The comic book market is dead?

There ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down, When you hear that trumpet sound, Gonna get up out of the ground, There ain’t no grave gonna hold my body down – Black Snow Comics

Let me start by addressing the comments from my favorite Irish rogue, Rawr, on the last post. It has always been our goal to be printed. We’ve been trying intermittently (there were long gaps) since the completion of Black Snow issue 1 to get published, and collected a fairly nice list of rejection letters. We used to have to actually mail things to publishers! What a pain. Thank you email. Black Snow didn’t become a webcomic nearly 10 years ago 100% by choice, no one wanted to print us. At least no one our teenage selves knew how to contact. Plus, believe it or not, many publishers had a strict no superhero policy! Guess they’ve changed that tune with the success of all these superhero movies.

We were fairly tech savvy (though don’t call us nerds), had already built several websites (I was blogging before they had a word for it in my infamous “Diary of a Mad Man”), and we decided that was a good way to share our work with the world. I had to use the scanner at school…at lunch, to get issue 1 up on GeoCities. I don’t think webcomic was even a word yet. Yeah, we were ahead of our time. Too bad no one noticed.

Btw Rawr, thanks for the compliment on the new desktop backgrounds! Even I’m blown away by them. They were created in a fasting induced haze (as opposed to the occasional drunken haze I create in). They represent what I want Black Snow to become in this upcoming graphic novel, and maybe what I always wanted it to be. I love Famous, and I understand why virtually everyone likes it more, but Black Snow will always be my baby. It’s very close to my heart and has been for a long time. Perhaps because it’s darker, edgier, deeper, more personally relatable, it came first, or any number of reasons, but it will always be my first passion.

So what have I been up to with all this submitting? Well, let me tell you. First I started with all the publishers I liked and was familiar with. Then I extended that to trying to find ways to reach out to people in the industry that idolize. I got to correspond with Mike Mignola’s wife! And she took me seriously when I said I wanted to do a story if they make a Hellboy Weird Tales 3! And she may have even passed along our site to her husband! Even Alex was blown away by that one. What can I say, I aim high, dream big and find myself more bold everyday.

I got a very nice back and forth exchange going with New England Comics, the publishers of the only comic book I read/collected growing up…The Tick. They took the time to really look at our stuff and give me quite a lot of advice. Some on how I can improve, and some on how to pursue self publishing. They also seemed to genuinely care and want me to succeed, giving me some nice motivation. I don’t remember if I’ve shared this before, but I occasionally seek out Larry Marder, creator of Beanworld for similar sage like advice, and he has been a good help to me since we met at APE last year.

So after I went for the ones I knew or wanted, I went on the great collector of knowledge, Wikipedia, and looked up their list of current comic book publishers (guess what, it wasn’t entirely accurate!). I looked at the sites of everyone on that list (while adding Black Snow Comics to the list!) and submitted to everyone that seemed decent, appropriate and had submission policies. I just finished this somewhat epic task a few hours ago (it was spread out over a few days). I also reached out to Diamond to begin the process of looking into self publication (as so many people have advised me to do).

I’ve already gotten responses from several of the publishers I contacted yesterday and this morning. Let me share one with you.

A response from AC Comics: Michael- The comic book market is dead. I publish mostly reprints and the only new material I publish in FEMFORCE deals exclusively with characters that I own. Nightveil Media has no interest in creator owned material. Sorry, but good luck with your project. Polite enough, but let’s take a look at that first bit again. The comic book market is dead. This is coming from a “successful” comic book publisher! I mean you hear this kind of talk regularly in vague rumblings, but for a publisher to respond that way directly to a submission…. Are things really that bad? Shouldn’t we all just give up then? Apparently the writing is on the wall people!

For that matter you might think: Michael, why don’t you quit? It’s been almost ten years without achieving mainstream success or gaining publisher interest. Believe me, I think negatively like that sometimes myself. So why then? Because I have a stubborn streak, a passionate drive, perseverance and determination. I know what I want and believe as long as I don’t give up I’m destined to succeed. Look at my steady improvement with every drawing.

I’ll share an example of my drive with you. At the end of last year I found my pants were getting tight around the waist. I weighed myself and found I had ballooned from my normal 175lbs to about 192lbs. I don’t know why, how or when it happened, and no one else seemed to even notice, but suddenly I was fat. Like most people I made the clichéd resolution to lose weight this year and at least get down to my 175. Today I weighed in at 176.8lbs. Yeah, it took over 5 months, and I’m not 100% there yet, but I’m damn close. While 99% of you gave up on your weight loss resolutions I slowly worked more exercise into my life, started eating healthier, and worked on my portion control.

I didn’t do any crash diet, use weight loss supplements, go exercise crazy or anything extreme, and I didn’t see immediate results, but I didn’t give up and I’m getting there through slow and steady improvement. And I’m feeling more fit than I have in a long time. When I hit my 175lbs I plan on continuing my weight loss and reaching for my early years high school weight of the low 160s. I haven’t been there in over a decade, but I’ll try.

So that’s a lot like my comic “career” if you will. When I drew issue 1 I didn’t know a whole lot about comic books, I had actually been on a bit of a drawing hiatus for some time, and I will readily admit that it is pretty ugly. I wouldn’t argue too hard with you if you said it sucked. I think it has some redeeming qualities, but it could’ve been a hell of a lot better. Then look at the jump in improvement to issue 2. And the improvement in each subsequent issue, and each subsequent comic strip. I don’t stop working to get better. I don’t settle, and I never phone it in.

In that decade I’ve had my comic work published in Motorcycle Industry Magazine, used for company logos that appeared on a lot of merchandise, been published in the West Valley Norseman, featured in front page stories on Something Awful, used in other company advertisements and most recently used heavily in Urban Image Magazine. I’ve also gone through the process of hawking my wares in person at last year’s APE and getting immediate customer feedback. Oh, and now I’m starting to win voter contests. Amazing achievements? No, I definitely wouldn’t say that. But they are achievements.

So I don’t consider it 10 years wasted, by any means. Even if the industry continues to crumble around me, I won’t give up. I will continue to improve until the industry, and the world at large is forced to take notice!

My aforementioned mentor Larry Marder has reinforced to me several times that one of the most important things is to just keep going on, as most people flame out before finding success. Though even he tells me it is a terrible and strange time for the industry. Even in the kind exchange I had with NEC they talked about problems of the industry and the need to self publish.

Amongst the rejections I’ve received this time I’ve noticed something new: Firstly people are actually writing rejection apologies too me, which was something very rare in the past when I’ve submitted. Mostly I’d hear nothing from them in the past, and it was very rare to get any response. Secondly, they are giving me specific reasons for the rejections, and they aren’t that my work isn’t up to their standards, which is something I encountered in the past. Mostly they are specific issues about what is happening in the company and why they can’t take us on right now, or that we aren’t a good fit for their company’s catalog.

Besides the immediate rejections I also have several companies that are taking their time to thoroughly review our work and have stated they will get back to me. So possibilities there. Another company has expressed interest in publishing us and potentially having us contribute to their other projects, and asked me to mail them some hard copy material. And I still have plenty of time to hear back from the others I more recently submitted to.

One company was so impressed with our website, social media, fan following and overall internet presence that they suggested we were beyond them as far where we’re currently at, and that we didn’t need them. In fact they asked if we’d be willing to work with them and one of their writers, perhaps in a partnership of sorts. So you may see something come from that in the near future.

And honestly, after seeing some of these publishers’ sites, we are beyond them. Our site is a lot better than several I saw (many lame templates and blogs as their main sites), we have more social media followers (by a lot), and we have a better search presence (I could’t even find some of them, and struggled to find others). So I’m feeling pretty good about where we are now. Even with my ever gnawing doubts and insecurities I’m feeling pretty damn confident. We are on our way to forcing this industry to recognize us. The brand of Black Snow Comics is getting known out there. We still have several people inline to do guest art for us. We have some reviewers that have us waiting in their queues. I’m still striving to get better in my art, and reaching a level that people are taking notice of and commenting on.

So don’t lose hope, good things are coming. Like I told Alex, I feel a shift in our comic/karmic energy. So jump on and be a part of it. Help us achieve the dream. And I promise I will not forget any of you that aid us along the way. I respect loyalty and return it in spades. So anyone that thinks they can help, please do! Don’t know how? Contact me and let’s talk.

So onward and upward.

Now listen to the words from the Man in Black (Snow) himself, and appreciate this amazing art.

Oh, and maybe also get a seizure. Would’ve typed that warning earlier, but was to busy happily convulsing.

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