In last week’s article, I talked about a bunch of miscellaneous topics related to comic cons, including defining what makes a con a success for you, people asking if you made your work, giving away free milk, and trading artwork. This week I will talk about original versus mainstream comic art, and what you should expect when you do your first convention.
MAINSTREAM VS ORIGINAL WORK
When you’re behind a table at a convention, your table is a store for people to shop at. You have to cater to the crowds in a certain respect, yet walk that fine line of not selling out. This is a tremendous challenge when being a comic artist. The reason why I say this is that mainstream artwork will always sell better than original work at conventions.
I’m not saying people don’t appreciate new original comics. I am saying that the vast majority of people who come to a convention want the mainstream characters from the big comic houses like Marvel, DC, Darkhorse, etc. There are people who live and breathe one comic character and that’s all that matters to them. They will come to conventions and go up and down the aisles asking artists to draw 50 variations of the same character. I’ve seen it happen. What’s funny to me, however, is that my table is not mainstream work, so those same people don’t even give me the time of day.
I have seen artists sell artwork where there wasn’t one single original creation on their table, it was all mainstream stuff. Now, I am not saying these artists are not good at what they do. Far from it! I have seen some fantastic work that has blown me out of the water in more ways than one. For me, as an artist, however, selling mainstream work and only mainstream work is not rewarding to me. I want to sell my own creations, not copy a character that an another artist created.
REJECTION WILL BE HARD, BUT YOU MUST CARRY ON
When creating original work that isn’t catering to mainstream comic fans, expect rejection to pull up a chair next to you and tap you on the shoulder to introduce itself. (Unless the convention charges for more than one chair, then rejection will probably just cuddle up on your lap.) Even if your comic is the greatest in the world, and more than just your spouse and/or mother have said so, you will still have people out there who are not interested in your work simply because it’s an original creation.
The key thing is, don’t beat yourself up over it and don’t take it personally! For every ten people who don’t care for original work, there’s at least a couple who do, and in the end you will appreciative them even more because they are not taking your work for granted and supporting what you do!
HOW I BRIDGED THE GAP SELLING ORIGINAL ARTWORK
Something I learned very early on is figuring out a way to get mainstream crowds interested in my work. I had to find a way to bridge that gap. I will never be an artist who will rely on mainstream artwork to prop up my sales, it’s just not me. I want to sell my own creation and not some other artist’s creation. How I bridged the gap was by bending the rules a little bit.
My comics rely heavily on the comedy element. I figured the best way to get these people interested is by putting the main character of my comic in various cosplay costumes. Frik is kind of a surly character, so I took the approach that he was a doll I was dressing up, so he would always have something bitter and sarcastic to say about what he was wearing, or the character he was portraying.
The mainstream crowd may not have a clue what my comic is about or who the main character is, but they surely know who Batman or Harry Potter is, so they buy my drawings because Frik said something that made them laugh. Sometimes, but not always, a mainstream person crosses over and even buys my comic, all because they liked what they saw with the “Frik in Cosplay” drawings. To me, this is a success.
Thanks for reading!
Edit: Since this posting, I ran into an article that talks about how most artist alley artists are doing more fan art / mainstream stuff than original work. Take a look!
Mainstream vs Original artwork: What to expect at comic cons. by Todd Tevlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.