Breaking into the Comic (reading) Industry

If you live on the internet, like me, then you may have heard of a little thing called comics. Comics like Penny Arcade or Dresden Codak or Bad Machinery or Hark, A Vagrant or any of the other 90 that sit in my RSS reader, or 900 that don’t. And if, like me, you enjoy these comics greatly – you may go look for more comics, like I did. Comics like Scott Pilgrim and others published by the magnificent Oni Press, and comics like The Griff and Rotten and classics like Maus and Watchmen and V for Vendetta.

You might do this, like me. Then you might realize (like me) that there aren’t too many Graphic Novels out there,and most that are out there aren’t too long, and there are only SO many webcomics that are honestly amazin’ (such as the astonishingly good Cucumber Quest). So you might, like me, look to a new world. A world with a nigh-relentless flow of comics. A world filled with spandex and gore. A world built of equal parts Grittiness and Goofball. The world of Marvel, and DC, and “Traditional Comics”.

Let me tell you something – the ‘dark gritty’ covers are not the most frightening part of “Traditional Comics”. The relentless unstoppable misogyny is not its grossest underbelly. The not-so-subtle juvenile undertones are not its most childish side. The impressive stagnancy of the stories is not their worst move. And attempting to break into the world of Traditional Comics can essentially be boiled down to two words: FREAKIN IMPOSSIBLE.

I’ll do a couple of these posts. I couldn’t hope to summarize all of the intricacies of the industry here. The horribleness of comic e-reading, the discrimination, and the neverending constancy – all of that will have to wait. I’ll just lay out some ground rules here. First off – by “Traditional Comics” I mean those comics I can find by shuffling around in a dimly lit comic store with only one window, and that window is covered by a shelf of backorders. I do NOT mean webcomics, motion comics, multimedia comics, graphic novels, syndicated newspaper comics, toys, games, animals, kites, trees, etc., etc.

Oh, to begin, I think I’ll take you through my first time with a comic store, in a Traditional Comic capacity. Well, first I’ll tell you of my first time with a webcomic. That was first, and better, and much longer ago.

I was playing World of Warcraft at the time. Gettin my Druid action on, runnin round in Ashenvale Forest. Back when it had like 1 flight path, and it was way level skewed, and – well, it was a good time. But the game was (shall we say) a little broken n’ and busted up around the edges, so humour was abound. Stories of way-too-challenging bosses, impossible quests, falling through the world – all made for ‘mazin comic material.

And one comic really caught my eye with clever writing, art, and such – Dark Legacy Comics. I was a bit late to the game, so when I caught a comic on WoWInsider or the Blizzard Website, I could go over and catch all the way up. I could support the creator by picking up stuff from his store – and know who the money went to. The humour was specific and relentlessly relevant, nostalgic and simultaneously custom-tailored to current players like me. It eventually pointed me to other WoW based comics (Flintlocke, The Scout Report) which eventually pointed me to the other popular Webcomics of the time (Questionable Content n’ XKCD) and the chain just spiralled on.

On the other side, my first time in a Comic Shop. I walk into this dark store, walls lined with comics, some group playing DND in the center of the room and yelling about some italian elf who shouldn’t be allowed to join the Nazis, and me, with honestly no idea what to do. I am not just over my head. I am over Andre the Giant’s head – I am over my head with 20,000 leagues to spare – I am over ALL THE HEADS. There is NO HEAD which I am not over. What wall am I supposed to look at? Am I supposed to talk to someone? Am I supposed to be in here alone? Should I look at some wall? Where are the new releases? How new is new releases? What in the WORLD is going on with that elf, why are they playing 4.0 are they idiots, where in the world do I set my Art Portfolio? Ahhhh? AAAHHHHHH?

So what do I do? I wandered over to the back, where there was a wall of Graphic Novels. I already owned em. So I walked around awkwardly for a while, remembering that DC just had a new line of comics, then randomly grabbing Batgirl #1, 3, and 4 off the shelf. They didn’t have #2. I knew that Ryan North of the marvelous Dinosaur Comics had been writing the Adventure Time Comic, so I picked that up. I also saw a Diablo 3 comic with a cool cover, and I figured that Blizzard doesn’t normally license bad stuff. I stood next to the counter until someone next to the DnD table who was arguing about the proper naming of Japanese Sprites lumbered over and rung me up. He said something about the 2nd Adventure Time comic, using a lot of words I didn’t understand. I then grabbed my art portfolio and slunk back out into the rain. 

To be continued.

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