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Friday, November 11, 2016

Follow your dreams

My first comic and my most recent.
You may sometimes see comments online these days that claim, with some assertiveness, that comics are dead in the UK. A few even use the poor sales of their own indie comics as evidence that this is so. To me, that seems to reek of arrogance. A kind of "Well if MY comics don't sell, the industry MUST be dead" attitude. 

Now, people like that are free to hold whatever opinions they like of course, but what concerns me is that it might deter some fresh talent from entering the field. If you're starting out producing your own comics, or you're considering it, don't be put off by such negativity. The independent comics scene in the UK is alive and well, rich with talent and diversity. And yes, there's always room for more!

Years before I turned pro, I started out producing my own comics and fanzines. There's my first stripzine, After Image, at the top of this article, that I published in late 1978. My artwork was crude and I had a lot to learn, but getting my work out there gained me feedback and advice that I needed. Bit by bit, you improve, and develop, and learn from your mistakes. 

I've been self-employed as a comics artist/writer since 1984 but I still like to self-publish as well from time to time. My most recent comic being Derek the Troll (also shown above). Much as I thoroughly enjoy freelancing for Beano, Toxic, Doctor Who Magazine etc it's also good to have complete control over your characters, and of the design of the comic, and self-publishing allows that. 

So, if you're contemplating doing your own comic strip or comic, go for it! The cost of printing is relatively cheap these days and you can perhaps start off with a low print run to test your market and to gain feedback. There are numerous comics conventions happening around the country where you can sell your comics, or if costs are too prohibitive, set up a free blog (like this one) and sell your wares by mail order. 

In short, don't give up! If you're genuinely passionate about doing comics, follow your dreams. 

If anyone has any advice to add, please post a comment below. Let's give the next generation of creators some encouragement!


Manic Man said...

I would also like to point out that while having your comic in print is fantastic, at least when you are starting out, don't underestimate digital.

While this is in another country, a friend of mine ran her own comic company. Comics were available in newsagents as well as directly. While this was fantastic to go into a local shop and see your comic in print, the costs for such a thing got a bit high and her stuff wasn't making a profit. So things changed and she does Digital comics now. Issues could range in size without worry about page counts, just what you think the story needs. Printing costs are very low. Hey, basically, you have overheads of pretty much nothing.

you can earn more direct money that way (Ace Weekly does the Digital path I believe) or you could (at least when starting out) go free like Moose Kid (I wonder when the next issue is being planned for.. bits are hit and miss of course, but isn't that the point of a lot of comics like that?).

So there are great paths open for beginners and even long timers alike.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Lew!
As someone who started out in the late 90's (and believe me, if you think things are tough now, back then it was much, much worse) I earned the hard way that comics are a tough business to break into, but a business nonetheless. If someone chooses non-commercial comics as a means of self expression, by all means, go for it! There are more venues for it than ever before, and you won't even need paper (just check Aces Weekly!).
If another wants to make money off them, be aware when you enter a market you never, ever, play by your own rules (much like the footballer doesn't set the rules of the game), but it IS possible as well. Possible an "easy" are two different things though (the first ten years of my professional career i had a day job, and took comics an illustration as a second income source), but it's the people who stay on board, who are in it for the long haul, that matter.
As far as BOTH commercial and non-commercial comic artists are concerned, please expand your culture and your understanding of the World at large. Be informed. Participate in politics. Read a lot (i encourage prose lit, as it forces you to imagine everything by yourself). Go to Museums and exhibitions. Travel. Eventually you'll start incorporating those experiences into your own work, and it'll be richer for that (if you don't believe me, get your hands on FLOOK, by Trog, a jazz musician turned comics artist).
And last by not least (and this is something Lew and I might not agree on): Reality is not only better than dreams, it shapes them! Don't be a slave to dreams, which are fickle, nor passion, which always fades, but bring both into whatever you're doing.
Oh, yeah, and don't forget to re-read 'IF', by Rudyard Kipling every now and then...

Lew Stringer said...

Well, what I meant was to turn those dreams into reality, Unknown. Yes, you and Manic Man (why is everyone anonymous?) are right to bring up digital comics as an alternative. I deliberately avoided mentioning those because the criticism I'd read had been directed at print, so I wanted to encourage that area. It might be worth me updating this article to include digital though.

Anonymous said...

Lew, it's me, Diego Jourdan. Not sure what went wrong, but somehow i didn't log in properly to Blogger; hence, the "Unknown".

Lew Stringer said...

Yay! Hi Diego! You can just type your name, initials, or whatever into the option for 'Name/URL' if you wish to.

Rufus Funglegreek said...

In answer to your question Lew: "Why is everyone anonymous?"

I always post as "Anonymous" simply because I'm determined to stop Google and all the other search engines scooping up all my personal details and selling them on to third parties.

My social media profiles are packed full of lies deliberately intended to throw them off the scent. My real friends know the truth (and I like to think I'm an honest person in the normal course of life).

Remember: "The beast is watchin' yoooo...."

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