[Originally posted in the December 17th edition of my newsletter. It has been slightly edited and expanded upon.]
It’s been said before, but making comics isn’t easy. Getting everything together, paying people, keeping things on track, and dealing with printing takes a great deal of effort. Then you have to get out and promote it despite the fact you’re likely tired from making it. Even if it gets picked up by a publisher, it still can be rough waters. Getting published isn’t a golden ticket and in some cases it has been to the creators detriment. The news of Aftershock filing for bankruptcy and the stories from creators waiting months to years for payment from seemingly big publishers is proof of that.
In the years I’ve been making comics, I’ve seen several creators that I considered more talented than me simply get burnt out or go into a more rewarding industry. I’ve also seen people just decide the process isn’t for them after getting a look behind the scenes. The business of comics can be frustrating and can grind people down. I’d be lying if I said that it never bothered me or left me burned out.
The thing that keeps me motivated or at least from getting completely discouraged comes from the fact that my first comic was a six-issue miniseries. It was a massive undertaking but it got done. With no publisher. Just me writing the scripts, finding an editor, finding the art team, paying said art team, and paying for printing. And when I got through the entire three-year process, I somehow didn’t hate it and thought ‘I could do this again’.
And because of that, no one can tell me that I can’t make a comic. I already did it so I can do it again. With or without a publisher.
One of the ‘rules’ that I see for starting comics is start small. I agree. I’d been studying and writing comic scripts for years before making Secrets & Shadows. I’d already written the scripts for two or three different miniseries by then so I knew the writing aspect. Add to that the fact that I got a job in Japan not too long after college that could pay for it as well as gave me weekends off (i.e. time and money). It was just the right time for things to mostly go right during the first outing. There were struggles and mistakes but they were much lower than what they could have been.
And because I made a miniseries first, I learned what went into making a longer comic. Once I understood the process, I knew the big hows. How much time will it take? How much money will it cost? How can this go wrong? After that, I knew I could make another series or make anything smaller than that. I’ve been through the miniseries process three times and it’s not easy. It can be frustrating and have you doubt yourself and your abilities. But once you get to the end, you know that you can do it again if you want to.
I remember when Clusterf@#k first got published at [REDACTED]. I saw multiple first-time creators seemingly drop off after their book came out. There was this wave of excitement and promotion before they just dropped off, likely after being told their book failed and getting discouraged. It was pretty sad to see. If I’d brought Secrets & Shadows to a company after putting years and a ton of money into it only to get treated poorly, it might have killed my enthusiasm as well. That isn’t to say that I didn’t get stressed and frustrated, I did. But I knew that I didn’t need them to make another comic series. I’d done it before and I could do it again.
I say all that to say that being able to finish Secrets & Shadows was a great learning experience and continues to motivate me no matter how discouraging things get. And while I wouldn’t recommend doing it as big as I did, just going through the process and finishing a comic can help you determine if it’s something you want to do. Because once you’ve done it, you’ll know whether you can do or not.
I did it so I know I can do it again. And again. And again.