That’s how many Knights of the Round Table I have.
The Knights are peeps I can call upon for consideration and feedback on comic stuff – anything from ideas to full scripts – and I feel like they’ll assemble and have me feedback within a week, or earlier if there’s a specific rush.
You need to have someone sitting at your Round Table.
They have to be someone you trust. Do you value their opinion on things? Do they have a keen eye for how good comics are made?
No, they pretty much just cannot be family. Family will blindly love whatever you pump out, or they’ll go soft on you for fear of hurting you. Family is no good for guilt-free money, sexual favours, or writing feedback. These are the immutable laws of Midgard.
So, I advise you to hunt around and find people who know what they are talking about – because empty feedback is about as useful as someone scratching your foot and hoping it’ll chew your food for you.
For me, I met my Knights via Twitter and then a little site called thoughtballoons. Now, I’ll get back to that site in another post no doubt but for now, know that over time I bonded with different peeps and soon found a few who I gelled with. We were on the same page. We don’t necessarily write the exact same things, we aren’t carbon copies, but we care about making comics, we think about it a lot, and we do our best to do it.
We also want to help a brother out when they’re in need.
I have no doubt I could make good comics without my Knights. I’m no fool, but I also know there plenty of times these gents have given me a nudge in the right direction, or asked the probing question, and I’ve been able to level up.
It’s not cheating.
For so long, I thought if I asked for help [a Knight, the artist, the editor] then it was me admitting defeat. Me admitting I’m not good enough. That was the stupid ego-ball of burning helium and hydrogen in my brain getting it all wrong. I used to stew on scenes, take time with scripts, so that what I delivered would be ‘perfect.’
Newsflash, it was never perfect. Art so rarely is, but if it’s your best at that moment, that’s cool. It’ll probably be better in the future, or with more eyes, or once you truly collaborate. And that’s what I had to learn.
I thought the artist would think I was useless if I came running, trousers around my ankles, stumbling, ranting incoherently, asking for them to help out. I’m the writer, the script is my job, they should be allowed to focus on the art.
Hoo-boy, how wrong I was.
Obviously we all now know the artists LOVE to be in on the whole process. Hell, they’re amazing at it. I can’t tell you how much of Headspace was Eric Zawadzki kicking my ass, telling me there was room to improve, and then us shooting through the stratosphere.
Once I learn to ask, or just jam, then I noticed things would improve. So your collaborator on the book, yep, they become a Knight.
But if I’m writing into the void on something then I will invariably end up calling up the Knights and asking for a pass and just their loose thoughts. No one has time to scribe essays about each scene, but overall feels on the idea/script/line help immeasurably.
You just have to step over your pride like you’d step over the fallen body of some alien soldier trying to incinerate your home with its mind-flames. You don’t pause, you don’t care, and you are moving forward.
Finding Knights is hard, good Knights, the ones you can trust, but once you have them [and you’ll know them when they saddle up] then you can’t let go.
I’ve been running my lexicographical detritus past these two Knights for years now. Everything from Headspace to my Australian Prime Minister shorts to some more recent licensed fare, they get a peep at it all because I always come away with something. Always.
Recently, I’d been blessed with a sniff at pitching a licensed character. And the one-page story pitch wasn’t due for another few weeks. So I assembled what I finally knew to be a killer synopsis/pitch. This sucker hummed, I was actually happy with it – which is insanely rare because I hate pitches, they are the padded room of writing, and I usually suck lemons at it. But this time I felt damn good [your first sign you are missing something].
But I sent it to the Knights anyway, hell, if they had nothing constructive to add then at least I got to humblebrag to someone that I was pitching THIS CHARACTER! So I sent it and you know exactly what happened. They came back with a few veins of gold they could see and I started mining harder.
The Knights took something good and made it great. They threaded this one little piece of theme home and I was crazy to have missed it, but it was right there, on the side, and they dished it up. This is why I love my Knights.
I heard a writer recently say they never ever share their work until it’s with their editor. Never, ever, and they stated it’s because they are too precious to have people touch, pick apart, ask, or sideye their work. I guess big ups for honestly, or maybe they were just being candid, but the thought horrified me. I mean, I remember that feeling, I still get it, you want it to be perfect and it always will be in your eyes, but if you wanna produce your best work, you’ve gotta get eyes on it before the big show. The editor is good [at least they used one, better than many] but to hide the work and the words away seems like insanity to me.
Your Knights have your back, they will be there for the purpose of helping. That might mean cutting off your arm when a zombie bites it, and that’ll sting, but it’s to save you. You wanna be saved, don’t you?
I would be stuck in 2008 if it weren’t for my Knights. And I’ll ride with them eternal, shiny, and chrome.
Ryan K. Lindsay is a comics writer who has logged time at Dark Horse, Monkeybrain, Vertigo and other esteemed publishers. He currently writes Negative Space, a comic we here at Loser Citylove quite a bit. You can (and should) pick Negative Space up from your local comic shop ordirectly through Dark Horse.