First, I want to wish a happy birthday to Kevin Eastman today – he’s one of the two creators of the pop culture smash hit, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Moving on, I have something serious to discuss today. It’s about working in comics, creating them, marketing them and what it’s like in general to be part of the business. My words apply mainly to the United States and to a lesser extent, Canada. I cannot speak for what goes on in Japan or Europe.
Some of you out there may have romanticized visions of what I do or what others do. (Maybe not me so much if any of the negative comments from losers are any indication.) You may think many of us live this glamorous lifestyle where we have lots of money, get mobbed by fans as we walk down the street, and get truckloads of fan mail. You may think we just throw something onto paper or the computer screen with little effort and the money just flows in as tons of fans adore our work.
It’s time for a big reality check to each and everyone of you who think this way – our lives are NOTHING like that. Many of us struggle. Many of us, even those with publishers, need to work to market ourselves. Many of us may get some, little or even no recognition at all! Many of us may have to take on inane work or even (GASP!) day jobs to help pay the bills. Many of us have to meet deadlines and plan ahead accordingly. Once you finish one job, you can’t stop to rest and bask in your glory. You have to move on to your next job and that holds especially true for those working in the mainstream (that is, superhero comics from Marvel and DC).
Look at me. I’ve got some fans here and there, occasionally get fan mail and have landed my book in the collections of various libraries. But things are not a bed of roses for me. I work various jobs to pay my bills. I work to market myself through my blog, social media, direct mail and word of mouth. On top of all that, I have to plan out, write, draw and publish while doing the same for future work.
Does that sound glamorous to you? It shouldn’t because it is not. In spite of what I have achieved, I still have a long way to go.
I may not see any form of success for a long time. That’s the reality for comics and commercial art as well as fine art. Look at the fine artists Roy Lichtenstein and Edward Hopper. Both men were in their forties when they finally hit the big time. Look at Charles Schulz, an influence to me (and many others). The first ten years of the Peanuts comic strip (1950-1960) were not easy for him. Only seven newspapers carried Peanuts when it launched on October 2, 1950. After six months, two of those seven newspapers dropped Peanuts! Does that sound glamorous to you?
To all those who want to create your own comics and maybe even try to make a living at it, I’m not trying to discourage you. You need a reality check.
Success is not instant, if it comes at all. It is hard work and even if you do everything right, you may never reap any rewards at all.