The first time I ever went to a comic book convention, I was starstruck. It was 1997’s Orlando MegaCon, and there I was, a 13-year-old surrounded by art heroes like Humberto Ramos, Joe Madureira, and George Perez. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I could go up to any one of them and, presuming I didn’t immediately start weeping out of joy, pick the brains of these living legends, asking them questions and quizzing them on specifics of their work. For a teenager from Alaska who loved comics, it was an experience unlike any I ever had before.
That’s a Tuesday on Twitter.
The world is changing, and the distance between creators and fans is shorter than it has ever been. The way we enjoy media has morphed along with it, as anyone can create content in podcast or video form rather easily. All you really need is a smart phone, the will to make it happen, and boom! You’re on YouTube or Apple Podcasts. 2 That’s how someone like me, a now 36 year old that’s still in Alaska, can create a podcast where he talks to many of the same people he once was fawning over in a convention hall in Florida.
But because of the simplification of communication and the democratization of media creation, it’s not just random fans who can do this. We’re in the personal branding era, a time where it isn’t just good enough to be a basketball player or an actor. You need to be a hyphenate, someone who carries multiple roles with equal skill. NBA legend Vince Carter can be on the Atlanta Hawks while being a podcast personality, Will Smith can be a part-time movie star and full-time vlogger, actor Dax Shepard can both host Top Gear America and a tremendously popular podcast, and so on and so on. Those ideas complement each other, and if done well, these rising tides can lift all ships. Your notoriety in one format can lead to gains for the other, and from there, you aren’t just known for one thing, but two, three, four, etc. etc.
It’s an idea that the world of comics is embracing as well. Creators aren’t just writers or artists or colorist or letterers or whatever anymore; they’re podcasters, hosts of YouTube shows, Discord managers, newsletter writers, and any number of other things. You name it, creators are doing it, and it’s only been increasing in recent years. And who can blame them? There’s a ton of value to potentially be found there, both from a personal promotion standpoint and from a visibility one. While it’s not a guaranteed success, the potential there is empowering.
It’s a fascinating trend, and one that makes sense. If you can activate your fans and grow your reach, why wouldn’t you want to take it? But it’s also one that only seems to be growing, thriving as more creators dive in and strive to expand their skills. To better understand why this is happening, I reached out to some of the most successful and notable comic creators pulling double (or triple duty) to see what led them down this path, how their efforts have evolved, and what kind of value it brings to them in the process, exploring comic creators and the power of new media in this week’s longform.