After 8 years, delays due to health and finances, and all kinds of trouble interesting publishers in offbeat graphic novels and creator owned anthology comics. Comics veteran Salgood Sam is holding a crowdfunder to independently print and tour his labour of love, ‘Dream Life | a late coming of age’ book one. He writes Bleeding cool about his experience with making comics for love and money.
Young creators often ask “how do you break into comics”. A lot of pros laugh about this as the answer is, which time? I think i’m on my forth? Or is it fifth?…stopped counting.
How do you break in? By not giving up. It’s a truism, but come back for more when you get knocked down.
A big part of it is also down to how much control do you want?
The more you desire, the harder it will be. But its always possible.
I’ve always wanted a lot of control. To the extent that I can, I’ve been trying to set my own course for a while now. There’s a lot of risk and sacrifice in ironically that arguably a very self interested pursuit. Crowdfunding and grants and the internet have all helped a lot. But I’m also competing in a market space that exploded with talent in recent years. And I’m not willing to do just anything. So It’s all honestly by the hair of the chin. Some work doing illustrations and designing has helped. But the only chance I’ve always thought for longevity was to do work I believe in and find readers who are looking for that.
I’ve got a broad appetite for stories. From the literary and lyrical ‘Dream Life’, the quirky and dystopic ‘Therefore, Repent!’. My memoir ‘A Bastards Tale’. Genre fiction like my collaboration with Mark Sable, ‘Dracula Son of the Dragon’, serialized in ‘Revolver’ before being collected for the folks who backed the kickstarter for it last year.
Years ago I made DIY comic zines, and I grew up on a mix of underground and 10 cent comics off the local spinner racks. I never really fancid drawing superheroes but after seeing things like ‘Watchmen’, ‘Violent Cases’, ‘Moonshadow’, I thought maybe I could work In the business and make comics like I imagined in my head after all?
Later while regrouping from my first foray into the field I read ‘7 Miles a second’ and poured over my beloved copies of ‘Rubber Blanket’, and I knew comics could do what I wanted them to do. Just wasn’t sure how to make a living at it.
When I first started, it was a good time for braking in. There was less competition, and I was pretty good, started drawing very early and at 20 already had a couple issues of a B&W comic published by Caliber Press. But I was unprepared for the editorial realities of WFH comics. Mostly I drew for Marvel. And after 3 years of that or so, I walked away from it all and took a year off drawing as I thought about what I’d encountered. Ultimately I decided I did want to do this, just not on their terms.
I don’t mind being paid at all of course! But not at the price of being disrespected or producing sub par books just to make deadlines or please a publisher. The question of authorship loomed for me. Who was making the book, me or them?
It might sound presumptuous but I spent a long time studying what I do before ever working for Marvel. And I haven’t stopped since. But for whatever reasons the editors at Marvel pretty consistently disregarded my input and I thought seriously undermined the quality of our books. Not to mention I feel costing me money by taking books in directions I told them would not work-and they didn’t. It may have been bias confirmation but the one royalty [called a gratuity at the time by Marvel] check I ever got was clawed back due to returns. Something I predicted would happen. But this was the way things were done I was told. I was a ‘kid’ and what did I know. The system was on rails and stopped for nothing.
So I bailed, and set out to learn the other jobs of my profession – at the time I only drew – and while still doing some WFH work now and then, was much more picky about what and with whom.
I didn’t want to draw stories that objectified women anymore, or had unaddressed racist or nationalistic subtexts. Or were all about short term thrills but went no where. And I refused to work with people who ignored my input, or were passive aggressive, or simply aggressive in the course of doing the job. Suffice to say I worked a lot less in comics after that. To pay the bills I illustrated and worked in animation mostly for a while. But I found a few opportunities and the outcome of those only validated my choices. It’s a slower road but I’m much more proud of the work i’ve done after that.
In time I found good writing collaborators and learned to pen a story myself. I feel like my first issue of ‘Revolver’  and ‘Therefore, Repent!’  were watershed books for me. I had over thirty published credits on comics before them including my first Graphic Novel [well, more a novella] ‘Wonder Woman vs the Red Menace’ . But while the work done post ‘95 is worthy, I don’t feel like anything before ‘Revolver’ and ‘Therefore, Repent!’ is really 100% me. ‘Therefore, Repent!’ is of course at least half if not more Jim Munroe’s, who wrote and conceived of that book. But the story was a great fit, I felt like it was something i’d have tried to write myself had he not already. And he let me have my way with it.
Now I find myself at another watershed point. ‘Revolver’ never found a publishing home back in the early ‘00s, when I published the first issue DIY style to have something tangible to show them. After showing it to a lot of publishers, I bowed to the industry wisdom that one man anthologies were dead. Thats partly why I ended up drawing Repent! when I did. Everyone wanted stand alone Graphic Novels so when Jim came to me with the story it fit. But for longer projects I’ve found it’s frustrating to maintain an audience when you drop off the face of it working on something big.
So going against the grain I relaunched ‘Revolver’ anyway a few years ago as a self published series. Knowing I had a lot to learn about doing that and expecting a steep learning curve. After some fits and starts it’s now gaining a small but growing readership via digital subscription readers, and my plan is to make it the home for serializing all my future efforts, including the second half of ‘Dream Life’, once I’ve had a little time away from it to refresh the batteries doing other things.
And there’s ‘Dream Life | a late coming of age’ book one. My longest solo work to date is done, and just about ready to go out the door for good. An attempt at neorealism in comics form. I’m really pretty excited to see what people think of it.
It’s something I started to draw right after ‘Therefore, Repent!’ in 2007. The script goes back even further, it’s taken a long time to birth. Partly due to the great recession, and other disruptions. But partly just due to the nature of the work itself. It was while working on it that I realized I needed something like ‘Revolver’. Both to continue working on ‘Dream Life’ and to keep things interesting for me in general. When people ask me if I have a book ‘Revolver’ gives me a simpler answer. It gives them a place to find me. It’s an excuse to stop to do a story or one pager now and then. A place to publish really good jam pages. A more regular cycle to working/publishing/promoting. And perks like designing covers to please myself, change things up whenever I feel like it’s time, and having a new book to show off a bit more often in general. Drawing the same book for years is a bit dull really.
So here I am, 43, and breaking in once more. Trying to establish a name with a new audience, and reconnecting with old fans. I feel like finally the work i’m doing is really ME, my voice. I just hope it can find an interested audience.
With that, I invite you to have a look at ‘Revolver’ and ‘Dream Life | a late coming of age’. If you’re looking for diverse stories, about things not often explored in comics, I think what I have might interest you.
embeddable trailer for Dream Life
embeddable pitch clip
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