Robot 6

What’s the comics dream?

millionaireplayboy

… to look at any successful geek as Manifest Destiny rather than a crew lucky enough to have found an escape hatch seems … unhealthy. It just all seems so unhealthy. Worse, it seems like sales. And — who do people think PAYS those guys? Who do they think runs those guys’s careers? Have you ever seen a movie executive? Have you ever been around AGENTS? (I don’t recommend it). Do people think that the creative personnel are really running the game and calling shots? That’s not true of nearly every creative enterprise I know, certainly not pre-internet at least. If you’re not a person who can say No in their life, then I don’t care who’s lined up to kiss your ass. Heck, it’s certainly not true now — this generation of nerds is churning out Star Wars movies and Marvel bullshit for corporations that keep nerds like pets.

Abhay Khosla, poking holes in the popular notion that nerds and misfits will inherit the earth.

As he’s wont to do, Khosla pokes a lot more holes than just the part I’ve quoted there, but I pulled that section out because it directly mentions comics. The Big Dream for comics creators used to be working for either Marvel or DC, but that’s changed. It’s still a dream for many and I’m not putting down anyone who’s working for those companies or would like to, but it’s no longer the dominant goal that it once was. More and more creators are jumping ship at the corporations to pursue their own projects with their own characters, at least partly for the reason Khosla mentions: they want to be able to run the game.

But as Khosla also points out, there are limits to that even with creator-owned comics. The comics themselves can be completely controlled by the people making them, but the game changes when those stories are licensed to other media. A huge part of the creator-owned dream is making that big movie or TV deal and getting to keep the money from it instead of accepting whatever portion Marvel and DC choose to let you have. But when that deal is made, the creator is back in cahoots with a corporation that now has final control over the project. Robert Kirkman and The Walking Dead is as a big a success story as we’re likely to get, but even Kirkman doesn’t call all the shots on that show. I don’t claim to speak for Kirkman or suggest how he feels about that, my point is that in the best possible case, the dream of making a gazillion dollars while retaining full creative control in comics isn’t in any way realistic. 

What’s realistic – but only for those willing to work really really hard at it – is making a living in comics. Maybe even a good one. That could mean giving up some control if a movie deal comes knocking, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I remember Mike Mignola’s attitude when he first sold the rights to a Hellboy movie. I don’t have an exact quote, but he basically said that he was happy for the check and that whatever happened with the movie wasn’t any of his business. It reminds me of the famous story about Raymond Chandler where someone asked him what he thought of Hollywood ruining all of his books. He took them to his study, pointed up to the shelf where they all were, and said, “Look, they’re there. They’re fine. They’re OK.”

That’s a noble goal for creators, isn’t it? To make a good living telling stories that they own and can be proud of. The dream of reaching the top and looking back down at all the people who picked on you in high school isn’t just sad, it’s bogus.

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It’s a decision of the devil or the deep blue. A dance with the devil will give a work more exposure in a way that a creator might not be able to do on their own. When a devil in suit crosses your palm with a cheque for 30 pieces of silver, be sure to use it wisely and negotiate some good terms (while getting a good lawyer to overlook the contract).

The deep blue is lonely, cold and wet but a creator can survive it and find an audience. Islands of freedom like Kickstarter, print on demand and web comics offer a chance to be your own boss, and if you are lucky enough, monetize your works so you can live off them. Takes a lot of hard work to get noticed with the millions of other pieces of content online, though. Always worth a shot and its cheap as chips to try.

In an ideal world, no creator would sell their work to big studios, but its a lesser of two evils. Creators need freedom to work but still need to eat and pay bills. If big studio money can pay for a year with paid bills to work on ones own projects unhindered, few would pass at it and who could blame them, even if some control is lost. Sure, one day you might regret it, but you will always have your original works that you have full control over.

Kirkman has done well out of TWD, and while many might not have agreed with his manifesto, he’s opened the doors for many a creator. TWD still is a great comic despite the ups and downs of the tv show and its weird but nice that they differ in places from each other.

A dream is what you make it and also different for everyone. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to expand your audience. Its up to the individual creator to decide their own path, while some might disagree.

I didn’t sell out, I bought in.

As I’m only now making my transition from art director at FIVE33 (now owned by Legendary as of last week) on marketing campaigns for movies into creating my own comic, I’ll chime in by saying this: I’ve met many studio executives, filmmakers, and marketing executives (not agents though) and 90% of them are very normal, down-to-earth people of both genders, all races & nationalities, all sexual orientations, and many of whom are VERY passionate fans of a lot of this stuff. You should see how their eyes light up when they hear their next project is Star Trek 2 or the next Pixar film, or Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.

But they are FANS, not NERDS. There’s a difference. Khosla is talking about nerds, which is a title more suited to the filmmakers (producers, directors, production teams). The way I’ve seen it, nerds are the main reason why the entertainment & film industry has started suffering, and the economy and rise of ticket sales hasn’t helped either. What I mean is, too many projects are being tailored to appeal to this global race of “nerds” that is presumed to be so hyper fanatical and supposedly willing to pay loads of cash that there be no need to produce much content for other demographics, which is why we’ve seen such a massive increase in “nerd-sthetics” and a huge decrease in entertainment for, well, everyone else. And so the numbers plummet year after year. And when things go wrong everyone runs around frantically asking each other “but, but, but why did Star Trek into Darkness under-perform? I mean, who doesn’t love Star Trek, right?” Ahem – - 70% of the entire world, apparently. Sarcastic sidebar: How DARE a costume drama with a contemporary edge for younger generations Gatsby do so well! Blasphemy!

As far as comic creators go–and I speak for myself too–we just need to try harder. We need to keep pushing ourselves and be less self-indulgent with what we want to make. The more good and marketable our stuff is, the less upper management has to do “back seat driving”. These people don’t want to have to do much driving, but they find it necessary because, in all fairness, the “self published comic about a violent gun wielding vampire demon with ginormous boobs and thong with the homocidal transgender mecha robot sidekick who together must save their post apocalyptic dead-barren steampunk sic-fi world from the evil forces of a punk rock band of demonic angels from another planet and their giant leviathan starship” is most likely not something thats going to sell even comics, let alone merchandise or tv/movie deals. Neither will the “artsy fartsy semi-autobiography about a 35 year old white accountant drawn like 1940s merry melodies toons in his knit sweater who suffers from depression because his girlfriend died and must spend Christmas alone with his ghost dog and it’s all drawn in an indie rudimentary style with limited or no dialogue” comic. That doesn’t mean we all need to make over commercialised rubbish as creators, but we DO need to try harder and push ourselves harder so that we create something that has substance, integrity, soul, but that is also digestible, relatable, marketable, and profitable.

He’s holding that wine glass incorrectly… you hold it at the stem, to prevent your hand from warming the drink. Millionaire playboy my foot…

Abhay Khosla’s telling us how everything’s bad and we should feel bad? Wow, must be a day ending in Y.

I’d give more of a shit for Khoslas concern for nerds if I believed for one second his interest in the situation extends any further than how he can use it as a stick to beat them and anyone else who commits the unforgiveable crime of liking things he doesn’t, just like in everything else he’s ever written in his life.

What R.D. said, with one caveat: They like stuff he USED to like, so how can he know FOR SURE if he’s not one of THEM, unless he’s bagging on them all the time, just like Li’l Lord Tuckelroy?

If shitting all over people to poorly mask your absolute, utter self-loathing were a sport, Abhay Khosla would be Michael Jordan. In fact, the entire “community” of comics blogging “journalists” would be the Dream Team.

Dan – you’re right: Tucker and Abhay have to follow the filthy, unwashed neckbeards more closley than anyone because they don’t quite have the integrity or strength of conviction to like something on its own merits if aforementioned neckbeards also like it. They are obviously afraid of how close they come to something they hate so they have to double up on the venom they spit but it’s all just a reflection of their own insecurity, I guarantee. Nobody wastes that much time on sneering derision unless they hate themselves.

I notice how nobody is actually refuting anything Abhay is pointing out here and is instead just calling him names.

There’s a kernel of truth to what he’s saying but, placed in the context of his never opening his mouth unless he’s nerd-baiting with the kind of condescension born out of over-compensation for knowing what he actually is when he looks in the mirror, it gets overshowed by intent. A good argument is backed up by facts and isn’t just a subjective, anecdotal rant coming from a place of sheer contempt.

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