home : news : reviews : features : fiction : podcast : blogs : t-shirts : wtf?
 

I Can See Your House From Here v 2.32
© Kenn McCracken
March 13, 2002

Back in 1992, there was a batch of guys who were really unhappy with their workplace. They didn't feel they were being fairly compensated for their work. There were creator's rights at stake. The number involved grew to seven, and those seven comic creators left their safe and predictable jobs at Marvel comics to form their own comic company, Image Comics. It was huge at the time -- these artists were among the top names in comics, making huge paychecks on books like X-Men, Spider-Man, and The Incredible Hulk, all the while breaking print and sales records left and right. And they were risking all of that success with this move -- there was no safety net, and it's been reported that they burned their bridges with Marvel in order to make sure that they would all be devoted to making Image work.

10 years later, a lot has changed in the industry. Comic artists are not nearly the focal point that they were at that time; the market collapsed and then began a period of regrowth; creator-owned books are a much more common part of the landscape now. And where Marvel and DC used to stand as the two companies that ruled the comic book marketplace, they are now joined by Image Central.

But this isn't about Image, per se; this is more about the beginnings of Image. This is about finding success as a individual (be it writing, music, art, or even business). This is about figuring out what you want, what is most important to you in this world, and doing what it takes to get it. But most of all, it's about risk.

It's a fairly easy thing to walk through life on the sidewalk, paying careful attention to the road signs, making sure that you only put your feet down in the footprints of others. That's the safe way; if everyone else has already walked this way, odds are pretty damn good that there's no danger. Of course, down that path, all the really good things have already been picked up. There's nothing new to see or discover. If your idea of reward is freedom from anxiety, or a life of predictable boredom, then maybe the sidewalk is a good place for you.

Wander off the path, though -- that's where the real riches of the world are. Undiscovered treasure is scattered everywhere, just waiting to be found. There are a million untold stories, unseen beauties, and unknown realms to be explored. This is where fame and fortune are waiting. On the other hand, it's dangerous off the path. Who knows what dangers lie waiting out there? Not many people have gone there before, and of those, only a handful have survived. Is it really worth the risk?

Most people live their lives on the cleaner side of the razor line between safety and risk. Pushing the envelope is not an easy thing to do, though -- the odds are against you from the beginning, the work is harder and the payoff is never guaranteed. It's possible to lose everything. Why on Earth would anyone want to take those chances, when stability requires less work, even?

I should point out real quick that there's a huge difference with low visibility -- call it a chasm that grows depending on your perspective -- between taking risks and being utterly stupid. Kissing your childhood sweetheart to see what happens is a risk; doing it in front of her husband who recently escaped prison, killing four guards, three prisoners, and his own grandmother in the process -- that's just stupid. Unless, of course, you have terminal cancer, and have only thirty seconds to live anyway.

There's a correlation between the stupidity of a risk and the reward on the other side. It all boils down to balancing what you stand to lose against what you stand to gain. If you quit your job to pursue a life in music, you might very well become the next Britney Spears or Bob Dylan (insert your own idols here), rolling in money or critical praise or seeing your face on every magazine. Or you might find yourself broke and deeply in debt, depressed, and with nowhere to turn (you quit your job for this?). But what is it that you stand to lose -- a predictable career track, climbing the corporate ladder and stepping on the heads of the people around you, a 401(k) plan that you don't understand anyway, a week of vacation paid for with a ninety hour week beforehand?

I want to compare all of this to stepping on to a platform that may take you up to new heights or send you plummeting to a gruesome death, with equal odds either way, but that's far from fair to you, the risk taker. After all, there is far more going on than a simple flip of the coin; you have talents, drive, determination, ambition, the support of friends and family. If you're in the arts world, you're up against competitors, all as hungry and talented and subject to the whims of the public as you. If you're in the corporate world, someone else is going to see the brilliance of your plan and try to steal it out from under you. You may be supremely self-confident, or subject to buckling under the slightest pressure. Your goal may be riches to make Bill Gates cry in shame, fame to rival that of Shakespeare or Stalin, or just a little more freedom and contentedness for yourself. You may just have something to say, a message for the world (or yourself, or your next door neighbor) that needs to come out in prose or poem. Each of these factors and a billion more come into play when you're considering the odds -- and it may turn out that, all things being equal, and while you stand to lose everything you love, those odds are overwhelmingly in your favor.

The thing about risk is that it is often the determining factor in a lot of our life decisions. We don't tell the beautiful girls that we think they are, because we might find out that we're not so beautiful to them or damage a friendship. We don't write the stories that are in our heads because we're afraid that all that time will be wasted. We play cover songs instead of writing our own, or film yet another romantic comedy instead of the edgy brilliance that we envision, we work tedious jobs because at least we know we'll cover the rent for another month. And when we hit our sixties and seventies, we watch our kids and wish we could try again, we hear about the Bill Gates of the world and dream of being rich and powerful; regret washes over as we realize that the price that we might have paid might not have been so bad after all.

I wonder if Todd MacFarlane and Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee and the others ever think back to the fateful day when they walked out of Marvel's offices, wondering where they'd be if they hadn't left when they did. Ten years later, the original seven founders of Image may have gone in different directions, but they're all richer and better-known than they might have been at Marvel. Are there others that we don't know about, people that couldn't stomach walking the edge like that, who wake up every morning and kick themselves in the teeth over not walking out? How many comic creators tried and failed, and wish they could go back and take the safe route?

We live in a world of what if and could have, should have. Perhaps you are perfectly content in your world, where Judge Wopner comes on at noon every day with a bowl of soup and a sandwich, bedtime is ten PM, and Saturdays are museum days; if you are, more power to you. I spent too much time a few years ago wondering what would have happened if I had taken a few more risks across my life; those ruminations led me to alter my mindset to take a few more chances every day. Since then, I've fallen flat more than a few times, I've lost a lot of money and time and been hurt, sometimes badly. I've yet to hit the bulls-eye; no financial freedom or fame for me yet. I try to keep my gambles to the right side of stupid -- no swimming with piranha for a fifty dollar cash prize for me, thanks (throw in a new widescreen TV and we'll talk) -- although I'm sure I drop the ball there occasionally, too. But I'll keep doing it, because the more you stand to lose, the more you stand to gain.

Make it a goal for yourself, to take a chance this week. You don't have to quit your job to write the great American novel, or court death breaking land speed records -- but do something. Bet five bucks on the Oscars or the NCAA tournament, or sign up for those skydiving lessons you were always too scared to take, or tell that cute girl you want to take her to dinner. What's the worst that can happen? And more importantly, what's the best?


Kenn McCracken tells all the girls that they are beautiful. And often pays the price.

 
Recommend Us
  • Send to a Friend
  • Digg This
  • Reddit It
  • Add to del.ic.ious
  • Share at Facebook
  • Discuss!
  • Send Feedback
  • Santa Vs. Zombies
  • Capeshooters
  • Comics Forum
  • Related Pages
  • Print This Page
  • Two Cent Reviews : The Path, Hammer of the Gods
  • Kabuki Agents: Scarab #1-8
  • Wizard World 2001 - The Wrap Up
  • Search RevSF
  • New on RevSF
  • RevolutionSF Contest: Win Heir Chronicles Fantasy Novels by Cinda Chima
  • Outlander
  • Book Probe: Sci-Fi Chronicles, Visual History of Sci-Fi, Ray Bradbury
  • The Leftovers
  • RevSF Home

  • Things to Buy
    Yes, YOU can get more from the brains behind RevSF.


    The only free sci-fi and humor zine left in America.
     
    RevolutionSF RSS Feed
     
    Search RevSF


    Random RevSF
    Subspace: Insidious Like a Glove

     
     
     
    contact : advertising : submissions : legal : privacy
    RevolutionSF is ™ and © Revolution Web Development, Inc., except as noted.
    Intended for readers age 18 and above.