Mike Dawson Comics

July 30, 2012

Pre-failing Financially vs Succeeding Creatively

Filed under: comics — Mike @ 12:12 pm


A snapshot of a recently drawn panel, since I have been bad about scanning things.

A blog post at The Comics Journal last Friday kicked off the latest “is-Kickstarter-a-good-thing-or-not?” annual debate. It’s definitely the new “are there too many sad-boy autobio comics?” (my answer to that one: “No! Never!”).

Personally, I am totally fine with Kickstarter. I don’t have issues with anyone who has used it, and I’ve contributed to a bunch of interesting projects.

However, I realized during this latest go-round, that I would personally be hesitant to use Kickstarter to raise money to publish my own work.

Simply put, I’d be wary of allowing my ability or inability to successfully fund the printing costs of a book to have any influence over whether or not I saw said project through to completion.

Pre-failing financially, would undoubtedly undermine any chances I have of succeeding creatively.

Allowing a kind of market to pre-determine if my project has value… that would alter my own perception about it’s worth, no matter how hard I tried to fight that.

Failing to raise funds would mean I’d scrap the story and try something else. And I think that’s a crappy outcome.

It’s this concept of pre-failing that I personally couldn’t deal with. Failing after the fact? That’s fine, and I’ll get to that.

A lot of people point out the common Kickstarter model is really doing nothing more than asking readers to essentially pre-buy their copy of the book. But, what if I couldn’t find enough people to pre-order? Could I deal with that? I am not sure.

I see it as a different thing from publisher rejection. I’ve had lots and lots of publisher rejection. And it’s never stopped me from finishing a book*, because even though it’s discouraging, it’s easy to dismiss it as only really one (or two) person’s opinion (no matter how much you respect it). Any time I got rejected, I’d feel down for a day or two, but eventually my resolve would come back.

Someone else will go for it, or if not, then I’ll just self-publish. Because really, how can anyone know how something’s going to do with the readers, until the readers get a chance to read the thing? It’s just their opinion, maybe they’ve got a packed slate, maybe it doesn’t gel with what they do, I’ll show them all, they’ll all be sorry one day, etc, etc

But failing with the readers right off the bat? Before the book is even done? How do you bounce back from that?

Who else is there to show? They’re not real readers, they’re just potential-readers, they didn’t even see the whole thing… is that enough to keep telling yourself sitting alone at the drawing table for all those long hours? If you think you’ve already failed in the market? I dunno…

I think failure is part of the creative process. A fear of it hangs over you while you make art, and that’s part of what pushes you forward. There’s the sense of failure that comes after a book is published. The feeling, common to many artists, that what you made wasn’t that good. That’s when you hear people talking about not being able to look at their own work. And maybe that’s part of what pushes you on to make the next thing.

And, of course, there’s still the ultimate failure with the readers. Probably very few people sell the number of copies of their comics that they’d really like. That’s its own thing to deal with. Did the comic get good reviews? Did it even get very many reviews? Did you get many letters from people saying that they read the book and it spoke to them?

Dealing with the way your comic is reacted or not reacted to is its own thing, but at least it’s out there for readers to engage or not engage with at all.

*Not totally true. The one book I scrapped was called Jack & Max Escape from the End of Time. But, I like to think I scrapped it because I realized I was trying to make something more “commercial” with it, instead of making the thing I was really compelled to make but kept putting off, which was the not-very-commercial sounding Troop 142.

June 27, 2012

Recent Drawing Wednesday – 6/27/12

Filed under: comics,life,Troop 142 — Mike @ 1:39 pm

A recently drawn page.

Elsewhere on the web, Tim o’Shea recently talked with me about Troop 142 over on the Robot 6 blog. Thanks Tim! I appreciate the platform. We discussed a couple things, including a question about whether or not any other Scouts from my former troop had read the book and given me feedback. There hadn’t been a lot, I admitted.

Interestingly, since doing the interview, I did actually get to spend some time talking with an old High School friend who I hadn’t seen in many years, who had also been a Scout.

He ‘d been in a different troop, and like me, had spent many more years as an active Boy Scout than might be considered very “cool” (I think he made Eagle, whereas I famously dropped the ball one merit-badge and a service project shy of the big prize).

It was very revealing to hear how the story had sat with him, because I believe our experiences had been quite similar, especially going to the same Summer camp in New York that I modeled Pinewood Forest on.

We talked about the speech that Big Bear, the camp leader gives at the end of my book, which was based on an event that actually happened in real life. He told me that the same speech was also actually delivered his troop a number of weeks later. That boggles my mind.

I don’t know if this was the exact case that Big Bear was speaking about (IRL), but based on the date it probably was (I set my book in 1995, but that’s actually a few years after I’d already grown too old to be in the Scouts).

The speech that I heard that Summer, as it sticks in my mind, was about the Boy Scouts being under attack, I suppose from an Enemy on The Left, who wanted to deny them their rights to expel or prevent gay men from serving as Scoutmasters. I realize now that it must have been something that was ongoing over the course of that time-period, and this was all probably heading into court sometime around the time I was at camp. It’s funny how insulated the world-view of teenagers is. To me, the speech was a shock. I was probably dimly aware of the general controversy, but to hear the official bigoted BSA position stated so explicitly and passionately… well, clearly it stuck with me.

I’ve pondered the nature of memory in other comics, and the truth of it is that it’s a frustratingly slippery thing. Even events like this speech, which etched themselves into my consciousness, are hard to recall with clarity. I remember the mood, I remember Big Bear’s speaking excitedly, and the crowd of boys becoming more fired up. I remember phrases along the lines of “there is an evil sweeping across the land” (or “across the nation”, one of those…) and I remember the climax of the speech, about how they will “NEVER” allow a gay man to be a Scoutmaster, and the crowd cheering. Very disturbing.

And I guess I always assumed it was just something that occurred to Big Bear to talk about on that night. Perhaps it had been on the news that week or something.

But, from what my friend tells me, it was clearly premeditated. On some level, there had been a decision to publicly discuss the issue with all the troops over the course of the Summer. That really distresses me.

It’s been noted that the depiction of Boy Scout life that I present in Troop 142 is not entirely positive. The kids are all awful to each other, the adults are clueless. They are either oblivious to the truly horrible things that occur, or over-the-top with discipline on the stuff that doesn’t matter.

But, I’ve said, a couple times now, that my own experience with the BSA is one that I think of positively. To me, the story is more about being a teenage boy (or a middle-aged man for that matter), less an indictment of the Scouts. The ideal of Scouts serves as a contrast to the reality of people.

In all of my years in the Scouts, I can’t remember a single instance where an adult expressed the kind of opinion Big Bear put forth in his speech that Summer. It wasn’t a place of indoctrination. The adults weren’t trying to politicize us. The closest I can think of things coming would be the instance where a debate came up about allowing an atheist boy to advance, because of the requirements for a Scout to be reverent. But even then, I don’t remember any of the Dads ever insisting that the Scout be more reverent. I’m sure they could’ve given a shit.

I’m proud of being a part of the troop I was a part of, and in part because they were completely and utterly divorced from this Culture Wars bullshit.

June 17, 2012

Recent Drawing Father’s Day

Filed under: comics — Mike @ 3:07 pm

Today is Father’s Day, and one of the things I requested as a Father’s Day treat was a few hours to work in my studio, and here’s the panel I drew while I was there.

I think I missed a week or two of “Recent Drawing…” updates, but it’s not because I haven’t been working. Things are actually going pretty well, but setting things up so my drawing table is nowhere near my computer means I’ve been skipping on scanning the stuff in as I complete it. It’s fine, because the whole concept of separating myself from the Internet while I draw has been working like a dream. Yes, I will occasionally pick up my iPhone while I work, to check twitter/Facebook, but there’s nowhere near the same amount of time lost to web-surfing on my handheld that used to happen when I’d take a break to sit down at my PC.


Here’s a photo I took of the new basement studio, maybe two weeks ago. I nailed this picture wire on the wall, so I could hang pages as I finish them, and get a better sense of how the story is flowing while I work. Wow, it’s amazing. It’s so helpful to have the stuff right there to refer to. My old system used to be to keep everything in a jumbled pile, and fish out any pages I needed when I needed them. Now, instead, I can just turn my head and see what shoes a character was wearing in an older scene, or what hairstyle she had, or even just see what facing pages are going to look like when they’re juxtaposed in the book. I love it.

All of those wires are now filled w. comics pages, and I’m thinking I have to make a trip to Lowes to get a few more strings to put up soon.

May 24, 2012

Recent Drawing Thursday – 5/24/12

Filed under: comics — Mike @ 10:35 am

A recent drawing.

A few months back, I switched from a fairly high-end scanner/printer, to a cheapie one that I got off amazon, mainly because it took up less desk space, and also the bigger printer was out of ink – so, therefore was practically useless. I think the cheaper printer might be doing a crappier job of scanning though, so thank goodness I never got rid of the old scanner like I’d been planning (when faced with moving house, my first impulse is to just get rid of everything I own, like when they toss all the cargo off of planes or ships, to keep themselves from sinking). I’m going to set up the old scanner down in my new basement studio, using an old computer that I’d planned on throwing away as well, and never did either. If all goes well, I’ll have a place to scan my stuff, that’s not connected to the Internet, and therefore doesn’t serve as a distraction. See last week’s blog entry for more about that.

In other news, I finished a first reading of Are You My Mother? whilst taking the long train ride into the city a couple times this week. I say first-reading, because it’s a very dense book filled with a lot of ideas, and I am not sure I totally absorbed everything the first time around. In fact, I know I didn’t absorb everything, because I know I skimmed some of the pages, especially some of the parts that are very text-dense, with a lot of excerpts and quotes from other books. I had the same problem with Fun Home. It’s just tough for me to read comics that have big daunting blocks of very-dry text. I think it has to do with my “comic reading eyes”, because I am actually capable of reading books, even books about dry subjects. But, I don’t read a book the same way I read a comic. Comics I tend to read quickly. Rapidly turning pages. Not that I’m not absorbed, but there’s a speed to the reading that’s different from reading book-books. Hitting tough-to-parse dense spots in a comic can be jolting for me. Because, blah blah, we all know comics are words & pictures, it’s possible that finding myself suddenly in a patch of picture-less letters is almost like scrambling into a well of quicksand while running through a a jungle (y’know, like when you’re running through a jungle? We’ve all done that, right..?), my instinct is to want to just keep moving and get past it.

I really don’t know if I consider this a criticism of the book or not. It very well may be just my own shortcoming. There were many parts of the book where I was totally engaged and invested in the ideas, and absolutely being taken along on the narrative journey with them. The book is filled with ideas. It’s not slight, and it’s not half-baked. It’s challenging, and maybe it takes a little bit of extra-effort to properly read. And, that’s why my intention is to give it another pass.

May 9, 2012

Recent Drawing Wednesday 5/9/12

Filed under: comics,conventions,life — Mike @ 5:10 pm

I was at TCAF this past weekend, and it was a swell time. However, I am burrrned out, I think probably like 80% because of all this moving house/being unsettled/etc rigmarole, and maybe 20% just worn out on conventions for a while. I did a ton of them since SPX last year: APE, MiX, BCGF, Angouleme, and now TCAF. That’s a lot for me. There was also the Game Developer’s Conference in California that I went to, which wasn’t comics, but was still a week-long event. I just want to be home, getting my head down and making comics. Thankfully, I have no plans to go to any other shows until SPX in October, by which time I should be ready to get back into it.

Also, I decided that A) since I don’t really expect to ever make a living writing my books, and B) since I have no plans to leave my publishers at Secret Acres, and C) as long as they stay in business, then I really don’t need to be as informed about the comics industry as I have been. Blissfully ignorant: that’s my new goal. I want to write what I want to write, and read comics that interest me, and that’s it. We’ll see how I do. Twitter is probably my biggest nemesis in this regard. I do like talking about the industry, and it’s pretty much a perfect place for that sort of chat, because it’s the thing that gets conversation going the easiest. And I love twitter. I can’t see quitting, but I have plans to put the drawing table and the computer in totally different rooms in the new house, so Tweetdeck’s Siren’s Call is just that little bit harder to hear. They’ll actually be about as far away from each other as possible – the drawing table in the basement by the boiler room, and the computer upstairs by the bedrooms. I’m really excited about it.

May 2, 2012

Recent Drawing Wednesday – 5/2/12

Filed under: appearances,comics,conventions,Freddie & Me,Troop 142 — Mike @ 11:20 am

This coming weekend, May 5 & 6, I’ll be present at the Toronto Comics Art Festival, camped out at the Secret Acres table. I’ll obviously be selling Troop 142, but will be bringing copies of Freddie & Me, Ace-Face, and Gabagool! as well. I think I’m going to be offering a sweet deal of a heavily discounted copy of Ace-Face and free copies of the Gabagool! Hedonism saga with every purchase of Troop 142. I am also going to see if I can rummage up a little original artwork to put on sale too.



I will be appearing on a panel on Sunday afternoon, from 2:00 – 3:15PM, called Making Comics: The Process along with Adam Warren, Cecil Castellucci, and Kagan McLeod. It’ll take place in The Pilot Tavern location. I’m looking forward to it.

I participated in a panel this past weekend at the MoCCA festival, called Memoir, along with Jennifer Hayden, Derf, and Peter Kuper. The structure of the talk had us giving lengthy introductions and offering some of our thoughts about memoir/autobiography. There were definitely a lot of provocative points made, and I wish we’d had an extra half-hour to get a lengthier conversation going between the four of us.

A point that was raised more than once was that there are too many boring autobiographical comics about boring lives. I take a little bit of exception to this idea, though I think I understand where the sense of it comes from.

I don’t think there are too many autobio comics at all. I love reading autobio comics! I wish more cartoonists did them.

Sure, there are poorly made amateurish autobio books. But, I suggest to you, there are no more of them than there are, say, poorly made amateurish space-adventure epics, or poorly made amateurish Love & Rockets rip-offs. There’s poorly made comics of all stripes and genres.

In my opinion, the sense that there’s too much of this sort of work, glutting the market, comes from the reader’s raised expectations when presented with memoir. The immediate question the reader asks is Why is your life worth reading about? Why are your experiences worth my time?

And it’s a fair question.

But, I don’t think it’s the same thing as there being this overwhelming sea of sad-boy autobio, threatening to drown us in it’s navel-gazing. I just don’t think that exists. No more than any other kind of comic.

April 25, 2012

No Drawing Wednesday – 4/25/12

Filed under: comics,conventions,life — Mike @ 2:25 pm

No recent drawing to post this week, but a quick bloggy-blog update. Why no new drawing, you ask? Well, last Thursday my wife and I became first-time homeowners, and then spent the weekend moving all of our stuff down to sunny, peaceful New Jersey. I hate going so many days without drawing, but I think in this instance it’s all excusable. I might get messed up again this week, because there’s just such an endless amount of stuff that needs to get done. I gotta keep telling myself things will settle down, I will get back into a routine, just because I get disrupted from drawing for two weeks to transplant my entire life over to another State, doesn’t actually mean that I am no longer a cartoonist and should just throw in my Manga Deleter pens and nibs and resign myself to a life of picking out window treatments and area rugs.

A couple upcoming appearances and events:

This weekend is the MoCCA Arts Festival in New York City, held at the decidedly not-sunny, but undeniably spacious Lexington Ave Armory at 26th street. I won’t be present at the show on Saturday (see above paragraph), but will be there on Sunday for a panel at 2:15 and then signing and sketching at the Secret Acres table afterwards.

The panel I’m on is called “Memoir”, and it will be with Peter Kuper, Jennifer Hayden, and Derf Backderf. I’m looking forward to it. Speaking of Derf, I picked up his book My Friend Dahmer at The Strand last night, and read it all in one sitting. Totally absorbing comic.

I was interested in how part of the narrative had to do with the culture of parents in the 1970′s, and them being somewhat more absent than the parenting culture we have now. This is an interesting phenomenon, and from other things I’ve read, it’s totally true: parents were much more hands-off, (or I guess the better word again is absent) in the 1970′s for better or worse. Divorce rates were higher, and I believe the birth-rate hit it’s lowest point ever sometime around the middle of the decade. I was reminded of the movie The Ice Storm while reading the book – a similar sort of unsettling suburban environment, where the kids are essentially left to their own devices while the parents focus on their own dramas, completely oblivious to what’s going on with their children.

It makes me wonder, I feel like there’s a ton of criticism about today’s “helicopter parents”, and often people defend the parenting style of the 1970′s, suggesting a hands-off approach is ultimately better for the kids. I dunno. I don’t especially buy the idea that absentee parents led to Jeffrey Dahmer becoming a serial killer, because it’s not like he was the only one who had them. I was born in the 70′s, so didn’t exactly “grow up” in them, but I was close, and I feel like myself and most people I know seemed to turn out okay… but, how do we know that helicopter parenting is so bad for the kids? They haven’t grown yet…

But, as I type this, I think about American Idol, and the like, and every kid thinking they’re The Best and The Most Talented, and it’s their God-Given Right to have a career in the music industry (even though there is no music industry anymore… just kids on American Idol doing imitations of performance styles which came out of the 1970′s…) Maybe it’s better for a kid to get a healthy dose of 1970′s-style “the world doesn’t revolve around you” medicine every once in a while. I dunno, I dunno…

Anyway, sorry for the tangent! Following MoCCA weekend is TCAF in Toronto, and this convention I will be there the whole time! More about that next week, hopefully along with a new drawing or two.

April 20, 2012

Recent Drawing Friday – 4/20/12

Filed under: comics,TCJ Talkies,The Ink Panthers Show — Mike @ 9:20 am

Recent drawing, done using those new Deleter Manga pens that the kids are all raving about.

A busy week: Cartoonist Julia Wertz joins us on The Ink Panthers Show!, to talk about a bunch of stuff, including “Vajazzling” and “Brozillians”. I am disappointed in us for never making the connection between the two, and coining the term “Bro-jazzling”, which is for when a man shaves of all his pubes and glues diamonds there instead, in the shape of a heart, or a 4-leaved clover, or Mets logo, or whatever it is a man might want to stick down there. Maybe that popular automobile decal of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes taking a leak?

Also, the final episode of TCJ Talkies up at The Comics Journal – a conversation with Tim Kreider. I offer a ramble-y explanation of why I ended the podcast in the show intro, and everything I said there is true. Having had a few days to dwell upon it however, I’m realizing there were other things about the podcast that I could never get working quite right – the main one being my inability to produce shows on a more-frequent and consistent schedule.

I think a podcast needs to come out regularly and frequently, in order to build up a proper fan-base. In a perfect world, one where I could pay my rent on podcasting money alone, I’d put out episodes at least once a week, if not more. I think you have to, to build up momentum, and build up a listener-ship.

One thing I do mention in the show intro is an increase in non-comics and podcast demands in my personal life, and that’s certainly true. I think if things ever settle down, and I get the creator-interview itch again, it makes more sense to scratch it in the context of The Ink Panthers Show!, as part of the occasionally put-together PRO-T.I.P.S! series.

Have a good weekend!

April 11, 2012

Recent Drawing Wednesday – 4/11/12

Filed under: comics — Mike @ 9:33 pm

Lots of things happening at the moment. I wasn’t able to post a new episode of TCJ Talkies this week, unfortunately. I have a new conversation recorded, it’s just waiting to be edited, and for me to tape the little bit at the beginning when I tell you who I am and how to follow me on twitter. It’ll be up next week, along with an announcement about the future of the podcast.

One thing that is going well is drawing. It’s going more than well! I feel like I’ve been pretty good about getting a certain amount of work completed per week, but I usually rely on at least one full day chained to the drawing table to get most of my pages done. The wonderful thing about the stuff I’ve been drawing lately, is that I’ve been able to motivate to work on it in the late evening on a school night. Usually, come 10 or 11 on a Tuesday, I just wanna sit on the couch and watch TV. To me it’s a super-positive sign that I can get over to the drawing table for a few hours instead. I think it might mean I’m… gasp… enjoying myself?

April 6, 2012

Recent Drawing Friday 4/6/12

Filed under: comics — Mike @ 12:25 am

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