When I interviewed my friend Kerry Callen for Comics Career, he said something important. Kerry once worked in the licensing division of Hallmark Cards illustrating cards of Snoopy, Garfield, and other characters. Here’s what Kerry said:
I’ve had the chance to meet Charles Schulz, Jim Davis, and people like that. Part of what makes it great is seeing that they are just real people—very talented people—but still just real people doing that stuff.
As readers, we can sometimes think of comics creators as almost fictional constructs — a brand name associated with a particular style of art or storytelling. They can seem as mythical as the residents of Asgard. The reality is that professional creators are just everyday people with the same challenges and triumphs as the folks in your neighborhood. (They might even actually be some of the folks in your neighborhood.)
When I was 21 years old, I nabbed a staff position at a company owned by a famous comic book creator. The job involved moving across the country and living in an apartment above the company office. I worked closely with this creator. It was a crash course in learning that your creative heroes aren’t shrouded in a majestic aura of perfection. They are people with faults and foibles—sometimes outsized faults and foibles.
A few years later, I got my first gig as a professional comic book writer. One of my biggest realizations was that writing professionally felt exactly the same as writing the fan comics that I’d been creating before. I was excited to get the opportunity, but there was no spiritual transformation into one of those divine beings called “Comics Pros.” There was no aura, no tingling.
Over time, I’ve developed business and personal relationships with many creators, editors, and publishers. These folks come in all varieties: nice, troubled, erratic, polite, infuriating, inspirational, professional, and more. There’s one thing they’ve all had in common: they are everyday, mortal human beings just like you and me.
In other words, you’ve already met the first requirement to become a professional comics creator. You’re a messed-up, mixed-up, merely mortal human being.