Dean Haspiel Talks to the Content Maker

I saw this over at The Beat, reposted from Dean Haspiel's LiveJournal. I'll post his whole message, with the accompanying illustrations.

Dear, Content Maker–

Being published by someone else does not legitimize your hard work. And, the financial advance hardly pays the rent. Think about that the next time you sign a contract for your original ideas. I trust a firm handshake over most of the jargon they write into those binding contracts, anyway.

Sadly, the death rattle of print is shivering its way towards the way we currently package and distribute our wares, and marketing is a publishing luxury of the past. The good news? There is a new dawn on the horizon where the author will become the provider, publisher and publicist. Don't let it daunt you. Continue to network, make strong allies, be aware, show up, and be gracious. The digital age was created by us, for us. If you can procrastinate one hour a day, you can certainly keep track of what's what. Train your eye and keep tabs and make something new.

Bottom line: keep making original content and stop giving it away to publishers. If you're going to give it away, then benefit from it. Meanwhile, hold on a little bit longer for the paradigm shift to settle in. Exclusive content, destination points, and perceived value is the name of the game. Meanwhile, watch how many publishers close shop in 2011 and know that we're on the cusp of a publishing revolution. Be armed with your stories and get ready. People love to read.


Dean Haspiel

You might know Haspiel from his work with Act-i-vate, or his Vertigo work like Cuba: My Revolution or The Alcoholic, or his creator owned work, Billy Dogma

He makes some bold pronouncements, such as predicting the folding of several publishers and the actual death of print. While there are certainly signs of things like this happening, it feels like he's being a little too hard edged. We're getting used to seeing these grand pronouncements, and the odd thing about this one is that it feels like it's sort of coming from a different era. I was of the mind that, in all but a few circumstances where bad deals were made, these publishers-ripping-off-creators stories had become much more of a rarity. The industry had learned from the past, and the wealth of available resources on the web had made it very easy for prospective creators to get the best shake. But this is coming from a long time industry veteran, both of creator owned and work for hire jobs.

The problem with statements like this, just like Robert Kirkman's manifesto, coming from a completely different perspective, is that they can't and don't take into account the situation of every kind of current and prospective comic book creator. Maybe some of these folks want to do superhero work for Marvel and DC. Others might not, but just want to see their work in print. Still others love the thrill of creating comics, but don't have the resources, time or otherwise, to self-publish. There's not a one-size-fits-all approach to creating comics.

Still, I admire the optimism for the future contained in the message. While all signs point to a sort of epochal shift of everything we know, there is a future. We don't know what it is, and Haspiel is right that the best thing creators can do is have their stories ready. Keep making comics then.


  1. SirCox SirCox says:

    I love Dean Haspiel but I think the argument can be made that it’s easier to being all up in arms when everyone knows who you are and your work in the industry. 

  2. Its a nice sentiment, but a bit of an idealistic argument. Sure self publishing is great and there is potential to make all the money for yourself, but you don’t get reviews, exposure, distribution….the credibility of publishing through an indie. 

    Its much easier to self publish if you already have a built in fanbase and a track record or producing popular work. If you’re just starting out not so much. 

    The whole “death of print” thing is a popular sentiment right now, but its not really true. Sure lots of media is moving digitally, but as a society we’re printing as much as or more things than we ever have in our history. Honestly i think there is a place for both to coexist…and how funny will it be in 15 years once we all have our super cheap digital tablets reading comics digitally that a movement of “return to print!!!” comes into play. I can see it…pop culture is cyclical like that. =)

  3. WeaklyRoll WeaklyRoll says:

    It’s an interesting concept that’s for sure. in the past week, two cartoonist/ creators have put thier work on sale on their own sites; Scottie Young and Chris Elliopous. Young has stated on twitter that he is really happy with the sales thus far, and it sounds like he is quite surprised by the response. I like Josh’s comment on comics not being a one size fits all approach. We are into a very niche market, and it’s not surprising that we are gettting into very niche ways of purchasing and producing thess “books.” I wonder if we will see digitally only publishers start up this year, offering their own stories online instead of in store. I wonder what kind of stories and formats they would lead to.

  4. @WeaklyRoll  –i think there is a place in the market for a digital only publisher. That would be something. It would make the most sense for creator owned, the sheer numbers you have to sell before you can ever see a penny from the indie publishers makes it so prohibitive. 

  5. Rob3E Rob3E says:

    I don’t know if it a “one-size-fits-all” message. It sounds more to like if you’re frustrated, opportunities are on the way.  I was catching up on my iFanboy posts, so I just read Ron’s list of the worst things in comics in 2010, and to me Dean’s message really resonates with Ron’s point about the hesitancy to embrace digital comics.  I don’t really think print is dead. Not yet and maybe not ever. But digital is here and now and growing.  Publishers are definitely dragging their heels, and I could see where some creators could find this very frustrating. It feels to me like not only a huge opportunity to expand the comic-book-reading audience, but a necessary step to take just to keep up with the existing customer base.  But one of the magical things about the digital world is that it is a level playing field right now. Predicting a boom in self-published digital comics doesn’t seem like a reach.  It seems like other industries are already doing this.  Sure, not everybody wants to go it alone, and sure, it’s easier to sell your stuff if people already know who you are (is that different from print?), but if you want to go it alone, the barriers to self-publishing just keep getting lower and lower.  It’s still work, but it keeps getting easier, and I think we’re seeing the line between digital and print getting more and more blurred. If the Big Two don’t lead us into the digital world, I think people are going to realize that there’s fans to be found and money to be made on their own. I agree with Josh that the tone of Dean’s letter is a little strange, but I think the overall sentiment is dead on. At least I hope so. But I don’t really hope for the death of existing publishers.  I hope they find a home in digital space as well. And while I don’t want to see the death of print, either, I do think it’s going to be necessary to change how print is handled, and the existing publishers may just be too married to their current business models to see what to do.

  6. WeaklyRoll WeaklyRoll says:

    @Wally, adding to that, i think iFanboy posted this, unless it was comixology, but the most viewed comics on their app in 2010 leaned heavily on the indie side with books like Chew and others more so then Marvel and DC books. this is probably also because Marvel and DC has dedicated apps for their books. But there is a market, but they need the right kind of books, books like Chew that test the boundaries of what a story can tell. I think i may have found a project to work on haha.

  7. @Rob3E  –good points. You’re not going to see innovation from the Big 2 in terms of creating an environment for digital comics to really thrive. Thats going to happen from a new voice and it already is. 

    I don’t wish death on any publishers either, but i want them to evolve. Digital mediums have the opportunity to really change comics from a creative standpoint. Thats exciting. lets see publishers embrace that. 

    You are right about digital being a democratic playing field (in theory at least) There is potential for the next big creator to be all digital. I mean look at how many musicians, comedians, personalities etc were discovered on youtube. How many writers and pudits got hired by big media from blogs. Sure its a small sampling but its enough to show that it can and does happen more than once or twice. 

  8. I don’t know about you guys but I found it inspiring :)

  9. AlanRob AlanRob says:

    @WeaklyRoll  Thanks for the tip on the Misery Loves Sherman!  Love me some Eliopolous.  Bought!