Another week, another Hot Seat column for you. Lest you’ve forgotten, and we know how you keep every detail of CBR close, The Hot Seat features a revolving set of comics professionals sharing their thoughts on any of a variety of subjects. This week Robert Kirkman, creator of “Battle Pope” and publisher of Funk-O-Tron sits in this very warm chair. The stage is all yours, Robert.
I’ve got a message for all you people who want to break into the comics scene, but first, let me start off by telling you a little secret about me. I LOVE comic books.
Yeah, so what? We ALL do, that’s why we’re here visiting CBR instead of printing out that report the boss asked for on Thursday… well, yeah, but I LOVE comics. Good ones, bad ones, pretty ones, ugly ones… ALL of them. You know that fat gross guy hanging out in a basement somewhere, that everyone likes to make fun of? The one that lives with his grandmother ’cause his parents are drug addicts or bank robbers or something that’s the modern day equivalent of circus freaks? The one that doesn’t have ANY friends and spends all his time on the Internet talking about comics? I’m NOT that guy… that guy’s a freak, but I’d talk to him… about comics, for a little while, at least.
Yep. I love them THAT much.
I love reading them… and I love making them even more. My wife often argues that I love them too much… way too much… but, I’m seeing a therapist and those times are behind me. I don’t like to talk about it. Anyway where was I? Oh yeah, I love making comics so much, that just last month I spent 3 straight days getting about 3 or 4 hours of sleep putting together a book that I was to do little more than publish. Just so that it could come out on time… even though it was LOOSING five hundred BUCKS! Inkpunks #3 was running a tad behind schedule, so aside from having a day to letter the whole book, I had to call on my studio mate Tony Moore to help me ink the remaining six pages, we had one day to do that too, I inked four he inked two… the slacker. It shipped on time and the few people that ordered it were happy. Inkpunks sadly… has been canceled. I will say this though… it’s a DAMN fine book, really. I don’t mind losing the money if it means that a few nice people got their work seen by a few thousand other people. I’m glad that I published that book, even though it lost money.
That’s how much I love comic books.
Recently super star writer and teen heart throb (he was acquitted) Joe Casey decided to take Codeflesh, his and Charlie Adlard’s hard hitting gritty story of a super villain hunting bounty hunter, and move it to another publisher. Larry Young, Joe’s pal and Double Image cohort, suggested me. I don’t know why, but I’m glad he did. Larry also brought with it a tale of a simian super-spy titled Rex Mantooth: Kung Fu Gorilla, by some dude named Matt Fraction and comics pro Andy Kuhn. You all know about Codeflesh, it’s a damn fine tale of secret identity tension and character interaction. But you see, when it moved to Funk-O-Tron, it got lost in that big Previews catalogue; it’s orders were pretty low. I think the month our first issue debuted, Joe Casey was writing the number #2 book on the top 300 and the #287 book. Now that’s what I call RANGE! I don’t know if you guys noticed or not… well I know MOST of you didn’t… but REX MANTOOTH is the funniest thing anybody has ever printed on a dead tree! I mean, yes, it depends on your sense of humor and all that… but it’s wacky fun. This, like Inkpunks, was a DAMN fine book. It broke even… well close enough, and only after a few reorders. Nobody involved with Double Take made a dime, especially not me. But I got to work with Joe Casey, Charlie Adlard, Richard Starkings, Andy Kuhn, and Matt Fraction… hell, I even talked to Tim Fisher a couple of times! How cool is that? I spent a fraction of the time the guys that actually did the work on the book did… but I did spend some time with it… and in the end, I gained nothing more than a couple professional relationships… and something else really cool that I’ll announce later.
You see, I love comics so much I’d do them for free, and most of the time I do. Battle Pope does well, it sells higher than a lot of the indy books that seem to be getting lots of press these days. On most of the issues, sales go up from the previous one, as well, so things are looking good. It’s by far Funk-O-Tron’s most successful book, although it could sell better. I mean, let’s face it MOST books on the market SHOULD be selling better. Astronauts in Trouble should be a monthly damn comic that sells better than X-men. The book has substance. Has anyone seen a new issue of Minimum Wage in the last year? No, because Bob Fingerman was wasting his time doing the thing he LOVES… a man’s gotta put food on the table. Does anyone else think it’s a CRIME that the numbers for Savage Dragon are so low? I mean where do you find someone more dedicated to a book that Erik Larsen? Wait… I’m getting away from the point. Wait… what is my point?
IF YOU WANT TO DO COMICS, YOU HAVE TO LOVE THEM.
In these times of such a shrunken market, all that is left is the love. You’ve got to do the work because you WANT to, not for any pay off. Sometimes you’ll make dough, sometimes you won’t, and you’ve got to be prepared for that. And STOP SENDING SUBMISSIONS TO MARVEL. The effort it takes you to put together a submission for Marvel could be spent honing your skills on a book that you own, that you can publish yourself. ESPECIALLY if you’re a writer, do your own thing, try to get it noticed, find an artist and put a book together. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Buy a copy of the Battle Pope trade, that book is a perfect example of what two people can do. We taught ourselves EVERYTHING on that book. I had never written a comic before; Tony had never drawn one before. I taught myself how to letter as I did it, I had never designed ads before– it was all done on the fly. When I solicited it to Diamond, I had NO IDEA where I was even going to print the book, or HOW I was going to print the book, for that matter. If you love what you’re doing and you’re trying your best, things will just fall into place.
All you need is Love.
Call it love, call it enthusiasm, call it direction, whatever, but to survive in the comics industry nowadays, you gotta have it in spades. It’s not about money, it’s not about seeing your name in Wizard, and it’s not about sales. Do the work and enjoy doing it, ’cause nine times out of ten… that’s all you’re going to get out of it.