and so on. The business of comics is every bit as important as the craft of comics.

Make no mistake about it. It’s important to know the business of comics. I know what some of you are thinking as you read this. You might sigh or moan. You might think you don’t really need it. Some may also think that it can’t be done. It doesn’t matter. Whether you intend to go the self-publishing route like myself and Dave Sim or have you work picked up by a publishing house like many others out there, you MUST learn the business of comics.

It’s not easy. Sadly, the creativity that a graphic designer, animator, illustrator, etc. has doesn’t always blend well with bookkeeping, ordering supplies from vendors, making runs to the post office, etc. But you have to grin and bear it. Not to worry, there’s plenty of resources out there to help you out in learning the business of comics. I’ll clue you in on some of them in the coming months.  I already mentioned the importance of marketing in my review on the book Guerrilla Marketing on the Internet.

In the coming months, I’ll share what I know and tell you about books, webpages, and people that can help you out.  It won’t be easy…but you need both creativity and business savvy to succeed as a professional.

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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