Friday, April 10, 2009

Comments on a Manifesto

Earlier in the week, Exfanding friend Kevin wrote a heartfelt post on his blog, Creator Owned. In the post (which, clearly, you should go read right now if you haven't already!) Kevin touches upon many issues that cut straight to the heart of what I like to call the plight of the comics writer.

You see, if you want to write comic books for a living, and you can't draw worth a nickel, then you have, what we like to call 'round these parts--a big, stupid problem on your hands. Publishers won't look at unsolicited writing samples or pitches (Marvel was the last remaining bastion of allowing this policy, but sadly, that practice came to an end in recent days) and it seems like the old adage, "you have to be published in order to get published" is, as always, appropriate.

And depressing.

But, as it does with so many other things these days, the Internet is available as the easiest, and quickest, way to get "published." The problem with Internet "publishing" (did ya notice the quotes there?) is that literally anyone can do it. I mean, look at me! I'm "publishing" this post right now.

So why the heck won't DC sign me on now as the writer of Batman?

Yes, it was rhetorical, Bucky, but thanks for all the snarky thoughts. (As an aside, my own snarky response was, "because I like to tell linear stories.")

Now, I have to admit that, while I don't agree with everything Kevin wrote, I think there's something there that cuts right to the most fundamental point of breaking into comics.

Wanting to create comics should be about making something from nothing, about writing a story and creating a world with characters that didn't exist before they manifested in your head.

And, yes, I understand (believe me, I understand!) that everyone wants to be paid for their work--here's where Kevin and I disagree, actually. I'm not in love with back-end payment deals, for many reasons, and he and I have spoken at length about the issue.

But, lemme give you a fer example by asking you to imagine the following for a moment.

Let's say an artist approaches me with an idea for a story and characters and he has all these designs and I like what he has in mind. Now let's say that the artist then says, "but Alex, I can't write worth a nickel, and I'd like you to take a shot at making this into something at least read-able by others."

Already, I can tell you, my curiosity would be piqued.

Then, the artist-who-can't-write says to me, "and Alex, I don't have very much money, but I'll give you what I can for an issue's script--let's say fifty bucks--and then we can work something out after the book is drawn, and if you and I are still on the same page with all this."

Now, let me ask you--do you read that and think, boy, the artist is taking unfair advantage of that poor writer? I don't know about you, but I'd jump at something like that. And I mean, head first through a hoop of fire, jump at it.

And I get that drawing 22 pages takes WAY longer than writing 22 pages, so if the tables were turned, let's say the writer offers $300 to the artist for the first issue, with the promise of more to come. Is that writer taking advantage of that artist?

I dunno. In my (crazy) head, I'd think not.

Anyway, sorry to go all insane on a Friday, but even if you want to punch me right now, please do read Kevin's post. It's thought-provoking and Jerry Maguire-esque.

That's it from me for today. Happy Friday, everyone!

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