A rising tide lifts all boats. I love that saying, partly because it’s such a visual image. And it’s true. And it’s also true metaphorically.
In comics – or I guess, any art practice – it’s a reminder that the success of one is good for us all. Take, for example, the reception to Kate Beaton’s recent publication Ducks: stellar reviews across mainstream press, topped off with an appearance in Barack Obama’s books of the year. A comic artist can only dream of such things!
But should we gnash our teeth and choke on our envy as we scribble away on our less-celebrated works? No, and here’s why: the breakout of a book like Ducks puts a graphic novel in front of people who wouldn’t normally consider one. It expands our audience, it clears the way for those same people to look around and, having enjoyed one graphic novel, ask what’s next.
Presumably it also does a tiny bit towards opening the eyes of agents, publishers, newspaper reviewers, and all the related industries around books, to the potential of comics.
So that’s one example – as little rowing boats, we’re all bobbing that bit higher on the estuary. Thanks Kate.
But, at the risk of overstretching the idiom, I try to be the water as well as the boat. I try to do a small part to lift up my fellow creators, knowing that their success will benefit us all (plus, it’s nice to do so in its own right!).
This translates into small things. If I go to a comics festival, I’ll buy comics and if I think they’re good, I’ll make sure I say so on my blog and on social media, tagging the artist in.
If I’m speaking at an event, perhaps one with the risk of low attendance, I’ll make sure I go to other people’s sessions as well, increasing their audience and potentially sharing a few photos afterwards.
As a side note, even if you’re not a creator yourself, a mention on social media when you’ve read someone’s comic or heard them speak goes a really long way.
This benefits the festival itself, as well. It’s easy to think of events as something that “just happen” but they’re often only possible through the endeavours of very overworked people working to tight margins. If you help out, even in a small way, with publicity, they’re more likely to be there next year and the year after, supporting comics makers like you.
Plus, the more you can support them by sharing that the event is happening on social media, the more people will know about it, the more potential customers you’ll have coming by your table.
Day to day, retweeting artists’ messages and sharing opportunities all helps to make our community more welcoming and more successful.
You might think “well I’m not going to share this competition because then lots of other people will enter and I’ll have less chance”.
But wouldn’t you rather the best comic won, rather than knowing you won but only because no-one with better work knew about it? Wouldn’t you rather improve your skill until you are good enough to win against an open field?
Anyway, some contests may not be for me – I’m not going to enter a horror category or whatever – but could be just the fit for someone else. Let them know!
In the same spirit, share what you learn, and you’ll save someone else having to go through the same long process. When I was applying for an ACE grant, I benefited so much both from friends and from online resources, all people who took the time to explain what had taken them a while to get to grips with. Knowing I had benefitted, I wanted to pass that on.
By practicing all of this day to day, you also begin to find that you have a great network of comics friends and acquaintances, who are happy to see you when you fetch up in the same events, who think of you when they need someone to fill a space in a panel or contribute work to a project, and who will extend the same favours to you as you did to them.
And that’s my philosophy. *Steps down from lectern*