The path from aspiring comic creator to actual comic creator is a mysterious path, but perhaps the even more fraught path is from actual comic creator to successful comic creator.
Attorney/business consultant Gamal Hennessy, who specializes in matters relating to comic books, has come forward with a comprehensive guide to the business of comic books called The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing.
Taking pre-orders now on Kickstarter (opens in new tab) for a planned October 2020 debut, Hennessy's book will come with a foreword from long-time industry veteran Joseph Illidge, who has written and edited for DC, Milestone, Lion Forge, Valiant, and now Heavy Metal (as its executive editor).
In advance of the book's October 2020 debut, Hennessy has shared Illidge's full foreword, which acts as a primer for what to expect in the finished book.
Joseph Illidge's foreword to The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing(opens in new tab)
In 1988, during my first year as a student at New York City's School of Visual Arts, a classmate of mine lost the rights to his original artwork to a magazine.
He was one of the most talented artists I had ever met during those formative years, and every time I saw him, whether it was in class or outside one of the college buildings, I noticed his demeanor, his body language, his manner of communicating with me and others, and it was always pleasant. The kind of pleasant that comes from knowing your worth, and the innate confidence that you have a place in the world.
The day he stood up in front of the class and told the story about losing the rights to his precious art because he did not thoroughly read the contract before signing it, I saw another side of my classmate and friend. He was embarrassed, deflated, and defeated. That was my first understanding of the need for the artist to wear the hat of the businessperson.
Five years later, I began my career in the comic book industry, and started to earn a living founded in dreams.
Dreams made manifest in the form of characters and stories centered around hero fiction. Writers and artists from various walks of life and personal struggles, overcoming the seemingly insurmountable odds of becoming published creators by some of the most influential comic book publishers of the 20th Century.
In my dealings with those creators and friends, whether in the office or after work for drinks and dinner, conversations would revolve around personal hopes, inspirations for story ideas, legendary illustrators who influenced childhoods and careers, and the emotional value of our dreams.
What we never discussed in those early idealistic days, to my memory, was the business of comics. Discussion of such things would serve to be a killjoy, an unwanted commercial interruption, and a blight on the evening's overall tone of victory, accomplishment, and happiness. We lived in the realm of imagination, plot devices, and the structure of myths, while pushing aside the truth of the contract as the underpinning of creative business.
The filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock once said "…drama is life with the dull bits cut out," and while he was speaking about the craft of cinema, his words have a profundity regarding a career in comics. Ignoring the dull bits of business legal issues will inevitably lead to a life of drama. How, then, do we leverage the comic book industry to our advantage?
The answer lies in embracing information.
Just as creators are emotionally inspired and enriched by narratives based on the written word, beautiful illustrations, music, cinema, or another form of art, the artists of the future can train themselves to be intellectually stimulated by the business of their art so they can learn how to protect their rights and their future.
The need for a book that recognizes the needs of the artist, and explores the power of business models to secure the long-term viability of a creative career is where The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing comes into play, and the intentions of its author.
Gamal Hennessy has a wide and varied career spanning the most popular forms of media and creative business, and his knowledge is thoroughly and patiently displayed in this book, but what makes this educational narrative unique is the author’s understanding of his purpose as a servant to the community of independent comic book creators and publishers.
We are living in the time of a global paradigm shift, from a business culture that wanted to marginalize, trivialize, and ignore the stories and lives of people from diverse communities, lifestyles, life conditions, and gender identifications, to a global corporate complex that invites new stories, diverse narratives, and creators of different cultures.
The business relationships of the future will be determined by an understanding of mutual value between the creator and the publisher, making it more important than ever that both sides are armed with the knowledge to protect their intellectual properties.
The Business of Independent Comic Book Publishing is the roadmap to a secure creative future, a journey that begins with personal and tough questions. Questions requiring the aspiring entrepreneur to be self-aware and honest.
Most people have ideas, but only a percentage of them have the drive to turn those ideas into a real product, and only a small percentage of those people have the specific vision of utilizing their ideas to create a business with growth trajectory and a feasible chance of financial prosperity.
The comic book industry, and business of intellectual properties based on characters and worlds, can be both exciting and perilous. A journey of great importance and substantial reward is best undertaken with the aid of a guide, and the dawning clarity of a clear path.
You have found your guide, and the means through which to illuminate your path.
Build something with a strong foundation, and a spire that can touch the clouds.