One of the things I’ve missed most with the lack of comic conventions in the wake of COVID-19 is the opportunity to visit the host cities. Return to a convention enough times, and some places become traditional haunts over the years. Sure, there are those locations tied directly to the con—the host hotel or convention center, the benefit drink-and-draw, the afterparty—but the real gems are the establishments you discover around town. Heroes Convention has become an annual event for me as a vendor or attendee, and some Charlotte, NC businesses have become regular go-tos. The crêperie for breakfast, the ramen joint for dinner, the local comic shop for good measure. One spot that’s become a regular attraction is the “barcade”—that’s bar/arcade—Abari Game Bar.
As news of comic convention cancellations continues to come in, I’ve been feeling the pangs of convention withdrawal, both as an attendee and a vendor. I’ve also spent the time staying indoors to revisit my comic convention and think back about how I first discovered comics.
This week, working on the editorial cartoon for Charleston City Paper left me in my mind in the gutter. Or, more accurately, on the gutter—as in that magical break between panels in sequential art. Depending on the panels bookending the gutter, that break can represent a quick millisecond of time, or a huge context switch as the reader’s mind does the heavy lifting to fill in the gap between the two images. My weekly cartoon is usually a multi-panel comic strip, so I’m no stranger to the gutter. But this week served as a nice reminder of the impact the gutter can have.
A Week In the Life (and the Lessons Learned)
As I juggled an assortment of deadlines and “comicking” over the past week, I realized the diversity of what I worked on afforded some nice compare-and-contrast and lessons learned.
For an uncomfortably too-close-to-home satire of the comic book industry, look no further than Evan Dorkin’s Eltingville Club. A darkly comic—and scathing—indictment on nerd culture, Dorkin used the series to comment on the worst the fandom has to offer, including the oppressive and misogynistic way it can either dismiss or objectify women in the industry. This week, the comic news sites sadly proved Dorkin’s commentary right, as multiple victims of sexual abuse and harassment came forward with their #metoo stories from the trenches of the industry.
The comic book industry often goes through moments of doom-and-gloom, like when a tentpole Big Two publisher breaks up with the primary distributor. However, there are times when I’m reminded that cartoonists in general—regardless of whether their comics be books, strips, or editorial—often live in a state of endangered species.
A thread recently popped up online, asking which was more important in comics—the writer, or the artist. The root of the thread may have been the trade dress for DC Comics’ “DC Ink” imprint of graphic novels written by young adult authors like Meg Cabot, Melissa de la Cruz, and Kami Garcia. Capitalizing on the success and following of these writers, the covers obviously market to their audience, promoting the author credit in a huge font across the top while relegating the artist to an easily overlooked “Illustrated by” footnote in a lower corner.
So, just to get this out of the way, a bit of a trigger warning: This post contains some political opinion. Of course, I’m a political cartoonist, so that shouldn’t come as a big surprise. However, if you’re not interested in a political conversation, it’s completely understood, and you’re free to peruse some of the other great material here on ShoutFyre.
This week has been hectic, with multiple projects running simultaneously and new ones popping up. As I look at the work accomplished (and what’s still left to do), it seems a good opportunity to apply the recent lessons learned toward one more project—this blog post. Here are my tips and tricks to maintain your sanity as you meet your competing deadlines, things I’ve reminded myself as I balanced this week’s robust workload.
Know Your Audience: The Importance of Creating for Yourself
In this social media landscape of Likes and Follows, it’s easy to get wrapped up in trying to figure out what posts will get the most love. Social media success can be as much due to the whims of lucky timing as it is the science of SEO, algorithms, and your hashtag game. Yes, there are those who somehow managed to capture lightning in a bottle to—at least temporarily—rise to internet fame or a sizable online following.