A Tale of Two Threads About How to Break into Comics

A Tale of Two Threads About How to Break into Comics

Posted by December 5, 2018 Comment

So you want to break into comics? Great! Why? Oh, you’re a masochist? Ok, cool then. As long as we’re on the same page.

It’s a question that comes up and over again. And every time, established comic book professionals give essentially the same answer: make comics. Twitter threads giving essentially this exact answer about breaking into comics are probably the comic book industry’s chief export, with more of them being produced in the last few years than actual comic books. If only someone could figure out how to slap variant covers on them and monetize them.

But we digress. It was no different when the question came up for the 8 billion-skillionth time and Uncanny X-Men and X-Force writer Ed Brisson decided to answer:

Of course, this went over about as well as it has the other 7 billion-skillion, 999 kazillion times, with complaints that Brisson makes it sound simpler than it is. Aspiring writers in particular pointed out that it’s hard to find artists to collaborate with (and also they have to pay said artists), which is to be expected. Writers are a dime a dozen. I get paid to write professionally, for example, and I’m absolutely terrible! Artists, on the other hand, are a far more valuable commodity. They have the advantage. Sorry, aspiring writer, but it’s true.

In any case, Brisson did his best to help out.

But the discussion continued, forcing Brisson to make another thread just a few days later, getting deeper into the grizzly realities: even if you have actually have talent, even if you spend all of your free time when you’re not working your actual paying day job and taking care of your other responsibilities working on it, you still might not ever be able to land a decent paying comics job. Hell, you probably won’t. How many well-paying comics jobs do you think exist compared to the number of people who would like to have one? Quite a few comic book creators working today, most likely more than you think, still maintain day jobs for their reliable income.

Anyway, Brisson continued:

Bummer, dude. And even worse, what if you actually succeed? You paid your dues, honed your craft, spent years or decades making comics for little or no reward, and finally got noticed by a major publisher and landed a job, despite the overwhelming odds against you by virtue of sheer ratio of aspiring comic creators to available positions. Now, depending on who you are, you might get accused of being a diversity hire or worse and potentially subjected to social media harassment by “fans”. But fine, at least you’re making comics. Things are going your way. You can live with all the drawbacks.

But how long do you really think that’s going to last? Comics aren’t known for their great benefits package and retirement plan, unless you consider GoFundMe and charity from the Hero Initiative to be a retirement plan. You may have good 5-10 years working in the industry unless you’re in the top tier of A-list creators. Otherwise, the jobs will dry up and, unless you were lucky enough to score a lucrative movie deal on a creator-owned project or flee the industry to work in video games or television, some ruthless corporation owns all your creations and is probably making hundreds of millions of dollars off it. You’ll get crappy royalties if you’re lucky. Then you’ll die in poverty, mostly forgotten except for some exploitive tribute clickbait in the comic book media (the only industry, by the way, less lucrative and rewarding than comics itself). Maybe your grandkids can sue for rights. But probably not.

In any case, artist Jen Bartel, who has only been working for major publishers for 3 years and so has only been on this side of the divide for maybe 3 or 4 billion-skillion of the “how to break into comics threads,” decided to start her own thread which was a bit more in depth and reasonably more helpful in terms of pure actionable advice than Brisson’s depressing romp.

And Brisson agreed:

Ed, no need to worry. We’re not in danger of not getting enough viewpoints on this subject. There will probably be another 17 threads about it before the end of the afternoon.

So there you have it, folks. Want to break into comics? We can’t say we’ll ever understand why, but there’s some advice from two creators who have done it. Enjoy your life of toil and misery!

(Last Updated December 5, 2018 8:51 pm )

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About Jude Terror

A prophecy says that in the comic book industry's darkest days, a hero will come to lead the people through a plague of overpriced floppies, incentive variant covers, #1 issue reboots, and super-mega-crossover events.

Scourge of Rich Johnston, maker of puns, and seeker of the Snyder Cut, Jude Terror, sadly, is not the hero comics needs right now... but he's the one the industry deserves.

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