As many of you probably know, I also write about comic books, video games, movies, and a bunch of other nerdy stuff at various news websites. Much to the likely chagrin of the people on my social networks, I write about those things a lot. I have published hundreds of articles and reviews. Obviously I love those topics, and continue to write about them because I really care about the creators, medium, and industry. But some days I honestly wonder why I continue to write about such things?
Unfortunately, most people don’t really read comics, and the majority of people who actually do read them don’t read most of the comic titles I cover. I totally understand. Different people are into different things. I accept that. Even though everyone will flock to theaters en masse to watch comic movies that make hundreds of millions of dollars, the actual comic book industry still struggles. The highest-selling titles of today would have been cancelled and considered failures in times past. Even though comics are part of the mainstream, there still seems to be some social stigma that hangs over them. Even with many colleges offering classes which explore the medium and the rich history of comics, most people don’t take “funny books” very seriously.
So not only do I expend a massive amount of time writing and reporting about a topic most people don’t really care about, I choose to not cover some of the most popular titles and companies that average comic fans do read. I know. What in the hell could I possibly be thinking? I could probably write articles about the sexual kinks of furries and have a larger pool of potential readers. No one forces me to write about the things I do. It is entirely my choice. And there are plenty of other people who write almost exclusively about those other companies and titles. But some days I wonder why I even bother. I worry that by continuing down this path I will eventually be pigeonholed and not taken seriously as a writer.
I have talked to a few people who think writing about comics must be a dream job. It does have some very cool perks. I get to read free issues of digital comics (often weeks or months before they are available in stores). Of course, any title that I review or use art from, I also go purchase with my own money to help support the creators. I get to attend most conventions for free as part of the press. However, much of the joy of attending these events is sucked out when it’s your job to run around like a maniac in a hopeless attempt to cover everything as a journalist. Writing about comics has allowed me to meet some of my very favorite artists and writers, and in a few cases forge friendships with them. The encouragement from many of these creators has been instrumental in me pursing my own writing dreams. When something I have written is shared by these folks, published in a comic, or used as a pull quote on a cover—it makes it all worthwhile. If someone goes out and tries a new title after reading one of my reviews, that’s even better.
But so much effort goes into making these little victories possible. Writing about comics is my labor of love. You might be surprised to learn that I don’t really make money from this endeavor. After working a regular job to actually have a place to live (and other such luxuries of which I have grown accustomed to, like electricity and food), I end up putting in at least an additional 40 hours a week into this labor of love. I work really hard on the things I post. Most of my articles and reviews represent, on average, a good four hours of work on my part (sometimes more, sometimes less). I end up reading anything I review multiple times. I reread and revise my drafts multiple times, meticulously hunting for errors or typos that could embarrass me after something is published on the internet for the world to see. I spend hours fact-checking, researching, and looking for the latest news. I scan and edit most of my own sample images, looking for just the right panels of art to showcase a title or illustrate a point in my text. And that’s just my own work. I’m also work as an editor, helping ensure that my fellow writers are putting out their best work too, without having to wait a ridiculously long time for an someone to look over their articles. It’s always nice when I spend an hour editing someone else’s work, only to find that they went in after the fact and changed it back or accidentally saved over the edit. Editing has to be one of the most thankless jobs in the world of creation.
Even after all the writing and editing is done, the challenges an independent website faces are just beginning. We don’t have massive advertising budgets. Many of the larger publishers continually send us press releases with little to no new information, basically exploiting us for free advertising, only to turn around and send their advertising or big exclusives to places like USA Today. I can understand trying to get coverage at the places you think the most people will see it, but at times it can be frustrating. If you have ever wondered why I don’t personally cover some companies, believe me, I have my reasons (and many of them stem from how they treat some of their own creators). Thankfully, nearly all of the other publishers are awesome to work with. From the number of sites on the internet that also cover comics, one would think it must be the most popular medium in the world. This makes it so we must, not only try to maintain high standards, but also be quick and timely while doing so. I don’t come home on new comic day, copy and paste (or transparently rewrite) a solicitation synopsis (or just spoil the entire plot), rate something the most brilliant thing ever, then quickly share it on social networks in the hope of getting an early share by a creator or publisher eagerly awaiting to see the critical response to their new book. Somehow this little game continues to work for the people who play it, but that’s not what I do. Sometimes we are told not to publish stories or reviews until a set date, then watch in confusion as other places go ahead and publish these stories anyway. Just getting stories to our own fans can be a challenge, with the recent changes to Facebook making it so even our own followers quite likely won’t see our posts in their feeds. It’s a constant and exhausting battle.
I don’t tell you these things to gain your sympathy, but hopefully this gives you some insight into something that is important to me. This is the path that I have chosen to take and I am proud of the work I do–but some days I think I must be fucking crazy to keep it up. That in no way means I am ready to stop, even on the frustrating days. In the end, we can’t help but to follow our passions. One of mine happens to be comics. Thank you for understanding.