When I was younger I had notebooks filled with my own superhero characters. Captain Wonderful with a big purple W on his chest, the Arrow with a red arrow streaking along his uniform, and many many others. I even had a League of Heroes. I wrote paragraph synopsizes and drew covers to comic books that only existed in my mind. I tried to do it like I heard the pros do it: pencil the characters, ink them and then I colored them in with colored pencils.
Even at that modest young age I knew I never wanted to write or draw Marvel or DC's characters. I thought it would be fun to tour their bullpens and meet their employees, but I wanted to create my own characters. I started with superheroes that closely resembled the big two's characters, but I moved on. I created my first comic book character, Henrietta the Hamster, based on my sister's pet hamster. I gave Henrietta an arch foe, Hisskitty (based on our pet cat), and the two had epic battles.
I started creating one-page comics and even did a few multi page ones. Because I didn't have any money to photocopy my comics and distribute them, the only people that ever read them were my family. But as time progress I stopped drawing my mini-comics. School work and eventually a part time job took most of my time.
Fast-forward fifteen years. I've started doodling again. I sit down one day and created a six page mini comic, Meowwcat, based on my cat (and an extension of the Hisskitty character from long ago). I had some money so I made a few black and white copies to send to family and friends. But I wanted a bigger audience. So I scanned it and put it up on my website. I consider myself a self publisher in the full sense of the meaning: I created it and I published it myself (albeit on the internet).
I didn't sit around and say it'd be cool to write / draw a comic book. I just did it. Dave Sim in his CEREBUS: GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING says, "...most of the skills required to self-publish a comic book (successful or otherwise) center around initiative, enterprise - being a self-starter." And Dave Sim would know, since many consider him to be the godfather of self-publishing.
Having self published CEREBUS for twenty years when he released his CEREBUS: GUIDE TO SELF PUBLISHING in November of 1997, Dave intended the guide to wrap up what started with his Campaign '93: the push for more self-publishers. You may ask why? Who cares? And hasn't this been over for a couple years so why are we treading on old ground?
But take a look around you. Are we really in a different spot then where we were in 1997? We have a few more self-publishers out there, and some more creator owned worked being published by the larger companies. But is 2001 really that much different than 1997 or 1993? Work-for-hire superhero comics still dominate the medium. And it is these work-for-hire superhero comics that I call the industry.
I think Dave was trying to push the industry too fast. Dave had good intentions, but what he should have done is pushed for more creator owned work. If all the employees of Marvel and DC left to go self-publish, the big two would just hire new help. It happened in the early 1990's when the Image gang left to do their own thing and it has happened a couple more times since then. That isn't helping to change the industry into a respected medium. And the new comic writer / artist just starting off may be excited about publishing his own characters for a while, but when push comes to shove it will be the money doing the talking.
I'm not worried about Meowwcat Comics making money for me. All it costs is my time, which is a small price to pay for that feeling of creating a comic. I don't have the monetary resources to publish my comic on paper and have it distributed by Diamond. It would be great if I could make enough money to live off my comics, but with my other commitments I understand this isn't going to happen.
On the other hand, other new comic writers / artists might get an offer from one of the big two that they couldn't refuse. It is some money that will pay the self-publishing bills that they've accumulated or want to accumulate. So they take the work-for-hire contract. Whether they continue on with their own work is beyond the point, because at that moment they are not doing their own comics. Doing the work-for-hire comic is eating the time that could be used for creating their own comic.
I think the big two should cut back the amount of work-for-hire comics they are publishing and increase the amount of creator owned comics. Creator owned comics is a plus to both sides. The creator gets do what they want to do: create their own comics and have full control of it. The publisher stands to make some money off the deal. It is the step between work-for-hire and full self-publishing.
I may make it sound like work-for-hire is the devil's own handy work, but it does have a strangle hold on the medium. You say the words comic book and most people think of BATMAN or SUPERMAN or perhaps even the X-MEN. These comics all revolve around superheroes, which the majority of the populace thinks are fodder for teenage boys. They continue this flawed logic one step further and say that all comics are only for teenage boys.
Now if CEREBUS, FINDER, ASTOUNDING SPACE THRILLS, etc all had the same circulation rate of X-MEN (or in my fantasy world, large then X-MEN) maybe their names might get a bit more recognition from the mainstream press. More and more people will start to associate comics with these names rather the superhero industry. Perhaps then comics will become a respected medium and not the industry it is known as now.
From the Cerebus Fangirl Site found on the web at: http://www.cerebusfangirl.com contents maybe printed for later reading if you so desire, just don't copy it and say it's yours though.