The Beat has a short and somewhat funny interview with Chew writer/creator, John Layman. He talks about what a tough sell the series was (including being turned down by Vertigo) and touches upon other topics, such as the bad blood between himself and DC editorial. I liked this particular glimpse into the process of putting together an issue of Chew, arguably Image’s only big hit from the last couple of years:
“Can you walk me through your working process for a typical issue of Chew?
Well, I write an issue, and that takes me anywhere from half a week to two or three weeks, depending on the issue and how much trouble it is giving me. Some issues I have banged out in no time at all, and others are really a wrestling match.
I often write out of sequence, and most times, once I am done, I don’t noodle with scripts or lines, though the fourth story arc I find I’ve been returning to scripts to make tweaks here and there. Rob draws it, and gives me pages several at a time, in black and white lo rez, for me to letter. Once he is done penciling and inking an issue, he colors it up. I take the final finals and paste up the lettering into one Photoshop file.
Rob and I go back and forth on the cover design, though lately I’ve been doing most of it. I design the inside front cover and back cover and do the letters page, and then we give nearly complete issue to Image to put into a document to give to the printer. We give them pretty much a final product. All they add is the bar code and the trademark symbols and the indicia/legalese small print.
It’s kinda a point of pride that Rob and I keep the operation to just the two of us. And we can do it almost monthly… just about a month and a week per issue, most of the time.”
Obviously, Chew is another example of how a purely creator-owned comic can benefit the creative team immensely. But at the same time, the above passage shows just how much work is involved in doing a book of this nature. If you want to have that ownership/control, be prepared to put in a ton of work aside from the purely creative process of writing and drawing. We’re talking lettering, administrative, pre-press, marketing, etc. And of course, forget about a a page rates. If your book eventually finds an audience and becomes a hit, you’ll reap the benefits. But you also need to be realistic; if I had to guess, I’d say probably 90% of creator owned books out there are losing money, let alone breaking even.