I first discovered Colleen Doran’s work in a comic book called Nest Robber. In all honesty, it wasn’t my cup of tea since I was more a Jim Lee aficionado at that time. However, she had a very distinctive style straight out of a fairy tale which was quite alluring. It also did not hurt that they had a picture of her in the comic sitting behind a table at a convention. Even in a black and white photo, she was very easy on the eyes.
She actually writes about her experience on Nest Robber in the comment section of this entry and explains why it is a bad idea to be paid in comic books.
After the comic implosion of the 1990’s I lost interest in comics, but every now and then I would come across a title that would pique my interest. One of them was the Sandman trade paperback, A Game of You, which featured the art of Ms. Doran.
And since then I have greatly appreciated her work, particularly Orbiter with Warren Ellis.
Along with self publishing her amazing comic, A Distant Soil, she also writes on her website of the same name where she covers topics on working in the industry and her musings on her own life. Colleen is no dabbler. Her articles on the subject of copyright law alone demonstrate a vast knowledge and understanding that would make her a formidable attorney.
Whether you are an aspiring comic book artist or even a professional who has cut their teeth in the industry, her website should be considered required reading. I would even argue anyone who has a desire to have a career in the arts should study her website. It will save you a tremendous amount of heartache and aggravation with all of the helpful information she provides. Will Eisner once spoke of developing a business acumen in his career. Colleen Doran’s words resonate strongly with the development of her own business acumen due to her experiences. This is due in part to the world of hurt she had to face in order to establish herself as an artist. It resulted in her developing a thick skin, a sharp wit and a keen instinct for business, while maintaining a pure heart by rising above it all.
Now with Colleens’ permission, I am presenting my interpretation of one of the events that she describes in her series on very bad publishers. But I implore all of you to read the entire story from her website. It is not only educational but hilarious.
One of the subjects of this series is a publisher named Tom that Colleen had parted on less than amicable terms. Colleen was more than happy to move on. However, Tom had other ideas.
Out of the blue, Tom’s employees contacted Colleen for a brand new endeavor that would set the publishing world on fire. And Tom wanted her to join in on the fun. Even though Colleen made it clear that she had no interest in Tom’s new publishing venture, they kept hounding her and after hearing about the big investor known as Mr. Disney, Colleen decided to hear them out as long as she could speak to Mr. Disney. Alone.
These are Colleen’s words in what transpired at that meeting.
Not only did they agree to my terms, but Mr. Disney would be flying all the way out to where I live to meet me in my little town in the middle of a remote mountain area. The only place to eat was a diner in another town. I agreed to meet Mr. Disney at the diner. I was kind of looking forward to seeing what was up with this guy. I just wasn’t buying the story that Mr. Disney, if he was so savvy, was pouring tons of cash into Tom’s company.
A week later, I showed up at the diner at the appointed hour.
I did not know what Mr. Disney looked like, but when I entered the diner, I could not find a single man sitting alone at a booth. In the corner there were two men seated with some children. Where was Mr. Disney?
One of the men in the corner had stood up and was waving frantically. “Yoohoo!” I did not recognize him.
Who the hell was that idiot?
Good lord…it’s Tom…the idiot!
Yes, folks, I was supposed to be meeting Mr. Disney, but not only had Tom invited himself along…he had brought small children.
It gets better. And when I mean better, I mean it turns into a complete FUBAR.
The lunch meeting starts awkwardly with Tom attempting to hug Colleen who shuts him down with a handshake. It gets more awkward with Tom making outlandish claims about his accomplishments, which include being Colleen’s first publisher and inventing the graphic novel. Tom is given a 12 course meal of foot in mouth courtesy of Colleen refuting each of these claims in front of Mr. Disney.
Just when she thinks things can’t get more insane, Colleen is asked for her rolodex of contacts. She responds with an unequivocal oh hell no. The lunch ends with Colleen doodling for the kids and getting the hell out of dodge.
How did this drama come to fruition in the first place? Why was Tom determined to have a meeting with Colleen despite her strong dislike for him? Why did Tom act in such a bizarre manner? And what was the deal with Tom’s kids? The answers are quite clear when you look at it from a sales perspective.
Mr. Disney was Tom’s prospective meal ticket. Therefore, it was in his best interest to be present at the meeting in order to make the outcome work in his favor. Which leads to why Tom began heavily embellishing his role in Colleen’s career and the publishing. Tom probably told Mr. Disney that he was a big shot and wanted to prove his clout at the meeting with Colleen and hope she would play along. The personal displays of affection were one of the ways he was showing off his “close relationship” with Colleen. Which brings me to the kids.
In my opinion, this was deliberate on Tom’s part. It is safe to assume that Tom already knew that Colleen was entering the meeting with her safeties off ready to shoot down anything that popped up on her BS radar, which she did with the accuracy of Carlos Hathcock. By bringing in his kids he was probably hoping that it would disarm Colleen and allow him more control in the meeting.
The usual response of adults is that they watch what they say in the presence of children since children have a corrective effect on most adults, particularly if a parent or parents are present.
No one wants to do anything to reveal a parent’s feet of clay to a child. That’s the child’s job to figure that out when they get older. Tom was probably counting on Colleen not doing anything to that would potentially embarrass him in front of his children. He was also probably hoping that Colleen’s motherly instincts would kick in when she saw the kids, overwhelming her need for self-preservation.
As far as Colleen was concerned, to hell with that, they weren’t her kids.
When Tom attempted to carpet bomb Colleen with affection he was trying to create a sense of intimacy, which is a common sales technique. In fact salesman use intimacy as a way to close more deals.
There are even cute names for techniques that manipulate the emotions of a customer to make a sale such as the ‘Puppy-Dog Close’ Technique.
Tom may or may have not used these particular techniques but he definitely utilized the concepts behind them, which is controlling others through their emotions.
Which is why Tom being an idiot is probably a façade, which he may have nurtured. It had been reported that Tom’s company owed a lot people money. And people were actually working for free in hopes of getting paid when they should have done what Colleen did which was to cut their losses.
The goal of a business is profit. And Tom was doing this by being late or not paying people at all. By no means is this a good business practice. However this type of behavior happens more often in business than people like to think. According to this article it is becoming the standard for bigger companies to extend the time frame for satisfying the accounts payable.
Now whether Tom acted like this on purpose or it was just something he fell into doing is up for debate. But the results are undeniable. Part of the reason why he made money was by honoring his accounts payable at his discretion.
So why did a big time business man like Mr. Disney fall for Tom’s fast-talking and slap on the back approach? The same reason why people fell for Bernie Madoff, Marc Drier, the internet and real estate bubble. It is the same reason why a lot of people are really sore at Jon Corizine. They did not do their due diligence and they let their emotions get the best of them. Along with big money, Mr. Disney was probably someone with a big head.
Or maybe Mr. Disney had his own agenda as this excerpt from Colleen’s site indicates.
In the wake of the ridiculous luncheon with Tom, and the sloppy attempt to hijack my rolodex, I closed off contact with Tom’s minions shortly after I got the interesting news that I had been wrongly informed about Mr. Disney from the beginning. He had not, in fact, invested millions in Tom’s business. He’d simply been scoping out the company and that luncheon was a fishing expedition. In the end, he never invested at all. This caused a severe strain on Tom’s finances for which I was partially held to blame…if only I had been a nice artist and done the book about the bugs! If only I hadn’t scared rich Mr. Disney away!
This is pure speculation on my part, but with my experience in business, which is honestly very little, Mr. Disney may have been setting up the company for a bigger deal.
There are many ways big time investors like Mr. Disney make their money. One of them is investing in start ups, creating traction for the company and then selling it off for a profit. But they want to do it very quickly because they are using the future success of the company as a selling point, which is why the sale has to occur at the growth stage. By the time the company peaks, it is all down hill and it is harder to make a profit. It is all about getting the biggest bang for their buck in the shortest amount of time.
By treating Colleen as a lead generator they would get access to publicly known artists and writers and hammer out deals with this distinguished group. With these deals Mr. Disney could hype this new venture and sell off the company or shares of the company to a competitor. Or he could simply wreck the company ala Gordon Gekko by liquidating the company and selling of the assets. Or better yet, a big publishing company smashed down the door with an enormous check for a buyout. This happens all the time in the world of business and sometimes it is done very badly.
Even if Colleen’s friends balked at even being involved with Tom and Mr. Disney, it would only just provide further hype for the company. Tom and Mr. Disney could just say that they were in talks with these notable figures. And hype sells.
During the last real estate bubble, it was not uncommon for properties to be flipped multiple times in succession without anything being built or renovated. I remember one story about a group of first time developers that made a killing when they put up a sign indicating that it was a future site of condo development on an undeveloped lot they owned in New York City. Within several weeks they were bought out for a hefty sum and they did not even break ground. The irony is that they had no intention of building condos in the first place. It was the hype from real estate bubble that responsible for that sale.
Maybe Mr. Disney was thinking of “flipping” the company by hyping it. Maybe he viewed Tom’s company as a distressed asset and realized with a little spit and polish and some OPM, Mr. Disney could take the money and run. Maybe Tom was in on this too. Perhaps he realized that with Mr. Disney’s help he could raise the company’s profile and then he could also cash out. Who knows? But one thing is for sure; they did not have Colleen’s interests at heart. Which is why they ultimately failed to reel her in.
Colleen Doran has a Ph.D in the school of hard knocks. She did not just take her lumps, she figured out how those lumps came to be and how to avoid them. From the get go, she knew Tom was going to attempt to take advantage of her because that is how he operated and there was no way hell she was going to let that happen.
Which brings me to this famous scene from The Godfather.
Sonny: Alright, Professor, what about McClusky. What do we do with this cop here?
Michael: They want to have a meeting with me, right? It will be me, McClusky and Sollozzo. Let’s set the meeting. We get our informants to find out where it’s going to be held. Now we insist that it be held in a public place, a bar or a restaurant where there’ll be other people there so I’ll feel safe. They’re going to search me when I first meet them, right? So I can’t have a weapon on me. But if Clemenza can figure a way to have a weapon planted for me, then I’ll kill them both.
Sonny: [laughing] What are you gonna do? Nice college boy, didn’t want to get mixed up in the family business. Now you want to gun down a police captain. Why? Because he slapped you in the face a little? What do you think this like the Army where you can shoot ‘em from a mile away? No you gotta get up like this and, badda-bing, you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit. C’mere.
[Kisses Michael on the head]
Sonny: You’re taking this very personal. Tom, this is business and this man is taking it very, very personal.
Michael Corleone: Where does it say that you can’t kill a cop?
Tom Hagen: Come on, Mikey…
Michael Corleone: Tom, wait a minute. I’m talking about a cop that’s mixed up in drugs. I’m talking about a – a – a dishonest cop – a crooked cop who got mixed up in the rackets and got what was coming to him. That’s a terrific story. And we have newspaper people on the payroll, don’t we, Tom?
Michael Corleone: And they might like a story like that.
Tom Hagen: They might, they just might.
Michael Corleone: [to Sonny] It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.
Regardless of the overtures of friendship Tom had made, she saw through the veneer of friendliness and like Michael Coreleone, she treated the whole exchange as business. And in this particular case, it was business she wanted nothing to do with.
Which is why they were unable to make Colleen comply. She was already aware of Tom’s past performance and he gave no indication that the future would be any better. As for Mr. Disney, other than being a high roller, from what can be gathered from her interaction with this individual, he was an unknown and she was not willing to risk her reputation and livelihood on someone that could not be properly vouched for.
Although Colleen found the entire situation irritable, she never lost her cool. She wasn’t overwhelmed by any distractions and she did not swing for the elevator curve ball pitches that were being thrown her way.
As I stated before, whether your goal is to work in the comic book industry or the arts in general, Colleen Doran’s site should be considered required reading. From legal issues to the economic realities of being an artist, Colleen covers it all, because she has been through it all.
If you have any doubts about her expertise, please bear this in mind. The attrition rate for comic book artists is outrageously high due to the competitive nature of the profession and the unpredictable nature of the industry. It is not uncommon for established artists to call it a day due to lack of work or the rigorous requirements of the career. Yet, Colleen is still in high demand and maintains an explosive rate of productivity. She accomplished this through a combination of talent, an intense effort of self-directed learning and a fanatical desire of not settling for second best.
When someone of Colleen’s stature is offering her knowledge and wisdom, you would be wise to accept the invitation.