There’s a pattern in the comics industry that goes something like this:
1) Publish your own work independently, either through self-publishing or through a small press company
2) Get the bigger companies to notice you
3) Get handed a big-time assignment at Marvel or DC.
That’s incredibly simplified, but it seems to me that right now, this is happening more than ever. It’s something that’s been happening for a long time now, even Brian Bendis published his first works through a smaller publisher (Caliber) which led him to getting noticed by Todd McFarlane, which in turn led him to getting noticed by Marvel, where he then took over that whole company. Or something.
But look at some more recent examples: Justin Jordan, who came out of nowhere last year with The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, has taken over writing Deathstroke and Team 7 at DC, and Shadowman at Valiant.
Nathan Edmonson, who exploded with independent books like Olympus, Dancer, Who is Jake Ellis and more, is now writing Ultimate Iron Man at Marvel.
Jim Zubkavich, a fellow Toronto-based writer, blew up with Skull Kickers, and just very recently got snapped up by DC to write Birds of Prey.
And you know what? That’s fucking awesome for all of those guys. Seriously. How cool is it to be recognized by the companies that publish the comics we mostly all grew up reading? It’s pretty fucking cool.
Now, the point to all this is: should that be the endgame for anyone creating independent comics? I’m not sure. I will never, ever begrudge anyone who works for the Big Two. How could I? That’s a sweet deal. Getting paid (because Marvel and DC pay their creators) to create comics. My God, yes. Sign me up.
As much as I fucking love writing my own comics, creating my own stories, answering to nobody because I own that shit…
I’d write a book for Marvel or DC if it got offered. I would. Really, who wouldn’t? That’s the biggest audience in the world in this industry. I’m not that proud that I’d turn it down in favor of only working on my own creations. I’m not saying that I’d abandon all the work I’m doing or have done or will do, but I’d be pretty stupid to not look at Marvel or DC as a pretty good means to an end: do some work for the big guys, get paid, use that money to do more of my own work.
If I could pattern my career (that should be in quotations, I think) after anyone, it would be a guy like Warren Ellis. He saw himself as a mercenary: go do some mainstream comics for Marvel or DC, get the paychecks, and then turn around and use that money to fund his own work. You can see that progression in his stuff: work at Marvel, work at Avatar, work at DC, work at Image.
Is that something that’s likely to happen to me? Who knows. I tend to err on the side of: no, probably not. I don’t want to be expecting it, you know? Like it’s owed to me. Because it’s not. There are thousands (at least) of writers in the exact same position as me. I have a few things published. Do I work harder than any of them? Probably not. Would it be luck that would get me noticed somewhere? Most likely. Is it going to cause me to lose sleep over what could be? Hell no.
If in 20 years, I look back and see that I’ve published my own comics, stuff I created and owned and nurtured and loved, and that’s it? That’s pretty awesome. There’s a lot of people who can say that same, but really, that “lot of people” is a fairly small percentage. When I think about writing comics having been the only thing I ever really wanted to do, and I’ve done it, that’s kind of me accomplishing my life’s goal. How many people can really say that?
I’d love to write something for Marvel or DC. Flat out. But that’s not why I started writing comics (I started so I could write something at Image, naturally). I started because I had characters and stories in my head that needed to come out. My characters and my stories. And I fucking love writing them.
And in all seriousness: I have a job that pays my bills. I write comics because I love to do it. And if someday those two things line up and connect, and I get paid to write comics and pay my bills that way? Even better.
But when I was 13 years old and creating my first characters, that shit wasn’t even on my radar.
Man, I italicized a lot of stuff in this little rant, didn’t I?
Happy Friday. Do yourself a favor and listen to “Clouds Taste Metallic” by the Flaming Lips.