Hi, my name is Cameron and I’ve been collecting comic books since I was in eighth grade. That, of course, means that I, like all nerds of the sub-culture, have always thought making comics was a neat idea. How fun to be the one in charge of these things I love so much?
Now, 11 years later, I’m the co-creator, writer, editor, publisher, marketer, promoter and social media manager of the comic book Skeleton Bay Detective Agency, a series about teen detectives hunting down ghosts and trying to save their sleepy little town from the forces of evil! (Check it out on Skeletonbay-comic.com, we update every Monday.)It’s been a bit of a journey.
One that I’d like to share with you, because throughout this whole process, the thing that has been the most helpful to me has been hearing from people in the industry that I admire being transparent about their processes. Nothing is more inspirational (and anxiety-soothing) than hearing how those who came before me “figured it out.”
The thing is, though, Taylor Carlisle, the artist of Skeleton Bay and co-creator of the series, and I are still new at this. We haven’t figured very much out and we are constantly learning, even as I write this. So, while this is the first article in a series about my journey as a comic book creator, the next entry may completely change between now and then, so I want to document how we got here and how we’re still getting here and hopefully it’ll be interesting and helpful to those of you out there at any phase in your own journey, comic book-related or not.
Plus, this is a great promotion for the book, and shameless self-promotion is how you make it in comics, right? (By the way, we also have a Patreon where you can get Patreon exclusive behind-the-scenes content with each week’s page).
So, let’s start at the beginning.
As I said, I’ve been collecting comics for a long time now, but for most of that time, I never really considered a career in writing anything, let alone something as cool as comics. Writing was something that I had always enjoyed, but it was more of a hobby. At most, the only indication that I ought to be a writer is that I really got into any school assignments that allowed me the chance to be creative. In eighth grade, when we were supposed to write a one-to-two-page horror story, and I wound up pounding out 10 pages in like two hours. Beyond blips and bloops like that, though, I relegated writing to the “something I like, but, like, whatever. I couldn’t seriously do it” pile, and pursued a degree in theatre. Because, of course, being a professional actor is much more attainable.
I didn’t necessarily stick with exclusively acting, however. Even by the end of high school, I was dipping my toes into other aspects of that world, and throughout college I did a decent amount of technical theatre, sets, lighting, and yes, script writing. But again, it was as a hobby, a side project, a submission to the 24-Hour Theatre show the department held every year, but not much more.
And, of course, all this time I had been collecting comics. In college, I actually wound up working part time at my local comic shop, so they were still very much a part of my life. So when I started the inevitable, slow, arching path toward “what the hell should I do with my life?” at the end of college, I sort of picked and poked at the idea of being a part of the comic industry as one of my options. I mean, it was either theatre or comics, as my aspirations for a career in baseball ended after junior high little league.
I’ve never been quite so diluted as to think I could do the art side, but like maybe writing? Er. What about editing, I like talking through other people’s ideas, that’s fun, right? That seems like a better idea. I could be an editor. That seems much more up my alley. Yeah. OK, editor. But you have to have written things to be an editor, right? Well, then I guess I’ll never be an editor! Never mind about comics!
Then, one day, when this all came up in a conversation with my girlfriend at the time, she said,
“Well, why don’t you just write?”
And that’s what it took.
Just this small, simple moment of someone giving me permission, and suddenly it clicked. I didn’t push her out of my apartment, lock the door, and start furiously writing the script for my magnum opus (she would not have loved that…). But that moment of confidence nudged me into taking comic book writing out of the “naaah, never” pile and put it in the “well, maaaaybe…” pile, and that re-categorization gave me the courage that set me off.
But, of course, I had no idea where to go with this newfound courage. I was finishing my degree and transitioning out of “College World” and into “Adult World.” So I started working in theatre lighting, auditioning for shows, and was figuring out what life after college was, all the while keeping script writing in the back of my head; something to poke around with, to apply my creative energies toward when I had downtime. Lightning struck a couple of times, some stage plays got half-written, and I started playing with some ideas for comics (I have a cool time travel one on the back burner that actually may turn out to be my magnum opus some day). Despite my enthusiastic participation in the collecting side of things, though, I didn’t really know what the first move was toward making them.
By the fall of 2014, I hadn’t made much progress with my own projects, but had been working for a printing company that specializes in comic printing. When my mom mentioned that my grandma’s friend’s grandson just graduated from art school and might appreciate advice about the industry though, I was like, “…suuure?,” not really knowing what wisdom I could provide. So I reached out to Taylor with the subject line “Our grandmas apparently talked about us,” and was like, “hey, so if you need advice about the industry, I guess I can help?” He took a week to respond then I took a week to respond, but it quickly came up that he was looking for projects to do. It just so happened that Taylor and I were at kinda the same place in our career paths, he hadn’t really made a comic series either, but had training and a really great style, so I started thinking of ideas to pitch to him.
And there it was. My first lead.I was officially on the path that I’m now on three years later, and it was all sort of by fate, kinda by chance, mostly by luck. I didn’t quite know what was going to happen, but here was a chance to put my money where my mouth was and find out if I really was cut out to be a writer.
Of course, now I needed an idea. In the next installment of this series, I’ll get into how Taylor and I developed the series, where Skeleton Bay came from, and all the evolution it went through as we figured out how the hell we were going to pull this off.
In the meantime, Skeleton Bay also has a Facebook page (shameless plug, shameless plug, shameless plug), so check it out, like the page and all that. And here’s a link to our newsletter you can sign up for.
I’ll see you next time for part two!