Welcome back to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.

The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to panel@silverbulletcomicbooks.com and we’ll add them to the list…

This week’s question comes from our very own Bart Thompson and is as follows:-

“What do your mate, parents, children, family, and friends think of your career? Ever have to defend what you do or prove it to be an actual job/career?”

Kev F Sutherland :

I’m in the UK so I have to spend more time explaining comic strips than defending them. Most people don’t believe you can do it as an actual job, given that no-one in this country reads the damn things.

Friends and family are happy when money comes in. They don’t ask questions. Who cares if it comes from comic books, or something more reputable like, say, bank robbery?

Writer and artist in most genres of comic form. Currently: The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.

Mike Bullock:

My wife loves it. She’s quite the comic fan and just thinks it’s great to have watched me go from a burning desire to write comics to actually holding the finished product in my hand. My mother, the very same mother who thought my music career was a glorified hobby that she frowned upon, read Lions, Tigers & Bears #1 and actually enjoyed it. As for the rest of my family, my brother taught me to read with comics so it’s no surprise that he’s very proud that I’ve finally reached my goal of writing them.

The really overflowing support has come from my wife’s family. My father-in-law, who may very well be one of the greatest men I’ve ever met, is so proud of Lions, Tigers & Bears that it’s almost surreal. I look up to him so much and for him to cast the same admiration back at me is really a great feeling.

The rest of my wife’s family has been equally excited. They came out to the signing I did in Minnesota over the holiday break and insisted on buying copies of the book. I certainly would have given them three or four copies for free, but they wouldn’t have it. They wanted to help support the book. I think that says a lot right there.

As for friends, that’s kind of cheating, since most of my friends are comic readers and the ones that aren’t, used to be, with the exception of my best friend, who would support me no matter what I did… which is what best friends do.

While Lions, Tigers & Bears has been received tremendously well by most who have encountered it, I don’t think the buzz would be what it is without the support of friends and family. If nothing else, they help me overcome moments of doubt and help me remain grounded in moments of glory.

While there are many people out there that scoff at comics, I think God truly blessed me with those in my life and their acceptance of my passion.

Mike Bullock is a writer, promotion agent and President of Runemaster Studios, Inc. Lions, Tigers & Bears, his first published foray into comic writing, debuted in January 2005 from Image Comics. His other comic credits include editorship on Alias Enterprises’ Imperial Dragons and Dreamwave’s Warlands. Bullock has several other creator-owned comic properties in the pipeline, including Gimoles, a book set to debut in the summer of 2005.

Sean O’Reilly:

My wonderful wife Shell and my parents have been behind me 110% and have always supported me with each step that I’ve taken. They are actually coming down to SDCC this year and are taking care of Summer (my daughter) and seeing what this whole comic convention thing is about. I’ve worked in a number of industries already and this is by far the most erratic and one of the most emotionally draining. You can feel like you are on top of the world one day, and the next you’re devastated. Without the support of family or the tight networking of friends, I don’t think I could have gone this far. Things are much more stable now and it’s become a lot easier, but I know if it gets rough again, I can depend on my friends and family. I honestly have only met ONE person who thought what I was doing was lame. It was a friend of mine’s boyfriend…and I know it was because he was jealous. Seriously everyone I’ve talked to has always thought that working in this industry is amazing and that it’s great for someone to pursue their dreams with such integrity and passion. And for those of you in any industry keeping pushing towards your dreams and never give up!

Sean Patrick O’Reilly is Editor-in-Chief of Arcana Studios, and the writer of their book, Kade.

Frazer Irving:

They all think it’s cool. Well, ever since I turned pro anyway. I tend not to try to defend these things anyway. If someone connected to me has issue with the validity of my chosen path then I just ignore it really. There was this girl in my local art store who thought it was all a bit silly, and asked me how I made a living “drawing my comic” but that was 5 years ago and she’s still there selling pastels to school kids so i don’t bring it up whenever she serves me on the rare occasion that I shop there.

Frazer Irving: Essex boy, artist, philanderer. Did the small press
for 5 years, then 2000AD for another five, moved onto the glorious silky pages of DC recently. Not one for pigeonholing, he rejects the penciller-inker-colourist team-up and has merged 3 clones of himself into 1 so that he does all jobs. Possibly known for work on 2000AD‘s Necronauts, Judge Death and The Simping Detective, currently doodling Klarion the Witch-Boy for DC.

Lee ?Budgie” Barnett:

Well, of course, comics isn’t my career per se, as I have a day job as CFO of a company entirely unrelated to comics. Most of my friends however are readers of comics and so are as pleased as you’d expect at my being published. Those of my friends that aren’t interested in comics are faintly puzzled as to why I read comics, let alone write them. Luckily, though, I’m in the position that none of them dare say “why don’t you get yourself a proper job?”

As for my family’s thoughts, they could best be summed up as a mixture of pride in what achievements I have made and utter confusion about comics themselves and why a grown man would be interested in them. My father just enjoys the fact that his son is a published writer, while my mum remains in blissful naiveté about the whole thing, saying “That’s nice” whenever I get something published. My brother is very interested in my comics work, and constantly plugs me to his friends, while never reading any comics other than mine. My wife, on the other hand, gets a kick out of the fact that I get a kick out of it, while very tolerantly accepting my comics purchases in good graces.

The only one of the family that’s as excited about it as I am is my nine year old son, Philip… who’ll happily bore people for hours on the subject of his father and comics. One of these days, I’ll get to write something specifically for him that’ll get published.

(And, if I can add one more thing – one of the things he’s most thrilled about is getting presents from those in the industry that have become friends and have been kind enough to send stuff to him. He thinks the world of fellow panellist Jesse McCann, for example, for the books Jesse kindly signed and sent to him.)

Lee ‘Budgie’ Barnett is a writer of comedy and comics, firstly Imperium’s TRAILER PARK OF TERROR, then X-MEN UNLIMITED #4 (Aug 04). Online, he has GOING CHEEP at Pulse, and his novel YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE A MAN CAN FLY here. Famed in UK Comics for Hypotheticals (devised with and presented by Dave Gibbons) – an inspiration for The Panel, he’s been described as being to accountancy what Indiana Jones is to archaeology.

Daley Osiyemi:

My mates, parents, children, family, and friends all think what it is the hell you do anyway? But they all support me all the same.

Daley Osiyemi creator of Brodie’s Law and co-founder of Pulp Theatre Entertainment where he works as producer and creator on various new media and comic projects. Writer and producer of online animated comic series None But Us, developed a character to help promote broadband and is currently working on a graphic novel and a film idea.

James E. Lyle (a.k.a. Doodle):

I think that as much as our love for the medium, that comics creators have this difficulty in common. If nothing else! I have had to defend my desire to be a cartoonist since I was in 6th grade, when I decided to start taking comics ‘seriously’. My Mother used to say, “what if you CAN’T draw comic books for a living?” To which I’d reply in surly teenage tones, “Then I’ll throw myself off of the nearest skyscraper!” I would never have done this, but it did stop the conversation right where it was.

My wife’s family, on the other hand, had a different perspective. My father-in-law is himself a cartoonist, and so shares my mania. In fact I have often remarked that God gave me the only father-in-law who could have understood me!

But I’ve yet to meet ANY cartoonist /comics creator that hasn’t had to defend himself from someone along the line.

James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.

Bart Thompson:

Originally I was on my way to becoming a police officer and I was even in a “magnet” high school (schools specialized to certain careers) program. After being the top of my class the first 3 years I did a soul search and discovered that though I enjoyed police work, comics was my true calling. Senior year I dropped out of the program right before were about to start the pre-academy work. My family and my instructor were very, very disappointed (even pretty pi$$ed).

That was nearly a decade ago and over the years people have learned that this is what I’m doing and I will succeed come Hell or high water. I did snag a few college credits, so that eased my mother’s mind a bit in case everything falls through I’ll “have something to fall back on.” Same with my day job- I’ve been there for four years and it looks good on my regular resume.

As for other people, for the most part I’ve grown closest to people that understand what I do and are more artistically understanding, inclined, or progressive. Those who aren’t don’t seem to last long. When I was dating I made sure to bring up what I did and how important it was to me- it was good to weed out ones who were too “needy” or too closed minded. Hopefully I did bring some girls to the industry or at least left them with a better impression of what comics are really about and shattering the preconceived notions.

All in all I’ve been blessed with a good amount of friends and associates who dig and understand what I do. My girlfriend is one of my biggest supporters, and that rocks. My best friends happen to be fellow comic creators. Though there is one female friend who is still around that doesn’t quite get it… hmmm… I haven’t talked to her in a while. I should call her… one of these days…
Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics and creator of Vampires Unlimited, The Metamutoids, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs Zombies.

Baz Renshaw writes:

Since the age of 3 I wanted to draw comics for a living. In fact my sole ambition was just to draw Dredd in 2000AD and I would die a happy squaxx dek thargo. You never know, may still happen. Pretty much since that age I also had to explain to people why I wanted to draw comics instead of doing something proper with my life. A particular frequent suggestion for an alternate career from family was always ‘why not go work for Disney?’ as if just be taking a plane and a few drawings of Optimus Prime would immediately set me up with a job for life. Nope, instead I decided to do the whole well-trodden college/uni/warehouse route and plough my monthly earnings into producing my own stuff, and soon after that they gave up trying to understand. They even gave up trying to tidy up around my drawing board, which I thought they’d never do. In recent years explaining the desire for any career in comics involves a short ‘they aren’t just for kids or about superheroes anymore’ essay to people, as well as trying to explain the reason I have very little social life is because I love comics and spend every other waking hour doing them. Getting a decent wage doing it as well would help immensely! I look forward to a day in the future my little nephew is in school and his mates go: “Your Uncle draws JUDGE DREDD? Cool!”.
Or whatever those youngsters say these days.

Writer, artist, editor and Liverpudlian Barry Renshaw is behind the ENGINE COMICS line of publications and a founder of the ACCENT UK collective, makers of among other things, REDEYE MAGAZINE, a quarterly for the UK comics scene.

Alan Grant:

Everybody I know thinks it’s really cool. I’ve never had to defend what I do, because it’s nobody’s business but mine.

Alan Grant, writer of Dredd, Batman, and the slightly mad Doomlord, can be seen currently with Arthur Ranson on Judge Anderson in the Judge Dredd Megazine, and the superb Com.X trade collection of The Last American.

Fiona Avery:

My fella, Ben, treats me like the girl next door, and never like “some famous person.” He’s very protective of my privacy and my time and won’t let other people take advantage of that. And many people do try to take advantage of a working writer’s position; you’d better believe it. With Ben, I am able to just be Fiona, the girl who sometimes plays video games, or horses around, or reads by the fire, or watches The Daily Show. I need that time as a “normal person” more than anything in the world. He’s also a writer and we have Writers’ Dates together where we both get a lot of wonderful work done in quiet companionship. He is my first Reader and because he gets the way I think, he always gives me great feedback on my work.

I don’t have children, but my cats could care less about my career. As long as there’s food on their plates, they don’t care how I earn the money to pay for it.

My family was sceptical of my career at first, thinking I should be an ad-writer or a journalist and actually have a steady income. Families have your best interests at heart and there’s a lot of mythology and pure bunk surrounding the writer’s life. So families hear the same crap we do about starving artists, drunk and dead in a gutter in East L.A. and they worry for our safety and our happiness. Once you succeed in writing fiction, most of them come around. My mother is proud of all my writing accomplishments and takes great pains to inform her friends and co-workers when a new project is out. We collaborate a lot, too. I enlisted her artistic expertise as an Art Director on my new novel, (it comes out in May called The Crown Rose and you can pre-order it at Amazon.com now), and it was my mom who drew the ancient map printed on the endpapers of the novel.

The only friends I keep (I’m ruthless this way) are friends who can be there for me before, during and after all my writing successes and failures. This life is hard enough without adding jealous and blocked friends to your path. You can’t carry someone else up the road with you on this trip so you learn to make friends with people willing to walk beside you. Even if you fall behind or they fall behind, you can hear them cheering from wherever they are along the way.

I’ve never had to defend what I do to my intimates, or prove I have an actual career, but I sometimes have to defend the way I spend my time. Writers do a lot of writing that never hits the page. We get paid to spend most of our time daydreaming. I can spend five hours doing what appears to be nothing but I am writing. The first time new friends get a whiff of my “schedule” (Oh, what a loose term that is for my livelihood!) they often mock it or feel a little envious. They usually tell me how I don’t know what stress and pressure are since I’m a writer. I then have to sit down and explain that stress for a writer comes in different forms that other careers don’t have.

Suffice to say the definition of writer’s schedules and writer’s stresses is a whole new topic for another day, but nonetheless, that’s about all I have to defend to people I know.

Fiona Avery created No Honor at Top Cow, and currently writes Amazing Fantasy for Marvel.

Stephen Holland:

I think some of my relatives regard running a comic shop akin to dribbling in an infant’s playpen, making plasticene dinosaurs. My father used to tell anyone who asked that I owned a book shop.

There was one funeral a few years ago where so many of those people you only ever meet at family funerals kept on asking what I did for a living, and I grew so tired of explaining what we actually stocked, who our customers were, and how much judgement it actually entailed that I took my Auntie Tish to one side and swore blind that if one more person asked, I’d tell them I was a rent boy. Disappointingly, the questions then dried up.

On the other hand there are those that are in big business themselves – my Uncle David used to run Pizza Hut International outside of America, then Burger King – and I think they’re surprised I turned out to be a businessman at all (though no more so than myself), and are actually quite intrigued about the different dynamics involved in what is still, alas, quite a specialised business. Either that, or they’re humouring me.

My friends, who tend to be musicians, singers, writers, designers, English teachers (or in some way or other on the arty farty side), think it’s immensely cool. I don’t think they can believe I own a shop right in the middle of a city centre, but then neither can I. The fact that it’s comics rather than, say, records, makes no difference to them whatsoever. Most of them tend to read comics themselves.

My cats thought I was a figure of fun, and mocked me at every opportunity. Except when I brought tuna to the table.

Stephen Holland runs Page 45 – a comic shop in Nottingham – with Mark Simpson and Tom Rosin. He can also be found, monthly, in Comics International.

Donna Barr:

Do I care? I’m an adult. I’ll do what I damn well please for a career. At least I’m not trying to kill people to support my livelihood — like the military or beef breeders.

Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link

This was a good question and we have many good answers this week. I can pretty relate to everyone’s answers, there is something in everyone of them that I can say yep – that’s how I feel… it has always been my dream to work on something to do with Superman, anything will do – I’ll love it to be either a comic or a film. I also run my own small press comic company (www.portentcomics.com) where all the film scripts I don’t have time to make are turned into comics, in fact I am even writing scripts as comics. Most of friends don’t really understand why I like comics, or write them although my Keely (my girl) doesn’t mind as long as don’t take over “our time”, in fact I have been trying various comics on her recently and she is enjoying Brodie’s Law and even read half of the The Filth the other night!
I have two friends who are into comics, Jamie and Neil – with Neil I think I created a monster, I got him involved a few years back and now his collections is almost bigger than my 12 years of collecting. My other friends often dig at me because of an ongoing joke about a guy called “comic John” who used to hassle me at work (when I worked in a supermarket, he was a customer), but they think its pretty cool that I am making my own comics.

Thanks to everyone who took part in this week’s panel, we all hoped you enjoyed it – REMEMBER SEND US THE QUESTIONS YOU WANT ANSWERED BY THE PANEL!

The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn’t it. – James

Have the Panel gotten it right?
Have your say on the hot topics of the day at the Panelology message board.