Hello, and welcome back to Tales from Outside Comics! The motivational advice column written by someone trying to break into the industry in real time – I’m here to share with you the growing pains and false starts inevitable with any creative effort.
Several weeks ago now, the results of the Mad Cave Studios talent search were announced (and congrats to the winners!) and to be honest, I was very much hoping that I would be one of them. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this, which is why I’ll be taking this entry to dissect my submission in an attempt to learn and grow from the experience. In a situation like this, it’s easy to turn cynical or take a sour grapes approach, but those outlooks will only hold you back.
So much so that I’m not even going to give voice to those outlooks (even in my beloved self-deprecation) because that’s how toxic they are. If you want to grow as a creator (and I most certainly do) the first, necessary step is one of humility. If you already think you deserve something, you’ll never see why you don’t. Cut that out – ego has no place here.
For those not familiar with it, the Mad Cave Talent Search is an annual event for the small publisher – it’s one of the few opportunities I’ve seen where writers can submit without an artist attached, which is why I jumped at the chance. The submission was required to be set in the world of a Mad Cave series, so the Wednesday after I heard the news, I made sure to scour my local comics store for any and all issues they had from the publisher. (In hindsight, I could have bought more issues online, and while that might have affected some of my decision making, I’m not going to worry about it for the sake of this exercise.)
The series I settled on was Knights of the Golden Sun, despite the fact that I was only able to read the first and last issues of the series. To eschew the problem of “what if I do something that was already in the book,” I decided to be fully audacious and do something that was definitely outside its scope. KotGS is effectively Bible Action Super Angels, so I decided to approach the series from a Pagan mindset. It’s right here that I should have checked myself – as I am not Christian, and could bring very little to that perspective, (I named the angel and demon in the script after Mars Volta songs) and was actively working against the central premise of the book. It’d be one thing if I had been asked to bring in a radically new perspective, but instead, I was injecting myself into unknown territory.
So, of course, my thought was “what if an angel and a demon ran into Thor?” In hindsight this was definitely a questionable decision, as, despite my mind gravitating towards a look that was more Storm Elemental than Hemsworth Hunk, the implication was still dubious. Yes, I know Marvel doesn’t hold a copyright on the entirety of Norse mythology, but I was being as subtle as if I had introduced a plant elemental known as Bog Thing. (There’s homage, and then there’s knocking off.)
Because, no matter how different this version of Thor could have been, he was only featured in two of the six pages of my submission. Hell, the most glaring weakness of my entire script is that I didn’t write a six page short story. I wrote a six page teaser/intro to a longer epic that would completely upend and redefine the series it was crashing in on. And that wasn’t the task at hand.
This is certainly something to consider when it comes to trying/wanting to work for publishers – you have to show that you can play well with others. (Hell, this could be a mantra for any collaborative medium, but comics most of all.)
It’s at this point that I could either continue the self-flogging over every little detail (did I emphasize too many words in my dialog? Did I ask for something impossible to draw? Were my panel descriptions too long?) but the rest of it comes down to experience. At the time I sent in my submission, I hadn’t made any comics. And no matter how you cut it, that lack of experience is at the root of the issues with my script. The only solution is to get out there, do more, do better, and learn the ropes. Theoretical understanding only takes you so far, and I’m hitting the upper limit of how far it can take me.
So, knowing I still have room to grow, what did I do right? Well, the thing is, I had only heard about this talent search a week before submissions closed, so I’m actually quite proud of the fact that I jumped at the opportunity to the best of my ability. I was able to do research and put something together right before the deadline, and for someone who has struggled with self confidence and procrastination, that’s a huge win. Plus, I didn’t sit back on my laurels and assume I had a win in the bag – I kept reaching out to artists, and have a couple of shorts for anthologies brewing with fast friends – I’m persevering, taking nothing for granted, and pushing on ahead to get that experience I’ve been lacking.