In 2005 I was a floundering 21-year-old college student with no direction and growing debt. I drew that snake comic in a statistics class I was failing, and on my way home I decided to scan it and maybe put together a website. I thought if I kept doing that, I could teach myself to draw, as a fun hobby.
Since then, this comic has become my full time job (since 2008), and last year I raised over half a million dollars in the second most successful comics Kickstarter ever. I draw what I like, I have fans all around the globe, and most fortunately, I know what I want to do with my life. In those nine years I’ve had countless people from all corners tell me I couldn’t do this or that, or that I was wasting my time trying something that had no future or point. At the end of the day, though, I can only say “I’ll show you,” and I try to do just that.
Never underestimate the power of time, hard work, and stubbornness.
Hey, Seattle! I’ll be at Emerald City Comicon March 28-30! I’ll be at the Topatoco booth, #1102. I’ve got all sorts of books and goodies, and I’ll be doing some dinosaur sketches for anybody who wants one.
I’ve had to overcome some serious behind-the-scenes hurdles, but that’s all behind us now. There’s some exciting news regarding the comic that I can’t wait to share in the near future, so stay tuned! 2014 is the year Dresden Codak takes over the world.
I thought I’d do a little spotlight on some amazing artists you should be following!
Alexandra Douglass (tumblr | twitter | portfolio) - creator of the webcomic The Cloud Factory. An incredible digital painter, adept at creating powerful, atmospheric pieces. She’s a constant source of personal inspiration to step up my game.
Kali Ciesemier (tumblr | twitter | portfolio) - omega-level freelance illustrator. She’s got the best colors in the business, as far as I’m concerned, with some of the most magnificently composed pieces going today.
Anne Szabla (tumblr | twitter | deviantART) - creator of Bird Boy, one of the most original-looking comics out there. With an aesthetic that’s simultaneously remote and personal, her worlds are deep, lived-in, and mythic.
You should definitely check these artists out if you haven’t already, you won’t be disappointed.
You’ve all heard the story of Midas, the man with the golden touch (not to be confused with Goldfinger, who was also the man with the golden touch)? Imagine a world where not only was Midas a real person, but also where everything Midas touched turned to gold; not just cups and food, but the very earth beneath him, and even the air he breathed. Imagine he turned the entire world into gold. Now imagine you’re an space traveler in the future and you hear a legend of a planet that is basically one big ball of gold. Such is the world presented in The Midas Flesh from BOOM! Studios.
You guys! I did cover art for my pal Ryan North’s new comic The Midas Flesh, a series that each and every one of you should start reading RIGHT NOW because it’s great.
Fair enough. I assume you mean when I started Dresden Codak? I’ll break down the honest-to-goodness process of the early comics:
Draw comics in mechanical pencil on the back of my statistics homework (never turned in) and then ink on top of that with a micron pen.
Sneak into the Honors College study room (from which I was expelled for poor grades) and use their scanner.
Use a mouse and a bootleg copy of Photoshop 7 to color the pages.
Upload it to my site, which at the time was flat HTML that I’d written from scratch.
And that’s it!
reblogging this for the reminder that grades and a college degree are by no means the be-all end-all of life.
There’s some truth to this. I’d like to share some further biographical information:
I’m a college dropout. In 2006 I left school after a little over four years because I kept changing majors (physics, anthropology, computer science, then art) and it had reached a point where it was difficult for me to afford to keep going to school (I was paying my own way with various jobs).
The reason I had kept changing majors was because I was terrified that I’d picked the “wrong” career, with most of those academic decisions based around what careers seemed prestigious. I wanted to be an engineer because I liked the idea of being an engineer, then a programmer because I liked the idea of being a programmer, but I was never happy doing any of these things, and it showed. I’d always been groomed to be a good student, and for most of my career I was good at doing what I was told.
I’d always been creative, doing little projects on the side. I wrote a sci-fi novel when I was 19 (never shared it), some poems in physics class, and even some fake news stories about Popeye before I was kicked off the university paper. I also made films with friends for many years. I was told these were “good hobbies,” that once I became a respected and financially stable engineer/programmer/scientist, that I could then do what made me happy on the side. A nervous breakdown during my college career, however, made it clear that “waiting to be happy” was a psychologically unstable strategy. I couldn’t wait for someone else to grant me permission to do what I wanted with my life.
So, in 2005, during a statistics class that I would eventually fail, I started drawing Dresden Codak. I hadn’t seriously drawn in many years, but it’s something you don’t totally lose. They were pretty bad drawings, but I didn’t care. I enjoyed it and decided that doing what I really liked to do now was better than hoping I could do it later. I wasn’t looking for a career at the time, I just realized how much I loved making comics and knew that I should do whatever I could to keep making them. It took about a year for me to decided that being a cartoonist was what I really wanted. I changed my major to art briefly, but eventually accepted that paying for a degree wasn’t something that was going to help me at that point.
After that, in 2006, I took a chance and dropped out. I worked an office job full time during the day while drawing Dresden Codak full time at night. I slept about 3 hours a night, but it didn’t matter. I was doing what I wanted, and it kept me going. Then, toward the end of 2007 I found out, through Topatoco, that I had enough readers to justify selling some merchandise. To my genuine surprise, as soon as we put the store up, I was making more money than my office job (which I promptly quit). From there I packed up, moved out of Alabama and never looked back.
Dresden Codak has been my full-time job ever since. It’s let me travel the country and meet amazing people while making a pretty comfortable living, but most importantly I get to do what I enjoy more than anything else. Ever since, I make all of my life decisions based on maximizing what I really want to do, and so far it’s served me well.
Don’t interpret this as an anti-education/college story or anything like that. I just think often we expect success if we do X, Y and Z, when in reality such a thing can’t be reliably handed to you by an authority. Start doing what you want to do now, because life’s far too short to wait around to be happy.
So guys, the Dresden Codak Kickstarter has been doing way, way better than I ever anticipated. We reached the original goal in less than an hour, and a couple days ago it became the 4th most funded comic Kickstarter ever. It’s bonkers, people, utterly bonkers!
If you know how Kickstarter works, there are often stretch goals, but all the amazing Dresden Codak fans burned through the ones I planned in two days, so I’ve had to come up with new ones! If you go to the site, you can see them all, but the big prize is this: if we hit $800k, I can update Dresden Codak biweekly for one year.
How does that work? Essentially, it will allow me to hire an assistant to handle all the non-drawing/writing parts of Dresden Codak (which is about 50% of my workload), and free me up to make more comics. Anyone who’s ever run their own business knows the innumerable small duties that can take away from the creative process, and seeing now that I have way more fans and supporters than I’d ever imagined, I want to up my game and deliver more of what people want.
Obviously I’ll do whatever I can to increase my content frequency regardless of the money, but the $800k benchmark is where I can officially make that promise and follow through.
Thanks so much, guys, and we’ve still got 21 days to go!