Monday, March 07, 2016


When you're a writer who wants to work in the comics industry, things are tough. The word "tough" doesn't even begin to cover it, really, but it's a start. The competition to script within the larger of the comics publishing firms is fierce. In addition to the competition from writers on the outside trying to get in you also have the added problem of what I learned to call "the editorial circle-jerk". By that, I mean to point out the tendency in those days for editors to hand off (pun intended) scripting jobs for the books they were editing to other editors (most editors are writers in the comics industry). This is a quid pro quo situation wherein they get something for handing off a writing gig: a writing gig of their own from the guy in the next office down the hall.

So, getting your foot in the door at Marvel or DC was an almost impossible feat. You had to find that rare editor who wasn't a part of that big circle-jerk.

After years of trying to find work with the big two, landing a few jobs, and then retreating, I decided to hit the smaller presses. I had more luck there because of the fact that those companies didn't generally have that big circle-jerk going on in the mainly one-person or two-person operations. Such companies were eager for outside talent and willing to pay a fair wage for a fair day's work.

But even such jobs as that can be constricting to one's sense of creativity. What I wanted to do was create my own comics and see them find a home. This is where the other huge problem comes in when you're a writer. And that problem is that I am not an artist. Yeah, I can sketch and draw, but I am not trained in the execution of fine sequential art. I never learned it and I never practiced it and it's just far beyond my abilities. Therefor I had to find an artist who was willing to work with me. This is a tough job.

Why is this a tough job? Well, for many reasons. Comic book artists who are really good at what they do are generally steadily employed. They don't have time for a project for which there is no steady paycheck and only the ephemeral promise of part of the creator rights and a future payday. And if you are lucky enough to find such a person, that person might also be a writer who is packed with their own ideas and creations bursting to get free. I have long since lost count of the artists who initially agreed to work with me but who quickly found work at Marvel or DC or Image; or who were inspired to take off on their own projects as writer/artist/creator with no sharing of rights.

As I's tough!

Some years back, though, I finally did manage to get all the pieces in place. I had an idea and created a character. I found an artist willing to take the plunge. We even had an inker lined up. NEANDERGAL was going to happen. The stars were in alignment.

First, though, we did a one-issue spinoff of Budd Root's CAVEWOMAN comics. I wanted to do this to make sure the other other creators would get a paycheck and to show them that I knew how to get the project off the ground and situate us with a small but solid publisher. I wrote a couple of scripts for the issue, Loston Wallace penciled it, and Kim DeMulder inked it. The book came out, sold relatively well, and we awaited our payday from the publisher who was also going to do NEANDERGAL.

And we waited. Finally, the publisher, who proved himself not be so solid at all (unless you consider a turd to be solid) informed us all that the book had not done well enough for a return on our labors. Checking with the distributors, I saw that the book had indeed done quite well and that the writer, artist, and inker were all due a decent sum. None was forthcoming and none ever arrived. The publisher earned his reputation as a cheat and a scumbag.

In all good conscience I dissolved the project. Not that Loston was going to waste any more effort working for a cheating scumbag of a publisher, anyway. No more than I would. The other option was to try to find another small press publisher or self-publish. And those options were no longer attractive. So, all that remains of NEANDERGAL is this promotional flyer Loston and I concocted.

NEANDERGAL (copyright 2016 by James R. Smith)

No comments: