Megacon 2017: A Trip of Errors Part 4
Goodbye For Now, But Not Before Some Goodies
After the LGBT panel, I had just enough time to make it to the Publishing Comics In The Digital Age panel hosted by Benny Powell and David Campiti of Red Giant Entertainment. Before going into digital comics, Benny Powell told the audience his story of breaking into comics. The old way was that you had to go to a convention like Megacon, of which there were very few. If you were an artist, you needed a portfolio of your work, and it needed actual sequential pieces. Pin ups wouldn’t (and still don’t) cut it. Powell met legendary comics professional Archie Goodwin in a Dallas convenion looked through Powell’s portfolio and asked about one story he did, what script was it? Originally, you would base your sequentials on a currently published script provided by the publisher. Powell decided to take the oddball approach of using an original story.
Goodwin, in the best backhanded comment ever, told him, “you ever thought of becoming a writer instead?”
“Well, have do you become a writer?” asked Powell.
“Oh, it is infinitely harder. Typically, you get an internship which is unpaid, go to New York which is very expensive, do it through college, so you’re taking out loans to work for others. That takes you on the path to becoming an assistant editor. You work there for many years and try to submit some stories. You might make it to editor and hire writers to be assistant editors because that’s how they get the gigs.”
“Oh. Wow, how do you get started.”
“No, kid. I’m offering you an internship at DC.”
Even knowing what he would go through, Powell signed up for the internship and was set on leaving for DC during the Summer semester. Unfortunately, he developed a medical condition. Turns out Powell was allergic to the state of Oklahoma. He called up Goodwin saying he needed to go the Spring semester instead, only DC didn’t have one.
“You like Marvel, kid?” asked Goodwin.
“Um, yeah,” said Powell.
“Give me five minutes.”
Being a big name at both DC and Marvel, Goodwin was able to call up Marvel and they had a top internship available during the Spring semester. Powell took it and was surprisingly able to write stories while interning to become an editor. David Campiti’s story was similar except that the professional he met was Julius Schwartz and ended up writing for Superman. The point of their anecdotes was to illustrate to us the audience that we are infinitely luckier. Thanks to the Internet, comics publishing has expanded beyond publishing houses like DC, Marvel, etc. Anyone can make a comic as long as they have the dedication and talent.
Powell and Campiti started giving advice, the first to figure out what kind of creator you are. Writer? Artist? Both? Campiti said that don’t worry if you’re a traditional artist. You can make traditional art than scan it to put online. There is also 3D art, photography comics, digital painting, etc. At the same time, you have to determine if you want to do comics on your own or collaborate. Even if you’re not the best, you will improve by doing. And with digital, there’s nothing you can’t do.
Powell went into greater detail with collaboration. There are two types: 1) Work-for-hire where you own the property 100% while the hired person does the work you want them to do by paying them money out of your pocket. 2) A collaboration where you share ownership with someone else, whatever the percentage ends up being should be fair. Never do a pseudo work-for-hire where it’s like “if we make money, I’ll pay you.” If you have a pet project you don’t want to give up, put it aside and try a new project first. Make a second comi you don’t mind sharing as much. Never have just one thing. If you’re a writer, you should be bubbling with ideas.
Campiti added that, online, your stories can be about anything. There’s no big publisher editor deciding your story is not trendy enough for the market. Campiti read a wonderful webcomic about a teenage girl that got braces and her life went to hell in a handbasket because of it.
Gee, that sounds familiar.
Now, the question was where do you find someone to collaborate with? There are many websites for these things, but the two Powell suggested are Deviantart and Digital Webbing. Deviantart is well known as a site for artists of all mediums to post their work for free. I know that collaborations can happen this way because Tom King, in a previous article, told a panel about how he found Barnaby Bagenda, his artist on The Omega Men, via the site. Digital Webbing is an old school forum-based talent agency for comic creators. One time Powell posted a work-for-hire position, and he got back 56 replies from artists. He went with a team from China and produced over 25 issues of a series.
Campiti advised the writers in the room, including me, to be ready to work with artists that learn on the job. That means bracing yourself for mistakes they cannot fix. Your finished project might not be the best out there, another good reason to put those pet projects in the drawer for later. Besides, you will be making mistakes as writer. That’s okay though because you will learn, lessons on what to do and what not will be drilled into your head. The goal is making the comic.
On the subject of script writing, Campiti said there is no set format. On his website, Glass House Graphics, there is a section with 9 samples of plot and script format, plus action sequences. All of them are diverse, but the point is to communicate clearly with the artist. Do not show off on panel description, particularly details about a scene that will not be visible. No “the night is dark with the air of death and blood.” Just “the night is dark” will do fine.
Powell went on to talking about host sites for your webcomic. You can do your own, programs like Squarespace are available. But for beginners it is easier to go to a publisher house. There is Comics Genesis, Comics Spider, etc. Google “free webcomic publishing.” You can eventually move into your website once you get a hang of it. While publishing, pick a steady, consistent frequency to upload that works for you. Once, twice a week is good. Don’t go overboard or too slow. Working ahead of schedule also helps.
You should wait until you have at least 20-30 pages ready to go for exercise before sending it out in the world. That way you have enough content to publish. Then go to forums and start showing it off. You will find an audience. While doing that, Powell talked about using ad networks to help further expand your outreach. He suggested Project Wonderful which is an ad network program that only charges a few cents a day. You can even collect ad revenue, just keep in mind it won’t be much.
Another important part of webcomics is networking. Advertisement, posting on forums, social media are all important. Powell also suggested that inviting artists to do guest comics is a great networking tool and vice versa. Yes, it will probably be for free or work-for-hire, but it can draw a new audience.
Finally, the most important of all this: Money!
Powell said having an audience is great, it’s what drives in the money. There is monetizing through ads, but that only goes so far. Print collections of your webcomic can bring a ton of revenue. Kickstarter is a great way to fund such a project and you can pre-sale online. There are also publishers like Red Giant where webcomic creators come to them for printed versions. Don’t do it though until you have an established amount of content and an audience that will be willing to buy. You can also go to places like Comixology and Top Folio for digital revenue. Powell concluded by suggesting everyone check out Red Giant’s new imprint, Absolute Comics Group which is a way of finding and giving back to new creators with money.
The Q&A segment began afterwards. The first question was what webcomic host sites would Powell and Campiti recommend? They suggested Keemspot because they’re helpful bringing in a new audience. They send announcements to their registered readers recommending new webcomics to read. On the question of if it’s a good idea to use multiple sites to host your webcomic, they said to stick to one so it will be easier for an audience to find you. Also, you don’t have to wait a certain amount of days to wait to start putting up ads. Start on day one. As far as the idea print comics are declining, Powell said it’s more likely collected volumes will become more popular than single issues. We’re already seeing that right now. Campiti pointed out it will also depend on changing in distribution. The monopoly of Diamond Distribution on the direct market needs to end because it reduces the medium to a niche market. It used to be you could get comics in a lot of different places, but now it’s mostly comic shops you have to go to. Also, price needs to be reduced because $4 for floppies is too much.
I learned a lot from this panel. It’ll be good information to use when I venture into making my own comics online. Afterwards, I collected more autographs (I learned nothing) and checked out more small press comics. I also took pictures of cosplayers, two of my favorite being Mary Poppins Youndu
and myself with Death.
I didn’t get to Red Giants booth, but I’ll be sure to check them out online. I left the con an hour or so later and had dinner with my friends. We all had a busy, exhausting day, but were bummed the con would be over tomorrow.
Sunday, May 28th, last day of Megacon. There isn’t much to tell about this day. It was dedicated mostly to collecting last minute goodies and saying farewell to friends. I stopped by the booth for Famous Faces & Funnies, my favorite comic book store from Melbourne, Florida. The owner, Rick Shea, is a good friend of mine. We caught up and I purchased a few graphic novels. I found out from him that John McCrea was at the con. He is the artist of titles like Hitman and Section 8 with my favorite writer Garth Ennis. I quickly snatched the first trade to Hitman and got McCrea to sign it. We didn’t get to talk much, but he was a pleasant man. Afterwards, I headed up to the entrance of the con and waited for my friends. Jeff and Sean showed up a few minutes later. Matt was late, but only because he picked up a Blu Ray copy of Godzilla: Resurgence.
We checked out of the hotel, packed up, and travelled back to Jacksonville–with a segue to Boston Market. Megacon 2017 was an interesting trip despite all the mistakes I made. If anything, it’s just part of learning to be a better writer and comic journalist. I want to thank Matt Oldham, Sean Mckenzie, and Jeff Gwinnup for coming with me. I want to thank rising comic stars like Sorah Suhng and Tee Franklin for their friendliness and insight. Thanks to all the comic professionals for autographs and fun panels. Thank you to Megacon and the Orange County Convention for giving me a press pass and setting up this wonderful event. I don’t know if I’ll go back as a reporter next year, but this will continue to be the most excited time of the year for me.