View Full Version : [Discussion] Reality Vs Fantasy

Steven Forbes
07-08-2014, 07:43 PM
There are lots of fantasies that get us started in comics. What were yours?

Mine, pretty simple.

I had stories to tell, and I thought I could do better. I thought I could do so much better that I'd be able to sell a million copies of every issue, and that I'd be a gajillionaire in two years.

Then I got slapped around by reality. Artists didn't only cost money, but the really good ones were also really expensive! What did I know about paper sizes? Page counts? Editing? Editors were there to get in my way! What did I know about lettering or colors or even how to tell a story within the medium?

Learning was a humbling experience. I threw myself into learning everything I could about every aspect of creating comics. Learning the form and format was easy. Learning to tell a story in the form was easy. Remembering the minutia? That took some doing. Learning advanced techniques for storytelling? That took some doing. Learning the rules and then how to break them? That took some doing.

Why? Because there was no one to teach it. I had to scour the internet and books and learn from lots of different sources, and then put it together in some sort of order.

Lots of pieces. Lots of learning. Lots of things that books don't teach. Lots of learning by doing.

That's why I wrote the Bolts & Nuts series of articles. To help those who want to help themselves. There's no shortcut for hard work, but having a central place to find 95% of what you're looking for should be a huge help.

What were your fantasies, and what reality did you find?

Screwtape Jenkins
07-09-2014, 12:05 AM
I'll embarrass myself. I thought for sure that Image would pick up Theodicy.I was so sure, I plotted the book out to about issue 30, just so I could be ahead of the game. I didn't know at the time that Image had only picked up a book on a cold submission from a total unknown once in the entire history of the company (Luther Strode, IIRC).

I also had no idea how crazy expensive printing is, and that the creative team on a creator-owned book is responsible for those costs. So, I not only thought Image would pick up the book, I thought I'd get paid for the book from dollar one. Even if by some miracle the book didn't sell well and got cancelled, I thought I'd still make a little money.

I've since learned that, especially for writers who have to pay for the rest of the entire creative team, creator-owned comics is purely a money-losing venture. I know some guys who write, draw, and letter their own B&W books, and those guys come out a little ahead. But anybody who's doing it like myself, paying for colored art and paying for printed copies, is overwhelmingly likely to lose every dime he sinks into the project.

I'm glad I didn't know this from the outset, because I would have taken my money and spent it on game consoles and white slavery. But now that I've gone through the experience, I don't mind throwing away a few thousand dollars a year to create something I'm proud of.

07-09-2014, 01:07 AM
There are lots of fantasies that get us started in comics. What were yours?

Heh, well this kinda depends on how far back I go.

At around 4 years of age (seeing as I didn't know how to write full sentences yet), I drew a largely wordless comic. I knew how to write enough to title my masterpiece "The Egg". One panel per page, I told a story of a little girl that stumbles across a giant egg. The egg hatches, and a boy with superpowers pops out. He proceeds to fly around and do awesome things.

Ha, I might actually ask my mum if she's got that thing hoarded away somewhere. Might be good for some laughs.

There was another comic I drew where I became part frog. I remember less of the specifics of that comic, but I believe adventures in the forest played a big part.

Childlike fantasy. Wanna create? Just do it. Doing it "wrong"? What is this "wrong" people speak of?

Throughout the middle of primary school (so, around 7 years old), I had a decent mastery of writing and illustration (heh, I KNOW I've got some old pics around here somewhere, I should dig them up for laughs). At least, I believed I did. So I set about writing and illustrating massive graphic novels. Comics in Australia are slim pickings, so I got most of my inspiration from books and movies (so no Batman ripoffs). I promptly got myself a hole punch and proceeded to fill up 5 or 6 big binder folders of my work.

Problem? I was still a kid, so nothing stopped me from creating when I damn well felt like it. But I knew enough to know my work was terrible, so I hid them. My parents knew they existed, but I went batshit crazy if either of them so much as asked to peek in one of them. They were terrible, they were personal, they were my awfully executed personal outlet. Violence, seduction, bad language. Not exactly sweet-little-girl territory.
One day the parents were doing a massive clean-out of the house, had hired a couple skips. I wrapped my binders up with a bunch of rubbish and threw them in one of the skip bins.

But I still wanted to create, and I don't think kids know that writer's block exists.
After my comic-writing spree, but before I hit high-school (so, pre-teen territory), I'd written 10 full-length novels, and had a couple more in the works.
As a kid, I really didn't know that much about the world, so I was influenced heavily by other books and movies. Starship Troopers and The Fifth Element I remember influencing the bulk of one of my stories.
Then my brother became involved in the drugs scene (he's a bit older than me), and I started putting together a story about a new drug, starting off in the underworld, distributed like normal drugs to take the edge off a hard life. Except in some people, it gave them psychic abilities.

And here's where things started to go south. While furiously writing a bunch of novels, I felt no hesitation. I wanted to create stories, so I did. I never thought about publishing at that point- I was just writing because I had pens and notebooks and drive.

But I was always a perfectionist- straight-A student in school. Why not learn more about writing so I knew I was doing things RIGHT? Going to the library after school was already an almost daily occurrence anyway, but instead of trawling through the adult fiction aisles, I headed to the "on writing" non-fiction section. I'd walk out with stacks of books about "how to write". Suddenly, I was told that you HAD to aim for publication. And if you wanted to stand a chance of ever being published, you HAD to do things RIGHT.

Major writer's block. I had learned enough to see all the mistakes in my writing, but I didn't yet have the skills to correct those mistakes. In those days, you either 1) got accepted by a publishing house, or 2) pay colossal amounts of money to a vanity press to have your garage filled with unsaleable books. No appeal with the latter (and no money), and no way could I get accepted by a publisher at my current skill level.

I stopped writing, except for some half-hearted failed attempts, until only recently.

Working as a book cover designer, I was SURROUNDED by people who were getting their books finished and out there. AND, it seemed that I was a bloody better writer than a good number of them anyway. I don't say that lightly. But nothin serves to stick a boot up your ass like an author, consistently earning more than $5k per month in royalties, who is an absolutely bloody terrible writer.

So I wrote a couple books, got them edited and formatted, didn't bother with marketing, self-published (given they're memoir-style books that are NOT pleasant, I keep them as far from my identity as possible), and I'm making money. Not $5k per month, but enough to fund my comic endeavours over time, and/or throw cash at my well-deserving family.

Fantasy= I wanna tell stories!
Reality= I damn well tell stories!

Fantasy= I wanna tell stories!
Reality= Am I good enough? Is it ACCEPTABLE for a polite, well-behaved girl to write less than polite and well-behaved stories?

Fantasy= I wanna tell stories! I wanna get good enough to sell these things!
Reality= I'm not good enough to sell these things. I can't tell stories.

Fantasy= OTHER people are taking advantage of the indie publishing movement. Why the heck aren't I?
Reality= FINALLY, I've got books out there! Eh, I'm not rich. But that's okay.

Now I want to take a crack at getting in the comics industry. Like with jumping into the indie book industry, I just want to see what happens, what I can accomplish. Hopefully something big comes of it, but I'd just be happy with having a good crack at it. I've realised at this point that I'm just never going to be happy creating if money and fame is the end goal. With that just comes crippling fear.

And we all know I struggle enough with churning out content in a timely fashion without EXTRA fear, eh Steven? :har:

But yeah, I'm not far enough into the game to have been hit with the full repercussions of creating comics, but I'm trying to stick with my childlike mantra of, "I wanna create, so I'll just create!" Maybe that'll make the reality hammer hurt a little less.

/nonsensical rambling

Duane Korslund
07-09-2014, 08:03 AM
All I've ever wanted to do was make a comfortable living in writing/comics.
That's the fantasy
The reality is: I expected it to be an immediate thing. Come up with a good idea and BAM! Instant success.
Nope...takes years of paying your dues until it happens. If ever. I've been seriously trying to hone my craft for about 4 years now (writing for comics, only 2 years on drawing comics) and i'm nowhere even close to ready for the big leagues. Hell, I havent even fully developed a style yet. I have a lot more work to do before I can get out there.
But there is hope! I am miles ahead of where I was 4 years ago. I improve every day in both drawing and writing. So, even if I never make it professionally, I've learned some amazing skills that I can take elsewhere.
I can feel fulfilled and happy with the knowledge that I've written some really great stuff, and my art is coming along beautifully.

07-09-2014, 08:44 AM
Hell, I havent even fully developed a style yet.

Kind of a thread derail here, but I just HAD to drop my 2 cents here. A couple other successful artists (i.e. they're in high demand and get wages to match) have touched on finding one's "style", and it's really resonated with me. Maybe it will resonate with you too.

They reckon that if you haven't found your style yet, here's what's happening:

1) You haven't practiced enough


2) You haven't got enough reference material in your mental library

In a nutshell, if you're focusing on developing your writing style, you need to absolutely inundate yourself with quality writing. And not just in your preferred genre. Try everything. And analyse WHY that writing is good.

Do likewise if you're focusing on your illustration style. Study ALL styles of illustration, painting, sketching, etc. Analyse why they're good, why the work. And don't limit yourself by only looking at the type of illustration you ultimately want to draw, or the type of illustration you usually enjoy.

And regardless of what skill you're trying to improve, keep building that mental library. Look at photographs- animals, buildings, textures, vehicles, portraits, action-shots. Watch films- arthouse films, blockbusters, documentaries (I favour blu-ray documentaries on account of all the eyecandy followed with knowledge). This is going to add to your mental library.

All this input will float into your brain and simmer. I think you'll find that your illustration will become much more "informed" and developed than usual, the more you fill your mental library.
I think the example one of the artists gave is the difference between a castle drawn by a skilled artist with a limited mental library (he drew the usual Disney-esque castle with a symmetrical design, little pointed tops and a moat), as opposed to the castle drawn by someone more informed (basically, kickass).

Anyway. What I'm trying to say is:
Limited mental library= limited style (generally one you're not happy with).
Abundant mental library= a kickass conglomeration of everything you've ever exposed yourself to. The world, with your spin. It forms naturally.


07-09-2014, 08:45 AM
Fantasy: I imagined I would be working on the Star Wars prequels/sequels (before there was such a thing). I thought I'd send in a few pages and soon I'd be making a living drawing Star Wars comics. I thought if I just impress a publisher with my little comic, I'll be set.

Reality: "Breaking in" is hard nigh impossible to do, and the most disheartening reality was that breaking in is no guarantee of staying in. "Making a living" may also be a misnomer. Basically even if I had achieved those fantasies, no one prepared me for the reality of how unstable the results would have been.

So I re-evaluated my priorities. I decided what mattered to me was creating the work, not creating the work in order to go work for someone else. I may have to learn every skill from writer to printer, but turns out, I think that's what is fulfilling to me now. That and being able to say, "This is my vision," not "This is my vision of someone else's story."

What I'm finding now is that other people have shared those experiences, and come to pretty much the same conclusions. Those people have been blazing a trail ahead of me. So instead of feeling like it can't be done, and even if it can it won't be sustainable/worth it, I feel like it something well within my reach (with a little perseverance).

07-09-2014, 09:33 AM
I want to tell stories, I can draw better than I can write, and comics seem more doable than animation. I have no illusions that my work is or ever will be publishable. If I can actually get some stuff done and online and get at least a few readers, I'll be pleased.

07-09-2014, 10:31 AM

It's funny, I didn't have any of those illusions. I did a ton of research before I put any kind of finalized script to paper. Read a couple of books on publishing, got packets of information from all the major printers and publishers who accepted submissions. (Honestly, it seems like lettering is the thing that gets the least attention as far as info out there is. I mean things like communicating through the script (to both the penciler and the letterer) where you imagine the balloons and whether balloons are attached, separate, etc. It also seems you just have to learn-by-doing how much dialogue you can fit into a panel and a page).

What I wasn't prepared for was how difficult a collaborative creative endeavor is to get completed...even when pay is involved. Creative types are flakes. And I don't think the industry helps by showing that delayed books are "acceptable".

07-09-2014, 11:39 AM
I already had some big fantasies destroyed before I ever approached writing comics. I wanted to be in a successful band. I worked hard at that for about 10-14 years. The reality is that I have never been that good. I'm a mediocre guitar player at best and I cannot sing very well. I wrote a rap album. Don't feel bad if you find yourself laughing at me. The album is for sale on this old internet. Freak Royalty, rADIO.

"Mc Pocket Protector, Just another Poindexter, working out rhymes on a daily basis and presentin' old ones, in front of new faces, I'm the entertainer just like Billy Joel, and I stone ya to ya soul, just like Jelly Roll, Yeah, I'm a freak and a geek, but when I speak, people's knees go weak"

-Evil Dutch of Freak Royalty

I graduated with a bachelor in music and a minor in recording arts. During college I got picked up by a local sound company and now I run sound for other peoples popular bands. We often work 18 hour days, and once I did 24. At the end of these long days, I thank whatever higher powers there are, that I am no longer a waiter.

With comics I have only had to deal with little fantasies and little realities. The dream that I already had some natural talent that I just needed to apply. The dream that Darkhorse might be interested in my script. The dream that my script was good at all. I should say scripts.

I have never lost confidence in my idea. That is a fantasy that could potentially meet some brutal reality.

I see Alyssa's point about always aiming for publishing and trying to be the best. But hey, let's not forget to have fun while we create. If we have to invest so much of ourselves in this endeavor and we are not enjoying it, then it's just not worth it.


07-12-2014, 12:55 PM
Fantasy : I wrote and drawn my first comic when I was about 8. When I grew up I became film director/producer, earning a good living from that, but I still had enough time to do some short movies and animations.
Being a comic book fan, I always wanted to write something for the comics. Especially because fantasy stories in films cost millions to make.

Reality : So I wrote couple of scripts, then some more. Then I read books about comic book writing (hail Alan Moore) , comic book in general (hail Scott MCLoud) and some others.
Tried the Top Cow contest twice, didn't work. Haven't pitched any project to anyone. I have about 120 pages drawn upon my stories, and got more confortable with the medium. By chance, about two months ago I became a co-founder of a comics publishing company in Scotland (I live in France)... We'll see what the future brings :)

07-12-2014, 02:51 PM
I'm wanting to create an IP that will continue to generate an income and give me something to do the rest of my life, like Star Wars or Star Trek.

Lucas sold SW to Disney.

I don't know who owns ST, but while Roddenberry was alive, they had trouble with some of his restrictions. Now that he's dead, they are pretty much turning it into a young adult action sex romp. Gone it seems are the mind bending moral ambiguities of past. They've broken so many arcs that ST is just a joke now.

Well, they could do that same for mine after I'm dead, but until then, I want it under my control. I figure GNs would be the cheapest way to merge pictures and words and kick it off.

I still have a lot to learn. A lot.

07-15-2014, 04:11 PM
My dream is basically to finish the first arc (five issues) of this comic series I am working on called Super. I had enough to self-finance the first issue, but I am not sure if I can afford the other four. I'm hoping to raise enough interest in the project, to be able to finance at least the first arc. I have a story to tell damnit!

Secondly, I want to create a work that I can be proud of. I don't care if I become the next Alan Moore or not, as long as I am happy with the work. That goal is actually much harder than it sounds though. I am extremely critical of my work and I don't want to settle for less than I think I'm capable of.

That's pretty much it. I'm just doing this for me. I just don't want to hit my deathbed and regret not ever seeing this idea through.

Luke Noonan
08-16-2014, 11:31 PM
Fantasy: my dream is to create fiction that will stick in people's heads so much or make such an impact on them it will motivate them to create fiction or art of their own, that will have the same effect on others, since that is how I began trying to write.

Reality: I found wanting to imitate others may be how you start, but it's not how to carry on or how to grow, and that being able to create a story is not the same thing as being able to write one. In other words: you should not slavishly follow any of your influences, but keep practicing and refining your work until you develop your own style and your own concepts, and DO NOT HAVE A COMFORT ZONE, LEAVE IT BEHIND COMPLETELY IN FACT BURN THAT POS. Try to take an interest in literally anything, try to see the complexity and depth in any subject, since it can all inspire you with ideas.

That sounds like I'm giving advice, but it's just a description of what my learning process has been like so far, and what I try to do in order to improve.