This was in response to a post I read on Jim Zub’s Facebook page.
I wanted to take some time before I responded to make sure I was clear about what I wanted to say. I know it is easy to dismiss this person as jealous or bitter, but I experienced exactly what he experienced. People aren’t going to like to hear this, but in my experience people in comics only want to network with people who have something to offer them or can help their own career.
For example, there are numerous people in Jim’s facebook thread who commented here who SHOULD know me. I’ve met several of them multiple times and have been supportive of their work. Yet I doubt they even remember who I am, because I haven’t been published by Image. The Toronto comic scene is especially difficult to penetrate because it consists or a couple core groups and they pretty much represent for the whole city.
Now, not everyone is like this. Jim Zub is a very friendly guy. Not everyone is though. I’ve been writing for over ten years, I won the Top Cow Talent Search last year and still not one single comic site in Toronto covered it. I’ve never had anyone in my country ever reach out to me to network, although I have had many people in the United States support my work. So I can understand this person’s frustration. It’s a lot like high school, but this is just my experience. It’s not to say anyone is doing anything wrong or that anyone is a bad person, but the comic industry is so small and the profits so marginal that the only way to survive is to network and the only way to do that is to tag along behind a bigger ship who is making waves. It’s not personal, it is survival on their part.
If you are like me, a person who doesn’t care what people think and doesn’t particularly care about having friends, your road is going to be much harder. How much is being honest worth to you? If you can smile, play the game and pretend to be supportive, you will make friends. Just what kind of friends do you want to make?
Below is the original post by Jim Zub, as he was posed this question by someone on Tumblr. My advice to anonymous is forget friends and make a great product. Once you do that, you’ll be breaking the ice and trust me, those little boats will get caught up in your wake.
I follow a bunch of comic creators on Twitter and I see all of you joking and socializing with each other all the time. It’s a big party and no one is invited except your friends. Is it any wonder why people think there’s nepotism in comics? How is someone supposed to get past that barrier?
I can see how it looks that way on Twitter, but in my experience it’s not like that. The social aspect of comics (and, frankly, almost any career you go into) is important, but most of these social ties came from the work. Creating comic stories and putting the work out there (in print or online) lead to meeting people who were also creating comics. The friendships started because we were creating stories and art, not because a friend got us a job.
I know exactly what it feels like when you’re starting out and don’t know anyone in a community you desperately want to be a part of. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. The best way to make that transition is to put in the time improving your craft (as a writer, artist, colorist, letterer, whatever position you want to get into) and to keep pushing to reach a professional level of quality.
Let me warn you, it can take a long time. In my case I started my own comic online in 2001, started doing some freelance illustration work in 2003 and had my first professional comic credit in 2005, but didn’t start regularly working in comics as a writer until 2009. That whole time was a bumpy ride trying to figure out what I was doing while I attended conventions and met dozens and dozens of people in the same boat as me. Now, 14 years after this weird and wonderful journey started, I know a lot of people in the industry but still can’t turn that ‘nepotism’ you’re talking about into an easy ride. It’s still about the work, socializing, and making the most of opportunities as they present themselves.
Here’s another important thing – The social media side of people you see on Twitter is incomplete. The person I am online is me, but it’s a focused version of me who seems a heck of a lot more sure of himself than the complex and slightly neurotic person I actually am in real life. The same goes for everyone else online. We’re all doing the dance at this party trying to figure out if people like us and if we’ve got something stuck in our teeth but no one is willing to tell us. Everyone’s a bit scared, a bit drunk, and a bit stupid.