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Issue #45

Okay, so convention season is here again and some of you are asking yourselves, "how do I talk to a comic book professional? What do I say?"

I've done it. I've tripped over my tongue and didn't have a clue, but after years of this nonsense I've got a few words of advice.

First, it's fine to dish out a compliment, but remember -- less is more. Say, "Hey, I'm a big fan. I loved your run on Bebop, Cow ranger" and move on.

Remember, whoever you're talking to is, quite likely, a social retard.

It's sad, but true.

Most folks in the comic book industry spend hours in solitary confinement, writing, penciling, inking, coloring or lettering without coming into contact with any other living being. These guys really don't quite know how to take a compliment. Sure, it's nice to get recognition for all the long hours put in behind the board or keyboard, but after we mutter an awkward, "thank you" we've generally got nothing else to say.

Your best bet? Have something else to say. Don't compound it by laying it on thick, we don't know how to deal with much more than "Love your stuff" so if you stray into the "you're my god territory" most creators are seriously baffled.

What do you say to that?

So, what do you follow your opening line up with?

Well, your best bet is to ask a question, preferably one that confirms that you are indeed a fan and have some knowledge of said professional's work. If it's a writer, ask, "Whatever happened to such and such a character?" or "Are you ever going to follow up on this obscure plot point?" If it's an artist, ask how they did a certain effect (if you're genuinely interested) or ask about other project they might want to work on. "Who's your favorite character?" is a fine all around question for everybody. More compliments are fine, but other than communicating your love, they net you nothing in return other than another, "thanks."

And maybe that's fine -- maybe you just want to show your appreciation - but it's an opportunity that doesn't present itself on a daily basis so if you have questions, well, now's the time to ask 'em.

Try not to go for the kinds of questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no -- you're attempting to converse with this person. A one word answer puts the pressure on you to come up with the next question.

But keep in mind a lot of these guys don't get out much and their social skills (if they had any in the first place) have atrophied. It's not uncommon to hear one of these poor bastards say something completely inappropriate in an attempt at levity. Most creators are trying to be polite, really they are. If they come off like a boob, it's not always what they had intended. These are social misfits, remember, but they also create all of your favorite funnybooks. Meeting them at a con is your chance to get some insight into the creative process.

Comic book professionals are like anybody else. They're people, like the rest of you and they do a lot of the same things you do. They listen to music and watch movies and play video games and get roaring drunk and make complete asses of themselves.

I've seen 'em do it.

What do you say to a creator whose work you don't enjoy?

The same stuff, really, minus the whole "I think your work kicks serious ass" speech. These guys listen to music and watch movies and play video games and get roaring drunk and make complete asses of themselves as well -- and many of the least talented creators are great guys to hang out with. They'd have to be. How else would they get work?

The important thing to remember is that the person is not their work and the work is not the person. Somebody can be a great creator and be a lousy human being and somebody can be a great guy, but unbelievably untalented. It's a mistake to go, "I'm going to stop reading this book I enjoyed because the creator is an asshole" just as it's a mistake to go, "I'm going to start reading this book I think sucks ass because the creator is such a nice guy." At the end of the day, you still want to be reading good comic books, not bad ones.

There is no set limit to how many books a creator will sign. Some limit it to a couple -- some (like me, for example) will sign however many books that you bring.

"Can I buy a creator a beer?"

Please do.

I'd also recommend introducing him to your sister.

Some creators draw free sketches, some don't. If you're getting a free sketch, don't get greedy! Don't insist on a certain character if he doesn't want to draw that character -- don't ask for all of the Avengers. If you want a specific but obscure character, bring reference. Not every creator remembers what Prez, Squirrel Girl, Woodgod or B'wanna Beast looks like off the top of their head. Many creators can't recall specific details of characters they've created (don't worry, I've got Savage Dragon pretty well figured out). Getting a sketchbook helps. It gives creators the illusion that you're not going to cut out all the pages and sell them on eBay, plus it encourages them to "join in on the fun" and show up the previous guy.

Most writers do shitty sketches. Don't ask.

Be courteous. Nobody likes a dick.

You can give a creator your own book, sure, and your own drawings as well. It is appreciated -- but as much as you might intend it to be a "thank you," it's a little like giving somebody a puppy.

Yeah, it's thoughtful and it could potentially bring a lot of joy, but it's an obligation. The creator doesn't want to be rude, but you're asking him to haul around a book or drawing for the rest of the show. You're asking him to keep track of it and pack it in his luggage and take it home and that's not always easy, especially when there are fifty other guys wanting to do the same. He's going to feel guilty pitching it and guilty about not sending you an e-mail telling you what he thought about it if he does keep it. There are implied strings attached. So, expect that you're going to a weird vibe or "that look" from a creator if you give them your work. You're better off giving the guy a candy bar or buying him a beer or letting him ball your sister.

Heh.

Oh, and if a creator brings his wife to a show, don't hit on her. If he ends up slugging you and busting his hand, he'll produce fewer comic books and everybody loses in that deal. And don't offer to let him ball your sister -- especially if his wife is in earshot. That can cause all kinds of problems.

And that about covers it. Many creators (I hate to say) don't read comic books. You may not have as much in common with them as you'd think. I read all kinds of comics and often don't have a lot in common with a lot of creators. That's why you'll often see me in the lobby of a hotel chewing the fat with a gaggle of fans. Any opportunity to talk comics with a fellow fan is worth taking.

But that's just one fan's opinion, I'm willing to concede that I could be wrong.

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