By | Sunday, January 08, 2012 Leave a Comment
Whether we consciously recognize it or not, every decision we make has a motivation of some kind behind it. When I first started writing for The Jack Kirby Collector back in 2003, my aim was primarily one of remembrance. In fact, I believe my first published article there actually mentions this in passing. That I wanted to there to be a record of my having contributed something to comicdom. I wasn't expecting to be another Will Eisner or Alex Raymond. I wasn't even shooting for the level of Bill Blackbeard or Shel Dorf. Just a small footnote in a short chapter would be sufficient.

I'd like to think that I've managed that much by now. I'd like to think that a comic historian several decades from now, if they're researching some topic I wrote about, would come across my name at least once. Of course, the more I continue to write, the more chance I'll have of that happening.

The reason motivation is interesting is because you can have several people doing the same thing, but because they have different reasons for doing it, they come at it differently. You can see this quite plainly at a gym. Especially in January.

Some folks are clearly there to get stronger and build muscle. Some folks are clearly there to lose weight. Some folks are clearly there as a social activity. Some folks are clearly there as some form of physical therapy. There's no right reason for going to the gym, of course, but some people you look at and wonder what prompted them to come. I don't mean that as an insult; it's just that they don't seem to have a big motivation to be there. Those people tend to stop showing up in February. They're not strongly motivated to continue.

It's a little less externally obvious, but it's evident in comic readers too. Some folks read for the escapism. Some folks read for the entertainment. Some folks read to study the craft. Some folks read as part of a social activity.

And that's significant because, as someone creating a comic that's intended to be read by these people, it would behoove you to have at least a basic understanding of why potential readers might read your comic. Beyond the "it's really cool because it's got a ninja" or whatever your superficial rationale for it is. That it has a ninja might be a selling point, but it won't be the underlying reason it's being read. Do readers find some emotional attachment to ninjas? Are they looking for examples of societal mores in feudal Japan?

That's not to say that every reader has the same motivation, of course. But my point is that if you, as a comic creator, begin straying away from the fundamental elements that the bulk of your readers are looking for, you'll likely start to lose them EVEN IF you keep the same basic characters and plot.

Of course, if you don't care about that, or find it irrelevant next to your desires as a creator, that's another issue. But if you're looking to become the next Bill Watterson or Milt Caniff, you should probably at least keep it in mind.
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