Saturday, 24 May 2014

Advice For New Comic Book Writers

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to set up a table to sign and sell my books at my local comic shop, Galaxy Comics  on FCBD (Free Comic Book Day in case you weren't familiar with the abbreviation). 

It was a blast getting to hang out with some other local talent, including Axiom-man author, A.P Fuchs, sales of LEGACY and New Guard were good, but the best part was getting to meet people who had already picked up copies of the books and hearing their feedback on them. Among those fine folk who stopped by my table were two young guys (man I feel old saying that- and I'm not THAT old) who told me that they were working on putting together a comic book of their own. They asked if I had any advice for them, as someone who had gone through the process of writing a comic book, finding an artist and then going about publishing it. 

A couple of things here:  1. I didn't ask their names. That was a HUGE mistake on my part- you should always make that effort. So there's a piece of advice right there. If someone takes the time to ask for your input you bloody sure better ask their name. The very least you can do. Rookie mistake on my part as I'm still surprised when being asked stuff like that- someone wants to know what I think? I'm just some guy who's done a couple comics. 
But that's more than them and therefore it's not really my duty, but hell, if you can't help people create their art and pursue a passion then why should they support yours? Right?

2. Put on the spot without thinking, I advised them to just keep working on it. To not give up. I know that sounds like lame advice but I really think it's the best you can ever give a creative person. 

Just keep going. 

There are days when you're going to want to quit because it's too hard or requires sacrifices that you don't think you can make or that no one will ever want to buy this thing that you invested HUNDREDS of hours of your time in. More of those days than you think when you first start. I've had dozens of them, I'm sure. You just get overwhelmed and you think walking away is the best thing you can do. It's not. JUST KEEP GOING. You might not ever hit the top 5 of a Best Seller's List but by damn you'll get it done and have something to show for your hard work. You WILL find people that will like it. As much or more than you do. You'll also find people that don't like it. I refer you to this blog entry on how to approach that. 

But really there's a TON of other advice that I could and should've mentioned to them. You could write a series of articles on it. There ARE series of articles on it. So instead of getting too much into it, I'll refer you to a couple columns that I'VE gone to in order to learn more about comic book making. 

The first that I cannot recommend enough is Shelf Life on Comic Book Resources by Ron Marz. With over 20 years in the business, Mr. Marz is an excellent source of information and from my very brief interactions with him online, a super nice guy. His column has been invaluable to me and there are not enough words to encourage you to think about some of his articles and learn from them. 

Another is ComixTribe whose Twitter tagline is "Creators helping creators make better comics!" They have a whole bunch of articles covering every aspect of making comics. I've only glanced through a few since I've started making comics, though I wish I had heard of them before I started- might have saved me some headaches along the way.

A good book on the topic is The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O'Neil, longtime Batman group editor and comic book writer. He's been writing comics for as long as I've been alive, if not longer. In other words, he KNOWS his stuff.

The advice I'd give, besides not quitting, is to conduct yourself as a professional as much as you can. If you want to be a comic book writer professionally, that means ACTING professionally, even BEFORE you are one. If anything that's the time that it matters more. 

Remember how Rob Liefeld broke with DC Comics and did that infamous Twitter rant? He could do that because he's freakin' Rob Liefeld and has been around forever and a day. And you better believe he won't be working for them anytime soon. Even if he wanted to.

So behave both online and in person. Does that mean hide who you are to make friends? No because people will see through it before long. It means to be respectful- to yourself, to your peers, your artists, your fans, your heroes. In other words, don't be a douchebag. It's really not that hard. 

Don't be afraid to ask for help from people that have been doing it longer than you. Sure you learn a TON by just going out and doing it but sometimes a sage piece of advice can save you all the stress, time and money that you might lose by barging through blindly. Kind of a combo advice here with the previous but: Find someone whose work and attitude you respect and try to follow in their footsteps in how they conduct themselves. The comic book industry is FULL of great pros. Learn from them, even if you don't like their work- guess what, they're DOING it. Find what worked for them, find what you don't like about their stuff and figure out how to apply it to your stuff. 

One last piece of advice:  Be good to your art team. They aren't just pencil monkeys that you hire and cast aside. If they are you might want to rethink things. They are people and have lives outside of their drawing board. Be respectful of that. Health and family take priority over make believe worlds. Also don't forget to just TALK to them. The best teammates talk to each other. 

So to the great guys that stopped at my table at Galaxy, I want to apologize for not being more prepared, glad that you have my email address and feel free to contact me anytime, I'm always happy to talk comics with anyone who wants to. Hope this helps whoever decides to read it.