With the number of creative projects that I announce I'm excited in pursuing, then don't have follow up on, I'm more hesitant to talk about projects until I can guarantee the deadlines that I say they will be.
Having said that....
While video/filmmaking has been wildly fun and exciting (as well as being simultaneously frustrating and stress-inducing), my first love has always been comics. I've had three long-term "dream" projects gestating in the background, but life distractions and insecurity on my skill level has kept them on the far backburner.
However, that hasn't stopped a couple of friends and acquaintances from going full-throttle on their own comic book dreams. One acquaintence wrote his book, self-published it cheap (thanks to China's cheaper printing processes) with a 500 print run, and just had his first 'comic book sales tour' and made his first rounds at a convention. On his journey, he shared some tips: like on buying a used upc code to save money (a upc code is something apparently many comic shop owners desire), unexpected 'extra' charges that can come from a cheap China printer, that you CAN have a full-color nice paper comic for about $800 (500 copies) if you shop right, and that there is a mixed bag when you approach comic shop owners- that (to my suprise)--- some comic shops ARE still open to consignment or even buying a copy or two of an indie comic that's not Marvel or DC.
(This isn't my photo, but this is one of the coolest stores came across in SF during my friend's 'world indie comic selling tour' & hopefully they don't mind the plug.)
Anyhow... Oddly, this is the second year in a row where I attended APE-Con primarily because of a friend dragging me along- but I was damned glad that they did! It was like church for wannabe comic book geeks like me.... and I got a LOT of learning in church this time around, I think- and some of which I'll try to recollect and share here!
Anyhow- the rest of these ARE my images from a rather weak flipcam (next time I'm bringing a better camera, dammit!).... As opposed to last year, where it was more of a social event with a friend who I rarely get to see, this time around- it was really more about 'clicking into' what it might be like to BE an indie comic creator.... 'research' perhaps might be a way to look at it.
QUESTION IN MY OWN MIND ON SELF-PUBLISHING/DOING LAZY RESEARCH: PART ONE: COSTS?
Well- I got lazy and asked (after all, my books won't be ready for a WHILE.....)
#1: $400 for a table for two days
#2: $800 (possibly) for a full color comic with a 500 print run
#3: $120+ for a printed banner/backdrop
#4: $? for a UPC code (apparently very wanted by comic shops)
#5: $? for color postcards for the table
So.... $1000+ (about) for one issue.... and $400+ (about). So, at least $1500 a year if you do ONE book and ONE small con a year? Hm....
QUESTION IN MY OWN MIND: PART TWO: WHAT'S THE REASON TO DO IT?>/b>
This has been dogging me for... well, forever. All I had to do was look on the internet or go to a local comic shop to see a wall of current comics by artist that have such consistent talent- that it's incredibly easy to go: "I give up. I not only don't have any talent, but I never will get good enough in time to make any difference or be able to create anything worth a shite to the general public."
My counterargument to that is: There's TONS of slick professional art in comics today. You might not win. No one might give a real shite about anything done. But.... it's no excuse not to keep trying, if the process of creating, and trusting that eventually you see SOME improvement happens.
Plus, I'm starting to realize: creating isn't always about the end result. Sort of like exercising.... it's not just about the hopeful reward at the end--- but maybe it's that you get your head into 'that zone' and for that time enjoy that mental state where age and mortality disappear and it's all about romancing one's imagination, that one often lets reality bury under negativity and despair over unpleasantries that can't be avoided or changed in life.
So.... I'd like to think that the reason to create something from beginning to end- is, in a way, its own reward. Sorta. But.... I know something has always been missing in my motivations (otherwise I wouldn't have let life distractions push my own creativity aside for--- well, most of my life- It might have been never seeing art as even possible for me to do professionally, so it could have been part of a self-confidence thing, but, also, it was more fear and not knowing how to confidently make a living at it at a time when family concerns were more pressing. Eh. Who knows. I just know, there's something freeing about knowing that it's OKAY to make something that exists for you, and may be valued by you and you alone... (Though some might call that 'loser talk', I don't see it that way. Success could be overcoming personal lack of confidence to just CREATING and COMPLETING that thing that you thought you could never finish. Ya know?
WHAT I LEARNED FROM APE THIS YEAR: A LOT OF OTHER FOLKS AREN'T MAKING MONEY OR DOING IT FOR THE MONEY EITHER!!!
I have one friend who is convinced that self-publishing is an all/nothing game.
If something has quality, then it will find financial success.... and conversely- if something doesn't get financial success/if it doesn't SELL.....it sucks.(And, by extension, so does the creator of such property. Ow.)
So.... having two panels of a 'current' generation with self-publishers and creators who have had LOUSY sales for YEARS proudly sit there, made me feel great. It was OKAY to put something out there that didn't sell. These folks didn't feel like failures (or come off that way). They laughed about it. They didn't expect to make a mint (or a profit). And it's.... OKAY. That was very encouraging. You're not alone if you create something out of love and passion, and have that creative child be less than GQ-beautiful or perfect.
Like Salieri going around the end of the movie Amadeus and forgiving others of the sins of creating mediocrity.... it was almost like having imaginary shackles lifted from limbs before even starting to write or draw, when listening to these folks on the panel talk about their 'failures' and invisibility to the fans at large.
Re-emphasizing that was the last panel at Ape-con with an OLDER generation of indie creators/self-publishers who talked about dealing with going out on the floor and knowing that their work and the works of their colleagues were never heard of, though they were big 'names' in the day.
At first, I was startled and more than a little unnerved by the idea of being forgotten in more ways than one- echoing once again: "Is creating worth it if nobody gives it any love or attention?". But then- here, there WERE people who got the (comics history-wise) fame and no fortune--- and then, even that's disappearing. So, in the end--- why do it?
What's funny is that I met two amateur creators who seemed at two different points of the universe:
One had gotten giant support from Kickstarter.... in the thousands... and he had a really nice stream of sales and positive comments coming his way in the two days. In looking at his work, I was pretty confident he would do well at Comicon.
As I ponder/ed this, I also met a new friend who was a modest fellow who spent a good chunk of money at a table to put out his personal book, and was just happy to be there at the table, and sold perhaps one or two books the whole convention. He had a regular day job, but had worked on his project for twenty plus years, and enjoyed just being there, and in talking to him, I could see and hear the joy he had in making the characters he thought up in his head materialize into tangible print form... and hearing his excitement and enthusiasm over the characters' next adventures.
Ron Shelton on the panel talked about how amazing comics were in that it was the next best thing to telepathy: while it may take a crew of hundreds to make a movie- it only takes ONE person to create a comic book. It's that immediate. Dan Vado (publisher of Slave Labor Graphics) talked about how comics that were more personal were the more potent ones... and, as far as money goes- Dan suprisingly said that he, as a publisher, may no longer exist soon in this digital comics world- and saw comics as a vehicle for story and image---- he didn't feel that print nor digital were competing for what was a 'real' comic- that both were comics. Period.
I also met a couple of other artists on the 'trail' so to speak that were incredibly generous sharing information: one taught a class in entrepreneurship for artists (that I might well take), and talked about his philosophy of not looking at the world as competition with other artists for an audience's dollar- because it was not only limiting, but the wrong approach as well. He felt that one should fake the 'right things'- like faking confidence in oneself. But that one should aim to do business to get to art.... rather than art to make business. (He sold merchandise that wasn't a comic- though art related. He did have a comic as a passion project on the side, but had no aspirations for that project to sustain his living. He also talked about making a living without unrealistic expectations for money as an artist. Interesting guy.
I also met another artist who talked about being a janitor for 4+ years as he struggled to make a living as an artist professionally for a company.... and that floored me. I assumed that if he did do the 40+ hours a week that it would have killed the hours needed to develop well as a professional. But, there you go. Maybe I didn't try hard enough or had unrealistic expectations or whatever.... but these were eye-openers.
At the end? I saw and heard a lot.... and saw and heard a lot of ways one COULD live as an artist, part-time, no-time, or full-time. In any case, the one that gave me the most encouragement was the smiling guy who wasn't a fast talker, but loved just being proud of his book and being there in the middle of other artists being a vendor. I don't think at this age that I necessarily have it in me to be a professional artist in a traditional sense, but- it was encouraging as hell to see and remember that art and the romance of art could be a life-saver anyways even if you don't sell a single book or have a single person remember your name. That's pretty cool.