I was invited to speak about being an indy comics creator to the local Lions Club last night at their monthly dinner meeting. I had just over a week to prepare, and I wrote a speech to fill the allotted 20 minutes speaking time.
The copy was 17 pages, double-spaced. I did some homework on various topics: circulation numbers and comparison to 40 years back; the Siegel and Kirby lawsuits; the new Ultimate Spider-Man; and the recent X-Men scene where the American Jewish mutant teenage girl saves the president of Iran. I wrote about my portfolio and meager comics career. I wrote about conventions. I wrote about the Marvel formula of tortured heroes, female characters, singles vs. trades vs. manga, and comic stores. I highlighted the main points in each paragraph for quick cues during the speech. I felt prepared.
And then, when I took the podium, I never looked at the printed copy.
My introduction informed the audience (and me) that I was "going to tell us his life story," and I realized with some dread that this angle veered away from my speech outline. I took the podium and followed up on the introduction off the top of my head (I know my bio better than anyone) and that segued into our new local comic store and direct sales and the evolution of indy comics and the comics code and Fredric Wertham and spinner racks, and I was off. I used the majority of my speech material, but I didn't want to delay the conversation by rifling through my papers to find a salient point. Writing it up and editing it and highlighting the main points cemented it in my head, and I dropped information as those data points came up in the talk.
I didn't know what kind of audience to expect, and I was warned to mind the time as these folks wanted to leave around 8 pm. I arrived at 6, and we sat down to eat around 6:15. I think I started talking at 7. My 20-minute speech lasted 45 minutes. I pulled out of the parking lot at 7:57.
I knew I had them when I mentioned the 1960s Batman TV show and how it affected comic sales. And throughout the speech, they asked questions about Dell and Fawcett comics, Classics Illustrated, and the relationship between comics and radio shows. What could have been a stiff lecture quickly became a back-and-forth with incisive questions (what's more important: the pictures or the words? can't people make comics digitally without using paper at all? aren't comics skewed toward an older demographic now?).
I was lucky twice. I was fortunate to be asked to talk comics, and I was fortunate to have an engaged audience who sat forward and locked in. I went long because they wanted more.
I was going to upload my original speech text here, but it in no way resembles last night's conversation. It has the ingredients, but not the recipe.
I can't thank the Lions Cub enough for this opportunity. A highlight of a comic creator/fan's comic life. Support your local Lions Club. They do good work.
Also, I plugged the hell out of the town's new comic store, and I hope that translates into business for them. (And you, seeing as how they sell your comics? Well sure.)