The main point of this essay was to discuss my own shortcomings as person unable to build “an audience” for his work. I didn’t even bring up in the original post that I co-hosted a well-known comics-podcast every week for five years, as well as another show on and off over at The Comics Journal. The thing I’m failing at, is taking the dim name-recognition and modest track record that I have, and converting that into future readers for my future work.
He points out several things, including how his worry was not making a living from being a cartoonist—he has a day job—but as an artist trying to find an audience. Anyone interested should read the follow up.
Abhay Khosla also followed up on his advice, which many perceived as tough because, well, Abhay is one of the tough talking folk of the comics internet. I hope I may be forgiven for jumping to one of his concluding thoughts:
I’m not criticizing him or his books, and still I have to put on clown makeup and have a little horn I blow after every sentence like “haha or maybe I’m wrong, keep reaching for the stars, everything is okay, life is fun”-??? That’s bonkers. That’s straight-up bonkers. I’m sorry if your feelings or anyone else’s feelings were “hurt” or if I wasn’t “nice enough” about all the failing going on, but whatever part of me is supposed to cower about my opinions I guess is broken or I’m the bad guy or whatever but… I’m not living in a mumblecore movie when the conversation is about marketing and selling product.
So you now it turned out Dawson and Khosla had the same goal all along! Self expression.
All joking aside this kind of painful self examination and frank talk are not much seen in alt.comix outside of late night room party talk in Bethesda. And Khosla is dead on correct about the comics world’s aversion to honest discussions about finding an audience, the meaning of success, marketing vs selling out, and other practical matters, especially when this talk is delivered with brio. This is a world of overwhelmingly nice people and overwhelmingly supportive people. A dozen tumblr followers is enough success for some folks, and having the gumption to say aloud that’s a pretty low bar is seen as a social faux pas.
While I’m loathe to blast apart a world of niceness and cheerleading, I’m equally torn over whether getting tougher, as a group, will help matters either. We got this far on twinkles and a belief in self-expression as its own end. Some creators get more serious about climbing the ladder, and doing whatever it takes. And some are content with their own world, as little as it may be. Dragging people up or down may not mean more success for any one.
I guess all I can say is questioning is always good, and public questioning has been positive in this case. I’ll give the final word to Dawson:
My priority is to continue expressing myself in this medium. I am very driven to do so. I don’t think it’s an option for me to walk away, as appealing as that thought can often be.
In this, I know, he speaks for many of us.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.