Search Results for: Freelance

FREELANCE Interview on Newsarama

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Read on to discover what Andrew Wheeler, Vaneda Vireak, and I have planned for the new version of FREELANCE, one of Canada’s oldest original comic book heroes. The first issue arrives in January. Pre-order now!

FREELANCE Arrives in January!

freelance-1-cvr-a-perkins

In January Andrew Wheeler, Vaneda Vireak, and I are bringing back one of Canada’s oldest original comic heroes – Freelance!

Chapterhouse Comics is expanding their publishing line with the Chapterverse, a line of comics that work on their own as complete stories but also expand the shared setting from Captain Canuck.

Freelance is a globe-trotting action-packed adventure story set in the modern world but delivered with a pulpy flare. Andrew and I have been developing the characters and their story for several months now and we’re pumped for readers to see what we have in store. Below is a link to our first interview about the series and the order solicitation info:

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FREELANCE #1
The CHAPTERVERSE launches with this brand new series!

Lance Valiant, John Cabot, and Tasha Kolchak are fearless explorers who delve into hidden secrets of our world and protect us from threats beyond imagination, but the greatest secret of all may be Lance’s own mysterious past…

Pulse-pounding action, wit, intrigue, and globe-trotting romance – One of Canada’s original heroes is reborn for the Chapterhouse era by writers Andrew Wheeler (Another Castle) and Jim Zub (Thunderbolts), and artist Vineda Vireak (51Hundred)!

Cover A – Alex Perkins | Cover B – Blank Sketch
Written by Jim Zub & Andrew Wheeler | Illustrated by Vaneda Vireak |
32 pages, 6.25/10.18 | Full Color | $3.99
Diamond Order# Cover A: NOV161365 | Cover B: NOV161365

This Weekend: Zub at ICON in Johannesburg

This weekend is the 26th anniversary of the ICON – Comics and Gaming Convention in Johannesburg, South Africa and I will be there! Sean Izaakse (the amazing artist I’ve collaborated with on Pathfinder, Thunderbolts, Uncanny Avengers, and Champions) and I will be at the show signing and sketching for fans.

In addition, I’ll be on several panels throughout the weekend:

Friday, June 29th
Noon-1pm JIM ZUB – LESSONS IN SELF PUBLISHING

Over the past 17 years, Jim Zub has worked on a diverse array of publishing, movie and video game clients. He also juggles his time between being a freelance writer and being a program coordinator for an award-winning animation program for a college in his home town of Toronto.

In this informative and entertaining panel, Jim will take us on his journey from getting his first work in the comic book industry, the lessons in self-publishing game, through to present day where, partnered with Sean Izaakse, Jim is hitting it out of the park with Marvel’s Champions. And, if we’re lucky, Jim may talk about the insane Rick and Morty VS Dungeons & Dragons cross-over!

Saturday, June 30th
10am-11am CHAMPIONS – WITH JIM ZUB & SEAN IZAAKSE

In the aftermath of Civil War II, six adolescent heroes; Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan), Viv Vision, the Totally Awesome Hulk (Amadeus Cho), Nova (Sam Alexander), Spider-Man (Miles Morales), and the time-traveling teen incarnation of Cyclops sought to change the face of superheroics in the Marvel Universe. They did so by forming the Champions, a team dedicated to not just fighting super criminals, but making the world a better place.

Jim Zub and Sean Izaakse took over the creative duties of the Champions title with issue #19, and ushered in a new era that welcomed new members and brought new challenges. Join us as we discuss how the dynamic creative duo brought their own energy and ideas to this hit Marvel series!

2pm-3pm CHARACTER CREATION – FROM AN IDEA TO REALITY
Sean Izaakse and Jim Zub have been credited with taking Marvel’s Champions comic to another level with their fantastic stories and artwork. The two have also worked on creating new characters within the title – and we want to know how they did it!

In this panel, Sean and Jim will take suggestions from the audience and, by the end of the session, come up with a new super hero concept – one that ICON has big plans for over the next year! Come join us for what promises to be an amazing and fun session!

Sunday July 1st
10am-11am JIM ZUB & RAYMOND E. FEIST – VILLAINS!

Often, a story is only as good as the antagonist – a great villain can make or break a story. So what is it that makes a ‘great’ villain? What do writers think about when it comes to avoid key bad guy tropes? How do you make a villain truly special?

Comic book creator Jim Zub and fantasy legend Raymond E. Feist take the stage to discuss what it takes to make a villain truly epic – and answer your questions!

Creative Freelancing and Taxes: The Basics

It’s tax time so I’m seeing a lot of stressful messages on social media from freelancer friends. No one gets into freelance art-writing-animation to crunch numbers, but managing that income is part of the job. You need to make money and also understand how to properly work with it throughout the year.

Everyone’s situation is different, but here are some broad tax suggestions to help you out in the future:


Separate taxes from your income immediately.

Start a separate bank account just for tax money. When you deposit money earned or receive automatic deposits from freelance work, make it a habit to move over at least 30% of that income to the tax account and DON’T TOUCH IT. It’s not your money (yet). Leave it alone if at all possible.

You probably won’t need to pay out that full 30% amount, but having it separate will mean you’re not in a bad spot when tax time comes around, whether that’s a bulk single payment or paying via installments.


Keep track of your business expenses.

Tracking business-related expenses can be a pain, but it’s crucial to saving money: You want to record your business-related equipment purchases, software, reference material, meals, travel – all of it. If you’re not tracking business expenses you’re paying way more than you should in taxes.

Super simple math:
If you make $10,000 in freelance income, but spent $2500 in equipment, travel, and reference in order to make that money, you don’t get taxed on $10,000, you get taxed on $7500.

A 30% tax rate on $10,000 = $3000
A 30% tax rate on $7500 = $2250 (You just saved $750!)

See that? It’s worth it.

One easy way to track those expenses? Get a separate credit card and only use it for business stuff. That way each month you have a simple list of business-related expenses already tallied up and good to go.

In addition, keep paper receipts somewhere easy to access. Have a pen handy so when you put them away you can quickly write down any extra details not on the receipt (who you had dinner with, what the ref is for, etc.).

Do the same with digital receipts. Set up an email folder/tag just for expenses and file those away for later: software purchases, digital ref material, business travel bookings you’re not being reimbursed for, etc.


Reference material can also be the stuff you love.

If you work as a freelance creator, it’s your passion and hobby, but that doesn’t mean those things you buy aren’t business expenses.

• Comic freelancers write off comic purchases.
• Independent game designers write off game purchases.
• Freelance animators write off animated movies and art books.

Fill in the blank for a dozen other creative fields. It’s not cheating, it’s part of your job: reference and research is how you keep current and improve your work.

There is a limit, of course. You can write down a loss if you spent more than you made while getting your business up and rolling, but the tax man won’t accept that year after year without growth. You can’t claim to be a freelancer to tax shelter your actually hobby.

When Skullkickers (my first creator-owned series at Image) started, I spent more on art/promotion than I made so I wrote off expenses that added up to more than my freelance income, but it was only for two years.


Income is income.

Paypal is income.
Patreon is income.

Both sites are required to hand over records to tax offices if requested. I know it can feel like ‘free’ digital money, but don’t look at it that way as it can really bite you later.

Same goes for Ebay auctions you run, Etsy crafts you sell, and items/commissions you make money from using Square or any other digital currency transfer.

Don’t think that just because it’s digital it doesn’t count. We live in a digital world. It all counts.


Know where your money is coming from.

Keep track of your freelance income. Seeing where your money is coming from (specific clients, projects, conventions) makes it way easier to plan and budget for the future. Over longer periods you’ll see patterns as your career develops.

Also, if you’re being paid in foreign currency, keep track of the conversion amount for your records. You need to know how much the money you deposited turned into with conversion to your local currency. Write it down as soon as you get that bank receipt or digital confirmation so your records are accurate. At the time of this article, I get approximately $1.26 in Canadian dollars for every US dollar I deposit. That’s 26% more money I use to pay my taxes, but also 26% more income I have to accurately keep track of.


Oh God, the Tax Man is coming!

If you get an audit request from the IRS (US) or CRA (Canada), they won’t throw you in jail. It also doesn’t mean they assume you’re a crook. In most cases they just mail you a letter asking for receipts that match a category total you claimed. That’s it.

As long as you claimed the things you have receipts for, you are A-OK. Don’t stress it. Photocopy/scan those receipts for your records and send them to the tax office. They’ll confirm and you should be fine.

If there are severe discrepancies, they may choose to do a full audit. Oh $%&#, a full audit? Yeah, that’s a pain, but you did it to yourself if you claimed stuff you don’t have records for.

Again, no one is going to jail. They’re just going to ask for ALL your records for specific years to confirm your totals claimed. They will recalculate your taxes based on any missing information and will charge you back taxes (along with a penalty). I’ve seen people go through it. It sucks, but you will survive. Expect that you’ll get frequent audit requests moving forward for several years until they know your numbers are all properly logged.

I’ve been contacted about my taxes multiple times. It’s not a big deal. The Canadian Revenue Service was quite confused by a large amount of freelance income where I wasn’t charging my clients HST (tax) on it until I proved that was all from US-based/US dollar income (which don’t require an HST charge), then I was fine.


An accountant is worth it.

Even with good record keeping, I’d recommend getting an accountant if you make substantial freelance income. They know extra options to write off things and ways to legally balance the numbers better than you do. That’s their job. Just make sure you keep good records and you’ll save them time, hassle, and hours spent trying to figure out what all your numbers mean.

Oh yeah, and here’s the other kick, whatever you pay the accountant for doing your numbers is also a business write-off! If they save you a decent amount (and they probably will) it actually does pay for itself.

I don’t want to go into specifics because tax law and write-offs vary wildly from country to country, sometimes even state to state. A good accountant will know exactly what will work best in your region: expenses, home office write-offs, travel, retraining, all of it.


Start now.

For new freelancers, you’re trying to avoid the Tax Whirlpool, that awful situation where you use current income to pay last year’s higher-than-expected tax bill, which drains your account so you don’t put aside the tax money you should now…Rinse and repeat.

For current freelancers who may be struggling with this stuff, use the frustration of dealing with this year’s tax burden as the impetus to break those bad habits. Start tracking expenses today. Start putting aside the tax amount as best you can moving forward now. Some is always better than none.

You got into this business because you want to create, but it is a business. The more care you take setting up your tax/expense tracking, the less stress you’ll deal with and the more time you’ll have to concentrate on what matters: the work.

If you found this post helpful, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics or donating to my Patreon to show your support for me writing this instead of doing paying work I can pay taxes on. 😛

Creator-Owned Economics: The Long, Long Game

It’s been more than two and a half years since I wrote anything about Skullkickers sales numbers. I didn’t avoid talking about it on purpose, I just felt that with the series wrapped up and Wayward still underway it should be the focal point for my financial analysis. Poring over the numbers takes time and so Wayward was the natural choice for that attention. Last week’s article about trade sales seemed to cover everything I needed to say about the current market.

Boy, was I wrong. I received my Skullkickers accrual statement late last week and the data in there kind of blew my mind. I had to put together a new financial article here to go over it.

Some back story for those of you catching up: Skullkickers was my action-comedy sword & sorcery comic released by Image Comics from 2010 to 2015. Co-created with Chris Stevens and illustrated by Edwin Huang and Misty Coats with lettering by Marshall Dillon, it was my “break-out” book, but mostly on a critical level. Fantasy can be a tough sell. Humor even more so. Put those two elements together with creators who weren’t known (at the time) and it was a challenge to make our mark. We had a wonderful and loyal core readership and good word of mouth, but never lit sales charts on fire.

Skullkickers wasn’t really profitable during its run, but it did get my name out to a much wider audience and opened the door for some of my early work-for-hire comic writing projects: 19 issues of Pathfinder at Dynamite, a Shadowman fill-in issue for Valiant, and a 2-part Legends of the Dark Knight story for DC. It was a way to show people what our team was capable of and build a body of consistent work.

When sales flagged, I ran contests, put together a ridiculous reboot parody promotion, and even started serializing the comic online for FREE to expand our readership. Each of those PR stunts helped us inch along and, in the end, we eked out 34 issues (six story arcs) and finished the story the way I intended. Skullkickers is now handsomely collected in 6 trade paperbacks or 3 deluxe hardcovers.

Every six months, I’d receive an accrual statement from Image that outlined how deep the financial hole was. They could see we were slowly digging ourselves out with digital and collection sales, but the numbers didn’t seem to be in our favor. When the series wrapped up mid-2015, I’d resigned myself to the fact that Skullkickers as a whole would probably never do better than break-even, even if it did propel me forward in terms of my writing career.

Cut to 2017. Check this out:

(Update: Image’s Accountant dropped me a line to let me know I that the way digital was shown on the latest accrual was being misinterpreted so I’ve made corrections. We are selling solidly on digital, but it’s a more reasonable percentage of our overall sales, not the gonzo spike in sales I thought it was. I’ve corrected the text and chart to reflect that change.)

Image has been smart about including Skullkickers in a lot of their digital sales, as well as putting the first 18 issues (3 story arcs) on comiXology Unlimited, a flat fee all-you-can-read service on the leading digital comics platform. Tens of thousands of new readers have discovered the series through Unlimited, and that led to more digital collection sales. The whole series is still available for FREE on our webcomic site, and yet we keep selling Skullkickers on digital platforms, month after month.

What does this mean? Well, here’s the accumulated debt versus sales chart, the one I feared would never balance out:

Thanks to slow but steady collection and digital sales, we are truly ‘in the black’. As of mid-2017, I can no longer say that Skullkickers is my lovable-yet-financially-forlorn creator-owned comic. It has finally climbed out of the pit and is holding the bloody detached head of its captor while letting out a triumphant roar.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be smoking hundred dollar bills or paying off my house with these profits. It’s quite slim right now, but it’s also open-ended; We still have print collections in stock (and our only expenditures on those right now are storage since they’re already printed and shipped to Diamond Distribution) and the digital platform never closes or runs out of copies. In six months we should make a bit more, and then a bit more, and then a bit more, hopefully ever onward into the future until every single person who reads the work I do over at Marvel realizes that the action-packed mirth they enjoy in Thunderbolts and Avengers was there right from the beginning with Skullkickers.

Image Comics (especially Publisher Eric Stephenson) deserves a ridiculous amount of credit for letting me make Skullkickers my own way, start to finish. 25 years ago, the company started with a desire to put creators first and they still do that every single day. I feel incredibly fortunate to have launched the series there and can’t think of another publisher that would have taken this on and let the long tail run its course this way.

Is Skullkickers a success? It really depends on how you measure it. This will sound dorkishly earnest, but for me it’s always been a success. We built a story I’m incredibly proud of, my love letter to Conan, D&D, and the fantasy genre as a whole, and got it out to a wider audience. It was a life-changing milestone in my creative development that led to a dozen other comic projects and where I am today. The dollars and cents are a crucial metric, of course, but not the sole reason for heading into a creative project.

Some words of warning: Please don’t use these charts as some kind of battle plan for your own comic-making dreams. Creative careers vary wildly and I’ve spoken to dozens of creators who have thrown inordinate amounts of good money after bad paying for art, coloring, lettering, printing, convention tables, and stomach pills for financial ulcers brought on by creator-owned comics. I was able to dig deep with Skullkickers because I had (and still have) a stable day job and solid freelance work paying the bills. I never put myself in a position where my day-to-day financial commitments were in doubt and if the series had never made a dime I still would have been okay.

The sales history of Skullkickers is very different from Wayward and Glitterbomb, my other two Image creator-owned series. Each series has its own unique sales history and, while this stuff is really interesting to analyze, it isn’t any kind of formula you could reproduce (and, with a 7-year bloody trek to financial sanity for SK, you probably wouldn’t want to anyway).

If you found this post interesting, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics, donating to my Patreon, or buying comics from me in person if you see me at a convention.

Introducing the DANGER DICE GANG!

I’m happy to announce the arrival of THE DANGER DICE GANG RPG playcast with me and some pals!

I’m DMing this crew through some of my favorite 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons modules using 5th edition rules. First up is U1 – The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh!

Let me introduce you to our party of adventurers, going from left to right corresponding with the announcement art (illustrated by Kean!)…

Kean Soo (creator of Jellaby and March Grand Prix) is playing KETH, a young and headstrong Half-Orc Paladin.

Stacy King (writer/editor of UDON’s Manga Classics line) is playing ARLEN, a Human Wild Mage (with pyro tendencies) raised by dwarves.

Tory Woollcott (creator of Mirror Mind) is playing TUGRA, a Gnome Ranger (with violent tendencies) also raised by dwarves.

Andrew Wheeler (writer of Another Castle and co-writer of Freelance) is playing OLEG, a dashing Tiefling Rogue who studies plants.

It’s been a weird and wonderful ride digging back into old adventures, experiencing them with a fresh eye and new cast of players. We’ve never done anything like this before, so forgive the minor technical/audio hitches as we get up to speed.

Year in Review

As I’ve done in years past, I try to use this post to sum up the year that was. 2016 was such a strange and turbulent time around the world and that made it even more surreal as I personally had a banner year in my work and personal life.

In May, Stacy and I traveled to Japan for a 6-week sabbatical, mixing in a few work-related events with an extended stay in Tokyo along with a half dozen other locations. It was something we’d been planning for the past two years and really was the trip of a lifetime. So many wonderful experiences and such meaningful time spent together, it’s hard for me to even describe. It strengthened the bond between the two of us and got us thinking about future travel opportunities.

After the big course curriculum changes in 2015, this year was way smoother by comparison. It’s my tenth year as Coordinator of Seneca’s Animation program and so I have a pretty good feel for the hills and valleys that come up as each term rolls along. With a record number of applicants to the program, the current group of students is one of the strongest we’ve ever had the fortune of teaching. I’m excited to watch their skills develop.

Comic-wise, I thankfully had far more highs than lows. I finally had the chance to tackle a monthly superhero series at Marvel with the new Thunderbolts, and the repercussions of delivering on that looks like it’ll ripple into 2017 and beyond. More news on that as we head into the Spring.

Launching Glitterbomb, a new creator-owned comic series at image, was an especially wonderful opportunity. Pushing my storytelling skills with something unexpected and working with rock solid newcomer Djibril Morissette-Phan has been a blast. We’ve got fun plans for the second arc arriving later in 2017.

Wayward continues and the whole team has been so incredibly consistent and wonderful that I need to make sure I don’t take any of it for granted. In an industry where even Marvel and DC series can struggle to make it past issue 12 we’ve just sent our 20th issue off to press, which is a heck of a milestone. On that front as well, we’ve got exciting plans I can’t wait to share with all of you.

Dungeons & Dragons, Street Fighter Legends: Cammy, the upcoming Freelance series and Monsters Unleashed: Avengers – I feel like I’ve hit a good groove in terms of material that exemplifies what I do best and collaborators who I work really well with.

I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to teach, write and create, working with and meeting so many amazing people. I know things look bumpy for the year ahead, but my fingers are crossed that we’ll all be able to weather the storm. Wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year.

Year In Review

StacysBirthday2015

Here we go again, a look at my year in review. I’ve been doing this on my blog for the past few years (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014). It’s a nice way to sum up my thoughts on the year that was and take in the ups and downs that came with it.

2015 was a bit bumpy in spots, but on the whole things are rolling along. It felt like a transitional year, building momentum for new things to come in 2016.

Stacy and I are doing really well. Having a bit of time over the holidays to step back and realize how fortunate we are was really nice. Our marriage is strong and that stability permeates so many other aspects of our life.

Throwing my back out in October (after struggling with aches and pains through August and September) was a wake up call on my health. Physiotherapy and regular stretching is helping a lot and it doesn’t look like I’ll need back surgery. I need to make sure I don’t ignore my body in the future. I’m turning 40 in 2016 so it’s something I need to pay a lot more attention to. Message received.

Over at Seneca we rolled out the biggest curriculum change since I took over as Coordinator of the Animation program back in 2006 and, barring a few equipment/technical glitches it seems to be going really well. The faculty are easing into the adjusted schedule and students seem to be enjoying the new options we have available to them. I’m teaching the new Portfolio Development course for the first time starting in January, so that should be a neat challenge.

On the creative front it was all about wrapping things up. The final issue of Skullkickers arrived in August (though it will keep serializing for free online until March 2016), completing a five year journey with Edwin, Misty, and Marshall that’s really changed my life. Building that body of work and proving I could deliver a professional quality comic has lead to dozens of other freelance opportunities and been an incredibly creatively fulfilling experience. It felt strange to finally finish it off, but also very satisfying.

Samurai Jack also wrapped up with #20. At the time it looked like that issue might be the last that people saw of the time-traveling samurai, but earlier this month Cartoon Network surprised everyone with an announcement of a new season coming next year. What that means for the comic stories or my involvement is still up in the air but, as both a fan and a small contributor to the whole, I’m excited to see what Genndy and company has planned.

Wayward continues at a good pace and all of us on the team are pumped for people to see what we have planned in the new year. The story is a roller coaster ride of ideas, the hardest thing I’ve written so far, and knowing that we’re building this without the safety net of an established property is scary and exciting. Although I have an end in mind as we work away on the series, I don’t have a set number of issues for the middle. Our fingers are crossed that reader support continues and we can have a long and healthy run.

I have a new creator-owned project that’s been percolating since September and is now gaining momentum. The story and mood are something really different from what I’ve done before and the artist I’m working with (a newcomer) is going to knock people’s socks off. I also have a couple work-for-hire commercial projects in development and I’m pretty sure one of those will be announced in the next few weeks. Good stuff coming in the spring and summer.

Otherwise, Stacy and I are planning a major trip for the summer. Every fourth year at the college I get a sabbatical term, four months to step away from teaching. We’re planning to head to Japan for over a month, doing research and working on our creative projects, but also settling in a bit and enjoying the day to day life in one of our favorite places. There’s a ton of work to get done before then, but I know in the back of my mind I’ll be quietly counting down the days.

Two goals for the new year:
Focus on what I can do instead of things out of my control. It’s so easy to get pulled into a whirlwind of frustration and regret wondering why things aren’t going the way I expect or wishing things were different, but it’s not productive. Next year I want to make an even greater effort to stay focused on my own growth and let the rest roll on.

Make sure my family, friends, and collaborators know they’re valued. I work and spend time with so many amazing people and it’s important to let them know how important they are to me. I always feel it but next year I want to make greater efforts in expressing it.

Creator-Owned Economics: The Changing Market

It’s been two and half years since I posted up my ‘Reality of Mainstream Creator-Owned Comics’ article that kicked off a furious online discussion about where money goes in the retail market and what creators are paid on small print run creator-owned comics. There’s rarely a week that goes by where someone isn’t linking to that article, tweeting at me about it, or otherwise asking for clarification about ‘how things work’.

Even when some people pointed to that article as ‘proof’ that Image Comics wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, Image stuck with me, kept publishing Skullkickers, and continued to make incredible strides in expanding the market for creator-owned comics. I’ve always been thrilled to have my creator-owned books published by Image because I knew why the company was formed and how it’s always worked: Creators are in complete control of their comics and they’re compensated based on its success.

The comic industry in 2015 is a very, very different place and a big part of that is thanks to Image Comics’s tireless efforts to show retailers and readers the strength of new ideas and new stories.

Skullkickers_01_1stprint_AWayward01-CoverB-FRONT
SKULLKICKERS #1 (September 2010) and WAYWARD #1 (August 2014).

The Image model has always been about investing in yourself and reaping the benefits of that investment if sales are strong. I knew that going in with Skullkickers back in 2010 and, even when our sales were borderline unprofitable, I stuck with the series as a way to establish myself as a writer and show people our team could produce a high quality comic month after month. Now, four and a half years later, I’m seeing the benefits of that consistency and the growing creator-owned market with my new Image series called Wayward.

How much of a benefit? Well, let me show you…

ComparativeSalesFull

Wayward’s first five print issues have sold more than two and a half times as many as Skullkickers did over the same period 4 years earlier. As you might imagine, that’s an impressive jump and I think there are a bunch of reasons for that climb:

• Improved Visibility for Comics: Comics sales are growing in print and online, graphic novels are the buzz-worthy darlings of the book market, and comic-related movie and TV shows are more mainstream than ever. The ripple effect of that is a greater acceptance of comics from the general public and a more diverse fanbase looking for new stories.

• Image’s Success and Subsequent Growth: The success of the Walking Dead, Saga, Sex Criminals, and a host of other incredible titles have increased visibility and market share for Image. This is especially true with launch titles as readers and retailers look to these new series with excitement, hoping they’ll be on the ground floor for something special.

• My Career Growth: In 2010 I was practically an unknown creator in the mainstream comic market. Four years later I have quite a few other comic titles under my belt – Samurai Jack, Figment, Legends of the Dark Knight, Pathfinder, and a bunch of others. I’m not an industry powerhouse by any means, but the readers from those series seemed curious about what my next creator-owned title would be and jumped on board Wayward to check it out.

• Retailer Outreach: I’ve also done a ton of retailer outreach over the past four years. Having well regarded work is wonderful but only if retailers feel confident they can sell the books. As we headed towards the launch of Wayward, the crew at Image and I did a lot of communicating with retailers about the series, showing them exclusive artwork and previews, doing everything we could to prove to them that this was a series they could confidently sell to their customers. That lead to several comic shop and convention-exclusive variant covers for Wayward #1, bolstering our launch numbers by thousands of copies while creating extra interest in the series.

• Press Outreach: In the same vein, it’s a heck of a lot easier to get press coverage when you’re more established and we (Image’s PR crew and I) did a lot of press outreach as well to make sure Wayward was visible on every comic news and review site we could muster. The last couple months before the launch of issue one was a dizzying promotional tour of interviews, podcasts, exclusive sneak peeks, and more.

• The Series: Wayward is a very different series than Skullkickers. I love them both, but I’d be foolish not to note that Wayward as a concept is more inclusive and taps into a much larger potential readership than Skullkickers does. Cute supernatural teenage girls (surrounded by cats) kicking the shit out of monsters on the street of Tokyo plays to a bigger audience than a bro-centric slapstick violent D&D tale, especially in 2014-2015.

Okay, sale numbers are spiffy but how does that translate into relative profitability? Wait ‘til you see this…

ComparativeProfitsFull

I know you’re looking at that bar chart and can’t fathom how 2.5 times the sales magically turns into 7.5 times the profit. Trust me, I’ll explain.

Here’s the real beauty of the Image model when it’s running at full steam and, as far as I know, it’s something no other creator-owned publisher can match: Image has a flat administrative fee for soliciting and releasing each issue of a series. That amount does not change no matter how much the issue sells. On a relatively low selling comic (like back in 2010 with Skullkickers #1) that base fee can eat up most of what’s left over after the printer, distributor, and retailer take their cut but, on a strong selling comic that amount stays the same and the issue becomes a lot more profitable. A lot.

This is why that pie chart from my original retail post doesn’t scale well to different print runs and doesn’t perfectly sync up with the Image model. A 5000 copy comic has a very, very different money breakdown than one that sells 10k or more. Printing large quantities of something vastly decreases the cost per copy. The “price per unit” drops and the profitability per copy increases, but Image’s base fee doesn’t change.

Each issue and cover breaks down differently in terms of percentages/costs, but here is an approximate rundown of how our best one fared, WAYWARD #1 Cover A:
PieChart

As you can see, it’s a seismic difference from the chart I posted in 2012 based on a much lower print run/lower sales.

Skullkickers #1 went through three printings, but each one was a small run, which made the “per unit” cost quite high on each issue. Wayward #1’s first printing was a much, much larger run done all at once and, in turn, the profitability of that first issue was geometrically larger. A lot more copies printed, a lot more sold, and each one cost a lot less to produce, making us a lot more money when it was all said and done.

Cranking up that profitability even further, Image has been able to leverage their increased market share and larger print runs to aggressively keep their printing and shipping costs low even as their sales increase, leaving even more money for creators after the fees are covered.

You might look at that chart and imagine Steve Cummings (the artist and co-creator of Wayward) and I pelting each other with giant wads of cash, but it’s not like that. What those numbers mean is that we’re thankfully in the black right from our first issue, which is obviously where we want to be. Steve gets to make drawing Wayward his full time job (I’m still teaching at a local art college and freelance writing), and the color flatter, colorist, and letterer all get paid without me having to dig into my personal savings (like I do on Skullkickers). On top of that I can finally put some money into my “war chest” for convention travel and future creator-owned projects. If sales continue strongly I’ll make extra payments on my mortgage so I can be debt free that much faster.

It’s a solid start and miles ahead of where I was in 2010, but that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Strong launch numbers are one thing, but finding a loyal sustained readership is our long term goal and that requires a lot of work. By the time our first arc ended, Wayward seemed to be settling into a reasonable sales bracket, now we have to do everything we can to try and stay in that stable sales range over the long haul.

Image is bolstering our chances by releasing Wayward Vol. 1: String Theory on March 25th as a value-priced $9.99 trade paperback. We’ll make less money per copy on that first volume, but it’s a very smart way to increase our readership as retailers up their orders, new readers give the series a shot at a sweet price point, and current readers ideally pick up the collection for themselves or buy it as a gift for their friends (Pssst~ Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?).

WaywardVol01Cover-FRONTWaywardVol01Cover-FRONT-HC
Our standard TPB cover and the Emerald City Comicon exclusive hardcover.

We’re also releasing Wayward #6, the first issue of our second story arc, on the same day as our volume 1 trade paperback as a way to create extra sales synergy. Savvy retailers can bundle both together to get readers on board the new storyline, hopefully leading to additional subscriptions for their pull files.

On top of that, Steve suggested we create a series of connecting covers for our second story arc and I happily went along with the idea (leaving the logistics of that artistic monstrosity to him and Tamra, our kick ass colorist). We’re hoping fans will want to keep buying the single issues to create a sweeping 5 issue cover panorama. Here’s how the first three covers (issues #6-8) look when they’re connected together:

Wayward06-08Combined

Quality, consistency, and outreach. With a bit of luck those three things will convince retailers and readers to stick with us.

At the same time, Skullkickers is heading into its final story arc. Financially it’s always been a bit rocky but it’s proving robust with a long tail of digital and collection sales and has a strong audience online as a serialized webcomic. It’s the project that pushed my comic writing career to the next level and I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done. Nothing else I’ve worked on since then would have happened without it.

Skullkickers33-FullDouble-1170x900-web

If we maintain our current production schedule on Wayward we’ll have two trade paperbacks out and be starting our third story arc in time for Christmas 2015. Skulkickers’ final arc, final trade paperback, and final deluxe hardcover will arrive before Christmas as well.

At each step we’ll be juggling solicitations 5-6 months ahead, scripting 3-4 months ahead, line art 2-3 months ahead, coloring 1-2 months ahead and letter proofing a few weeks before each issue heads to print. It’s a relentless game of “Scheduling Tetris” but, when the momentum is rolling, I actually enjoy it. There’s a constant influx of inspiration as line art and coloring samples pop into my inbox almost every morning. It reminds me that all of us on the team are working hard to create something that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for our efforts and the support of amazing retailers and readers like you. I love creating comics and want to keep this dream rolling as long as I can, learning more about the craft and business, year after year.

In the end, I think that’s what creator-owned comics are all about – charting your own destiny and growing creatively with each new project.

If you found this post interesting, feel free to let me know here (or on Twitter), share the post with your friends and consider buying some of my comics, donating to my Patreon, or buying comics from me in person if you see me at a convention.

Year In Review

2014-Stacy_and_Jim

Here we go again, a look at my year in review. I’ve been doing this on my blog for the past few years (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) and it’s a nice way to sum up my thoughts on the year that was and take in the ups and downs that came with it.

Stacy and I continue on our wedded adventure, juggling work and play, social time and alone time. It’s filled with challenges but, like everything else we’ve tackled, it always goes better because we’re together. Having Stacy in my life is a joy and an honour.

Between replacing the stove, the car, our porch and façade, and a new laptop it was an expensive year, that’s for sure. As Stacy mentioned, we’ve replaced almost every appliance in the house over the past 2-3 years so hopefully everything runs a bit better from here on out.

Travel-wise it was another busy time, with 12 conventions in total, but almost every location was somewhere I’d been previously while on the ‘ circuit’ (with Washington DC and Phoenix as the two exceptions), so it felt familiar rather than hectic.

Last year I scripted over a 1000 pages of comics and that was a hell of a milestone but I said I probably wouldn’t be able to do that again this year. Yeah well, it happened anyway. I had a slew of comic writing projects in 2014 and, once I realized how close I was last month, I hunkered down and made sure I hit the 1k mark again. Admittedly, I took it right to the line (finished the last set of pages this morning) but it’s done. Whew~

I know in the grand scheme of things it’s about quality, not quantity, but I’m incredibly proud of the work and feel like I’ve learned a ton. Pushing myself to meet intense deadlines and deliver stories I’m proud of both on time and as kick ass as I can make them is crucial.

Skullkickers, Samurai Jack, Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors, Figment, Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, Munchkin, Conan-Red Sonja, and a bunch more, some of which won’t be out until next year… So completely crazy.

Oh yeah, and that other one – Wayward!

Working with Steve Cummings to launch a brand new Image creator-owned series and having it well received by readers and retailers alike was a complete rush. Everyone on the creative team is pumped for the new chapters we have planned. Can’t wait for people to read it!

2015 is shaping up to be another exciting year.

At Seneca College we’re making the biggest changes to our Animation curriculum and facilities since I took over as Coordinator of the program in 2006. We’re reworking the flow of courses, updating assignments, and incorporating more technology to match the changing industry. It’s a lot of work but the end result should make us more competitive and deliver even better education to our amazing community of students.

On the creative and freelance front I’ll be continuing with Wayward and wrapping up Skullkickers. I don’t want to get into the whole farewell thing with SK just yet but, suffice to say, it’s going to feel strange reaching the end. A bunch of my other freelance comic writing projects are wrapping up but I have a few proposals in the hopper I’m waiting to hear back about. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them pop or what other opportunities emerge as the year rolls on. I wrote a bit about my thoughts on the comic industry in 2014 over on The Beat.

Other meditations for 2015:
• Less stuff, more experiences: Stacy and I have been talking about the stockpile of ‘things’ we’ve accumulated. Having things is great but once you hit a certain threshold it just piles up in ridiculous ways and you stop appreciating what you have. We want to pare back on the rampant collections of things and focus on experiences – new places, great meals, and better time spent with people we care deeply for.

• Art for art’s sake: Although I did some drawing in 2014, it definitely took a back seat to my writing projects. I’m hoping to sketch more outside of school demonstrations and put more fun ideas down on paper visually in 2015.

• Empathy, honesty, and communication: Thinking carefully about others, reaching out to people who matter, staying in touch with those close to me and making sure they know how much I appreciate them.

I know 2014 was a rough year for many people and that the world at large was filled with tumultuous news and heartache. I hope your year was a good one despite any difficulties and that if it wasn’t you can close the book on the season and start fresh in 2015.

Thank you for your love and support. All the best to you and yours!