The days of the millionaire cartoonist are slowly fading away. But cartoonists are incredibly resilient, almost by definition constantly reinventing themselves.
Just start making things and don’t stop! The barrier to entry in comics is extremely low. The materials can be extremely cheap. You don’t need a lot of space. You don’t necessarily need to be able to draw well. The only thing you need is a point of view and something to say.
I was reading Marshall McLuhan, and he said that every form, when it is no longer a mass medium, has to become an art or disappear. And that sounded right to me. Comics needed to make that kind of deal. Become art or die.
You have to understand that to a boy of the 1970s, the line between comic books and real life people was hopelessly blurred. Was Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man, real or fake? Fake? Well, then, how about Evel Knievel jumping over busses on his motorcycle? Oh, he was real. The Superman ads said, “You will believe a man can fly,” and Fonzie started jukeboxes by simply hitting them, and Elvis Presley wore capes, and Nolan Ryan threw pitches 102 mph, and Roger Staubach (who they called Captain America) kept bringing the Cowboys back from certain defeat, and Muhammad Ali let George Foreman tire himself out by leaning against the ropes and taking every punch he could throw. What was real anyway?
Sometimes there can be a feeling that the best comics are those which are most similar to literature or visual art (of the gallery sort) whereas I think comics are best when they are good comics.
Comics are still considered a low-brow thing, but no other medium better synthesizes words and images into something greater than itself.
When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too.
Comic books were the training ground for me in terms of ethics, in terms of the things I learned about courage, good and evil, what heroism was, right and wrong. Comic books are the Grimms’ fairy tales of the popular culture — they’re done by serious people who care about the work they do, even as Van Gogh and Magritte and everyone else did.
How can you tell that a graphic novel is going to be terrible? One very clear sign: if the name of the person who drew it does not appear on its front cover.
You can’t really call me content all that much. I’m always doing something that’s fucking with somebody. Like I said, you don’t get to be called an asshole for nothing.
If you truly want to do what you say you want to do get the fuck over yourself, get over this list of crap you have put in between you and a piece of paper, and just start writing.
There are millions of people in the world who are experts, certified PhD level experts, at setting themselves up to fail. if that’s who you want to be, that is absolutely fine. but you have to stop talking about it and be who you are.
But if you’re telling me that you have a voice, there is no one in the world other than you who is going to be able to make that voice heard. No one’s going to come over your house and sprinkle magic dust on you to make you the writer you want to be. You have to sit down and start writing.
Stop excusing yourself from living the life you want to live.
Comics are uncertain territory, and that’s why I feel I have to reach beyond comics to find my audience.
Here is a good habit to develop: whenever you see a rhetorical question, try – silently, to yourself – to give it an unobvious answer. If you find a good one, surprise your interlocutor by answering the question. I remember a Peanuts cartoon from years ago that nicely illustrates the tactic. Charlie Brown had just asked, rhetorically: “Who’s to say what is right and wrong here?” and Lucy responded, in the next panel: “I will.”
Comic book should be written as one word. So from now on, I want you to remember that. I never want to see the word comicbook written as two words. They are not funny books. They are not comic books, they are comicbooks! Remember that, or incur my wrath.
It’s amazing people keep coming to comic book stores, instead of just downloading comics digitally.
It’s probably for the best… for a lot of these guys, the weekly trip here is the only chance their mom has to go down to the basement to change their sheets.