“If It All Falls Down”
From the Private Forum:
Don’t know if anyone’s posted this yet, but Jeph has written a decent article on starting a webcomic called SO YOU WANT TO START A WEBCOMIC. It’s here
Along with the usual tips we’ve come to be acquainted with, he says something very interesting:
“Success in webcomics is a combination of timing, skill, appeal, and luck. Luck is probably the most important of the four. I’m certainly well-aware of how stupendously, profoundly lucky I have been.”
This got me thinking: has all the success we’ve seen in webcomics really been a fluke? We know that 99% of the webcomics out there aren’t “successful” by PvP standards (ie, supporting yourself by doing this). And we know that many of the “big” guys got started at just the right time (late 90’s), with conditions that cannot be reproduced.
We were at a panel discussion — it may have been in San Deigo — one year and the question was asked: When should I give up?
The guy had been working on his webcomic for a number of months (perhaps over a year or so).*
My philosophy on this remains unchanged. And it’s based on my “worst-case scenario” thinking I’ve shared here before — in that I ask myself if I can live with the worst-case scenario. If I can, it’s a justifiable risk for me.
What’s the worst-case scenario if your webcomic never pans out? What if webcomics are a flash-in-the-pan, and all of the major success has already been snapped up by the others who arrived on the scene earlier than you?
The answer for me is that I will have had several years of doing what I love to do best — creating comics for an appreciative audience. See, I couldn’t have reached my audience before Webcomics. And all I’ve ever wanted was to be a professional cartoonist. Webcomics has made all that possible.
What if it comes crashing down tomorrow?
What — as that hard-drinking Calypso poet, Jimmy Buffett, once lamented — “If it All Falls Down“? (Read the lyrics… you’ll see what all us creative types struggle with this.)
I will have had several years of being able to realize a childhood dream.
How many people get that in their lives?
Damned few, pal.
What if it never turns into a career?
You take those skills you learned — and the name that you’ve hopefully made for yourself doing a comic that was read widely and appreciated by a number of people — and you move on to the Next Thing.
What Next Thing?
Comics have been around for over a hundred years. In that time, the basic format has changed very little from those early “Mutt and Jeff” strips.
That makes me confident that strips have a life that will go on for a decent stretch further. I’ve written before why I think comic strips in particular have a power that makes them viable well beyond my lifetime.
But even if I’m wrong about that — in that particular worst-case scenario — there will always be the basic human need to tell stories. And there will always be those among us who do that with a combination of words and images.
There will always be cartoonists.
You may never quit your day job. You may never make this a career.
And, realistically, if that’s what you’re in it for, you’re setting yourself up for a disappointment.
But if you’re in this thing because you NEED to… because there is no other way of self-expression that satisfies your itch.
Then your worst-case scenario is the same as mine. You’ll have years of satisfying creation behind you… maybe a few books to show your kids… maybe a few fans who remember you fondly…
And that ain’t so bad.
* After we started doing the podcast and the book, I’ve experienced something I’ve come to name “The Nine Month Itch”: After nine months, many, many people expect to have become a Major Internet Sensation — and are despondent if they’re not. This guy may very well have made it past the nine-month mark, though.