My Advice To Indie Comics Creators In 2020

by Tito W. James
Art by Amin Fara

As we enter a new decade, the future of the comics landscape remains uncertain. I’ve previously blogged about my experience Kickstarting my first graphic anthology and my advice to aspiring comic creators. Now I feel it’s appropriate to give an updated blog based on my new experiences and the current terrain.

Right now it’s anyone’s guess as to what’s the best way to be a comic creator. So here’s the advice I would give to someone in their late teens or early twenties about being an indie comic creator.

Research The Industry

Creating comics even at a small scale is a lot of work. Save yourself some trouble and learn as much as you can about this industry. The creators who do their homework and hone their craft will always go further than the creators who get by on talent.

Here are some resources I would recommend:

Storytelling Masterclass with Neil Gaiman. A great affordable resource for young writers by an author who’s been successful in comics, prose, and TV.

Jim Zub (Avengers, Samurai Jack, Skullkickers) has written an extensive tutorial on how to break into comics.

Graphic Novel TK is a podcast series dedicated to informing graphic novelists about the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Comic book publishers and traditional prose book publishers are merging and we may see a rise in original graphic novels in the coming decade.

Council for Creators is an affordable and accessible form of legal council and representation for those who work in the creative fields.

Print Ninja is a printing company that can deliver printed comics and graphic novels that are professional quality.

The Definitive List of Comic Publisher Submission Guidelines for 2019.

The list of the most ordered comics of the last decade. Whether you want to be the next pop-culture sensation or you’d rather reject anything “mainstream” it’s important to know your competition.

Read Widely And Often

If you’re only reading one genre or from one publisher, you’re not reading widely enough. Read superhero comics, indie comics, graphic novels, manga, webcomics, European comics, Underground Comix, and everything in between. Once you’ve read enough you’ll know what your tastes are and more importantly what the industry needs. Try to find the crossover between what comics you’re good at and what’s missing in comics.

There’s no shortage of superhero, science fiction, fantasy, crime, and horror comics; in part because there’s no shortage of readers. However if indie comics want to grow in the next decade we cannot exclusively cater to nerdy readers. Here’s a list of genres that are under-explored in North American Indie comics:

  • Non-fiction
  • Historical fiction
  • Romance
  • Slice of Life
  • Comedy
  • Mystery
  • Magical Realism
  • Sports
  • Cooking
  • Crafting

Create Comics That Will Create Lifelong Readers

The thing that’s missing from many creator-owned comics are iconic characters that are built to last and bring in new comic readers. We need more comics like Hellboy, TMNT, Umbrella Academy, and Scott Pilgrim, not in visual style but in spirit–the kind of characters that students will sketch in their notebooks and cosplay at Comic Conventions.

I encourage all young aspiring comic creators to invent characters, worlds, and stories that are reflective of their own lives, dreams, and fears. We don’t need more reboots of 80 year old characters and we don’t need more nostalgic geek-culture mashups. We need a new decade of creator-owned comics with fresh ideas, visuals, and voices. It’s my hope to see a new generation that grows up reading and loving creator-owned comics and characters.

Tito W. James

Tito W. James is a journalist writing for Comicon.com with a focus is on highlighting high quality independent content. His comics draw heavy influence from hand drawn animation and incorporate action and comedy into various genres.

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