Quote of the day: Robert Kirkman on career planning

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robert kirkman Quote of the day: Robert Kirkman on career planning

“As more people are able to make a living doing it, I think we’re moving into an atmosphere were creators are able to define their careers more than creators in the past have been able to,” he observes. “Relying on Marvel and DC is no longer becoming a viable option, because the contracts aren’t viable and the rates aren’t set. They make the rules. A lot of people have fooled themselves into thinking that’s stability but are now realizing that it’s the exact opposite. The real stability is controlling your own career and being in a position to hire yourself, generating ideas that are enough to make you a sustainable income, and also controlling those ideas and your own destiny. That’s the new stability and that’s something people are realizing. I’m very optimistic that it’ll be something that is here to stay.”


Via a Graphic NYC profile by Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner.

Comments

  1. lol april fools

  2. This is worth sharing. This advice can be applied to any aspect of life, right now.

  3. MBunge says:

    I’m all for people doing their own thing, but Kirkman speaks like a guy who’s oblivious to the reality that a bunch of people are trying to do exactly what he’s talking about and can’t pay their rent doing so.

    Mike

  4. With no big comics companies except one, which is very strict on hiring new authors, in Italy we’ve been living the scene depicted by Kirkman for the last 30 years. The result is that the comics medium, as a whole, is dead in my country. That’s a very peculiar kind of stability, but stability nonetheless.

  5. If this isn’t an April Fools bit, that man is in more of a bubble than I thought.

  6. He’s not saying everyone can make a living without Marvel and DC, just that more people are able to compared with previous years. Jesus, the guy makes a statement inspiring creators to not just consider the Big Two as the endgame and everyone gets defensive. Let’s just settle, eh? That’s how things move forward from a pathetic business model.

  7. Synsidar says:

    Kirkman:

    The real stability is controlling your own career and being in a position to hire yourself, generating ideas that are enough to make you a sustainable income, and also controlling those ideas and your own destiny.

    At what point can a cartoonist justifiably call creating comics a career? When it provides the majority of his yearly income, or a certain percentage of it? Or when he’s certain he’s on track to making cartooning his primary source of income? People who can refuse assignments or choose between offers are in enviable positions.

    SRS

  8. I don’t really understand why people are calling bull on this. You don’t think that Kirkman ever struggled in his life, to be where he is today? He’s the living example of what he’s talking about. Just because not everyone makes it, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be real. Do you not believe it can be real, because there are those of us who haven’t “made it” yet? Really? Maybe your IP isn’t good enough yet and needs more work. I’m sure RK has been there. Maybe, there’s not enough of it, or not enough people have heard of it yet. Maybe, it’s not the right time for it, but it will be in a few years. Maybe, it just plain sucks and you should reexamine why you thought anyone would every want to buy it. I’m sure RK has been through all of these things. If you can’t face these realities then your just making excuses. However, if you can and you’re willing to do your trials by fire, and you have faith and you don’t give up, then maybe, just maybe, you have what it takes to make it. But please, don’t sneer at the advice of those who have done what you haven’t, yet. It’s rude, disrespectful, and it’s wrong. You will only end up being the nameless naysayer that successful people talk about, once they have made it. Look outside the box of negativity and be free. My friendly (if not stern) advice.

  9. What Kirkman is saying about Marvel and DC has always been correct as a whole lot of freelancers have found out the hard way. Herb Trimpe in 1996 and Jerry Ordway being public examples. What is different from previous years is the internet opening up more revenue streams. But truth be told a monthly comic book as a revenue stream is no longer viable though, except for hopefully pays for itself advertising for the trade.

    Still, I suspect a whole lot of freelancers (particularly those approaching 50) wish for the stability of Stan Sakai, Jeff Smith, Terry Moore, Phil Foglio, Sergio Aragonés among others.

  10. For every single comic book professional, regardless of exact trade or dilection, that is under any sort of regular or semi-regular contract there are easily a thousand who are hungry and desperate.

    The number of comic book professionals even employed by Marvel and DC, I’d bet the farm more than half of them still have to seek out side work of an entirely non-creative variety.

    The writers and artists who earn a living entirely from their comics work is microscopic compared to all of the writers and artists who want in to the business. Even the popular “wave of the future” kickstarter admits that less than 40% of their comic book-based campaigns meet their goals, and I absolutely believe that even those numbers are trumped up.

    Kirkman is dead wrong- no creator is making the rules, they all flock from new idea to new idea, from the old Zuda competitions to crowd-funding to whatever the next pipedream might be. Make a webcomic, build an audience and sell the trade, works out dandy for less than 1% of all the webcomics out there.

    Making comics is a HOBBY. For supposed professionals like Kirkman to give any indication otherwise is irresponsible. Image alone turns down far far far more comickers than they publish.

  11. *Making comics is a HOBBY. For supposed professionals like Kirkman to give any indication otherwise is irresponsible. Image alone turns down far far far more comickers than they publish.*
    Making comics have been my primary source of income for 23 years. Richard. Making comics is only a hobby if you allow it to be. This from a guy who was told by people, who thought like you do, that it can’t be done and i wasn’t going to be able to do it.
    Comics are just like any other creative medium, it requires sacrifices early on and dedication to your craft to be successful. Kirkman isn’t wrong is his over all opinion, evenif you dislike the person saying it.

  12. @Jamal I love you and your work (Audio Molly F-Yea!), but you yourself just said comics were your PRIMARY source of income, not the only.

    Real success stories in comics are the minority. I sincerely believe genuine passion is the driving force for all great things in this world, but just as easily genuine passion has doomed more ships before they ever set sail. I co-edited a comic that surpassed its kickstarter goal, but I know my case was among the minority. You and I both know a guy who has plenty of Marvel and DC credits who still had to work at McDonalds for awhile to fight off homelessness.

    I’m not saying creative thinkers should not try, but they need to have a more realistic look at their chances if they can know to be ready for the worst that sacrifice demands. If what Kirkman said is so truthful, then why isn’t every single comic creator doing it?

  13. johnrobiethecat says:

    Cool discussion… I wish this kind of thing appeared more in the main articles besides “How about that Walking Dead, killing it again” or the latest kernel of wisdom from someone up high… Work hard and you’ll be like me kids… The schitck the Image gang puts out to the gullible really deflects the kind of conversations people should be having about the comics business. They suck as much as any other publisher. They just put an ad out that the creator pays for and maybe the first print run is on the creator too as I understand it so Image can get things started. Thats not really going to bat or taking much of a risk to find talent. Which is why they seem to prefer established creators in the Marvel/DC ranks, not the aspiring joes the zombie guy cheers on.

  14. johnrobiethecat says:

    Oh wait, just reread…the Zombie guy is not even talking to aspiring joes, no mention of that ilk. It’s directly to DC & Marvel’s top talent. Go Image!!!

  15. The key phrase here is, ” generating ideas that are enough to make you a sustainable income”. The people who are complaining that they aren’t making money haven’t come up with ideas that people want to buy! I was discussing this morning with my girlfriend what subject I’ll choose for my next project. Should I do something that will sell, or should I do something that gets good reviews and awards but no sales? If you want to make money, write about the kinds of things people want, like zombies and superheroes. Write a story which is properly constructed, entertaining, and character-driven. Use artists who draw in a style currently popular. There is nothing wrong with artistic self-expression, but don’t expect to get rich. You ant to get rich, give the fans what they want the way they want it.

  16. Gosh, calm down folks! It’s a tough business. I think we can all agree on that, no matter where you are on the pay scale. And If anybody needs a writer please contact me, I could use a paycheck and a boost in my confidence! :)

  17. Da-truth-hurtz says:

    fortune favors the bold….and talented

  18. @Da-truth-hurtz
    By that logic every small press creator is as bold and talented as a can of spam, and folks like Donald Trump put the stars in the sky.

  19. Been in the industry working quietly behind the scenes for over 25 years am a Kubert School Stan Winston and Ron Shelton Trained CREATIVE I have worked for Disney Marvel Warner Fox and a whole heap more, Comics Movies Animation Products the Lot as Writer Artist Creator Brand owner contract and Freelance, the Key is to be Mercurial to be adaptable and throw your passion into something that you believe in, the thing is You are BOTH RIGHT and BOTH WRONG. Robert has had the Fortune of his IP getting picked up and thats 50% Hard work and 50% sheer Luck … there are NO certainties in the creative industry ( just take a look at my buddies over at Rhythm & Hues to see that ) HOWEVER where a person has the tenacity and sometimes sheer stubbornness to move things forward with preparation and planning they will have a better chance of succeeding the quote here should be …. ” Victory Loves Preparation ”
    for my own reasons Robert is not one of my Favorite People but whatever I may think about Him personally in this Comment of his He did not say that Creativity would be easy .. and as one poster said Robert has had his fair share of opening the fridge to find the mystery meat has taken dominion … But the inspiring thing about his message is that he is saying something that I say in my Lectures which is that for those brave few souls that do push hard enough and take the time to do the essential groundwork along with the dreaming that there are now more opportunities and more possible outlets to create something and steer the ship ourselves… its not wrong to want to inspire … but the reality should also be shown .. Nuff Said

  20. Alexandra says:

    “Making comics is a HOBBY. For supposed professionals like Kirkman to give any indication otherwise is irresponsible. Image alone turns down far far far more comickers than they publish.”

    Yes!

    It’s liek the way playing sports is a HOBBY. Like, some basketball players do make a career of it and still there isn’t enough room in all the pro basketball teams in the world for all the kids growing up with hoop dreams to play pro..

    The geek drawing comics in high school and the jock playing sports in high school have a lot more in common than they may think…

  21. MBunge says:

    “Making comics is a HOBBY.”

    Only in the same sense that writing is a hobby, acting is a hobby or being a musician is a hobby.

    My only issue with Kirkman is that he’s setting up this dynamic where anyone who does go to work for the Big 2 or another publisher is somehow portrayed as beneath the indy creator out there toiling away at his “hobby”. And he’s doing that as a guy who’s now benefiting from an industry (TV) that’s even more dependent on work-for-hire contracts than comics and has a history of creative exploitation and abuse that’s second to none.

    Mike

  22. @Jamal I love you and your work (Audio Molly F-Yea!), but you yourself just said comics were your PRIMARY source of income, not the only.

    Okay, let me correct myself.
    in 23 years I’ve basically made a living drawing comic books. I’ve done maybe five things that weren’t comic related in the last decade. I can count those jobs on one hand.
    My point still stands.
    *I’m not saying creative thinkers should not try, but they need to have a more realistic look at their chances if they can know to be ready for the worst that sacrifice demands. If what Kirkman said is so truthful, then why isn’t every single comic creator doing it?*
    Fear, apathy, indifference? I don’t know. There’s a quote from Comedian Jim Norton: “Life is not a dress rehearsal”. Why did it work for me? Because I treated my career in comics as if there wasn’t a plan B. I made a conscious decision to leave my marketing job and pursue a comics career. I could have gone back to advertising or publicity work. I took a chance.
    Does it mean it works out for everyone.. nothing works that way. But if you spend your time telling people “They can’t” eventually they forget to look for the signs that say, “you can” and end up saying “I shouldn’t and I won’t’.

  23. MBunge says:

    “Why did it work for me?”

    You left out “luck”.

    And just who in the Sam Hill is telling anyone “they can’t” do whatever indy or self-published comics they want? Has anyone, other than an editor for DC or Marvel, ever tried to discourage a comic creator from doing their own thing? This whole thing is turning into an exact copy of the whole discussion over trades and graphic novels where those formats couldn’t be championed without simultaneously denigrating the periodical and anyone who suggested that trades and OGNs might not solve every problem facing comics got nothing but crap for it.

    Mike

  24. Da-truth-hurtz says:

    @ richard

    sorry, I will criticize him for his success instead.

  25. Alexandra says:

    “Only in the same sense that writing is a hobby, acting is a hobby or being a musician is a hobby.”

    True!

    Think about it: is there enough demand for leisure reading, live-action performances, and music (not even counting pirated digital copies!) for a full-time job’s worth of writing, acting, and/or music per person who enjoys writing, acting, and/or playing music?

    Think about *how much* entertainment we’d all have to buy to support *that many* full-time entertainers! That “we” in “we’d all” includes the entertainers themselves. Between working to afford our own food, rent/mortgage, etc. and working to afford to buy all that art to keep all those artists employed, how much time would we have left to actually read and watch all their comics, books, TV, movies, etc. that we’d buy?

  26. @Jamal
    Your Norton quote reminds me of a line from the great Mike Grell which may be even more applicable for comickers:

    “Life is drawing without an eraser.”

    I totally feel the sentiment.

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