Process

Foot in “Badmouth” Disease

A couple of days ago, I went to a local high school to talk to some students about breaking into comics. These kids were excited and positive and genuinely interested in learning how to be professional creators. I like doing that sort of thing because (as I’ve said before) when I was first trying to break in, I had no clue how to do so.

Yesterday, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the key points I made with aspiring creators on Twitter. The response was pretty positive, and I think a bunch of readers got a lot out of it. As an added bonus, Jim Zub introduced me to Storify, which is great, and he used it to create an overview of all the tweets that you can read here.

You’ll probably note one tweet, though, that might have you scratching your head:

twitter-post

Ah, that mis-type tastes a lot like my foot! To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you put on blinders when it comes to egregious behavior among creators. Bad behavior shouldn’t be ignored. If a creator does something awful… by all means say something. I’m not encouraging people to stick their head in the sand when faced with “comics folks gone bad.”

What I should have said was an aspiring creator shouldn’t badmouth another creator’s work, even if it’s terrible. And of particular importance is the difference between badmouthing and critiquing.

Let me give you some examples.

A couple of years ago, as I was walking into a panel room at NYCC, I noticed uber-talented artist Ryan Stegman talking to a HUGE guy in a Venom sweatshirt. Ryan saw me, smiled, and waved me over. “Cullen! Come here! This guy wants to tell you why he hates VENOM!” Thinking this guy was about to break me in half, I trundled over to take the tongue-lashing. Instead, the guy was polite and genuine and honest. He told me how he felt the supernatural elements I was adding cheapened the character and hurt the stories. He had thought these criticisms through, and he was a pro when it came to talking about his concerns. Whether I agreed with him or not, I enjoyed the conversation, and I thanked him for his feedback.

That was a critique.

Now compare to these comments (some are slightly paraphrased but still a pretty good representation of comments I’ve received).

“I wish someone would break your fingers so you couldn’t write.”

…or…

“You are the worst piece of shit that’s ever been shat!”

…or…

“God, you’re just terrible! I… I can’t even!”

…or…

“You don’t deserve Lobo!”

…or…

“You’re the worst writer since the last worst writer!”

Hear the distinction?

For some, the answer is no. They don’t see a difference between hate and genuine criticism. One of my favorite examples:

I received a tweet that read “How does it feel to have written the worst Deadpool story of all time?”

To which I replied, “You mean New York Times bestseller DEADPOOL KILLS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE?” (Okay, I might have been being a little snarky there, but it is what it is.)

The reply I got back, though, was, “What? You can’t take constructive criticism?”

Tell me, dear reader, where you see the constructive criticism in those quotes I just shared.

And, listen, I’m not even suggesting that haters shouldn’t hate. There’s no power in the ‘verse that could stop them anyhow. But haters aren’t critics. Their comments don’t help anyone (except maybe in helping them blow off steam and getting a chuckle when it’s particularly creative).

But here’s the difference!

If you are an aspiring creator, think carefully before you get your hate on. I get it. Trying to break in can be tough enough as it is. It can make you bitter. It can make you feel unappreciated. But if you want to be a comic book creator, suck it up. You have no business badmouthing (again, different from critiquing) other creators. It helps you not one bit, and it could hurt you.

Just this week, I got a message saying, essentially, “You are an idiot for what you did with Lobo. I can’t believe they would let you write this.” Not two hours later, I received a message from the same person, saying “Would you be interested in reading the comic I recently published?”

Two hours… two years… the answer is almost always gonna be no.

Let’s look at it through the lens of a hypothetical. Let’s say the guy in the example (we’ll call him Smitty) above was an artist. A couple of years from now, I get a call from an editor in regards to a book I’m working on. “Hey, Cullen! We have a possible artist for your book! He’s a relatively new guy, but have you heard of Smitty?”

I’m pretty sure you can guess how that plays out.

Now, if the big guy in the Venom shirt was an equally talented artist, and I received a similar call about him, my response might have been different, whether he liked my take on Venom or not.

And this isn’t about holding a grudge. It’s about me gauging who I might have a good working relationship with… who is a pro and who isn’t.

Writing comics professionally is fun and rewarding, but is a job. And as an aspiring creator, you should treat it as one. In my previous professional life, I worked for a company in the HR/employment industry. At that time, there was a statistic going around that 75% of potential employers look up a job candidates social media when considering them… and 75% of those employers eliminate candidates based on what they find! I dunno if I’m remembering it correctly, but it was a shocking figure, and I’d bet it’s grown now. So… if you were working in any other field, you might want to be careful what you say online. You certainly go on LinkedIn and start calling the president of the company you’re applying at an asshole. Well… you might… but not if you really want the job. Bottom line, if you badmouth a potential employer or even a co-worker (in any other field) your chances of being hired are considerably lessened. Why wouldn’t that be the same in comics?

In comics, networking is incredibly important! And the circles of people you network with are relatively small. And it’s competitive as Hell. If another creator tells me about someone who is being hateful, why would I ever want to bring that person into my social circle myself? If you’re an aspiring creator, why do something that has even a 5% chance of preventing you from reaching your goal?

Again, that’s badmouthing another writer’s work I’m talking about. Not critiquing.

I’m a busy guy. I don’t offer help to aspiring creators because I have to. I do it because I want to. I do it because I think there’s room in the industry for more talented folks. The advice I offer is just being drawn from my own personal experiences and insights. Everyone who breaks in has a different story to tell and probably has some different advice. Pick the kernels of truth that work for you and ignore the rest.

And let me stress again, I’m not asking anyone (established or otherwise) to ignore bad behavior and such. Say something. Promote positive counter-examples. Make a stand in whatever way makes you comfortable.

Be smart. Be professional. Do the work. Don’t be a dick.

That’s advice that I think works… in any industry.

And if you have no interest in creating comics, then sic ‘em! Badmouth away! Haters! Cut loose the hounds of Hell! Dance like there’s no tomorrow!

As my college geology professor Dr. Kovacs would say, “I love you all… and keep on trucking… my friends.”

Posted by cullenbunn on October 03, 2014  /   Posted in Comics, Process

Script: Helheim #1

helheim1It’s about time I shared another of my scripts, don’t ya think?

Presented here is the entire script for the first issue. I haven’t changed a thing since I first sent it off, so you’ll see all the errors and typos in their ugly glory. It might be interesting for you to compare this script to the script for The Sixth Gun, which I posted some time ago.

If you haven’t read Helheim, now’s the time! You can purchase issues on ComiXology right now. Read the first issue to compare the art to the script, then read all the rest because, y’know, they’re awesome.

Here’s the script!

Helheim 1 (.doc format)

I hope this is helpful! If you’re an artist interested in putting together sample pages based on this script, I’d love to see what you do! If you’re a writer, please let me know if this proved useful for you! For more about my process, check out the “plot to script” post i did a few weeks back!

 

Posted by cullenbunn on January 26, 2014  /   Posted in Comics, Process

This Is My (Writing) Boomstick!

1805676-drake_sinclair“The seventh gun calls forth madness upon the page.”

I like reading about the tools other writers use while they’re working at home or on-the-go. I’ve gleaned more than my fair share of ideas from this look inside the lives of other professionals. With that in mind, I present a look at the “weapons of war” I can’t live without.

My Primary Workspace

My home office. In the cold basement of my house. It needs a bit of an overhaul. Needs to be modernized quite a bit. It’s spacious, though, and has a nice, big window. It contains my library of books and graphic novels, more than a few old toys (I call it flea market chic), a small TV, a recliner, and a fireplace (which is really nice this time of year). I work at a decent-sized desk (facing away from the window and TV so I don’t get distracted) that gets waaaaaaay too cluttered the busier I get.

Read More

Posted by cullenbunn on January 22, 2014  /   Posted in Process

HELHEIM – The Original Proposal

No two proposals for comic book series are alike, and the original proposal for HELHEIM illustrates that quite well. I’m presenting the pitch here as it originally appeared.

If you’re familiar with the book, you’ll notice a few distinct differences between this concept document and the final product. Even the name of our hero was different at this stage of the game.

If you’re not familiar with the book, watch out! Spoilers abound.

Looking at this proposal, I think it’s actually a little too short. I think a little more detail might have served the idea a little better. But the end result–getting the publisher to ask for more information on the book–was achieved. So this one goes down as a success… even though I cringe a little when reading it now.

Here ya go! Read More

Posted by cullenbunn on October 18, 2013  /   Posted in Comics, Process

If I Knew Then…

It’s no secret. It took me forever to break into writing comics professionally. And once I did manage to start writing comics for a living, the learning curve was pretty slippery for me. All along the way, I made more than my fair share of mistakes. I gave into frustration, anger, and fear. I mismanaged my schedule. I overestimated how much time I would have in a day. I overate and gained weight. I freaked out and panicked.

Now… I needed to go through all of those obstacles to get where I am now. I had to learn through experience. And every day brings a new batch of mistakes that will… hopefully make me a better creator in the future. But I often wonder… What could I have done differently? If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice about working in comics for a living, what would it be?

I figured most other creators have wondered the same thing, so I asked a few writers and artists to think about advice they wish they had been given when they were just starting out. Here is some of that advice. Some of it is thought-provoking. Some of it is funny. Some of it may not apply to you. And some of it will sting a bit.

Buckle up. Read More

Posted by cullenbunn on May 17, 2013  /   Posted in Process, Uncategorized
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