Zubby Newsletter #15: Comics Kintsugi

One of the Greats Has Left the Building

John Romita Sr. passed away yesterday.

He was an absolute legend, with iconic imagery that defined generations. A giant even amongst his peers.

When I close my eyes and imagine Spider-Man, it’s almost always a piece drawn by ‘Jazzy’ John. Thank you for so many great memories, sir.

Comics Almost Broke Me

Quite a few people in and out of the industry have asked if I’ve read posts from the #ComicsBrokeMe hashtag that’s been trending on Twitter.


Unfortunately, barring a few extreme cases, a lot of this is not surprising to people who work in comics. I have a few stories of my own, just about everyone in the business does, and have managed to come out the other side with a career, so I have some advice but also need to stress that it’s deeply tempered with Survivor Bias

A lottery winner telling people to buy lottery tickets is tainted by their good fortune. It’s easy to tell people not to give up on dreams when yours is happening.

A creative career isn’t as random as the lottery, but luck plays a part, so take everything I say with that in mind.

• Treat others the way you want to be treated. Heck, be better than that if you can.

Kindness, patience, and clarity won’t always be reflected back your way, but it does matter and will benefit you far more over the long haul compared to diva behavior, anger, or greed.

Being kind, patient and clear does not mean you should take bad gigs for substandard pay. Part of that clarity has to include understanding what your time and effort is worth.

• When you’re starting out and unproven, the effort VS pay equation will be badly out of whack, especially when you’re competing directly with so many other hopeful freelancers willing to work for less than what they should.

With that in mind, having a day job and starting slow is not something to be ashamed of. Your chances of success increase the longer you keep creating and having stable income is a big, big part of how you can keep at it.

Putting all your chips (effort, health, financial well-being) down on a career filled with so much uncertainty is a bad idea. I know it’s frustrating because you want things to happen as quickly as possible, but the risks outweigh the rewards.

Trust me – Slow but steady is far better.

I’ve watched quite a few creators rocket past me (and, of course, felt a flash of jealousy in the moment) only to see them quickly crash because they risked too much, burned themselves out, or treated others like shit and it caught up with them.

Your future in a creative field will almost certainly be built over time with occasional bursts forward. It does not come down to one roll of the dice, one opportunity, or one failure. If you treat it that way, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

• There have been quite a few times where I felt my comic writing career might come to an end.

Opportunities drying up. Editors not responding to messages.

You can’t control those things. All you can control is your response to it and build safety nets to carry on despite it.

There are times when you need to push yourself and deliver under duress, but you can’t sprint all the time. You are the only one who can properly gauge your limits and communicate them accordingly.

• Having stable income outside of comic freelance work means I’ve been juggling two careers for a long time. That can be tough at times and absolutely leads to some late nights working, but it also means I am never cornered into terrible gigs or contracts that would screw me over.

I am very, very fortunate in that way and I know that, but I also made distinct choices in terms of work and savings to maximize my options and bolster my ability to keep creating over the long haul. Contrary to the romanticized version you may have internalized, being a starving artist sucks. Desperation leads to terrible decisions, stupid working hours, and long term career damage far more often than it turns into success.

• Underlying all of this are also extremes in terms of skill and quality levels.

A lot of people who aren’t professional quality cannot see the gap they still need to clear to be viable.

A lot of very skilled people undervalue their abilities.

• Being a skilled writer or artist doesn’t mean you’re a strong negotiator, good communicator, capable self-promoter, intelligent with your finances, or well organized. In fact, the more focus you have on creative refinement, the more those other areas tend to suffer

If a person or company offers terms you don’t like, figure out your threshold and when the pay/opportunity isn’t worth the effort.

If a person or company offers an opportunity too good to be true, it probably is and that means they can also take it away in an instant. Plan accordingly.

• Companies aren’t loyal. People can be.

Pay attention to good people you work with. Cultivate great working relationships. Celebrate successes. Commiserate over setbacks.

Be patient. Be kind. Be careful.

Build up your work, bit by bit. Slow and steady.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Comics almost broke me a few times over the years, but I’m not done yet.

The Shadow-Spider Returns!

Back in 2018, Sean Izaakse and I convinced the Powers That Be at Marvel to let us take the Champions to Weirdworld and, in the process, redesign each team member with a sword & sorcery-themed variant.

Champions #25 kicked off the storyline and it was a ton of fun.

Last week, Insomniac Games announced a Collector’s Edition of their upcoming Spider-Man 2 PS5 game and, lo and behold, our Miles Shadow-Spider outfit is one of the feature costumes. It looks so great!

If you want to read our Champions-fantasy tale with Shadow-Spider and friends, it was reprinted in the Champions: Weird War One trade paperback.

Links and Other Things

• Nathan Price did a deep dive review of Conan the Barbarian #0, analyzing the story structure, art, and broader themes. It’s nice and a bit humbling when someone really delves into your hard work like this.

• CBR has an exclusive look at our Conan the Barbarian #3 covers.

• Tom Brevoort’s latest newsletter here on Substack includes a ‘Welcome to Comics’ letter given to new freelance writers coming from other writing fields. Most of the advice in there is relatively obvious to experienced creators but if you’re just starting out it covers a lot of the basics quite well.

• Forgotten Realms creator Ed Greenwood has his own YouTube channel.

That should cover it for this time.

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