Comic Odyssey: Comics will break your heart.

I guess we need to talk about how comics – specifically, independent comics – are made.

There was some uproar over the weekend regarding a certain book that has raised a considerable amount of money on Indiegogo, was picked up by a publisher and then dropped by said publisher. The book in question is from a creative team that doesn’t exactly have the best reputation in comics. I’m not going to use my time to talk about them, mostly because they don’t deserve it, instead I’m going to kick off this new blog by talking about making comics. Why? Because if this nonsense showed us anything, it’s that people don’t really know how comics are made.

I’ve been making comics to varying degrees of success for nearly 10 years. There have been a lot of ups and downs, starts and stops, but persistence is key and I love to make comics.

Now, before you sit down and start plotting your story, and creating your characters and everything else, you must ask yourself why? Why are you doing this? After all, there’s that famous quote attributed to Jack Kirby: “Comics will break your heart.”

If it’s about money, stop right now and turn back. Seriously.

If it’s some sort of bizarre campaign to “stick it to the establishment” and create comics designed to generate “liberal tears” or whatever, stop right now and turn back.

If you’ve got a story you want to tell, you love comics and you want to pour your heart, soul and wallet into the artform, well now you are ready to continue.

Actually, let’s get a few things out of the way, especially considering the mess that prompted this post. No one is obligated to read your book. No retail store is obligated to carry your book. In fact, retailers typically don’t carry independent books, especially books outside of Diamond’s premier publishers. It’s a tough fact of the industry.

Retailers can carry whatever books they want. Readers can read whatever they want. There is quite possibly something for everyone in comics. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then create it and put in the work. I did, and I continue to.

That the other thing about comics – and pretty much life in general. No one owes you a damn thing. You can hoot and holler on social media all you want, but if you don’t put in the work, you’ll get nowhere. Still, if all you do is tweet and complain about the industry, you’re already giving off a bad first impression. We’re all guilty of it at some point, but if negativity Is your entire gimmick, why would anyone want to work with you?

With that in mind, the next step is answering several questions, all designed to help you flesh out the foundation of your comic – the script. Will the story be plot-driven or character-driven? What are you hoping to accomplish with this story? What is your character’s motivation? What is your character’s background, and how does that factor into the story? These are all basic writing questions, but their importance is paramount.

Let’s say you’ve got a notebook full of notes and scribbles – I prefer the composition notebooks you can usually get for a buck or less – now you’re ready to begin the story-writing part.

But do you outline? Do you do breakdowns?

We’ll go over a couple ways to do this next time.