On the first day of the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo, industry veteran Buddy Scalera welcomed fans for Inside the Creator’s Studio with Mark Waid. When Waid entered the room, Scalera climbed into character, assuming a soft-spoken, refined quality not unlike the host of the inspiration for this panel — James Lipton of “Inside the Actors Studio.”
“My next guest is probably one of the most successful creative writers the industry has ever seen. He has brought a level of professionalism and excitement to every character he has touched. He has had a long and legendary career that starts off on the journalism side, moves to the editorial side. He started off in comics in the mid-1980s and has moved around the industry and everywhere he goes, he makes books better. His passion for comics is unparalleled and not only that he’s an incredibly nice guy”
Cutting Scalera off, Waid asked, “Who the hell are we talking about?” to laughter and applause from the audience.
Scalera played to the crowd, listing Waid’s credentials before formally introducing the writer. “My friend, a great comic book creator and just a great guy, Mr. Mark Waid.”
Waid thanked Scalera for the intro and, before letting the moderator resume control, presented a card trick. He wrote something down on an index card and folded it, holding it in his hand.
Telling the audience to imagine a deck of cards, Waid selected individuals to contribute to the trick. Fans were asked to imagine the deck shuffling, drawing a card and handing it to another fan. Amused murmurs ran throughout the room, since no one had any idea where Waid was going with this. Waid finally asked, “Was that card the six of clubs?” The reply was negative.
Waid opened the index card, showing the audience that it had the word “NO” written on it. The audience laughed again, appreciating the trick’s ‘success.’
As Scalera once again assumed his Lipton-esque role, the topic of Waid’s hometown was brought up. Waid explained it wasn’t the greatest, but it was a nice town. Due to his father’s work with Gulf Oil, the Waid family moved frequently. “In the first fifteen years of my life, we had something like eighteen different addresses.”
“How does that inform the work that you create and what do you carry with you from these formative living experiences when you were moving around?,” Scalera asked.
“That’s a good question,” Waid replied. “One of the big themes of my work is family. In the South, family is everything. The deep roots of your family and the acceptance of your family, no matter what.” Explaingin that his great-grandfather was a horse thief, Waid said, “And yet, apparently, we still love him, too.” Waid explained the generations and eras in play for his family, and the racial friction inherent in the geography. He explained that the ways his grandparents, without malice, would refer to non-Anglo Americans simply cannot be said any longer. It was clear the writer wasn’t making excuses for their behavior, but that that was a different time. He was able to watch the friction begin to dissolve and see tolerance build. “We clearly have not gotten rid of racism, but we’ve made some great strides. That’s some of what of what the experiences of my past bring to my work.
“I’ve also made no secret of the fact that I was not close with my family growing up. I left home when I was fifteen and I was not really highly connected,” Waid continued explaining how this translates to his writing. “But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t long for some sort of a family. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t want that. So I think to some degree, creating that in my work over the years, in a way is a real way of substituting that for what I didn’t have in my life. Luckily, I have a family now that I’m very happy with, very proud of. [A] beautiful girlfriend, two great kids, one dog, four cats and a bunny. I’m very happy with that.”
Asked if there might have been subtext of Waid writing about himself in “Superman: Birthright” when Clark was writing home, Waid replied, “I never thought about it, but there is some — yeah. There is a bit of a subtext. I told this anecdote before, so I apologize for those of you that have heard it, but it’s most clearly in ‘Flash’ #0 which I wrote in 1994, and it has a similar theme to the ‘Superman: Birthright’ theme you’re talking about where the finale is getting the message back home that you’ve made it. In ‘Flash’ #0, Wally West as an adult, through time travel, ends up in his hometown when he’s about ten years old and he meets himself as a kid. He’s able to course-correct a little bit and to nudge that kid towards understanding that, ‘This is your place,’ and that really came from a real-life experience that came from about that same time in my life, going back to that same town in Alabama and looking in this house that I lived in at that age, when I hadn’t seen that house since. But looking at that house and wanting that moment, wanting nothing more than to be able to walk into the backyard of that house and finding ten-year-old Mark Waid in the backyard so that I could tell him, ‘Look. All the stuff you’re going to worry about for the next twenty years, whether it’s all going to work out, whether there’s any hope, whether there’s any, y’know, what you’re going to make in life, I want you to know everything’s going to be cool.’
“That’s a time capsule message I think all of us would like to send back to our younger selves,” Waid continued. “‘All the stuff that you think you need to be worried about is not the stuff you need to be worried about. And don’t sweat it. There’s no such thing as a permanent record. Just chill. It’s all good.'”
As Sclaera ran down Waid’s career, he asked, “How much of the success of your career is owed to your willingness to do anything that it takes to chase the career?”
“I don’t know,” Waid admitted. “I won’t do anything it takes, but I will be flexible. [CrossGen] was a small company that was started up in Florida in 2000, 2001, by a rich lunatic and his crazy-ass cousin, who was a soccer coach who wanted to be a comic book writer. They did a bunch of good things. They brought a lot of creative people from all over the industry to work at their compound there. Essentially [they ran] their offices as a studio. In retrospect, it wasn’t necessarily the best creative move for me, but this came at a point in the industry when nothing was working. This is before Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas took over Marvel. This is way before Dan DiDio came to DC. This is before anything was really happening and in the late-90s, there was that sense of free-fall in the industry and nobody had the ripcord. Nobody knew where to get a parachute, and so the guy who ran CrossGen said, ‘I have a plan.’ It may not have been the best plan, but you know what, you have a plan.”
Conversely, BOOM! Studios, where Waid spent time as Editor-in=Chief, had a vision what they wanted to be as a comics’ publisher. At that time, according to Waid, many of the smaller, start-up publishers were trying to get a movie deal or a television deal. Waid said there’s nothing wrong with that, but that comic publishers should still be focused on comics first. “Your edict was, ‘We do comics first’ and whatever comes out of that comes out of that, but don’t worry about all these comics reading like they’re movie pitches. Do good, solid comics.
“I try to be really flexible with what the future holds, because I also have the attention span of a toaster and I don’t want to keep doing the same thing I do year after year,” Waid continued, “If I were doing comics the same way I did them in 1994, I’d be bored out of my mind right now.”
Asked how difficult is is to leave a project he oversaw the creation and launch of, Wai’ds response was blunt. “Oh, it sucks,” Waid answered, before Scalera could completely get the question out of his mouth. “But I don’t know any other way to do it.” Waid measured out his words carefully, interrupting his own thoughts as he was speaking and listing the corporate-owned characters he’s worked on, including Flash, Justice League, Daredevil and Captain America. “The thing is, this is someone else’s toy box you’re playing in. It’s not places you’re given a lot of creative flexibility. I mean, they give you as much creative leeway as they can give you, but at the end of the day, you won’t be writing that character forever. You didn’t create it, you don’t own it, someday it’ll go to somebody else, and, if you were smarter or more cynical, you would, sort of, build a firewall around your emotions and go, ‘Hey, this isn’t really mine, so I’m only going to give it eighty percent.’ No one would fault you for it. You don’t own it, it’s not yours, so you’re taking a huge risk by going all in.”
“Like making ‘Winter Soldier,'” Scalera offered.
“Or Impulse,” Waid said, agreeing. “I don’t own Impulse. Not only do I not own him, but they kind of erased him as a character in the DC Universe. He doesn’t even exist at all. I’m glad I didn’t just give eighty percent to Impulse, because I knew I didn’t own him. It just sucks that that’s the way the process works, but I don’t know any other way to do it, because you have to believe in what you do. You have to have enthusiasm, excitement and passion for whatever it is you do, whether or not it’s corporate-owned or whether it’s something you do personally owned, and I would not fault anybody for choosing either or both of those career paths. At the end of the day, your name is on something, and it’s got to be something you feel good about.”
“As a professional,” Scalera asked, “how hard is it to keep up with something after you’ve invested yourself in it?”
Waid responded, “It’s like seeing an ex-girlfriend –”
“– with someone else,” Scalera finished.
“‘I’m sure your Flash stories are awesome, but — I think I will read them eventually. I’m not dying to read them now.’ It’s true of a lot of professionals,” Waid said. “I don’t know anybody whose favorite comic is something that somebody else is writing that they used to write.”
“How about reading your own work,” Scalera asked.
“I realized something really interesting that I never realized not too long ago,” Waid replied. “We were talking about the nature of collaboration in comic books and how it is a highly collaborative medium, and the best case scenario is, obviously, a writer and an artist are not only working with each other, bouncing ideas back and forth and coming up with an energy on the page that makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts — and not all comics are like that. Sometimes, it’s just work-for-hire. Sometimes, it’s just, I’ll write the script in my head and you’re going to draw it, and you’ll draw it and you’ll do a fine job, but it’s not a collaboration. It’s not like a meeting of the minds. What I’ve found was, that when I go back and look at those comics, that’s when all I see is the problems and the things that I wish I’d done differently and all the things that make me wince. The God’s honest truth is, if you write something, and you’re not a hundred-percent happy with it, and you go, ‘Ah, I won’t feel that way tomorrow.’ No. You feel that way for the rest of your life. If you chose the wrong word and you know you did, or you picked the wrong moment, you will never five years from now go back to that story and not go, ‘Oh. That was a bad choice.’ That’s the stuff where there was no real collaboration.
“The stuff I did with Mike Wieringo, or doing stuff with Barry Kitson on ‘Empire,’ or whatever, on occasion when I go back and look at that stuff, it’s a pleasant surprise. I mean, yes, I still see the things that make me go, ‘Oh, I can do that differently now,’ but what I also see there are surprises. I don’t remember those stories as much as I remembered. Because they brought something that elevated it and a lot of times, I look at those stories and go, ‘Hey. That’s a pretty good moment!’ That’s not a compliment to me, that’s a compliment to the way it all came together.”
“Do you still tote that comic rack around?” Scalera asked.
“The spinner rack? Yeah. I still have, well, I have three spinner racks with one of everything I’ve done, wedged, I mean, now crowbarred into those things. I ran out of one spinner rack a long time ago.” Waid explained that whenever he receives comp copies of his books, he always takes one copy of each book and puts it in the spinner rack “so it will always be there. So I can look across the room on the days when I feel like nothing’s getting done or I feel demotivated or just depressed. I look at the spinner rack and go, ‘OK, that’s not a bad body of work.'”
“Did you ever imagine you’d have that much stuff come out?”
“No. I had no ambition to be a comics writer, I had no ambition to be a writer at all, I really didn’t,” Waid said, “I knew I wanted to do something with comics, and I knew I was passionate about characters, but I honestly thought being an editor was the way I wanted to go. I’d done a little bit of dabbling in creative writing when I was in high school, but it wasn’t any great shakes. I knew I wasn’t terrific, and I also knew that I couldn’t imagine what it was like to have to come up with brand new ideas for stories every month for characters. That blew my mind. So, I went in to DC in 1987 as an editor thinking this was it, this was where I was going to work the rest of my life: dream job. I’m happy with this, this is all great. DC disagreed.
“In that period, I got to work as an editor for every other writer in comics, from John Ostrander to Neil Gaiman to, you know, Christopher Priest to anybody who was working for comics at that time and all the scripts came across my desk,” Waid continued. “It’s a boot camp of learning how to do stories, how to write scripts, and I learned more in that two years than I did in ten years on my own. And so, coming out of that completely did it, and I made some contacts at DC. [Editor] Brian Augustyn gave me a ‘Flash’ job, and another ‘Flash’ job, and the Impact Comics came along — I got a little bit of work here and there, and before we know it, it’s 2014 and I’ve not had to look for work since. I’ve been incredibly, incredibly lucky.”
Asked if he’d describe himself as an over-achiever, an under-achiever, an average achiever, Waid opted for the third choice, explaining, “I was an over-achiever at things that didn’t matter… My accomplishments have always been things like, ‘I alphabetized everything in my DVD library today!’ That gives me the same sense of satisfaction as anything else. That’s not good. But none of this was the plan. None of this was the dream. My hand to God, other than most generic, ephemeral dreams, like, ‘I want to be a radio announcer,’ or I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, or I wanted to be a magician when I was a kid — none of which meant anything. I didn’t know what that looked like. That’s the closest I had to ambition, so it’s not like I had a career track that I was heading for. It’s not like I had this big, secret desire to be, you know, this thing. I’m just glad to be here.”
Scalera then shared a story from a previous comic convention fifteen years ago, where asked a question about Tom Peyer, a friend of Waid’s. “So somebody in the audience said something like, ‘Wouldn’t you agree that Tom Peyer is not really cut out to write Legion?'” According to Scalera, Waid’s response was blunt. “‘Wouldn’t you agree that you’re a fucking idiot?'” As Waid and the audience member continued to trade less than polite interrogatives, with the audience member approaching the stage, Scalera actually had to radio outside the room for help. “I don’t think he separated that you were being a wise-ass. How much, in your life, has being a wise-ass impacted your career?”
“That I have a job at all is a miracle,” Waid replied. “I don’t understand it. The common answer is, ‘I can’t help it,’ and I take moments like that before I can help it. By the way, that guy demanded a refund on his way out the door.”
“That was the same convention that when Scott Lobdell won an award, you went up and accepted on his behalf,” Scalera added. “And he was there!”
“The most honest answer, your mileage may vary, and this is not the good advice you give to any newcomers in the industry,” Waid said, “but my feeling is that what I lose from people who get frustrated at me because I speak my mind, and I’m sometimes mouthy, and I am sometimes very, very blunt in my opinions, my gut feeling — I could be wrong — is that the people that I’m inclined to lose from that, who are frustrated because I’m making fun of a Nevada rancher [Cliven Bundy] this week — that lunatic — the people that I lose there, I think I make up for with guys who, like me, when I bought into, when I was educated in writers when I was a teenager, going, ‘Oh, you’re saying something that’s more honest than that guy.’ I’m not comparing myself to these people, but the people who I read growing up — Harlan Ellison, Steve Gerber, Steve Englehart — writers who had a voice and they weren’t just selling product, but you could tell there was a passion behind it. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything they believed in… but as a kid, I’m like, ‘Oh. OK. At least I feel like you’re speaking from the heart.’ You weren’t trying to sell me something. You were just trying to be honest about something and if you wanted to come along, that’s great. And again, I’m still getting a lot of that. ‘Well, why would you want to trade away half your audience by writing that you’re liberal?’ Being able to say how I feel about certain things is more important to me as a person than what the marketing plans are for my work.”
“I think the audience is on your side, right?” Scalera asked the room, to thunderous applause.
Waid appreciated the sentiment, admitting he needs to remember to monitor his use of the “F-bomb” on Twitter, given that some of his own audience may not even be old enough to shave. “I have burned every bridge there is in comics. And I have gone back and I have burned it twice. I have no earthly idea how it is that I’m not just selling tacos from a truck at this point as my career. I don’t do it to be confrontational. I don’t do it for attention, I just take up those fights because I just don’t like bullies. And I don’t like people who are jerks. I don’t like people who stand behind positions of power and are ugly to other people. Everybody’s tactic is different. Nobody thinks they’re a bully either.
“It’s easy for me to say that, and then I’m wrong somehow. I’ve picked some fights, and clearly, I’ve been completely wrong. I didn’t understand what was going on or whatever, and then I apologize for those things, because the biggest baloney statement in the world, one of my least favorite things in the world is, ‘It takes a big man to apologize.’ Bullshit! No it doesn’t. It just takes a human being to apologize. It’s really not hard to apologize if you screwed up. It doesn’t take a big man to apologize — it just takes someone who’s honest with themselves to realize that you’re going to be wrong sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t lose anybody’s respect by apologizing if you’ve done something or if you’ve been in the wrong, or if circumstance or new information comes to light that you realize, ‘Wow. I guess I backed the wrong horse.’
“My favorite quote is from Paul Newman, and it is, ‘A man without enemies is a man without integrity.’ Love that quote. You don’t go out and make them, but if you’re going to live by your guns, if you’re going to live by your convictions, if you’re going to do what you feel is the right thing to do, and I don’t always do it, but I try, you’re going to rub against some people, sometimes. Sometimes they’re going to be justified and pissed off, sometimes they’re going to be unjustified and pissed off, but at the end of the day, I have to get up every morning, look myself in the mirror and go, ‘You know what? I feel good about myself today.'”
“You have to live an honest life and part of that is being honest with yourself, right?”
“Exactly,” Waid replied.
“I’ve always been impressed by the way you get to the heart of the character,” Scalera said, saying that he studied both Waid and Chuck Dixon’s approach to story structure. “What has always impressed me is how you can get to the voice of the real character, writing Daredevil, writing any number of characters. But how do you get into the heads of these characters so that it rings true, even for us grizzled pros?”
“You don’t have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of these characters. It helps, but you don’t have to,” Waid replied. “I mean, even I have not read every Wonder Woman story, for God’s sake. I’m only going to live for so long!
“For me, at least, you do two things. First: you go back to the source material. Go back to the earliest incarnations. Look at what the creators of the work did to begin with and you try to start there, if you can, because there’s not many characters — long-lived characters in comics — who, in their most successful versions are radically different that what was planted there as a seed. Beyond that, though, you just have to really ask yourself things about this character. First, how does the character perceive the world? Especially if they have super powers. I’m getting much better with super powers. With Daredevil’s radar sense, I think there is not a single point of any day when at some point I’m not thinking to myself, ‘How would Daredevil perceive this situation right now?’ As we’re driving through the Holland Tunnel, or as I’m boarding a plane, or as I’m, you know, what would that be like to a blind guy with radar senses? Or, if I’m at the ATM, how would Flash perceive this? He’s standing at the ATM behind that one guy who never worked an ATM before. And every second is a year. You connect emotionally with those characters, ‘How would they feel about this?’ ‘How would they feel about that?’ ‘Why would they feel this way?’ ‘What is it about their history that makes them so passionate?’ ‘Why would they do what they do?’ Because that’s the most important part. If you take away nothing else from this conversation, the most important part of every story is not the plot, is not the character. It’s not the settings, it’s none of that stuff. The most important part of any story is the part where the audience cares about what happens to the protagonist. That is the most important part. If you don’t have that, then it’s just a crossword puzzle. It’s mechanics, but there’s no heart, there’s no emotion. It took me a long time to realize that, actually, because the first ten years or so of my work, I look back and go, ‘Wow. That’s just a big, elaborate, incredibly, intricately-plotted crossword puzzle.’ That’s really clever, but it has no real heart to it.
“That’s what it’s all about to me. Like with Superman, I really think to myself, ‘What is it to be like that? What are the plusses and the minuses?’ The obvious stuff is, ‘What’s it like to fly?’ or, ‘What’s it like to lift things over your head?’ but then you also ask yourself questions, ‘What would your life be like if your entire world were spun glass?’ If you dared actually bump into the wrong thing, it’d collapse and you could break bones without thinking about it. And you can’t embrace or hug somebody with all that passion. You have to control yourself, you have to pull back and what distance does that put between you and the world?”
Asked about his work process, Waid responded, “Apparently, it’s pretty functional. It serves me, based on the fact that I can still do it, but from the outside looking in, it’s insanely dysfunctional. I just can’t be one of those guys who just sits down at nine o’clock in the morning, with a punch card.” Waid and Scalera noted that Chuck Dixon and Geoff Johns both function that way, punching the clock, much like the sheep dog and the coyote in the old Warner Brothers cartoons. For Waid, setting up specific hours for writing takes the creativity and fun out of the work. “It feels like a job to me. Then, the ten-year-old in me that would rather be doing anything in the world than this, than be responsible or to have to do something that someone told him to do, is rebelling right off the bat.
“I do have to write something every day. Even if it’s just a couple of pages. Something. I was able to move the ball a bit further down the field,” Waid continued. “Only, like, two or three times in my career have I ever written more than one consecutive issue of anything. I always write like four or five different things at the same time, so I never write ‘Daredevil’ this week, and next week I’ll write the next issue of ‘Daredevil’ right after it. That sometimes is the plan, but it never works out that way, because other stuff gets in the way. But that’s OK, because it gives me the breathing room to sort of figure out what happens next in my head. I don’t have an overall plan. I kind of have some ideas of where we want to take Daredevil for instance for the next year or where we want to the Hulk and some ideas of stories that I want to get to, but when I sit down I don’t have a grand scheme in mind. A lot of times, I’m just making it up as I go, because it’s fun for me. That’s the fun part for me, sitting down and going, ‘OK. I got this scene in my head or that scene in my head and I kinda know what I want to do with this issue, kinda, but I don’t know how things fit together.’ The writing process is always, like, the jigsaw puzzle pieces are face down on the table and I’ll turn one over. ‘Oh! You know what? This scene! I have an image in my head of Hulk doing this!’ And then, in the back of my head, ‘Oh. You know, I haven’t done this with Bruce Banner. This is a good bit for Bruce Banner.’ I’ll turn that piece over. And you start turning these pieces over and you start to see, ‘Oh, wait. This actually will connect with that piece. Or there’s some resonance between this piece and this piece, thematically.’ You start to very slowly assemble it into something resembling a jigsaw puzzle. The pieces are connecting, and you get to start to write and go, ‘OK, I haven’t figured out everything yet,’ but part of the fun of it going in is surprising myself.”
Waid turned to Scalera, saying that as a fellow writer, he is certain his panel host is familiar with the two speeds of writing. “‘Can’t start’ and ‘can’t stop.’ The ‘can’t start’ is, ‘I wish I were dead. I need to go to the bank and the post office, because anything beats this.’ And there is the moment where you surprise yourself by writing a line of dialog you hadn’t thought of, or you suddenly have an idea for a scene that came out of nowhere. You don’t care where it came from, but it’s there and you’re excited at that moment. And you just surprise yourself as you’re sitting there thinking and that moment, that’s what keeps you going. Suddenly I can’t stop. Now, I look at the clock and it’s four o’clock and I haven’t had lunch. I don’t care. The moving, moving, moving is like you catch that wave, and you stay on that wave as long as you can, because you’ll get tired at some point, something’s going to distract you, but that’s the process. If you’re not having fun doing it, it shows in the work.”
Scalera pointed out that Waid does not have “Bendis-like runs” of long stretches on specific comic books. “Do you have an internal something that tells you, ‘I’m almost done’?”
“I always take things with the intent of, ‘I’m just going to do twenty issues,’ or, ‘I’m just going to get in here and explore and just see where it goes and have as much fun as I can.’ There’s a point at which you’d much rather get off the stage while people are still enjoying it than do it for eighteen years, five of which were really good. A point adjacent to that is that I certainly have learned, finally, after many years of screwing it up, don’t go back. Don’t go back to things you did before. Never at a time I’ve gone back to a series that I did before has ever worked out very well for me. ‘Flash,’ ‘Captain America’ — ‘Flash’ second run wasn’t great, first run was OK. ‘Captain America,’ first run was pretty good, second run, not so much. It probably would be a miracle to see me on ‘Fantastic Four’ or something like that anytime soon. All you’re doing then is competing with yourself.
“How do you know when it’s enough?” Scalera asked, referencing to Waid’s workload balance and ability to avoid overloading on too much. Scalera insisted the muse must take over at the keyboard and Waid surely has some good ideas for more than he’s writing right now.
“Ask me my ‘Iron Man’ ideas,” Waid joked. “I don’t know. I really don’t. I’m busier now than I’ve ever been, and, by all rights, I should just take a long winter’s nap. Between the print work, the Thrillbent work, co-owning a comic book store, which is not a lot of responsibility, admittedly, because my partners do all the real work, but it still is a finger in all those different pies.”
The duo finished their discussion for the day talking about digital comics, torrents and Thrillbent, with Waid suggesting that pirated comics can only be good for the industry, while Scalera was staunchly opposed to the notion of work being given away illegally.
“If there was some way to stop torrenting, if there was some universal switch you could throw, I would understand the resistance to it a lot more,” Waid argued. “You can’t stop it. You cannot stop this file sharing from happening. It’s like pushing the tide back with a broom, and my feeling is, that ship has sailed. We can’t be upset about it any more. You can, but it’s a waste of time. Instead, try to find a way to make it work for you. Like for instance, with Thrillbent, we knew those files would be illegally shared anyway. So, rather than making you go as a consumer, click and save and package your own files, and we would have no control over the quality of the image, there’s no credits on the page, we would pre-package these files. Make sure there were credit boxes… And the thing is, the traffic — the paid traffic — that we have off the downloads that we’re selling, they map very nicely [to people who have been torrenting stuff for free.] The more exposure your material gets, free or not free, paid or not paid, if it’s good work, people on the whole, not everyone, people on the whole understand that if they want to see more of it and if they want you to keep doing what you’re doing, that they need to pay for this. They need to help make this happen.”
Waid offered his thoughts on entertainment in the twenty-first century, suggesting the best model is to, “use social media to connect directly to an audience that you build to be big enough that they understand that if they give you five bucks or ten bucks for what you’re doing, and they think it’s a fair deal, and there’s fifty thousand of them out there, that’s enough to — maybe you get rich. You get paid. You do what you want, and you get paid. And the social contract is, people understand [content is given, but needs funding to continue to be available.] The trick is finding enough of those people, and streamlining the process where it’s easy for them to give you money in exchange for content, and that’s a hard thing. On the Internet, it’s the Wild West, and you’re competing for all the attention in the world. It’s really difficult, but it makes so much more sense to me that continuing to ask my audience to pay a lot more than they may be willing to pay for something that I would lose control over because I gave it to a content provider.”
Scalera’s last question directed at Waid asked, what should aspiring creators know about their responsibility to the people on the other side of the page?
“My answer, it does kind of vary from day to day, and certainly from drink to drink — your first responsibility as a creative person is to the work itself. It’s to the work itself, to make it as good as you possibly can. You want to respect your audience. You want to try to give them material that you hope they connect with. But at the same time, you can’t write for your audience, because the audience doesn’t know what it wants. If it knew what it wanted, it wouldn’t be an audience. Your job as a creator is to surprise people. Give people things that they never thought they wanted, things that they never thought existed, worlds they never dreamed of before, and make them feel things that surprise them and involve them and none of that is sitting on the table and going, ‘Hey, I’m writing “Legion of Super-Heroes” today! How do I make the Legion of Super-Heroes fans happy?’ It’s a good thing to keep that in the back of your head a little bit, just to keep from going totally off the rails, but if I have to choose any given moment, I’d choose on how I made good story and worry about the fan base later. No offense — I was the fan base. I was a huge part of the fan base. People want to read stories. I don’t think they necessarily want to get just all ‘Family Circus,’ if that makes sense.”
“It continues to drive home the ethic that you work under, which is to do a great job and really think deeply and not just worry about the external forces,” Scalera concluded. “You’re driven internally, that’s why I like you. That’s why the people here love you.”