Listened to this Interview by Drinking with Comics with Mike Mignola and wife Christine on his career in the comic industry and how he got to create hellboy series that he can rely on to support him and his family. Advice for living and earning as a cartoonist and raising his family. Nice that his wife is his Business manager for the Hellboy series. Some really good notes on how to work on your own stuff that you can control.
Early days was getting into art school to get a cert to be a teacher.
Saving for Retirement and budgeting.
Save part of your royalties cause it will be taxed.
Get financial guidance for your money.
managing a family.
Creativity and finding passion for your personal projects.
Live simply, high cost of living in NY.
Wife worked in Fashion sales had business knowledge.
Moved to portland to be closer to the publisher.
Q. How did the Business evoled to support the family?
Support yourself by living cheaply. Though What I wanted to do for a very long time.
Not do jobs for the money but you Do the jobs you want to do that will get you to the job you want to do that you are good at.
NY took two people to pay the bills.
If you can make a movie of your IP it helps.
Not doing it for the money but for the love of what you do. Money is important.
Look to position yourself eventually for the Job and what you do. That means taking some jobs to sustain and getting a reputation. Find the time to find the project you can put your best foot forward.
You have to stick with the dream of what you want to do and reject the other work.
Lesson Takeaway1: Be careful of doing a body of work that nobody cares about. Be slective of your work.
Lesson Takeaway2: Work while you do your art on the side.
Q. How did you know you had caught lighting in a bottle (Hellboy is a hit)
It was a guess this will going to work. Knew only after I did the 3rd Hellboy story. Feedback from Artist that it was good. Had Fun doing it and that others liked it
Mike knew he could keep doing this book. He decided moving to portland where it will be cheap for his family.
Q. How to I self-publish and still be able to pay rent?
Beware the IRS for Tax take your money / royalties and put it away not buy a car. Even if your taxes are low you have other costs like healthcare insurance etc.
eg. you receive 10cents save 5cents.
Lots of artist need to do their finances some after getting sick they need to sell their art in an auction it becomes too late cause they did not prepare for those rainy days. (Buy Insurance)
Learn to Budget your expenses. In the creator business its a freelancer business. You get paid irregular.
Plan for your Retirement and healthcare.
Put money away for retirement. This Shit becomes a lot of work later on.
Some guys in the industry have a day job and they do the creative thing on the side.
It gets trickier if you want to do Comics or Arts fulltime if that is your source of income.
You have to decide if this is plan a or plan b or if you can marry plan b.
You need a financial safety net.
Mike though he will be a work for hire. Worked for hire for a while and do his own thing.
Have goals to get where you want and get better.
Lesson: take financial lessons engage financial planners.
Q. Have you a set of steady income stream?
Every year is different. It is hard to manage influx and a slowdown.
Prepare for the bad years. Manage and budget.
Get free financial guidance from your banks.
Merchandise and T-Shirts help to addon to the income stream.
Wife helps to pack and mail out the Hellboy when an order comes in through the website.
Packaging is nicely packed and wrapped. It is the little touches that you do in your packaging that makes the different for the prints and buyer.
Keep things high quality.
Hellboy merchandise for beer. It keeps the brand kind of out there.
Q.What advice would you do if you don’t have your own product. Artsit that are popular what can they do career wise to fall back on if they don’t have their own ‘Hellboy’
Many Artist delude themselve that they will be in mainstream comics or the artist for batman.
They will get a different artist for ‘Batman’
You need to have something cooking in the back. If all you want to do is just draw for Batman it will end. Parlay your success that is something that is yours to control.
Its the guys that want to do something your own, if you are in-between big commercial jobs do a small own thing each week and get it out there.Parlay your success that is your own IP or property. Start small and get it out there eg. a small mini series. Unless you put it out there you will never find out if it will be successful.
There are benefit to own your own things.
Noboby will call you again when they reboot batman.
As a creative you need to control something that you can call your won. You can print T-shirts etc.
Lesson Takeaway: Develop your own IP that you can own
Q. You created Hellboy that can be a Vessle to tell any stories any story you want.
You can Tell a story that people would actually buy. Mike wanted to do straight adaptation of Irish folktales. But it won’t be easily marketable. So he decided to make up a guy that every body likes and put it to the pictures you want to draw. eg Hellboy with Car, hellboy with House / Forest. Learnt from Barry Smith.
You are just made the picture more worth it when your Character is associated with it.
Lesson takeaway: if you want to draw pictures that sell make a character everybody likes and draw it together with it Brand associations.
Qn. Do you feel trapped by just doing hellboy?
I have little ideas about I can do a frog in hell.
Hellboy will end eventually in one gigantic book.
Mike is very story driven not to keep the brand alive. Though it is nice. Hellboy in Hell will be four books.
Trademark will be belong to the daughter Looking beyond someone will take the trademark and present it in a different form.
Qn When to get a Lawyer?
When the deal sounds too goo to be true. Get a lawyer for your IP and trademark. Look for somebody recommended. eg. how to look for someone that has done deasl for Comics to Movies. Some one to get percentages of your movie. Meaning you need some business sense.
Get a lawyer when you are doing a book deal or movie deal. But shop around to find someone you are comfortable to work with.
Qn. How do keep track of your ideas do you write it down?
I keep a file and folder about the new ideas mostly write it down. The scary thing is that I know I made a bunch of ideas a long time ago and the file of ideas is missing. Using
Qn. Does working on other project help to grow as an artist or contribue to Hellboy?
Mike learned The importance of doing Pre-production of your work. He used a bulletin board to pin reference to prep his comic.
You have to keep track of the deadline and not go down the rabbit hole of reasearch.
Find the big pieces of the story and thumbnail the story. Find the reference for each scene and put it up on the board.
Qn for Christine. Looking at the comic book landscape what other advice to give other comic artist and what Landscape changes are in the industry?
Creator own comics seem to becoming into their own. Image comics are more friendlier and great to take your stuff to.
DC and Marvel not as friendly as they were, more corporate. Good place to make a name for yourself.
If you are passionate about something u need to stick with it. Find another Job to support yourselves.
There will be a time where Christine would pull the plug if it did not work out.
If you don’t try it you would not know if it would work out and how interested you were in the idea.
One Trade off is to do commercial work and do passion work in-between.
Qn. Have you Compromised your creativity to make the business?
Everyone approaced the biz differently. One artist did the same style at Image as what he did at marvel. he says its his job to produce what the fans want. Mike if he had his fan following and money he would do something for himself and experiment.
Many artist want to sell a TV show or some do T-Shirts just because they want to sell T-Shirts. Aiming for Quantity with merchandise and not quality.
Many Artist that get a table have too many cheap prints Mike recommends instead of Kinkos do two nice High quality prints. It makes a different when your association is quality.
Lesson Take away: Quality counts from the start even if it is little seek to put the best product out there.