I know that you have no idea how that poor security guy ended up like that.  Probably raccoons.  You know how aggressive they are.  Actually… that could be a good comic too:  The Raccoopalypse.  That doesn’t roll of the tongue quite as well.

Pretty gruesome I know.  Hopefully you assumed this comic was about bears killing the hell out of people and were ready for such graphic imagery.  Not that I am saying a bear did this.  I would never spoil it like that.  Who KNOWS who did that.

I got a Comics Q&A question from a fan here and just because I don’t want her to feel any humiliation in how I may answer, I won’t give her name.  I’ll just call her Sally:

 

…I was homeschooled and finished highschool about a year ago. I’m not really interested in going to college, because I don’t see the need to go and get a ton of debt. Making comics and telling stories has always been something I’ve enjoyed doing, and I actually have a small comic that I’ve been posting up on DeviantArt for the past few years. Lucky for me, my sister also enjoys making comics. We have lots of ideas for comics, and were thinking of making a website for us to put all of our comics on. The only thing is, we’ve never done anything like this, and we’re not sure how to start. How much does it cost? What sort of things should we be watching out for? What did you think was the hardest part about getting started? What is your favorite part about making comics? How about your least favorite part?

Also, should I try to market the comic I’ve been making? It’s been a for-fun thing I make whenever I have time, but some people really like it and think it has potential. The thing is, these people are mostly my friends and family, so I’m not really sure if they’re just being nice or not. I don’t expect you to have time to read it, and I’m sure you get a ton of people wanting to show you their work, but here’s a link to my DeviantArt page anyway…

 

 

Sally, it is true that I did not go to college, so it is true that it is not required for success in comics… but I do not recommend that route.  I always did graphic design work and made sure I was learning skills and things that were more practical before Axe Cop happened and at age 29 comics finally became my job.  They may not always be, but for now they are, and it is not an amazing income… in fact it is about the same income right now as my low end graphic-design job was in the past.  My advice is that you shouldn’t just bank everything on your comics.

The best way to start is just to make the comics, post them on a website and share the link any way you can.  If you have something good and it is properly presented (easy to share), it will get attention.  You can also sell books of course, but don’t wait for a publisher to pick you up.  Just do limited print runs and see how they do at conventions.  The only way to get good at comics is to finish them and do more.  You can’t get good THEN do comics.

One reason I am disguising Sally’s name and not sharing the link to her work is because I checked it out, and it is literally drawn in MS paint, it is two little balls with eyes talking to each other.  Sally, I want to tell you, and I hope you respect my honesty, but unless you are one hell of a writer, I would not ditch college and invest your whole future in an MS paint comic.  Can an MS Paint comic take off?  Sure, this is the internet.  Continue to make it, and continue to love making it, but don’t put all your eggs in that basket. I didn’t with Axe Cop, and I don’t think anyone who ever had notable success with an MS Paint comic did either.  You do this kind of thing for fun, on the side, and if it picks up you were one of the lucky ones.  That was Axe Cop for me.  I did not bank anything on it succeeding… I didn’t put any eggs in that basket.  I assumed it would go up on the web barely noticed.  I was doing boring animated math problems in flash for my friend’s company for money at the time.

One thing about success is you don’t get to choose if or when it will happen.  You don’t get to choose what project it happens with.  Other people choose it.  When the internet went wild for Axe Cop, they chose for me my success, my path and my future.  I did not set out to be the Axe Cop guy.

So if you love making your comics, please continue, but if you really want to find out what people think of them, you need to show them to people who have nothing to lose when they tell you the truth.  Your friends and family have something to lose if they give you an honest critique if your work is bad.  They have to live with sad Sally moping around.  When I was around 23 I went to San Diego Comic Con for the first time and I brought a Portfolio.  I had come from a small town where being one of the best artists around was easy.  Everyone is friends and family in a small town.  When I got to SDCC I found out I was far from a great artist, or comic creator.  I showed my art to people who could care less if I hated them after they critiqued me.  Those people are priceless… because it is truly rewarding the day they genuinely compliment your work.  Doug TenNapel didn’t say much of anything good about my art for years.  He even told me at one point my work looked like bad Leifeld.  OUCH.  I hated it.  But his first compliment on my work meant the world to me because I knew it was literally void of BS. It was the most meaningful positive criticism I had ever received.

One thing I really hate about artists (and I am not accusing Sally of this, this is a general statement) is they tend to think the world owes them something because they express themselves.  I am talking to all artists now… no one owes you a thing.  No chef gets customers if people don’t like the taste of his food, no matter how much heart and soul he put into it.  You have to have enough passion to do what you love regardless of if it will ever be your job.  For me… there was a day in my early twenties that I realized that I really do have this thing in me.  A drive to draw, to tell stories, to create.  I decided that success couldn’t be a factor.  I just did this stuff because it’s who I am, and I hope that whether I make a million bucks or no money at all I continue to do it because I simply can’t imagine being anyone else.

And like that chef, he may love sardines dipped in cherry sauce, and make a killer Sardine/cherry sauce platter.  But if he wants to be a chef and get paid, he needs to make something people love to eat.  If you want comics to be your job, you have to make comics people want to read.  So fine, express yourself, but if you want to make money you have to open up to doing work that people will buy.  Some people think this is selling out.  I think a true artist can work within any boundaries and I love the challenge of working within set boundaries on any project.

That was probably a lot more answer, to a lot more questions than you asked, Sally.  Thanks for writing and I hope you aren’t too discouraged.  I posted this not just for you, but because I know there are a lot of young creators who need to hear this.

If you want to ask a question, send it to info at Bearmageddon dot com and put “Comics Q&A” in the subject line.  See you all on Friday!

Ethan