When we think about success in our medium, we look to the individuals that have left their stamps and changed the way we experience it. Musicians never heard rock music the same after Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, or Eddie Van Halen came along, much the way comickers never looked at their art the same way in the post-Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, or John Romita Jr. eras.
The quandary lies in the copycat effect. A fresh new perspective arrives, and we gravitate towards it. Our views are filtered through theirs, and our footprints – though we have made the marks – have the indelible shape of another’s. We take on the form of echoes.
We lose what makes our stories unique.
Emulation of success will bring us success – or so we think. Instead, it creates something that won’t bring success. We find ourselves in limbo, where so many others have done the same. They sacrificed their interpretations, their perspectives, and their stories for the sake of a trend. And can you blame them?
It’s what we’re taught to think. We believe that the unique will fail. “Only somebody like Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, or Grant Morrison could get away with what they do,” we think. ” Nobody will buy my ridiculous saga of an FDA inspector in a chicken-less world, who can eat an apple – or a finger – and tell you exactly what happened in its life. The market would rather read another gritty superhero story where somebody rips a guy in half.”
We’re wrong, but only to an extent.
The former idea won’t sell the ridiculous numbers that Siege #2 will, but Chew does well enough for itself. Both creators will enjoy careers in comics, and while Bendis may be making the “big bucks” on Siege, he got his start with an idea that came from him, and nowhere else. And because comics like Chew exist, we have continued hope for new, vibrant concepts. The Sieges of the comics world may be selling more copies, but it’s the books like Chew that are saving the medium, one reader at a time.
So, before you sack your crazy ideas for being un-saleable, just take a moment and think about how well they represent you as a writer. Is this something that readers will gloss over, or is this something that they’ll pick up one day and say, “this one here’s classic (YOU)”?
So avoid the classic literary advice. Spare your darlings; give a second chance to those poor oddball ideas that no one else would dare tackle. Make them yours; make them a reflection of your true creative self. Let your freak flag fly.
It may not be the immediate path to financial success, but you’ll be unique – and down the line, it’ll work out better than you ever imagined.
– Ryan / Brian