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Why Work In Comics?

By James Redington
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Welcome to SBC's The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions - comics-related or otherwise - to a group of comics professionals.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to panel@silverbulletcomicbooks.com and we'll add them to the list…

This week on The Panel we have a new feature called “Get to Know…” and each week I will ask one of the Panellists 5 set questions… this week is Alan Grant!

But First… this week's question comes from Ed Hicks and is as follows:-

"Why use "your talents" on Comic Books? Why not go into a 'Better Paid, More Recognised' profession?"


Mike Bullock Writes:

Simply put, I've had a love affair with comic books since I was three years old. Thirty some odd years later, that love is still going strong. With comic books, I can tell large-scale stories (that would require huge budgets to convey on the big or small screen) for relatively little money. I can watch, mesmerized, as the artists working on my books return page after page of gorgeous visuals that bring my imaginings to life, something not possible when writing novels & short stories. I can give back to a medium that has given so much to me over the three decades of my life. Not to mention, I'm a glutton for self-inflicted pain.

Mike Bullock is a writer, promotion agent and President of Runemaster Studios, Inc. Lions, Tigers & Bears, his first published foray into comic writing, debuts in January 2005 from Image Comics. His other comic credits include editorship on Alias Enterprises’ Imperial Dragons and Dreamwave’s Warlands. Bullock has several other creator-owned comic properties in the pipeline, including Gimoles a book set to debut in the summer of 2005.


Kev F Sutherland:

Most people do (go into other professions), and some of us don't have the choice. I've only recently got back into drawing and writing for comics, currently The Beano, after a hiatus of over 5 years when the only comics work I had was a couple of educational strips for Scholastic, an advertising strip for motorbike menswear, and a couple of ad jobs asking me to rip off Roy Lichtenstein.

But I am loving working in comics again because, as with so many of us, it is my first love. My Comic Art Master classes kindled the flame of my love for the art form, and it was these and the reaction of the kids that made me apply again to The Beano, this time successfully. I wanted to be able to show kids comic work by me that they'd recognise and like, rather than showing them 10 year old Marvel comics which, frankly, left them cold (JM DeMatteis Dr Strange, layouts by Bucky, finishes by me? Even I can't read that!)

Also a lot of talents are perfectly suited to comics and don't 'work' in other art forms. Also some artists aren't good enough to work outside comics.

Also making money as a professional writer is hard enough in any medium, where else could a mediocre writer eke out a fairly good living? The competition's a lot stiffer in TV, and most novelists earn nothing.

Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.


Sean O'Reilly:

For the love of the game.

Seriously I totally enjoy making books again for ‘about the fist year’ it was incredibly fun - then after chasing and worrying about numbers, and one¹s position in the market it became quiet stressful.

But now I’m doing the second series of Kade, Ezra and two more personal projects, and I¹m back in the zone making books I love to make and it¹s fun once again.

Sean Patrick O'Reilly is Editor-in-Chief of Arcana Studios, and the writer of their book, Kade.


Daley Osiyemi:

Simple! We do it cos’ we love it!

Daley Osiyemi creator of Brodie's Law and co-founder of Pulp Theatre Entertainment where he works as producer and creator on various new media and comic projects. Writer and producer of online animated comic series None But Us, developed a character to help promote broadband and is currently working on a graphic novel and a film idea.


James E. Lyle (a.k.a. Doodle):

Good question. Mental illness is my best guess.

But seriously, I have a pet theory that in every child's life there's something that really grabs that kid at about age four. In my oldest brother's case, he saw the early Gemini launches when he was that age and went to work for NASA. My next oldest brother stuck a piece of wire in a power socket and is now an electrician. I saw a Batman comic and was hooked.

Other media are fine, and I dabble in them from time to time but my gifts are best used doing comics, and I honestly go a little crazy when I'm away from doing comics for too long.

James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the "missing" Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.


Bart Thompson:

Very good question… I had to do some serious soul searching in the past few years and hopefully the ol’ brain can remember the things I came up with.

I’m a HUGE movie fan… HUGE! Comic scripting and movie scripting are very similar. I’ve watched many episodes of the three seasons of Project Greenlight… making movies is too darn stressful! Heck, I was just WATCHING the process and I was yelling at the people, trying to problem solve, and I could feel my blood pressure going through the roof. And I wasn’t even IN the situation! I tip my hat to the movie guys… and their high threshold for stress. And their poor livers and kidneys. Oy vay.

I’ve just started to dabble into learning about the TV industry… again, similar to both comics and movies in a lot of ways. But again there’s the stress factor and so many hands a project has to go through.

In a nutshell comics is the closest one can come as a creator to getting their creation out there with the least amount of hardship, money, and without having too many people involved in the process. The final result is more pure in comics than in movies or television. I’m in comics because I love the medium, I understand the medium, and it’s the best place for my creations. I’m a self publisher because I’m a control freak and I need the final say on every little detail. I like owning every bit of my creations. They’re my children and I enjoy watching them grow unhindered by a studio or committee. One day I hope to have time to play in the movie and television sandboxes but comics will always be my home. This is what I do and this is what I know. Maybe they’ll become big budgeted movies or shows… at the end of the day if they’re screwed up in those mediums I can always point people back to the TRUE source of the projects. If they go well in those mediums it’ll hopefully bring a few more hundred people to comics. Hell, whatever I make in movies or TV I’ll only pump back into making comics!

Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics and creator of "Vampires Unlimited", "the Metamutoids", "ChiSai", and "Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies".


Roger Langridge:

Speaking personally, I'm not qualified to do anything else! Only comics will let me do funny illustrations with the added dimension of time and rhythm and not have to delegate half the work and usually compromise it to keep the money-men happy (like in animation). It's the only thing I've ever been halfway good at!

Roger Langridge is the creator of Fred the Clown, the collected edition of which can be obtained from Fantagraphics Books. His latest project, Fin Fang Four, will be out from Marvel in October.


Vince Moore:

Because I like the creative freedom comics offers. And the love of the medium and the genre of superheroes most of all.

That or I'm just crazy.

Vince Moore is the editor for DarkStorm Studios, a comics company started by Kevin Grevioux of Underworld fame.


Tony Lee Writes:

This is pretty much a view as a writer. I think there's something more fundamentally 'personal' about comics. I mean, we grew up with them, you know? There are a lot of people who have a great love for the mainstream - there are also people who have a love for the independent scene - but this is in the most part because of personal taste rather than situation.

The other thing that's being noticed these days is that comic writing isn't as 'exclusive' a career as it used to be. Creators these days aren't moving into comics and staying there until they die. The merging between genres and mediums is closer than ever, with comic writers writing novels, like Mike Carey, Neil Gaiman, Peter David etc and moving into movies - David Goyer not only works on screenplays but he now directs.

Now this is also partly because the comic companies have been taking from outside the usual genre to get their creators. People who produce top rating TV shows are given comics to write. Top name artists get offered comics to draw, or covers to do. It's almost like a door that swings both ways.

So yes, comics might not be the better paid profession - you can make far more from scripting an episode of JLU than if you wrote the comic book - but it doesn't mean you're stuck there. You can move around - into TV, movie, radio - whatever you 'talent' allows you to do.

But to be honest - who wouldn't want to write comics all the time? It's the best job in the world!

Tony Lee was born in West London, UK in 1970. Informed by a teacher that he had a comic book style of writing, (a comment meant more as an insult), Tony decided that one day he would write for comics. Check out more at http://www.tonylee.co.uk


Gary Spencer Millidge:

Because I'm stupid.

Or because I'm only creative when I'm really motivated to do so, i.e. by working on comics.

Even relatively lucrative creative fields like animation and advertising can be soul-destroying if you harbour desires to produce your own creations.

To be able to do something you love, *and* to earn a living from it, is the Holy Grail, and very, very few people can claim to do both.
In my opinion, it's more important to be happy and poor, than unhappy and rich.

Gary has been self-publishing his award-winning Strangehaven comic book series for ten years and his third trade paperback collection Strangehaven: Conspiracies will be published later this summer http://www.millidge.com


Dez Skinn Writes:

Because comic books are pure. No think tank, unionised, committee-led group end products here! One advantage of comics being an inexpensive end product is the failures don't hurt much but the successes can be huge(ask Frank Miller, Mike Mignola or even Marvel Comics!).

Hopefully people are attracted to working in comics for reasons other than money. It's the creative buzz of seeing an end product more than a balance p&l sheet. Other professions may be "more recognised" but individuals working within them certainly aren't. How many software big names or advertising creatives do you know of?

Dez Skinn is the boss when it comes to Comics International – The UK’s Leading Comic Mag, he is also the big brain behind this year’s UK Comic Expo in Brighton… more information is available at http://www.comicexpo.biz


Donna Barr:

Because I can write and I can draw.

And by better paid or more recognised, do you mean working at Boeing -- or joining the army?

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won't try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!


Jesse Leon McCann:

Actually, after my PINKY & THE BRAIN series was cancelled by DC and then Chaos comics went under (where I had two series), I moved over to writing mostly for book publishers. The move was totally for financial reasons, as book publishers offer me bigger jobs than comics were offering, and pay very well. However, I just can't let go of writing comics and do a few each year. Why? Because, comics, there's nothing like 'em! Comics, to me, is the best storytelling art form out there, and I would never leave the industry completely or willingly. In fact, if I'm ever lucky enough to be offered another continuing series, I would definitely do it!

Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He's currently editing the fourth Simpsons TV Episode Guide for Bongo Comics/Harper Perennial, and writing stories for DC Comics' Looney Tunes and Cartoon Cartoons.


Vito Delsante:

What, like being a doctor? No, I'd rather be fulfilled in my life and be broke, than be rich and unhappy.

But if I can have it both ways, I'd take it.

Vito Delsante's creator owned mini-series, "The Mercury Chronicles", with artist Jim Muniz, is now in development with Image Comics and will hit stands late this year. "Batman Adventures Vol 2: Shadows and Masks" (DC Comics) is out now! His work can also be seen in Reflux Comics #3 and in X-Men Unlimited #5.


Five Questions with…

Alan Grant

1. Who are you? (ie - what are working on at the moment, and how did you get there).

I'm Alan Grant. I'm working on a new Young Middenface series ("A Scottish Sojer") for the Judge Dredd Megazine, also "Big Robots", a 48-page Judge Anderson story. I've been writing these characters for around 20 years now. My Scottish novel is on hold while I re-evaluate its lack of humour. I'm the only Brit writer on the Ace Lightning hit kids' TV show. I wrote last year's Action Man DVD, "Robot Attak" (the ad agency chose the title). I'm pitching a movie script with Greg Staples and trying to write two children's books for my grandkids.


2. What has been your career highlight?

Judge Dredd in DEMOCRACY. Art by John Higgins.
The first Anarky mini-series. Art by Norm Breyfogle.
Judge Anderson in SATAN. Art by Arthur Ranson.
Batman in Detective Comics 601/2/3. Art by Breyfogle.
Shadow of the Bat *13. Can't remember artist, maybe Breyfogle.
Young Middenface in KILLODEN. Art John Ridgway.
The Last American (Epic). Art Mick McMahon.
The Bogie Man with John Wagner. Art Robin Smith.
First Lobo mini-series. Art by Simon Bisley.
Evil Ernie mini-series, upcoming. Art Tommy Castillo.
Tales of the Buddha (Northern Lightz). Art by Jon Haward.


3. Why are comics so cool?

It's the only medium that requires both hemispheres of the brain to work together.


4. What exciting projects do you have coming up?

Evil Ernie mini-series from Devil's Due.

New Dominator movie going into production with RengaMedia. Big budget animation.

New Scottish novel (stalled). Winter launch of WASTED, an adult-orientated alternative humour magazine, to replace the late lamented Northern Lightz.

Our company Bad Press Ltd intends to publish "Quite Frankly Frank Quitely", his collected strips from Electric Soup. Collected edition of the Tales of Buddha (which will also feature in WASTED).


5. Interesting Fact about you nobody should really know?

I shoplifted my first-ever Marvel Comic circa 1960.


Great question this week, good answers all round.

Everyone is so modest…

So... why do I want to write comics for a living? Why do I want to write? Why Comics as a profession?

Daley Osiyemi sums it up best I think,

“We do it cos’ we love it!”

Damn right!

Anyway next week we have another question for our panellists, so make sure you tune in same time next week, and if you have a question please email me at the address above!

If you are in the UK check out http://www.comicexpo.biz. Are you going? We will have a special announcement soon regarding The Panel at the expo – also I will be there with my small press thing, http://www.portentcomics.com – check it out and let me know what you think!


The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn't it - James



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