The industry isn’t all fluffy clouds, flowers, and chimichangas. In reality, there are some characters born to play villains. Let’s talk about it.

When it comes to the gritty underbelly of being a comic book creator, you will notice common threads among the complaints. It is never apparent, at first, and the community is typically a warm and welcoming one. Nevertheless, you will at some point encounter different personalities that can make everything just a little more aggravating. As a creator, you can never let these encounters stop your progress, and you should not let it side-rail you from leveling up in your craft.

I shared this story quite often when I first fell into the comic book creator realm. I had not been at it long when I submitted a few of my scripts to a start-up entertainment company that had already boasted the release of one television episode. A day or two after I sent in these scripts, I was scheduled for a phone interview with the owner and his public relations manager. The conversation was very encouraging, and it was established that later within the next couple of weeks I would be receiving a contract with my terms for page rate, non-disclosure agreement, and other information about the company. 

In the meantime, I was added to a Facebook group chat with the other creators’ writers he had hired. We all introduced ourselves and started getting to know each other, joking around and talking about storylines for comics we enjoyed reading. After a couple of weeks went by without a non-disclosure agreement, we began to ask what the new estimated time frame was on this. The owner was quick to defend himself and told us to just hang on and trust him. This was already a glaring red flag, especially as he had already been telling us about his titles, characters, and other details about his comic book universe. A few of us had already begun to talk to each other outside of the chat, and the concerns were being stated. 

At a month in, we had all already privately decided to stick around to watch the ship sink. However, it did not go down the way we expected. The more we waited, the more the owner talked about how great he was, and how epic the company was going to become. We had found the “episode” of the companies television show, and it was a hot mess. Not to trash talk or put down any creator, but part of the problem we were noticing was that he has no interest in anyone giving constructive criticism. 

I had become rather good friends with one of the other writers in the group, and one day she finally asked when, if ever, we would see something as simple as a non-disclosure agreement. The owner snapped and kicked her out of the group (and company). Of course, we were all talking on the side, and I had stated I would see how long I could stay in to see what words were exchanged. That lasted all of two days before I finally called it quits. 

A week after I had left any dealings with this gentleman, he sent me an email about how much potential I had and how if I just trusted him, he could have made me somebody in comics. Well, here we are, a couple of years later, and by sheer determination and drive I will have put out my 8th comic and third short story by the end of 2021. His company has yet to release one single title. 

I told you all this story so that you will hopefully come to realize, not everyone is in it for YOU. Yes, sometimes you have to be your champion, and then begin to surround yourself with others who are similarly driven. The hustle mentality can only take a creator so far when it is finally realized that there is a lot more to staying in comics than making a comic. Get out there, build your brand, and your audience. #DoBetterBeBetter

Aaron Dowen is a comic book writer, ICD News Editor, and owner of Catalyst Comics Studio LLC