Dawson initiates larger constructive discussion

[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

When writer/artist Mike Dawson shared how weakly his graphic novels sold (as part of a larger self-examination of where his comics career currently stands), it struck a chord with a variety of industry members and pundits.

A great deal of attention was paid to the perceived tone of Abhay Khosla’s initial response to Dawson. I have to admit I struggle to read Khosla’s essays with any regularity, as I never feel like he is writing as himself, but rather is projecting an exaggerated version of himself. He is a lawyer by profession, so I have always assumed his comics coverage is a way to write about a medium he clearly loves, but also to burn off some of the tension of his legal work (pure speculation on my part, admittedly). That being said, Khosla’s tone (whether it clicks with you or not) makes some valid points.

That’s what I love about this age of social media and the Internet. Dawson first took to his Tumblr to share his thoughts, initiating a larger discussion (including some great observations from Tom Spurgeon). Aspiring creators would be well served to read everyone's opinions on the topic.

The response that really is a must read, however, is by established writer/artist Sam Henderson. Henderson clearly sympathizes with Dawson’s initial post and used it as a springboard to consider his own current situation. Much like the candor I commended Jamal Igle for last week, I was struck by Henderson’s inventory of challenges he faces externally and within himself to maintain a career in comics.

I had no idea that last year Henderson came out with a book, Scene But Not Heard. I am ashamed to admit that, while appreciating the comedic irony of the book's title in the context of my ignorance. I have always respected his work. So to know something of his came out and did not even show up as a blip on my radar dismayed me.

However, I admire Henderson's ability to admit his own struggles with self promotion:

“Lack of self promotional prowess. That’s the best way to get ahead and I’m not very good at it. I’m learning some things gradually. Not being able to afford a gatekeeper, I worry about coming off as an asshole. I just have to find the part of my brain that cares what people think and destroy it. Hopefully it’s not the same part that allows me to talk or walk. Publicity is the thing I hate doing more than anything else but if I don’t, nobody else will.”

I am not feeling sorry for Dawson or Henderson, particularly given that both creators still clearly relish the pursuit of comics and have realistic expectations.

One indirect benefit from this exchange of ideas, as Dawson noted in his follow-up post: “Prior to me posting my essay, nobody was talking about my book. A lot of people talked about it afterwards. Not exactly in the way I’d choose - almost nobody involved in the discussion had actually read the work - but maybe some people will take a look now.”

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