PART ONE: Like a lot of people, journalist Craig McGill wants to break in to comics. Like a lot of people, he hasn't managed it so far. This is the first hand account of one man's folly - McGill's attempt to create a web-publishing venture without resorting to 2000AD porn.
16 August 2002

Blame Matt Fraction. Someone should shoot him now.

There he is over at Comic Book Resources with his column on his first year of trying to break into the comic business, making it look so cool and so easy and you just know the bastard's going to do it. Not because he's good looking or has an attractive future wife, but because he's Matt Fraction, hard-working man of action.

I used to be a man of action, now I'm just Craig McGill, mentally ill. What caused it? My first year of trying to break into comics.

Just as Fraction shows you how to do it, read this and learn how not to do it.

It all started with good intentions and not a desire to get laid (which is where these things with money normally start out). As you might have gathered by the repetition, my name's Craig McGill. I'm a moderately successful journalist and author, but I've always enjoyed comics and wanted to write them, as it's a great format with endless possibilities compared to journalism and books.

But Joe Quesada and co aren't going to give me a book on the back of that, or on the back of one great idea, are they? No. Like everywhere else the theory is that you work up. 'Do your time' is the phrase often thrown about, as if we're all a bunch of cons waiting for parole.

The irony being, you see some of the stuff that doesn't make it compared to what did, and you wonder who the criminal is - but forgive the digression.

So anyway, having been told by everyone that self-publishing was the way to do it, but not having the cash for it, I decided to set up a website.

So I hunted out other Scots, thinking a local collaboration could result in the next Morrison and Quitely.

'When the no-capes rule went in, there were even fewer contributors coming forward.' So I found a group of online Scots and their mailing lists, and loaded up with more optimism than Neville Chamberlain clutching a piece of paper, I dived in and asked everyone what they were reading and so on.

Hindsight lesson number one: If you're on a comic list and no-one's talking comics, it's not a good sign.

So as everyone was moaning about not getting a break, I thought, to hell with it, I'll see if we can help get everyone here (including me) a showcase.

So I forked out for a website and some space, and bought the domain name Scomics (seemed like a good combination of Scottish and comics). That was the easy bit done. The next question was what to put on the site.

As I'd forked out for the domain name, I appointed myself boss, and decided that there should be fresh content Monday to Friday, with the thinking being that more and more people with web access at work like a little five minute skive, so why not have them skiving by reading our stuff.

Of course, if your looking to bring in the non-traditional comic reading crowd, that gives you the spandex problem - to have or to not?

I was firmly of the opinion that there should be very little, and even that should not be of the caped variety that the world knows so well.

"If you have to do superheroes," I suggested to the would-be contributors, "Do it like PLANETARY. It's superheroes, but not capes."

So once the no-capes rule went in, there was even less stuff coming forward, but over a few months a few people came in with enough to make me think this website stood a chance.

Anyway, as mentioned, this whole thing came from a Scottish comics mailing list, and a lot of folk on that met on a regular basis for a pint, so using the excuse of making this a recruitment drive, I ventured forth to the pub.

'If you're on a comic list and no-one's talking comics, it's not a good sign.' Now Glasgow, some of you may know, has a reputation. The PR companies and tourist board can deny it all they want, but where else do you know of that has two cloakrooms in its night clubs - one for jackets and one for weapons?

So it is arranged that we'll meet in a pub called the Goose. Looked fine from outside and three miles away. Closer up it still looked okay. The first worrying sign should have been the signs saying £1.35 a pint, when Glasgow's normally nearer the £2.00 mark.

Then I walked in and realised that the door is a TARDIS-like number that transports you elsewhere, and in this case it was a George Romero set.

The Goose is an establishment that works on the philosophies of stack it high, sell it cheap and if you brew it, they will come. This place was packed with that day's not-guilty assaulters from nearby courts, folk that looked as if they'd been on the other end of the assaulting and forgot to go to hospital, the downright undead and folk who looked as if they had been celebrating the repeal of prohibition and hadn't left the pub since it was announced.

Anyway, I spotted a face from my comic-buying youth. John McShane, who used to co-own a great little comic shop called AKA Books And Comics. John is Glasgow's comic - and underground scene - guru. If he doesn't know them, then they must be crap. Besides, anyone who goes on regular holidays with Will Eisner can't be all bad.

John will always have a soft place in my heart for the day I decided I was fed up with comics that just had superheroes in them and wanted to buy something different. I'd picked up the collected edition of Moonshadow, approached the counter, and asked if it was any good.

John's face glowed as he told me that I'd like it if I was looking for something a little different.

"And if you don't like it..." he said.

I replied, "Yes?" - thinking that he would be offering me a refund.

"I'll stick it up your arse sideways." And with that he handed it to me in a bag and started serving the next customer.

Say what you want, you don't get memorable sales service like that these days.

'He said I might want to read his hardcore Judge Anderson porno story.' Anyway, I saw John and went over, knowing fine well he wouldn't remember me, but I knew he would be part of this, so I got chatting to him. He asked me about the plans for the site, I bought him a pint, and then something unknown to me in the history of comics happened. A good-looking girl came over, sat down, and started talking to John about comics.

And as I recovered from that, what happened next but another one turns up. I was just waiting for the girl from the Lynx advert to walk in.

The guys had to be the strangers in paradise here, as girls don't do comics, right? And if they do, they're ugly right? (This was before I'd seen pictures of some of the current female creators in the industry, which has proved to me that there is more to comic creators than fat men, fat men with glasses, or bald men).

So catching flies with my wide-open mouth, I said hello, waiting for their sub-human defect to come through.

Still waiting, two years on.

It turned out these two girls were not only talented (they were applying to the Kubert School of Art in the States) but normal human beings, so I was sitting chatting away, getting slightly pissed and slightly smitten when - SHAZAM! - reality came tumbling back and a guy wearing a Captain Marvel logo - or it may have been the Flash logo - came up to me and said he'd done some stories that I might like to look at. By this point the alcohol and eyes weren't working in perfect harmony, so I said OK.

He pulled out a little Psion-type machine and said I might want to read his hardcore Judge Anderson porno story.

Splundig Vur What The Fuck, as you never heard Tharg say.

Read it, nearly passed out, but didn't want to turn round to this guy and say, "JESUS CHRIST, THAT WOULD GET YOU SUED, SHOT, KILLED OVER COPYRIGHT OR LANDED ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE NEWSPAPERS YA BAMPOT," because I realised that by this point I was pissed. Besides, just because it wasn't my cup of tea doesn't mean there's not a market for it, so I credit the guy's creativity (and believe me he was creative). Also, he was massive, and I'm not.

However, before it all fell away in an alcohol haze, it was decided that we should all meet again and soon.

And we did, and plans started to get underway, leaving me to do the publicity.

Be back next month for part two, in which paedophilia and a little Grant Morrison help push things in the right direction - and the meddling involvement of actual people drags it back in the other.

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