Going Pro in Comics – Do you give up other things you love?
AMBER LOVE 11-FEB-2013 Well over a year ago, I was told by my peers and mentors that I’d have to give up costuming if I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer. My question is,”Why?” Last week, I spotted a Twitter exchange with Jeff Parker, David Brothers and Paul Allor over a Parker and Brothers Emerald City Comic Con discussion panel description that said you have to give up being a fan if you go pro. Again, I ask, “Why?” The way it was worded there was room for interpretation. Before you launch into berating me, please know the ECCC panel description he wrote has been clarified by Parker himself. Nonetheless, let’s take this time to examine the thoughts of going from Fan to Pro.
Is there a particular reason why my sewing of a costume and wearing it to Baltimore would prohibit people from buying my books in New Jersey or on the internet? To be clear, I’m not trying to have meetings with editors and publishers while dressed like Power Girl; but being in costume is how my comic buying consumerism grew. And what if I was dressed as my own character at a booth selling my comics? There are hundreds of other sites that will espouse the virtues and joys of cosplay. This forum is to question the self-proclaimed gatekeepers to the professional ranks.
I went back and forth with several professionals on Twitter. They interpret Parker’s statement to mean that you have to let go of your personal expectations as a fan in order to be a professional. You have to consider the editorial process above your love for a title or your dedication to a character. I can go with that sentiment whole-heartedly but that’s not clear in the brief description. I’m sure there were plenty of people in the Marvel offices that in their hearts didn’t want to see Peter Parker “die” but acknowledged that Dan Slott’s storyline was dramatic and provided a set up to lead the title to a new direction.
The way I read that panel’s description that you give up being a fan because now “it’s just a job,” I would ask, if you’re not a fan of comics, why do you want people to pay you to make comics? Within minutes, Jeff Parker replied:
We’ve all heard about the “fake geek” debate regarding fans (when fans are quizzed on their level of knowledge of any particular geek realm). Do people in the comics industry call into question who can be a real professional versus who is “fake?” Definitely.
Every time I see an announcement that some celebrity like Kim Kardashian, Honey Boo Boo or The Situation is getting a comic, I want to vomit. Then I talk myself down and say, hey, it’s capitalism and there’s room for everyone so the more the merrier. If Kim Kardashian brings people into the comic shop and I stand a chance at selling them SANDMAN or WATCHMEN, then I’ve done a good job turning this into a positive thing. I don’t want people to look at a comic about Kardashian and automatically assume this is what all comics have become. People can be narrowly focused. You can try to change that. You may fail. After all, the Kardashians are on television but there’s also BREAKING BAD and HOMELAND. The networks know they can make quick fortunes off Honey Boo Boo and her ilk but quality programming that wins recognition is what you’ll find if you look hard enough. Same holds true for comics. So if The Situation landed himself some sweet publishing deal with a comics company, I should be happy for him. And the big time comic professionals might have to find ways of welcoming a person like that into their super secret cadre.
I’m a person that has changed careers too many times that I would like to admit. The life a gypsy woman is unstable. Each time I changed careers, I wanted to love what I did. Maybe in the tech world or the healthcare industry you don’t refer to that as being as a fan, but when you think about it, that’s what you are. If you love your industry enough to get excited over the next thing you get to test or the latest techniques and tools, that’s pretty wonderful. Maybe you go to industry trade shows too, just like a comic con.
Therefore, I say, never let them tell you have to give up being a fan. Make whatever professional decisions you need to make in order to be happy at the publisher that carries your work. If you ever find that you no longer agree with their standard operating procedures, look for a publisher that is more suited to your personality. If that doesn’t work, self publish! Keep making the stories you want to make. Keep dressing up like the characters you love!