Gernert Company literary agent Seth Fishman moderated a New York Comic Con panel featuring three major webcartoonists: Kate Beaton, Christopher Hastings and Ryan North. The room was standing room only, necessitating several minutes for everyone to get situated before the panel could begin — which could only happen after Hastings gave a shout out to the Dr. McNinja sitting in the back of the room.
The panel was a loose conversation as the three creators jumped from one topic to another, centering on how after many years they’ve been doing increasingly more work outside of webcomics and how their work has opened up new opportunities for them. North made the point that a webcomic can be read as a fun resume to show off skills.
Recently Hastings has spent his time writing comic books for Marvel including “Deadpool” and the upcoming “Longshot Saves the Marvel Universe.” It started years ago when someone bought a book from him at a show and said he was an editor for Marvel and Hastings mentioned that he’d love to write “Deadpool.” Years later, the editor asked Hastings to lunch and offered him an issue, which they needed on short notice.
When the topic turned to how often to update and priorities, Beaton leaned forward into the microphone. “Sorry everybody.”
Hastings said “The Adventures of Dr. McNinja” continues to be a priority but he has no contract and no deadline, and so it takes a backseat to projects that do, like how there wasn’t one on Monday because he was rewriting dialogue for “Longshot.”
“It’s the first on the chopping block because I have complete autonomy,” Beaton said, expressing amazement at Hastings’ regular schedule because it typically takes her a week to make a comic.
North has been doing this for a while and has developed a routine, starting out each day posting the comic he made the day before. He said he’s been doing this for a decade and it feels natural by this point, adding that he got confidence after about five years.
As for whether they’ve ever had to turn down a project or pass on an opportunity to do something beyond their own series, North said that just a few weeks ago he said no three times in a single day. “I felt like a jerk, but it was empowering.” He also said that after working on dialogue for an upcoming video game, the same company offered him the chance to write their next project from the ground up but he had to say no despite really wanting to write a video game.
“This is fun thinking of stuff I regret,” Hastings joked. He mentioned starting work on a Dr. McNinja choose-your-own-adventure book, but after talking with North, he realized that “To Be or Not To Be” was a million times better and put it aside.
“Oh my god. It was my fault?” North asked.
Beaton said she had spoken with “Time” about a project for their blog which would give her access to their library of images, but it didn’t happen because of other projects as well as her move from New York to Toronto around the same time. “I don’t regret it, but it would have been cool,” Beaton said, adding that artists will be offered a lot in their careers and they can always say no. “If you’re good, the offers will continue.”
Fishman added that this is one of the things an agent can do, turn people down and serve as a gatekeeper, and that when he says no, no one has ever said, “Fine, we’ll never work with this person again.”
One project that is new — so new that Beaton was holding the contract in her hands — is that she’s making a picture book, starring a pony, for Scholastic. “I’m excited to write for a new audience and see what else I can do,” Beaton said before complaining that the contract has a line for her social security number, which Canadians do not have.
The new book happened because Scholastic reached out to her. “The book did well,” Beaton said, referring to “Hark, A Vagrant!”, and explained that for some in publishing and elsewhere, the web is somehow not real in their eyes. She also explained that she didn’t want to put all her eggs in a comics basket, saying that while success in comics is great, she doesn’t entirely trust it. “They were everywhere and probably overrated,” she said. “People say it’s the best and you go, “No, no it’s not.”
As a reminder to his fans in attendance of his latest non-webcomics project, Hastings said “Longhot Saves the Marvel Universe” starts in November and that he’s finished the final script. There’s a “Dr. McNinja” card game coming out soon, which he’s not supposed to talk about, but called it “great.”
Hastings is also teaming with North on “Galaga,” which both described as something different. “It’s a corporate webcomic. They don’t make any money on it. They don’t even try,” Hastings said. “It’s like it exists in a bubble outside of capitalism.”
North continues writing the monthly “Adventure Time” series from BOOM! Studios, which started quite simply because the editor e-mailed to ask if he wanted to write “Adventure Time.” He’s also writing another choose your adventure book, “Romeo and/or Juliet.”
When Fishman asked what they’d like to do, they all brought up film. “I’d love to write a movie,” Hastings said.
“I have a pitch for a ‘Back to the Future’ reboot,” North said, explaining that he doesn’t want them to remake the film, but he knows they will, so he just wants it to be good. “Also, I want to write a computer game.”
Beaton said she’s been talking with Canada’s National Film Board about something, though she was vague about the details, and admits that it might not happen now.
Questions from the audience were very practical, coming mostly from cartoonists looking for advice about how they find new comics, advertising and other topics.
Asked whether it’s advantageous to post an update schedule, Beaton offered an emphatic “No.” Hastings had a different perspective, saying he needed to try to update three days a week, even though he sometimes has to skip a day.
When asked about cartoonists trying to secure advertising, North, who also runs Project Wonderful, said the time is when they have something worth advertising — which, he added, “is not your first update.”
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on future projects from Beaton, North and Hastings