Rocky’s Rant: Observations and advice from a comic book optimist
(The following views are the writer’s own and not necessarily those of Heroic Universe as a whole. If you agree with anything stated, seek help immediately)
In light of the ever-increasing onslaught of creative types struggling to break into the comic book industry, I haven’t experienced any motivation to provide observations. After all, I have no experience. Nonetheless, after careful reflection, I have decided that there are at least three reasons why my insights need to be shared. First, I am completely devoid of any talents, real or imaginary. Two, I have no background whatsoever in the comic book industry; and finally, having recently decided after 40 years of collecting comics to actually start reading them, I am uniquely qualified to speak to anyone on this topic; especially aspiring creative types. So listen up; having engaged in ‘deep thinking’ for ten minutes, I have arrived at ten points of disposable advice to aspiring comic book talents of all stripes, genders, sizes, colors, orientations and trigger sensitivities.
- Readers don’t care if you’re straight, gay, trans-gender or (insert historically disgruntled whatever here). If they read your comic and enjoy it, they will continue to follow your work. If they think its garbage, they won’t. Period. So please keep your twittering bullshit online philosophies to yourself. You are not going to change the world. (Esteemed critics like I am, so vacate the yellow submarine you’re living in now). And it doesn’t matter if you are a one-eyed, uni-testicled, quasi-hybrid, formerly-gender-confused-until-you-saw-Caitlyn-Jenner-type You will never be the poster child for diversity. You’re just another mouthpiece that we comic readers try to ignore while we paradoxically attempt to (hopefully) enjoy your current creative endeavour. And there are no exceptions to this by the way. For example, Frank Miller never changed the world. He changed the perception of Batman. The world is not better because of what he did. He just added yet another universe for mostly older, fat, white males to escape to. We exist in an age of internet-ing where constant attention is not necessarily a good thing. Ignore this fact at your peril. The squeaky wheel often gets far more than grease. It can get ignored. No amount of moralizing can make me buy your comic book. If you hear your voice echo, do not assume it’s because your utterances are vibrating through the world-wide web; it’s more likely that somebody wedged your head inside your asshole and caused you to sneeze. That geekasm you had was self-induced via the inhalation of your own self-righteous bullshit. Trust me, if readers really want to hear from an asshole, they’ll fart. Yeah, I know it’s a cliché, but isn’t everything?
- I sincerely hope that no potential talent out there finds this next point surprising but here goes. If you want to know how a comic book company will likely treat you, simply look at how they treat their fans; or more specifically, the characters in their publishing line. But consider yourself warned because this fact may cause you to erroneously believe that you’ll be treated like royalty; after all, no rational comic publisher would deliberately sabotage their own comic book line. Would they? Well guess what, Einstein? Comic book publishers screw over their characters all the time. To put it in less emphatic terms that Comichron analysts would applaud, comic book companies routinely engage in “highly risky creative endeavours that, at times, impair their market performance”. Always remember that comic book editors have no hesitation destroying entire fictional universes. Do you really think they will lose sleep if your ‘unique’ story idea is totally scrapped (of say Felicity, finally exposing her testicles to Oliver Queen) in favor of yet another Crisis or Secret War? It is entirely self-destructive to assume that your creative gifts make you special. I had a special friend in school once. He would routinely lick the school bus window every morning. Different day, different window, same kind of special. He never read comics though, so maybe that’s a poor example. (Trigger warning: the preceding paragraph should be immediately forgotten if you are a recovering window licker.)
- NO matter what anybody tells you or what you hear, do not believe that the editor-in-chief of your beloved comic book publishing employer will be fired. Ever. I know. It upsets me too. But it is what it is.
- This fact will really blow you away. Most people who buy comics are not teenage girls! Really. The bread and butter of the comic book marketplace are older fat white guys. I know it really sucks to hear that, especially since you’ve bought into all the bullshit that the demographics are changing, but they aren’t. Not significantly anyway. So before you try to convince your editor that “batgirling” your current character assignment is important; ask yourself if sales are important to the life of a comic book and then ponder the question “What would sarcastic, overweight, 30-40 something, fat, balding white guys buy?” More importantly, do not assume you know the answer. Ask around. It might strike you as disturbing, but the reality is that the consistent sales success of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” would not exist without obese Caucasians with equally sized disposable incomes. Bronies anyone?
- Express your gratitude to fans often. It’s appreciated. And applauded. And recognized. Just don’t get all Marianne Williamson on us. Remain strong but mostly silent. Too many images are shattered by creative types speaking up and ruining an otherwise perfectly good ‘impression’. Own your dysfunction. I’m sure it took you years to perfect. Nonetheless, only show it off when absolutely necessary. (Like when you finally collaborate on that project with Grant Morrison that nobody is waiting for.)
- Never, EVER say that your creator-owned character is “loosely-based” on yourself. If you are a creator with any talent, you must ipso facto hate yourself. It’s the way of things. Trust me; it’s the law of internet-trolling averages that your writing will give readers enough reasons to criticize you. For God’s sake! Don’t give us more ammunition than you have to.
- Don’t eat yellow snow. Especially in Canada.
- Never charge for your autograph. Unless you just want to be true to yourself. Then charge ten dollars. If you’re Canadian, charge $13.50 plus applicable provincial tax.
So there you have it. Stellar advice encapsulated in ten clearly enunciated pearls of wisdom based on zero years of comic industry related experience. Obviously, the words will touch the lives of untold millions. I can’t help but share my gifts. It’s who I am. I know this because I read it in a comic during my last trip to the men’s room. Alas, until I gift your lives again with future insights, think of me the next time you see a person licking a window. And remember, you’re special.