Self-publishing superheroes.

I just read a pretty good article about what a bad idea it is to do what I do.Self-publishing superhero comics is a hard thing to do. A lot of what is great about superheroes, a lot of what us fans really love, is best done in the big flashy style that just comes so easily to the big-money publishing machines. This is not a shot at them or a poor-me on me. It's just the truth. Actually making the comics is hard. Selling them is hard. Finding your audience is hard. Finding wider success is hard. And reaching your goals... well, that can be pretty hard as well.

Making indie superhero comics. Your indie superhero comic can look and feel really cool, but it'll have the slick magnitude of the big guys. You can get real close, and technology closes that gap every day. Even if you get the look, you are fighting your ass off to gain ground that these guys eat, drink, and sleep on every day. As a writer, I face a similar, up-hill, battle. One thing that is so cool about the superhero story is the scope. The world, the heritage, the pre-suspended disbelief. None of these are essential to a good superhero story, but they are nice to have. They are also hard to get. For me, each of these qualities requires a confident and steady hand. Push too hard and it is schlocky. Go too easy and the tone is lost. A big, established, superhero universe has all of those things without even trying. Selling indie superhero comics. Buying and selling are very complex. That's why economics is such a varied and complex field of study. But, without even an associate's degree in that field, I can boil down the economics of selling indie superhero comics. The people who superhero comics do not tend to buy indie comics; the people who like indie comics do not tend to buy superhero comics. It is a hard fight to get credibility with either group, and that venn diagram overlapping sweet spot is way too small.

Finding an audience for indie superhero comics. I hate the myth of the "well served" fan. People who think it is dumb to make indie superhero comics will tell you that fans of the superhero genre are already well served. Fans are already getting their fill, so why bother giving them more? That is silly. Fans of a thing always want more of that thing. Provided it is good. Provided it is what they want, but also something they don't already have. As a side note, this is something people who are not fans of the genre just can't quite see. As in any genre, there are endless layers ripples to explore while sticking firmly in the realm of the genre. But I digress. My point is that there certainly are people out there who would love to read a fresh. well crafted, superhero story regardless of who publishes it. But the fact is that big publishers have a lot more muscle to fight for those limited dollars. Even non-comics readers know about The X-Men, while I count myself lucky for every single eyeball that falls on an issue of Rapid City. Finding wider success with an indie superhero. The last time some young, indie, creators came up with a character and rode that character to success and fame was in the 30s. It was Superman and they were famously screwed for decades. It just doesn't happen. There are lots of paths to lots of successes that begin with an indie superhero, but they never end with that same hero. Of course, there could be some small time hero book out there about to prove me wrong. I would love it. I would love it if I was the one to prove me wrong! But I'm not holding my breath.

So why do it? What is the point? What is your goal in all of this? That's the hard part, really. Knowing what it is you want. You can't reach your goal if you don't know what it is. If your goal is to make the next X-Men, making indie comics is not the way to do it. If your goal is to get discovered and re-invent the X-Men, well, good luck. If, however, your goal is to make great superhero comics then there is a good chance that you've already succeeded. And that's the "why". I am a life-longer lover of superheroes. So, to me, this just makes sense as the only real option. Success is almost impossible. The opposition is gigantic, unstoppable, and indestructible. No one has ever succeeded. Everyone who knows anything will tell you that failure is the only possible outcome. And, the only possible window for success is to believe that what you are doing is the right thing and do it no matter the cost.

Well, that sounds like a great superhero story to me. What else could I possibly do?

-Josh Dahl

The night was......

With each story I am trying out a new style or technique which I am not used to using. The issue that I am currently working on is going to employ heavy narration and be in a noir style.I think that noir is so full of tropes and cliches that it is easy if are ok with doing a crappy job at it. Really, the same is true of superhero story. You just familiarize yourself with the basics and come in like a tourist, snapping pictures and buying t-shirts and pointing out all the crappy stuff that is just there for you to gawk at. Then you go "yep, I've been there. It was fun." But that is the crappy version. I know what good noir looks and feels like, but making it is a different story. Literally. Literarily, literally.

So I was thinking about what parts of my overall Rapid City story can be best served with a noir story. I found a few characters and situations that will be well served. There is still work to be done, but I have a starting point.

As I sat, right here on this very couch, with my creative wheels spinning.... I reached over and picked up one of the Criminal trades I got at the Boston Comic Con last weekend. In Criminal, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillps GET noir to the point that they seem to intentionally cast off the obvious tropes in order to really get their hands on the heart of it. I opened "The Dead and the Dying", read one page, and went "Oh, yeah. That's how you do it."

I closed the book and blurted the following into my laptop.

The world is full of facts. Night. Day. Here. There. All just facts.

People have a tendency, though, to string those fact together into stories.

Character is how a man bears the disappointment when his facts no longer match his story.

These are my facts.....

Maybe a bit cliche, but it is my first draft and my first try.

Issue 19

The script for the nineteenth issue of my superhero comic book, Rapid City, has now been posted.


Just keep your eyes open, ok?


For monster tracks?


It's not a monster, ok? It's a gorilla. Can we stop making this into more than it is?

Panel 4. Desperado turning to face Kinetic. Not quite "in his face" but certainly confrontational.


Hey, you get face to face with one of these hairy bastards....


you look him right in the eyes....


and then you tell me there's a difference between a monster and a gorilla.

Panel 5. Kinetic pausing on the embankment, stunned, as Desperado walks away to catch up with the other two.

Panel 6. Switchboard looking at Desperado, surprised. Kinetic is coming up behind them.


Have you fought a gorilla?

Read and discuss this issue of Rapid City, plus all of the previous issues, for free here.