Sep 9 • 15M

Newsletter #94: Comics Are for EVERYBODY

Discussing the enduring problem of gatekeeping in all creative fields

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[Sorry about the duplicate post from yesterday, that was an earlier draft that you can safely ignore! - Ty]

Hey guys, it's Scott.

It is Friday, September 9th, if we can get this post in today. And I'm really sorry for the delay between the last post and this one, it's just that we've been getting our boys back to school, we got three boys, all different schools, all different ages. We have a 10th grader who tends to worry too little about preparation for school, a 6th grader who unfortunately worries way too much, and a three year-old who's just happy to be here, bouncing along and hilarious, but it requires a lot of juggling. So again, apologies for the break, but I'm back and we have a lot of exciting stuff happening right now at Best Jackett.

One thing—I want to change the format of these posts a little bit. Before, when we were under the Substack grant, there was a requirement to post twice a week, so I sort of did one free post and one paid post. But that's kind of stopped me from posting little things a lot of the time that I'd love to just not email you with and bombard you and harass you, but give you a chance to browse without alerting you and, again, buzzing you that it's suddenly popped up. So I'm thinking I'll do one robust post that's essentially a free part and then a paid part. And you decide what you want. Comfort level is yours, like, you can do the free if you're a free subscriber, like today. And if you're a paid subscriber, you get the second half behind the paywall. And if what you want is to switch over, again, you can always switch over. $7 a month (or $75 a year), you get the class, you get all the archived stuff that we've already done and all kinds of crazy shit that we've listed a million times and that stuff, so give it a shot.

So today, for the paid post, I'm going to do one that's focused on the business of writing, because we have our business class coming up in a couple of weeks, which I'm really, really excited about. I've gotten a lot of good responses from people about the idea of doing this business class. And the business class is going to be on everything that people don't like to talk about in creative spaces, the things that I feel often get pushed to the side or pushed under the table for reasons of etiquette, for reasons that have to do with what people think belongs in a creative space to be inspired and all of that. And also, sometimes once you're working, that has to do with companies not wanting creators to talk to each other and find out what they're making and how they’ve pushed the company to go farther than they often do and all that stuff. So all kinds of stuff like that. But essentially, it's going to be about everything from page rates to rights, optioning things for TV and film, having a day job while you're working, and what is an exclusive contract, and all the questions that you might have about how you actually make a living in this business and the different ways of approaching your career from a pragmatic standpoint. So that's going to be the focus of this class.

That's coming up in just a couple of weeks, September 21st at 9:30pm ET. It'll be great, and prepare your questions, really anything that you're you want to ask. It can be crass. It can be anything like “how much do you make for your first gig, Scott?” “What do you make now?” I'm not going to tell you exactly what I make now, but I'll tell you a ballpark as transparently as I can what you make as an established pro at different levels. This is what I made roughly when I was on Batman, this is what I make doing indie stuff, all that so you know. So please join up if you have any questions, if you're just interested in it. Sign up for the paid subscription, you'll get the second half of this letter, which will focus on that stuff., but you'll also get access to all the stuff that we offer through that subscription.

Also, We Have Demons is out NOW.

It came out just yesterday in trade in all of your favorite comic stores. So go pick it up if you can. It's co-created by my brother from another mother, Greg Capullo. And it's got Jon Glapion, the inker from our Batman run, Dave McCaig, the colorist from American Vampire on it, and Tom Napolitano on letters, he was with us for a lot of years too. And we're really proud of it! It's about finding faith in these crazy times, and it stars a young woman who discovers her dad was actually the greatest demon hunter, essentially, of all time, and then winds up thrust into the middle of this epic battle between good and evil. So I hope you'll check it out. I had a bit of a miscommunication about when it was coming out because it's coming out in bookstores the first week of October, but it's coming out in comic shops yesterday, so it's out there go get it. Super excited about it.

Also, Dudley Datson and the Forever Machine #2 came out on Tuesday, co-created with Jamal Igle at Comixology. Go check it out, really proud of that too.

And for people in our Founder’s Tier, our Black Jackett Club—very exciting news, your books are all basically received. Again, you get to send ten books of your choice from now until November 10th, anything you want, and then you also get all of the exclusive covers of the first wave of stuff that only you guys get, that we manufactured especially for you and signed. Plus there’s a couple of extra goodies we haven't told you about are all coming your way right now, they were sent out on September 2nd, so you should be receiving them now.

And we are going to be re-opening up that tier, only for about a week, in a couple of weeks from right now on the 20th. So please, please, if you have an interest in this, it's like an annual subscription that gets you a dinner with me free of charge in New York Comic Con with all of your co-Black Jackett members. We had a blast doing this in San Diego, it gets you exclusive covers made for the books that only you guys get, not sold elsewhere, that are signed by me and the co-creators. It gets you all the things that the other membership gets you as well, the class, access to all the archived sessions of the class, and a couple other great things that we’ll list here:

Free subscribers:
Access to all free text/audio posts (once weekly)

Paid subscribers:
Access to all text/audio posts (twice weekly)
Entry to all upcoming live Comic Writing 101/102 classes & full class archive
Entry to all upcoming livestream Q&As (Annual subscribers only)
Skip all my lines at upcoming conventions
One book of your choice signed via mail (just the cost of shipping)

Black Jackett Club subscribers:
All of the above PLUS:
Five exclusive signed covers annually
A five-minute one-on-one video call with me annually
Entry into a raffle for New York Comic Con tickets
Invitation to an all-expenses-paid dinner in New York (No plus-ones; only for those who weren’t at the San Diego dinner)

But please, please keep it in mind mark, your calendar is reopening only for a week because we can't handle that many people. So if you're interested in it, it's coming.

Okay, so for the free post today, I want to talk a little bit about something that I wasn't initially planning on, and forgive me, this topic might rub people the wrong way a little bit. And that's okay if it does, because honestly I want it to be a conversation with you guys. I think too often an incident will happen that has to do with this topic, gatekeeping, and what will happen is people pile on or make statements on Twitter (and I do it too, I do it all the time), and then kind of move on from it, and it doesn't get sort of addressed in a more thoughtful way. And that's my fault. That's all of our faults. But so I want to do a post, it's not some huge in depth thing, but I just want to get into it a little bit more, because it's something that I do think about as a teacher a lot of the time and as somebody who has been given a lot of chances in this industry and now hopes that more people get chances coming in.

So there was an incident, I'm not going to get into the details of it. I don't want to rehash it, I'm not here to pile on, I'm not here to throw shade or any of that stuff. But essentially it was a incident, again, that had to do with gatekeeping. So what is gatekeeping? Gatekeeping is people keeping other people out of comics. Now there's real gatekeeping, systemic, industry-wide, entrenched gatekeeping, which is historical and goes all the way back to the beginning of comics when certain people. generally white guys, were given more chances than other people. And that persists to this day, and luckily, I think glacially, those things are changing and the industry is opening up. But that real gatekeeping, in terms of sort of the historical aspects, require a much more in depth post than than I can do, and also much smarter minds than mine and input from people who have studied and experienced it in ways that I haven't. So for me, that's another post.

But there's another kind of gatekeeping, which is members of the community saying to other members of the comics community, “you don't belong.” And it happens with fans, it pops up every now and then, “you're a fake geek, you shouldn't go,” “you're just cosplayer,” this and that. All kinds of different accusations come along, sometimes a whole mixture of many of them, and they get hurled at people all the time, predominantly women, people of color, and LGBTQ people coming in. But as well, like, it's what keeps people out. It happens all the time with creators and it needs to stop. If you're thinking about telling somebody they don't deserve their shot, or that they shouldn't be writing this because they just got in because they're from a certain demographic, or because they know people, or because they're attractive, or any of that, please don't. Comics needs everybody right now. All that matters is that someone has something to say and loves comics and that's it.

The only way comics survives and thrives is to adapt and change and invite new people in constantly to create a bigger tent. And the thing that folks yelling sometimes forget is that people that have been canonized or lionized over the years are often people that were trying new things that were really different, vastly different than what was going on at the time, everybody from Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Gail Simone, people that have now become pillars of the industry, what was going on with Milestone, all kinds of stuff at those times was dangerous and daring and different.

A quick shout out Milestone Generations, the stellar documentary on HBO Max about how Milestone shook up the industry for the better

And people established in comics didn't know if it would work. But there were always brave and visionary people giving shots to people that had something exciting to say and love comics. And that's it. It was not safe at all at that time. Now it's become history, but it wasn't safe. And I keep things on my computer, like I keep even my favorite stuff growing up, like Frank Miller. I mean, the idea that a fan told him when they heard about Year One that they were dropping the book forever because it was way too dark and he was ruining Batman, all of that.

Here’s an nasty little example from the Year One letters page

And the thing I'd say, just as an aside, honestly, is that the kinds of criticism that are leveled at people that are underrepresented in comics, about being given a shot they don't deserve, is completely unwarranted. And honestly a lot of the time that people who are given a shot that, by the metrics you're using they don't deserve, are people like me. I was given a shot to write Detective Comics when I had one comic under my belt. And I was given a shot for that comic to write my own series when I had no comics under my belt, or just a couple. But essentially, I was a short story writer. Tom King had a novel under his belt when he was invited in to write Sheriff of Babylon because he had a good idea. James Tynion IV, the same criticism you level up people about, “well, you just got in because you know people…” he knew me. I brought him in. He was my student. And that’s because I knew he had great things to say. And look at him now. Now, I learned from him every day.

The point is, it doesn't matter how people are invited in or get their shot. People should take chances on people who have something to say. That's the metric. The metric is if you have something you want to say in comics and you love comics, you belong. And so let me flip it over, because the point of this isn't to address people who feel the urge to tell people they don't belong. I mean, like I said, I want to say what I said just now about that. But the point of this post, really, is for you guys who are trying to make your way in the industry and have something to say.

So if you're a creator, and you have a voice in your head telling you you don't belong, whatever background you're from, whatever your credentials are, or if you have real voices telling you you don't belong, just say it's fucking bullshit. Put it out of your head. We all feel that way, too. If it is the voice in your head, too, or you've internalized it from other people, we all feel that way. If you take anything from my experience, I came in with a black hole and my comics knowledge and no experience writing comics whatsoever. I hadn't read any comics, or very few, between 1995/1996 and the early 2000s at all. And when I got on Batman, I didn't know anything about it. I knew what had been happening with Grant in the last year, but there was a big hole, there was this whole period I didn't know anything about. And there was a big period before the 80s I was really unfamiliar with. I felt totally ill prepared to write anything like that.

And I remember going to my first DC summit and just feeling completely like somebody was gonna look at me and say “you don't belong.” And again, my experience as someone from my background pales in comparison exponentially to people from backgrounds that don't have the kind of representation in comics that they should. But my experience even here, in the small, tiny, fractional way, given what other people face, was that I walked into this DC summit feeling that way. And a couple creators made me feel really welcome—Greg Rucka and Grant Morrison and Brian Azzarello pulled me aside. Brian said, “hey, I heard you're working on Detective,” and I was talking to him about it and I was saying I was nervous because I worried that I wasn't ready for it in all kinds of ways. And when we got to the subject of comics and I said, '“y’know the other thing is, I haven't been reading comics up until recently…” Again, I've taken this big break. He looked at me and he said, “good, that's what we need.”

The world of comics is better with mentors like Brian in it

And it stayed with me. I didn't internalize it enough at the time, but looking back along the way, it affected me. And the people that said anything like that, anyone that reached out and said, “if you have something to say that you love, if you've ever loved a single comic in your life, even one, then you belong,” people from Brian to Grant to Greg Rucka to Pete Tomasi and Gail Simone and Joseph Illidge and David Walker, on and on. And some of them have said it to me and some of them I've overheard saying to other people, to fans and up and coming creators, and it's just right. You feel it in your gut when you say it, when you hear it, it's the way that it should be. And here's the thing, I've been encouraged the whole way along. I got a lucky break and then I didn't have people telling me, “you don't belong, you don't belong.” I had people encouraging me. Be those people. When I started out, I needed that. Everybody needs that. If I had been told, “you know what? You don't belong. You don't belong. You don't belong. You don't belong.” Would I have gotten through it? I don't know.

What I'm saying is don't be those people to tell people that. Be the opposite. Be the people that encourage. Seriously, comics needs everybody right now. The truth is, there should be no gatekeeping. And ultimately, the reason that I love teaching, the reason that I started doing it at colleges and now that I'm teaching this class, the whole thesis of it, the whole point, is to say to you out there, if you have something to say, it doesn't fucking matter if you've read a thousand comics. It doesn't matter if you've read no comics except one and love that. It doesn't matter if you have any writing experience. It doesn't matter if you're getting a shot to write a comic because your best friend is someone in comics or an editor saw your work and said, “guess what, you get a chance,” even though you feel ill prepared, or if you've been working at it for years and years and years and then suddenly you get a break, it doesn't matter. If you get your shot, take your shot. Because you belong.

You belong, whether you're just making comics on your own, whether you're given a chance to be a part of a franchise that already exists, it doesn't matter. Really, the bottom line, honestly, is that you can be somebody who's been working in this industry for eighty years or somebody who's read one comic. You're both comic fans, you both are comic people, you both get the same badge, and you're equally important to comics. That's the truth. The feeling that anyone should be kept out, that anyone doesn't deserve a shot because they somehow haven't paid their dues or any reason just winds up making the industry poor. It's a terrible self-destructive impulse. Comics are for everybody all the time, and it needs all of us.

And now, I'm gonna dive into the paid post, which is going to be more about what it means when you're starting out to take a deal that kind of gives away your rights in that way, just as an example of one thing that we'll be talking about in the business class. So we'll talk a little bit about something like American Vampire. I hope you enjoyed this one. If you're a free subscriber, let me know, post in the comments. And I hope you'll sign up for the paid one, too, and be even bigger part of Best Jackett. Thanks so much!

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