By Dean Haspiel

A friend of mine, a writer, sent me a 14-page pitch for a famous franchise character. He’d even written the entire scripts for all 5-issues. 20-pages of panel breakdowns, description, and dialogue per issue. That’s 100-pages of unsolicited work + development. That’s 100-pages he can bury in a drawer.

I used to ONLY want to write & draw for franchise comics. I have two folders full of “great” franchise pitches. I’ve spent half my life thinking of ways to write & draw franchise characters.

Last year, a franchise editor agreed to read a mini-series pitch featuring A-list characters by me [an occasional franchise artist], along with another sanctioned/popular franchise artist, and a sanctioned/popular franchise writer. The three of us batted this pitch back and forth numerous times and once it was ready we sent it off and…never heard back from the editor again. The twisted part? The editor is the sanctioned artist and sanctioned writer’s regular editor! Still, we never heard one word about our pitch. Not even, “I’ll get back to you once I’ve read it.”

Last year, a different franchise editor was interested in my high-profile franchise concept and I secured a legendary comic book writer to adapt my plot and script it. Everyone seemed excited. The legendary writer has worked for the franchise editor and I had my own accolades to recommend me. Finally, my shot to draw my definitive high-profile franchise character tale. We pitched and…never heard back.

I have a deluge of sad short stories and a bunch of outstanding pitches sitting atop [or buried underneath] comic book editorial desks that will continue to prove that it is nearly impossible to pitch solicited, much less, unsolicited stories. The hurtful part? Editors woo me into thinking I have a chance. I don’t have a chance. Maybe I shot my wad at Vertigo where I pitched and delivered three, critically acclaimed graphic novels? Maybe I’m considered the odd memoir artist who dabbles in digital genre. And, so I’m stuck between too mainstream for the indie crowd and too indie for the mainstream crowd. That used to bother me but now I’m okay with it because, frankly, that’s a cool place to be if you can make ends meet.

I love what I do but I really don’t want the comix industry to send me into an early grave. I’d prefer to have stability and make comix on the side, for fun, than continue holding out for rare piece meal gigs. ACT-I-VATE, the premiere webcomix collective, was partially invented from a desire to work INSIDE the comix industry. Six years later, TRIP CITY, the Brooklyn-filtered literary arts salon, was partially invented from a desire to work OUTSIDE of the comix industry.

Franchise comic books are more editorially driven than ever before. It takes the fun out of conjuring unsolicited ideas. They only recruit new talent when an indie talent is getting tons of buzz and/or when someone from their regular talent pool starts to balk at editorial directives and splits dodge or falls out of favor. There is a game afoot and I never even got the chance to pass “Go.”

Bottom line: make YOUR comix and if they’re good and sell, franchise comic book editors will come a-knockin’ and you can play with their toys then. My sole advice to my writer pal’s unsolicited franchise pitch? Abandon the established character and make it wholly yours. Find an artist [co-creator] that is willing to draw the entire series on spec for free [with proposed royalties], and publish it digitally. Unless you hit a jackpot, secure a benefactor who is willing to lose money upfront, or try to crowd fund it, that’s the only way to prove your salt.

Until then…Make Mine Me!

–Dean Haspiel

Original Dean Haspiel characters appearing above are: Billy Dogma & Jane Legit, Tommy Rocket, The Mercenary, Immortal, A-Okay Cool, and The Last Mortician [co-created with author, Tim Hall].

Special “Thanks” to Chris Miskiewicz and Seth Kushner.