A reader, Jeff Husak, asked me some questions for a high school project he's doing, so I figured it would be nice to kill two birds with one stone - help him out and get a blog entry out of it.
1. How are comic art and the stories created? What are the processes and inspiration?
The inspirations are the same as basically any other art. Creators take inspiration from the world around them. In his excellent comic book series, Fell, writer Warren Ellis often takes inspiration for stories from newspaper stories that he felt were interesting, but writers can take it from any number of sources. Seeing as how mainstream superhero comics are a serialized artform that has been going on for many decades, current writers often look back at the history of the characters to look for something that will inspire them about he character NOW.
As to the processes, this website explains it better than I could. Well, maybe not better, but they have examples! That's much cooler.
2. What makes a good comic book and how are they approved (before sale)?
Hopefully, a comic book is marked by good artwork and good stories, but often, it is a bit of a balancing act, where if the story is REALLY good, then it can make up for artwork that is not as good, and vice versa.
Comic creators usually pitch their comic to a comic book editor, who confers with other editors and decide if the creator's take on the book is the right one for them. Occasionally, the creators will be asked to pitch an idea for the comic.
3. Can anyone design a comic and would he or she be able to get it looked at?
Anyone can design a comic book, but getting them looked at is harder. Going to conventions for people to see your artwork is usually a good way to do things, but for the most part (and ESPECIALLY for writers), the best way to get noticed is to just do comic books, and hope that either you'll gain a cult following or that the right person will read your comic book and ask you to pitch an idea to them. Image Comics, though, does accept comic book proposals (only proposals for comic books, not writing samples). Check out their submission guidelines here.
4. What is your take on comic books that take on social issues? How do they effect society?
Like all stories, if they're done well, I like them a lot. When done poorly, I dislike them. That said, it is probably fair to say that comics with a social issue are trickier to pull off well, so they're probably more likely TO be done poorly.
When comics had a much larger marketplace, years ago, comics about social issues probably did have a slight effect on society. I am a bit skeptical, though, about how much any piece of popular culture can really effect a person's decisions in life. Can you imagine a kid thinking about doing drugs then saying, "Wait, Spider-Man says they're not good? Forget you, drugs!" Seems a bit unlikely, but I'm sure there was SOME effect. Nowadays? I'm sure they still do, just not to the same extent - and not to the same extent as "slight" is not much to write home about.
5. In your opinion, how big is the comic book industry and is it growing?
It is pretty big, and it is growing, but mostly in areas other than the traditional superhero comic book. The biggest area of growth is the sales of graphic novels, both in comic book stores and bookstores.
6. What is your favorite comic book and character?
Currently? Hmmm...tough one. I guess I'll say Skyscrapers of the Midwest, a book set in the 1980s, about two young brothers. It is a gripping (and often painfully real) look at growing up, but it also manages to be quite funny, too.
My favorite character? Probably Glenn Ganges, a character by writer/artist Kevin Huizenga. Ganges is the star of Huizenga's comics, and he is a fascinating character piece - he's quite the "everyman," but just an everyman who often thinks about some pretty deep stuff. Here is Huizenga's website, if you want to read some Ganges' stories. I recommend this one a lot.
Hope this helps, Jeff!
And remember, folks, this is for a school project Jeff is doing, so if you think you can help him out with some better answers, please do so!