Since the announcement of Oni Press opening up submissions for new creators starting May 1, activity has been renewed in some comic forums as creators seek others to join their team in hopes of developing the next great comic and some are seeking to promote their stories. I’m sure plenty of creators, like myself, are even dusting off some of their old scripts and searching their files and notebooks for those ideas that were rejected and discarded some time ago. As a writer, comics is a difficult medium to break into, so when publishers like Oni open the doors not only for the undiscovered artists but for little scribes like myself, it’s a true blessing, even if it does come from a publisher named after a demon.
Being a writer, prose comes easily because it takes a one-man team and you can write without knowing where the story is going until you reach the ending that satisfies you. In comics, thinking visually is more challenging because you have to map out the details so that it makes sense, one frame at a time. You also have to have a good grasp on writing clear visual descriptions so that the people you have to rely on can bring out the story and characters as you see it, especially for those like myself who lack the artistic talent to translate the vision into art on their own. One of the biggest challenges I find in this though is finding a good partner who is willing to go the distance with you, especially in circumstances where you can’t pay, but fortunately Oni is one publisher that partners you up with someone. But then it boils down to how to appeal to the publisher…
Oni prides itself on publishing “real mainstream” comics and graphic novels and was founded by men who wanted to publish the comics they would want to read. With the media being dominated by vampires, zombies and, of course, superheroes, it’s understandable that Oni would not want such books. I’m not too familiar with “gritty detective” stories besides Dick Tracy, which I only vaguely remember as a child, or supernatural noir outside of Hellboy and one of my new favorite webcomics, CU Next Tuesday, but if those types of stories don’t fit with them, I suppose they must be somewhat overrepresented as well. So, that leaves the question of what other kinds of stories translate well visually to appeal to a wide demographic and remain marketable in this medium.
It has been pointed out by some professionals in the industry that children’s books and movies are one of the greatest moneymakers these days, most likely due to the fact that there have been so few made in probably the last decade and parents are willing to put the money out for age-appropriate entertainment. Also, because the creative well in Hollywood seems to be drying up and long-running comic series need new life put into them, we tend to see a lot of reinventions of old stories, such as the live-action remakes for Disney’s animated movies and even Bible stories reimagined for the sake of the big screen or publications, and of course, DC’s New 52. But on that note, why should new creators not satirize or reinvent some of the more well-known stories and characters out there? Looking directly at Oni’s past successes in titles such as I Was The Cat and Scott Pilgrim, comics that clearly poke fun at historical events and pop culture have usually been well received.
Oni wants the out-of-the-box, boundary-breaking, character-driven story. Looking at trends in what has worked in the mainstream media and the “real mainstream” seems to be the best place to start in finding the best avenue to writing that one great story and delivering a successful pitch for a publisher. Every writer has their own style and preferred presentation or angle for their stories, and now there is barely anything under the sun that hasn’t already been done in some shape, form, or fashion, so maybe the successful route may actually lie in making something already out there your own. But gambling on the most insane idea you can conceive on your own is just as good a bid as any.
For all my fellow creators out there, no matter where you fall short, I hope that you all keep on until your visions are realized, and continue to be blessed and stay brilliant. Hopefully, you will be Oni’s next success.