I guess it depends on how you look at it. My dad was a coal miner, and then worked highway construction. So relative to THAT, no not really tough at all. But it's a lot tougher than, say… putting out a few mini comics.
At the time I created Amelia, I was ending Shades of Gray, and wasn't sure if I wanted to do another comic book series. Then one day, this character just appeared out of nowhere. Literally, I just flipped the SOG page I was working on over, and doodled this little girl. I pretty much decided then and there that I was going to be working with this character.
When Karen and I both said the name "Amelia" simultaneously, that clinched it.
But deciding to go with Amelia as the main character created a number of obstacles.
A humor comic. For kids. Starring a 9 year old girl. Sold only in comic shops. in 2001.
I mean, even I can look at that and see that it's insane. To try to combat these obstacles meant I had to do some other things which seemed counter intuitive. Color was the big one. The audience I was publishing for really wasn't going in to comic shops, but I had to have faith that they were out there somewhere. Since comic shops were the only venue available to me at the time, I figured I could at least get the character out in the world, and see what happened. The individual comic books only needed to break even, or at least come close. I had a career as Art Director for a TV station at this point, so I didn't need the comic for my livelihood.
Thinking long term, I figured kid's comics really should be in color. I was already picturing the graphic novels in book stores approach, or even better Scholastic Book Clubs, and fairs. To me, reaching kids in these venues required publishing in full color.
It was really touch and go at the beginning. The first issue sold 3100 copies, which was right where it really needed to be, but of course there was the inevitable drop off with issues 2-4. I remember the 4th issue, the Christmas story sold around 1400 copies through Diamond. But this was still ok, because I was thinking long term.
In spring of 2002 I met (re-met really, but that's another story) Harold Buchholz, who was an all ages print broker at the time, and who now works at Archie. He devised a way of taking the overstock of issues 1-5, and stripping the covers so that they could be rebound as a trade paperback. That worked great. The print run sold out in a few weeks, and really made Amelia financially viable again.
Ultimately, I guess I was vindicated. The original comic books never sold that well, but the trade paperbacks have been great. For me, the real milestone is that Christmas story, which may have only sold 1,400 copies as issue 4 of the comic book series, but has since been reprinted TWENTY times in four languages, and has sold well 100,000 thousand copies.
One funny thing I remembered while typing this. I handed a copy to Evan Dorkin at the 2001 Pittsburgh Comic Con. He flipped though it and said; "Color! I hope you don't lose your house!"
If there is one thing I noticed is lacking from cartoonists, it's a sense of perspective. I mean printing that comic cost like $2,000. Who's house costs $2,000?
Ok. Now I'll ask YOU one…
Ok, You mentioned here that you thought self publishing in color was crazy, and you wrote elsewhere that you considered advising me to give up. Why didn't you?