Being a Noob with Perseverance Part 1

Note from Byron: long-time reader of our articles,
James Burton asked if I would share his experiences in starting up his webcomic.
His story is inspiring and I’m glad he shared it with us.

I got a chance once to feel the cold hand of death. I was diagnosed with an extremely rare and deadly type of stage 4 lymphoma. To be brief the experience was like sitting down at a table to have a drinking game with death. Each of us was drinking from a bottle of poison and one of us was not going to walk away from the table. When it was over, and I was able to stand up and say the dreamt of word “remission” I decided that I had a list of 3 things I needed to do to begin feeling whole. Live to see my daughter graduate kindergarten.  She was born a mere 4 weeks before I collapsed at work and diagnosed. (Hey that’s a small thing but remember when at a certain point I wasn’t sure I would ever see her again. It really was that close.) Finish restoring my Harley Ironhead sportster, and, finally, see my comic get to print by any means necessary.

That last one is what this article is about. Don’t ask about the Harley, it’s a work in progress. I began trying to understand not just the creation of pages, but the process of getting it out to someone besides my friends. Between the internet and social media I found podcasts, and some helpful books. I clung to them like a man on a life raft hungrily consuming the information they presented. The books were Eisner’s, and the How to make Comics from DC series, the podcasts I mainly listened to were the Sketch Magazine podcast and Webcomics Alliance. More recently COMIXTRIBE, who appeared in an article on Webcomics Alliance. All of them have been a tremendous impact, representing the challenge of the 2 fields I was interested in and a positive constructive side that was encouraging to me. Neither felt pretentious or elite.

2008-2010 I faced bankruptcy from the medical bills, was blessed with another child, lost both my parents, lost both grandfathers, foreclosure on my house, moved from one state to another and a drastic career change. Fighting off cancer allowed me the freedom to know what it was that I wanted. I clung to that and the support of my wife as I survived it all. Since then I have kept my feet moving. Now even the smallest action piles up. A panel here, inking a page there, writing a script or editing what I was working on, it was all forward movement.

I started by getting enough of my story together to begin a webcomic. There is more time invested then money and it can be done without hosting cost if you choose to. Comicpress is amazing for this.  Because I wanted something of my own I chose to host my own website.  I found hosting using the tips from Webcomics Alliance. This made me produce. While I do not hit the upload page more than once a week on my site as I balance my day job the challenges, being a father, husband and the continuing health challenges of being a cancer survivor, it’s still progress. It was the fact that I refused to not contribute when I could that made me whole. Now I have gathered together enough to print 2 whole issues, with the goal of displaying them at conventions.

This is all in preparation to tell you that December 22nd I made the leap of terror for an introverted artist and clicked the little button to reserve a table at a small local con. Honestly I had been pondering when the right time to do this was and deciding on printers for turn around and pricing etc. I found myself staring at the button and acting without spending the time to consider if I would be ready by March. Once it was done a wave of terror overcame me and I frantically began pulling up articles, and making checklist for preparation. I honestly don’t think I would have done so unless I had committed to the con like I did.

I am now in the stages of executing this list, and looking to what other cons I can attend locally. It does retract the time spent on my 2 comic projects but there is no use in spending the time on the projects and then keeping them to myself. There is no legacy in that for my children.

Now March 1st at Sac Con ( I will for the first time be on the creator’s side of the table. I am getting the kind of excited a kid feels the few weeks before their birthday. To put that energy to good use I begin composing and executing the following checklist.

To do list:

  1. Following research I created a Con table profile. My con table benefited from the hard wrought efforts of the folks on Webcomics Alliance. There are multiple articles on the subject and I was determined to put them to good use.
    1. Create and Print Banners front of table and vertical. I will be mounting the front horizontal banner the same way Chris Flick has in his articles using powerful magnets. The vertical banner I will be making a stand for.
    2. Print custom sketch cards, I ha 250 printed at RACOMICS Direct I am not sure if I will be giving these away with a purchase of the book or just selling them at the con. That is undecided.
    3. I also have a binder to place the sketch cards I do during lunch at my day job into for display and sale.
    4. Table cloths: I chose 1 red and one black. They are the colors that repeat most in Damage Inc., and red is a great eye catcher
    5. Vertical Displays for printed material: I bought Plate displays, honestly I do not like the hinged ones I bought. I bought them for space savings when I pack for the con and they do not stand how I would prefer. I will be looking for replacements.
  2. Select a printer, prepare files for print run:
    1. I am using RA Comics Direct. For me they are local enough to pick up saving the shipping cost and their book quality and turnaround is very high. Unfortunately the cost at my small print (25) run is significant at over $3 per issue so until I can find a way to do a larger 1000 print run there will be little profit. Since I am looking at the first con mostly as learning and enjoying experience, this will be fine, but I will have to make changes in the long run to get more financial investment into the print runs.
  3. Sketches: I am not a pinup artist by any means, however I would like to be prepared I have been asked in the past. I have my trusty art pencils, ink pens and erasers as well as a sketch pad.
  4. Business Cards: I designed something I hope is interesting enough to not be tossed aside.
  5. Once the print run is done I have bought 100 boards and bags from eBay. I will be prepacking them prior to the con. I think they look better pre-packed and hope it will encourage a sale for only a 20 cent per issue investment. Unfortunately with the cost on my print run this destroys what little dollars I will generate as it is, but I am slow testing it out for future efforts.
  6. I wanted to do print runs for prints or more comics but sticking to my budget surplus from some covers I did for the comic KODT was a necessity.
  7. Kit:
    1. I will be packing several in case of things into a misc. kit.
    2. The first thing is hand sanitizer. From being my type of a cancer survivor I get sick very easily, and have to do my best to be preventative.
    3. Duct Tape
    4. Seat cushion
    5. Water
    6. Address book for any contacts I make during the con.
    7. Snacks: Granola bars, Jolly ranchers, and a packed lunch. Nothing that will leave anything on my fingers.
    8. Tylenol
    9. Extra Shirt and Pants. (I realize this is a one day con, but if I am unfortunate enough to have the kind of accident that would make me wish I had these I will be grateful.)

After the con I will gather more data about my final prep-days as well as how things go. Wish the Noob luck.


Posted in Conventions, Featured News, Guest Posts.


  1. Good luck! I’m getting to the point where I’m about to start re-formatting my old pages and putting together something in print.

    Bravo for overcoming all your challenges so far … wishing you success!

  2. James! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and I hope your first comic convention experience is amazing and fun! I related strongly to your story about signing up and the cascade of figuring out things after. That was how my first convention felt too! I don’t know if I’d have made my first book without doing the same thing, because I had no products at all when I signed up the first time.

    Being reminded of that feeling, and how sometimes we just need to jump in and swim, inspired me to do something I’ve been putting off out of fear. I kept worrying that I didn’t have everything figured out, but this article pushed me to stop worrying and start moving forward. So I’ve gone ahead and taken the first step today by reaching out to a programming coordinator. Signing up is the first step! Thanks for giving me the push I needed.

    • Robin your articles always get me going as well. Its freaking bad ass to know I helped motivate you! Right now I have assembled nearly everything. My daughter helped me bag and board my floppies tonight. I am so excited. If i sell 1 book im closer then I was some months ago, and a bit more whole.

      No wonder you guys are still addicted to this.

  3. Hi James,
    Much of what you wrote resonated with me, but one thing in particular stood out that I can attest to; I booked a table at last years Hamilton Comic Con wayy back, intending to have something to show once the time came around for it. It was a huge motivating factor for me and I managed to launch my website and Facebook page the day of the Con.
    We can think all we like about what we would like to accomplish, but nothing will happen unless we just START. My site is still a work in process, but I’ve been at it since October, posting weekly and I’m happy with what I’ve done. I believe that I’ve picked up a few fans along the way and the strip has the potential to grow. So my advice to people wanting to do what we do is just to start, even with the fear, apprehension and insecurity, just take that step and keep moving forward.

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