Note From The President, Cerebus 174, September 1993Copyright 1993 Dave Sim
The point Martin Wagner was making was that publishing, like drawing and writing has to be in your blood. He used to photocopy his amateur super-hero strips at his dad's office when he was a kid. It's an interesting point. For some of us writing and drawing was only part of our interest in comic books. The other part, which was just as important, was reproducing and circulating our work. For most, editors and publishers are the missing part of the equation; the mystical beings who will turn their finished pages into comic books and a cheque. For others of us, they're the ones who hog some of the best toys in the sandbox. Our sandbox. The exact percentage of people who think one way rather than the other is still determined, I think, by happenstance. But it is something to think about.
One thing that I wish a lot of self-publishers (or rather would-be-self-publishers) would lose is the notion that a professional cartoonist's opinion of your work has any validity whatsoever. I understand the motivation in taking a portfolio of pages to a convention and asking every professional there for a critique, but this only reinforces what I consider one of the biggest misapprehensions of aspiring cartoonists attempting to enter the field; that the field is somehow authoritarian or that there are authorities within it who can give you a definitive answer as to whether you've got what it takes or not. You're the only one with the answer to that question. The implications of that are very difficult for most people to deal with. The comic book field is not a university, it's not an art college, it's not a hierarchical system in any way shape or form. The ideal, the thing you want most of all, is to have a large enough audience to permit you to continue writing and drawing comic books. That's it. Don't bother filling out an application; there isn't one. You can be an apprentice if you want, but the odds are pretty good that you're going to have to unlearn everything you thought you learned once you actually sit down to do your own stuff. The cliche (which isn't a cliche, it's the truth) is that you have two thousand bad pages in you and until you draw them, you won't start producing good pages. Now, that should be very simple but an aspiring cartoonist will do everything in his power to ignore it. I was not, to say the least, well thought-of in the comic book field (when I was thought-of at all) for the first ten years I was in it. In Southern Ontario alone there were a dozen guys who had success written all over them; guys with natural ability, a smoother finish, better storytelling. The difference was they didn't stick with it. While I was producing pages, they were noodling laborious drawings in theirsketchbooks that would put Bernie Wrightson to shame, doing preliminary studies of interiors for a comicbook they intended to draw somewhere off in the future; model sheets with dozens of variations of incidental characters, air-brushed presentation pieces and cover designs, twenty different logos for twenty different formats. They would draw everything in the world except page one, panel one. I would finish a five page story and decide that it stunk on ice, so I'd start another one; I wouldn't redraw that one, I'd start another one. One of the biggest breakthroughs I had was getting a wall calendar; one of those ones with big squares for each day. At the end of the day, I'd write in what I had done that day. At first it would be 'Resurrection' page one (pencil). After a while I wouldn't write anything down unless I had finished it; pencilled, inked and lettered. You guessed it; suddenly there were an awful lot of blank squares. I had to work a lot harder to actually be able to write something in there at the end of the day. A lot harder. But I realized I had been kidding myself; twenty-five days of uninterrupted work where eight of those days consisted of 'pencil rough for editorial cartoon' or 'Revolt 3000 character designs' is twenty-five days of self-deception. Stop trying to fool yourself. If you're a lazy, unproductive wuss, you're going to be better off knowing that before you quit your day job, aren't you?
At the end of every day (EVERY day) sit down and look at what you've accomplished and if you've actually produced something write it into that little square. In ink.
If you haven't produced shit, kick your lazy ass off to bed and hitthe drawing board like a bat out of hell the next morning. Early the next morning. And keep doing that until you end up with a year's worth of squares that all have something written in them. In ink.
And don't waste a single one of those days going to some lame-ass convention to show any of your two thousand bad pages to somebody who's trying to come up with rent money. Page two thousand and one? No problem, but believe me. By the time you have that page done, what someone else thinks of it will be the least of your worries.
Hey! Just as we were going to press last issue, I found out that Cerebus had won the 1992 Comics Creators Guild Award for Best Monthly Comic! Thanks to everyone who voted for us!
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