Steve Niles.Think the only kind of comic features capes and tights? You couldn't be any more wrong. Steve Niles, for example, has been one of the leading proponents of creator-owned material, including Mystery Society, Criminal Macabre, and his breakout vampire series 30 Days of Night.
But with Niles' track record, is there a formula to success? Not unless you count hard work — but there are still plenty of insights to his creative process, which we will bring to you with the return of Writer's Workshop. In this interview, Niles talks about premise, characterization, as well as the hard realities of working in today's comic book market.
Newsarama: Steve, just to start off — how did you decide that writing was something that you wanted to do for a living? Were there any sort of big "a-ha" moments you needed before you felt your work was ready for prime time?
Steve Niles: Y'know, I've been doing it since I was a little kid. I remember when I was really, really little, me and my friends used to do these scenario drawings, with stick people. It'd be unbelievable, it'd be like this Dante's Inferno of stick figure people, with sharks and blood. We started developing stories out that. So when I was a very young teenager, I'd just start scripting up vampire stories, of all things, and zombies stories, and then we'd make them into scripts for movies.
It's been so long now, I don't remember a time when I didn't want to write, or create stories. It's always been that way, I don't know why — because I'm a writer. I always feel so much more comfortable with "creator," because I do jump around like a maniac all the time. Really, sometime around 15 or 16 — I think it was when I figured out people created the things I loved, I wanted to do it. As soon as I figured out there was a George Romero, or Richard Maston, or John Carpenter, I fixated on that. And I fixed on those guys in particular because they did things their own way.
30 Days of Night
interior page.Nrama: What drew you towards horror stories?
Niles: You know, I don't know. It's one of those all-time mysteries for me, because when I was a little kid, I was horrified by these movies. My parents forbid me from watching horror movies, because I'd watch 'em and I'd be traumatized — I wouldn't sleep. But I stopped, and then all the sudden, all those things that traumatized me turned into my favorite things in the world. Literally, my mom didn't believe it. It went from basically having to keep my door propped open every night to me having these unbelievably graphic posters on my wall. It was very, very strange. I've always been drawn to it, I've always liked it.
Every interview, people ask me, "why horror?" And it's always comics interviews, which cracks me up. Seriously, I'm in the minority — I'd be asking everyone else, "why superheroes? Really? Really? Why?" And I say this in every interview, too — the horror guys I've met are like, so nice, and so well-adjusted. Then you go over to Disney and you meet the dudes who draw Tinkerbell, and they're like, the meanest people in the world! It's just all this pent-up aggression.
I like horror as a medium, because you can just really get it out of your system. And I love scaring people. I like making people laugh, too, but I don't like relying on it — I don't have the confidence to write comedy, so I like doing horror and sneaking some comedy in when I can.
30 Days of Night
interior page.Nrama: You were talking about how you're in the minority here, with horror comics versus superheroes. And I think you're in a very interesting position, as one of the leading figures for creator-owned comics. I did an interview with Rick Remender awhile back for Writer's Workshop, and he specifically mentioned 30 Days of Night as a million-dollar logline. I wanted to jump off that — when you're building your own independent series, what do you think makes for a successful premise?
Niles: Here's the problem with 30 Days of Night — I didn't know it was anything special. I really didn't. I wish I could sit here and claim that it was great. But it was something that I started creating when I was in Minnesota — I pitched it as a comic to everybody, from Vertigo to Dark Horse, all over the place, just to get set up as a comic book. Then when I moved to L.A. I basically started using it as a reserve pitch. And the pitch never varied: It was always, "town that goes dark in Alaska is invaded by vampires." You know?
I must have said it for 10 years. When Ted Adams from IDW called, I gave him my rejected pitch list. I was like, "here's all the stuff that nobody seems to want, but that I kinda like." He went, "wow, that vampire thing sounds good." I was like, "alllll right, whatever." So I started working on it, gave it to the artist… and it sold 4,000 copies. It tanked.
But then… it was so strange, because it really was just the solicitation materials — that combination of that first vampire image off the cover, which never was repeated, just this grim image of the split mouth — and the high concept. It just exploded. I literally had people who I pitched it to tell me I'd never pitched it to them before. It's a good idea, but it had to wait for its time, I guess.
I don't know. It just seems very obvious to me, and I'm still shocked nobody else came up with it. I'd say where I agree with Remender — and Rick's a buddy, too, and I love him — that you can say the 30 Days of Night pitch in six seconds. That's where it's unique, that's where it's the Golden F*ckin' Pitch. You can say it in a sentence. I can't say I've had that luck with anything else. Of all the things I've written, I always go to that second or third sentence to describe it.
Nrama: Right. Maybe drawing upon that — you've got your premise, but then what's next to get the foundation of your story going? Is it the character, the theme, the general plotting?
Niles: The characters, for me. Once I established what the vampires where doing and what the drama was, what the conflict was, it all fell on the characters from that point. From that point on, it had to be about Evan and Stella and their town. If you didn't care about those two people, as a couple, then the entire story didn't work.
For me, at least, with horror, that's what I love — real people, that you can relate to, in these extraordinary circumstances. That's why I make most of my characters very normal, very plain, very relatable. They're just a couple in that situation. I did it again in Mystery Society — a happy couple. A couple that just loves each other, and they're happy with their lives. For some reason, nobody wants to put that on the screen. (Laughs)
So yeah, once I got past that high concept, it was up to the characters to carry the story. If you're not personally invested in the characters, then they just want to watch big explosions.
Nrama: When you're looking at the characters like this, how do you go about making them compelling and three-dimensional? What sorts of attributes or qualities do you feel help you determine a character's true north?
Niles: I try to give them all unique voices. I try to get into each character's head — right now, I'm thinking about Mystery Society, which I had a lot of fun with. God, I think I came up with six different characters, by the end of five issues. The only way I could make it work, really, with a happy married couple, was their banter. The way they responded to situations is what makes it unique. We've read a million times about people against a giant robot — but we've never seen these two characters go up against a giant robot. The characters, and their perspective on the world, gives us the tools to make something new again. Does that make sense?
Nrama: When you are fine-tuning this banter, what are you doing to make sure it flows properly?
Niles: I listen to people a lot. Except for when I'm being interviewed, I'm usually pretty quiet. That's what really funny about me doing this creator-owned thing — me being outspoken is pretty new. I'm usually a very restrained person. So I spend a lot of time listening to people. I grew up around three women — very strong women, and I was the youngest, so believe me when I say I spent a lot of time listening. I pay attention to the way people talk. With the dialogue, I just say it out loud. Every piece of dialogue at some point I say out loud. And if it just doesn't work — you change it. You change it 'til it works.
See, that's the thing, I love writers like Richard Matheson, and Stephen King — God, how could we not bring him into something like this? He's the master of this. He's almost sadistic about it — here's the character, all the way from when they were born. And you think, "ah, see, there's no way he's going to kill this character" — and then he's dead.
And what it does, in that particular situation, he invested all of this time, where you're learning about the character — you know who he loved, who hated him, what he ate, all these things. And then his life ends. You feel a loss. You feel a loss. It's actually a very potent tool that King uses. He's done it so much that you can actually have a little bit of fun with it. I can't say enough about that.
Nrama: When you're building up these characters, is there something you find useful to ground them, or to help orient yourself to get in their heads?
Niles: I always try to put my characters in at least one situation that's like a personal situation of mine. The most natural exchange I'm going to have is with my fiancée in the kitchen. Just when I walk in there to get something, we have an exchange that is unrehearsed, and then I just walk back out. Everybody knows what that is. So I try to throw in a situation like that.
Again, in Mystery Society — this couple was really attracted to each other. You almost never hear couples flirt — you hear your own couple (hopefully). If you hear that, or see something familiar about everyday life, it invests you in the character. I try to do it with a lot of little things, either a little nod, or a little joke, something that makes the characters familiar. And then I just hope that it rings true when somebody else reads it.
Nrama: As far as influences, you were mentioning Stephen King and George Romero and plenty of other writers and directors. What are some of the lessons you've picked up from them that have helped inform or influence your style?
Niles: Wow. Little lessons. The best lesson that I learned was that I became very self-conscious for a while. And that was a result of having an audience for the first time. After 30 Days of Night, suddenly I had regular readers. I had a minimal amount for years, but that sort of really polarized the whole thing, and suddenly I had people waiting for me to put stuff out.
I found myself in the position of thinking about my readers too much. I had to become a fan again — I had to remember what motivated me to write in the first place. Believe me — it wasn't money! It was just loving it. I just wanted to get a story on paper. I had to just check my own head a little bit, and sort of hit "restart." I've been enjoying a lot more the past few years since I've done that.
I'm not saying ignore your audience — especially not in comics, where we have a unique ability to check what people think about Issue #3 and make adjustments for Issue #4, if you want. I do pay attention, but I don't worry about it. I try to worry about what I think might be entertaining, or scary, or funny, and just go with that. Don't try to second-guess yourself, because the things that first flow out are never going to be good anyway.
Nrama: You've had some work with the film and video game industries — have you picked up anything from those mediums that you've taken into comics, or vice versa?
Niles: Oh yeah. Everything you write, you learn something — I just did a video game. I came into it thinking, "video games have horrible dialogue — I'm going to fix that!" And then you get into it, and are like "ooh." And you get into it, and you realize that it's a problem with the game. To make a game flow better, you have to work the tutorial into the narrative. So there's no getting around that, unless you want to stop and have a little tutorial. I had to learn how to do these things, like to explain to a character that he needs to find a key, without saying "go find a key." It's just little things like that.
Everything with writing for any medium is trial and error. It's all trial and error — some of my favorite things have been my biggest flops, and things I didn't think were going to be anything were big hits. There's no formula — and I think a lot of people look for that these days. I've kind of had a very fun and very unique experience, because I've written these creator-owned stuff, and since then I've been doing a column where I'm trying to highlight creator-owned work, so I've been getting a lot of email from up-and-coming creators. A lot of them just want to put out one comic and get a million bucks.
I love comic books — I love horror, I love science fiction, and I'm here because of that. Not anything financial. That's my biggest tip — if you're getting into anything creative for financial reasons, just become a stockbroker. You gotta love it — if you don't love it, you're going to be miserable. I get a kick out of it — just working with Bernie Wrightson can sustain me. I'm just that big a fan that I really can just have fun doing the comics. I say that's across the board (unless you're a very shrewd businessman, which I am not).
Nrama: Because you've been keeping an eye on creator-owned books, what do you think sets apart some of the more well-known creator-owned material from the books that end up languishing in obscurity?
Niles: Some of its timing, some of it is just the level of talent. I'll never say this to the creators, but some of them are going to have to be doing comics for 10 years before they'll get good enough. A lot of it is just practice — when I started out, I didn't know what the hell I was doing, and it was just trail by fire. There was no course on writing comics — when I first got in, I borrowed scripts from about 10 different people. Every single script looked different, because there's no one way to do it.
You've got to do it because you love it — I'm not saying everything has to be brilliant right out the gate, but you can tell which books are done sincerely, and which ones aren't. You can tell when somebody puts out a book, and you think, "they just want to make a movie" rather than "these guys love comic books." That's the thing with me, even with my movie projects, I think it's pretty obvious how much I love comic books. That's my first love, and that's what I always want to come back to. I think we need just a little bit more of that.
I did that Meltcast, over at Meltdown Comics, and I'll say it again here — I feel a little guilty about what happened with 30 Days of Night. It never happened since, and it just sets up unrealistic expectations for creators. The most important thing to remember is, it hasn't even happened to me again since. It was a total fluke, down to the way the business deal was structured to the way the comic was done. It was just this little lightning-in-a-bottle moment. I have all these people coming up to me and saying, "well, you're a millionaire from one comic." And I'm like, "I'm not a millionaire — not by a long shot!" (Somebody is, but not me.) And I did the comic because I loved it, and everything that happened after was just a bonus. I would have been doing that comic even if there wasn't a movie.
That's what happened with 30 Days of Night — Ted Adams called me and the artist up and said "it only sold 4,000 copies, we can't pay you. Do you guys still want to do it?" And we were like, "yeah — whatever." We were still doing Hellspawn for Todd McFarlane, so we thought, "yeah, it'd be fun to do something different." We were going to finish it, even if we weren't going to get paid — and then the whole thing exploded. So go figure.
Nrama: You were mentioning that sometimes, people have to put in their time in the salt mines before they really get ready for prime time. How do you think your writing has evolved since you started, up through your current output?
Niles: Well, I'm sure you know from your own writing that every time you write something, you learn something new. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. It's a lot like any other physical activity — I'm writing my best when I'm writing a lot. You get your practice up, your vocabulary is in full swing, you got all these ideas, and you keep going.
There are people who come out of the gate who are just plain talented. That happens too, but the vast majority of us had to work to get where we are. They don't realize, 30 Days sold when I was 34 years old. I had been in comics since 1986. My first comic was published in '85-'86. People forget how long people have been at it.
I just wrote a little piece on Warren Ellis — just a spotlight saying, "Yeah, he's great." I was looking at his bibliography — he's been at this forever too! Same thing with Bendis. You go back and look at Brian Bendis — he wasn't always King Sh*t over at Marvel. Look back 10 or 11 years, he was doing black-and-white creator-owned books. (They were very good, by the way.)
People tend to do that — I featured Mike Mignola in my first creator-owned spotlight column, and I knew I was going to get shit for that. And I did. A lot of people thought, "yeah, that's a cop-out." And I said, "no — Mike is the pinnacle of what can be done with creator-owned." You know? People forget all the hard work that goes in before someone becomes a commercial smash. Mike did everything — he was doing Batman, and Marvel, and covers — anything he could do for the longest time. And then he said, "I'm going to try my own character and I'll see what happens." Worked out pretty good for him — but a lot of hard work went in there.
But the answer to your question: Practice makes perfect. If I go out for vacation and I don't write for a week or two, I have to work the kinks out when I get back to the desk.
Nrama: Just looking back at your career, what do you think has been the riskiest thing you've ever pulled off, and what do you think has been your biggest mistake?
Niles: Hmmm. Wow. Lots of mistakes. So many mistakes. I think the things I've done best, just looking back from my perspective, is just enjoying what I'm doing, because I think that's just really saved my ass. There's not a lot of financial security in this. So the things that have saved me are really enjoying what I'm doing, loving the people that I work with.
I'm in a really great position, because I'm working with guys that I was a fan of, that I grew up with. I'm working with Kelley Jones and Bernie Wrightson and Mike Mignola and Ashley Wood — just these amazing talents. Even new people — I had so much fun working with Fiona Staples, it just wasn't even funny. I really enjoyed it. I think that's the saving grace — I think at the end of the day, it's really just like your family. If you don't enjoy your family and what you do, you're screwed. (Laughs)
I happen to like the family quite a bit. I love the people I work with, I love my friends. That's what got me into the creator-owned thing so much — watching my friends fight was just getting on my nerves so much. Watching my friends develop ulcers over Twitter just seemed so crazy to me.
Nrama: When you've been working with different artists on different projects, how much of that has been your decision, and how do you figure out the right project for the right collaborator?
Niles: Since I primarily do creator-owned, I control a lot of that. Me and Bernie are a team now, and we go and pitch stuff as a team. When I do stuff at DC, it's whoever they team me up with. I let them sort of run the show. But with the creator-owned thing, I work really closely with the artists I work with — Bernie comes over here at least once a week, and we talk ourselves through a story. It's very much my life, and why I enjoy it. I'm very luck that way.
Nrama: Just talking about another of your recent collaborators — how did you and Fiona Staples end up working on Mystery Society together?
Niles: Ben Abernathy from Wildstorm made the mistake of sending me North 40 in advance, to get me to give a book quote. I saw her art, and went stampeding for her. Literally, "what are you doing next?!" I lucked out that she didn't have anything booked yet. Now, she's doing covers over at DC — she's really taken off, so I've really lucked out on that one
Nrama: Going back a couple of steps, since we've been talking about working with artists. I know there's only so much you can pack on one page, without things seeming cramped or muddled — how do you gauge the artist you're working with, to determine how much is too much?
Niles: After working with them for a while, you start to get a feel. In general, a lot of artists have done stuff at Marvel and DC, and the first thing they'll say to me is, "please, no nine-panel pages." So I'm like, "OK." So I set up a rule with them that I'll never go beyond six. A lot of writers like to work with a nine-panel grid — I like to work with a six-panel grid.
I like to work with artists that I like to give room to. You automatically know — right now I'm working with Scott Morse, Bernie Wrightson and Kelley Jones. You want to give these guys room, because their art is so beautiful. I don't like to get Bernie too cramped. In the meantime, I'm doing a crossover — a Criminal Macabre/Goon crossover, at Dark Horse — Chris Mitten is the unfortunate artist on that. We have 22 pages to tell a giant story, and he is capable of really packing in a page without it seeming crowded. So with him, I'm going a little over. I don't envy him, doing this project now.
It just varies from artist to artist, and for me, I've just got to feel it. Even today, I write really detailed scripts for Kelley Jones, because I know he's on the other end laughing. I don't know if you've read Edge of Doom, but we're pushing the violence just a tad, and we're having a lot of fun. We're just doing a really over-the-top horror comic, so I'll get overly descriptive with him. But with Bernie, we'll discuss what the characters are going to look like, but past that, it's just a really conversational script. I really just write different scripts for everyone I work with.
Nrama: When you are outlining and pacing your stories, what's your approach to that, to make sure you're not trying to pack too much into 22 pages or decompress the story into oblivion?
Niles: I write very loose outlines, and I like to fly by the seat of my pants. I grew up around independent movies like A.I.P. and Richard Corben — here's your budget, you have 10 days, deliver a movie. And some of those movies are my favorite. I outline very loosely — what I try to do, especially when I'm writing a miniseries, is I try to come up with the ending first. I stick to that — I like knowing where I'm headed.
I get tripped up repeatedly, because I've had books that have started up as ongoings, but because of sales, they end up becoming limited series. Sometimes I only have an issue or two notice. As a fan I can't stand it when a book is cancelled, and it just gets cut off. I hate it. So now I've had three times that I can remember where I've had to end a series unexpectedly. I hope it doesn't show, but I think it does show — I planned for something to go on for another six issues, and I basically have to wrap it up in three. Sometimes I try not to, but it turns into this shorthand, you know? It's all still very trial and error with me — I just try to go based on how it feels.
Nrama: Because you've been such a champion for creator-owned material, I wanted to ask — what do you think this industry needs, as far as creator-owned work is concerned?
Niles: Well… I'm going to get so much sh*t for this. Our biggest problem is our distribution market. Honestly. We have one distributor, where our numbers are dwindling by the month. It's pretty ugly out there. When I grew up, comics sold millions of copies, and it was because of one reason: There was a different distribution system. There were spinner racks everywhere. Comics were everywhere. Just like video games and DVDs, there were everywhere. You didn't have to go to a specialty store.
That was always the big question — would people make a special trip to buy comic books? I think we have our answer now. The vast majority of the people will not make a special trip — they will make a special trip to buy video games at $50 a pop, but they won't make a special trip to buy books. People can argue with me all they want, but I think the evidence is there — it just hasn't worked out. We've been losing readers since the creation of the Direct Market.
Now, that said — I don't have any damn solutions. I can't start a distributor. It's going to take big, big solutions. What I can really talk with people about is doing it yourself — I think we really have to abandon this idea of trying to be little millionaires. If you really want to do comics, what's it going to take to get it out there to people? That's what I'm looking into now — a new way to get comics and comic-related projects out to people.
'm praying it doesn't turn into direct distribution — where me and other creators have to sell directly to fans. But it's starting to look that way. Especially creator-owned books — retailers don't have the money to pick it up, to try a bunch of new books. You've seen the Diamond catalog — would you want to have a budget and try to buy from that catalog? I'd lose my mind. I'm sounding really grim, aren't I?
Nrama: I'd say realistic.
Niles: Well, I live and breathe by this sh*t. This pays my rent, and it's getting tougher to pay my rent. I don't know how much simpler to put it. And we have to adapt, or we're all gonna die. One of the things we have to think about is new ways to put our material out there — what's happening, and why I'm writing about creators is that now publishers are saying you can't sell creator-owned books. Which is crazy to me.
It's this weird dilemma where, yeah, creator-owned books aren't selling, but every time you sell a book to become a movie, or some other ancillary form of entertainment, it's a creator-owned book. We gotta duke it out a little bit more, and people have been taking my do-it-yourself attitude as anti-retailer and anti-publisher. If anything, I'm trying to take the stress off of them. Right now, I'm talking with publishers that I have long-standing relationships with, and they just can't do books the way they used to.
People are trying to think of new ways to get comic books out there, and to try to make some money. So I'm just trying to encourage that. I'm doing some different things — I'm going to self-publish some books. I can only afford to do 5,000 copies — if that — but I'm going to see how that's going to pan out, I'm going to make those available in stores, too.
Nrama: What do you think this industry is lacking, or what do you think that these books are lacking? I mean, you said it yourself, people are willing to make a special trip for a $50 video game, but not for a $4 comic.
Niles: Okay — here comes my next bummer comment! People don't want to read. The same thing's happening in newspapers. Magazines are dropping, except for these stupid entertainment magazines, which are all pictures of movie stars eating hot dogs, or whatever the hell people are getting out of those things. Bad tight pants — I don't know, I can't read those magazines. But those things are selling because they're all pictures. People don't want to read anymore, dude — it sucks. It really sucks.
The fact that it's affecting comics makes me sadder than anything, because comics are cheat reading! You get a leg-up — you get pictures, you get a story. To me, it was the thing you gave to kids when they weren't reading. That's what got me reading! So I think there's layers and layers of problems here, which has always been a big problem in talking about it. We have to find new readers. We find new readers, or we die. We have lost out on two generations of new readers — two, three generations of new readers? So we have to literally start readers from scratch again.
We've gotten them back a couple of times — we got them back for Image, when McFarlane and them left when Image started. People bought longbows full of Spawn #1, thinking it was going to put their kids through college. That's not Spawn's fault, that's the reader's fault — but that was greed sort of taking over. But people got into comics, because they thought it was going to be this massive investment.
Same thing happened with Death of Superman. I worked retail at a comic store when the Death of Superman came out — I saw in people's eyes, people quitting comic books. It came back, we sold millions. I kept saying, "you know, they're bringing him back. There's no way they're going to just let him die." And then they brought him back, and people felt so cheated — I remember we had hundreds of subscription cancellations in the stores in the weeks after that, when all the miniseries started coming out.
I think it's a really basic problem, and the same one we're having with books. We've got to figure out how to make people want to read again — and I'll tell you, having them jump through all these hoops, dude, that is not the way. People right now, they can plug their brains into the damn computer and have everything they want. They'll have it instantaneously — and I'm hoping that'll be the saving grace of comics. Do you happen to know how Kindle and all that has effected book sales? Has it helped? Or are we just selling the same amount of books, just these are electronic?
Nrama: I've heard that Mark Millar's been leading the charts as far as the digital downloads are concerned.
Niles: Well, there you go. That's all it takes. We've got find new ways to get people — and that's the thing, Mark is a great example, because he reaches outside of that comics bubble that everybody's talking about. I love telling people that Wanted is a comic book movie. Because they don't think so. I tell them, "go read the comic — they've made a few changes." (Laughs) They're always stunned because it's such a comic book comic.
And that's the really painful thing — people like this stuff. I hand people comic books all the time — I hand people Rick Remender's Fear Agent, and they tell me, "I didn't know there were comics like this!" Like, yeah! They're like, "why didn't I know about this?" And you're like, "oh, we as comic creators are failing in getting it to your attention." And I don't have the answer. That's the bottom line, why I haven't been blogging as much as I have been recently, because I often find myself in this position where I'm complaining, too. I don't want to complain. At all. I want to figure out some solutions.
Nrama: What do you think has been the smartest way that a creator has put the word out on their books?
Niles: Warren Ellis. I wrote about this recently on my CBR thing. He has done — I attribute it to it being your best strategy against zombies. Don't go running into the crowd — you just sit back and let them come to you, and you just pick them off one at a time.
Warren — you go to his website, and just by glancing at the front of the page, you know everything he has to offer. You find out who reps him, to going out on a board, to recommending what to read — he's created an entire world around his creative endeavors, and people come to him. I think that it's phenomenal.
And Warren does it in a really unselfish way — he should just get an award just for that. Warren is one of those few creators who pauses not only to let other creators feature stuff on his message boards, he actually gets up there and tells people what he likes, and what he thinks other people should check out. I wish more creators did that, because the effect — the Warren Ellis Effect — it's pretty tangible. He says he likes stuff, and people go out to check it out.
I think Warren. Mark Millar has obviously done a great job with that. These guys who have just made themselves into a little mini-industry. I tried to do it, but as I said, I'm a really, really bad businessman. I tend to think about money dead last, which as you know, doesn't really work out too well! (Laughs)
Nrama: Just to give you a last moment with this particular spotlight — is there anything else that you think people should know, whether about trying to break into the comics industry, or just about this industry as a whole?
Niles: I really think the most important thing is they have to be — especially if you're getting into comics — look at the industry, be realistic and do the work. Like I said before, I can't stress this enough — everybody you know and love in comics has put in a long time in comics. There are not a whole lot of overnight success stories. When they do, it's usually artists — artists can have that immediate response. But writers and creators generally, you better just buckle in and get ready for a long ride. Make sure you love it — because that's going to be the only thing in the end that sustains you.