Posts tagged breaking into comics
Posts tagged breaking into comics
Thanks everyone for the support on my last post; I did consider not posting anything yesterday.
I pretty much have a rule not to email / post / do anything online when I’m feeling especially low, I don’t want to be unprofessional. But then I decided that feelings such as this are honest and I shouldn’t be ashamed of them, every creator at one time or another has been in the same boat. We’re all an excellent support group for one another and we should take advantage of that.
I know it sounds silly but when people ask me for advice about ‘breaking into comics,’ I can’t help but feel like a fraud and it stirs up all sorts of emotions in me. I have been published in books at IDW and Image, but my ultimate goal is to be doing superhero comics at the big 2, so to me it doesn’t feel as if I’ve ‘made it’ yet.
I think the best advice I can give to anyone wanting to break into comics, whether it be editing, writing, inking, pencilling, as a cover artist, coloring, etc. etc. Is; to be stubborn and persistent to an extreme level. You’ll have people telling you all sorts of things, that you need improvement, that your style doesn’t suit the look they’re going for, that there are no available projects - you need to keep working through all of this. I’m not saying be stubborn to writers and editors or people giving you critiques; be stubborn with yourself. Be stubborn with your inner voice telling you you can’t do it, or other people who think your dreams are unreachable.
You need to work through all of the frustration, and the tears, and the failed projects. I’ve seen plenty of artists give up before meeting their goals for various reasons, and it’s an easy thing to do. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve broken down and just thought ‘what if I just got a regular day job?’
The hardest thing to do when trying to break-in is to stay positive and motivated through all of the critiques and rejections and the editors not replying to your submissions.
I am lucky enough to have a supporting and loving husband who is there for me and pushes me and revels in my success. Also a caring network of extended family and friends, and of course my online family.
I am quite blessed to have so many friends and fans, and your support does mean a lot to me. Let’s all be the support network for one another.
I’ve received a couple of questions the last couple of weeks about breaking into the industry of comics and illustration. I do plan on answering these, I’ve just had one of those really awful few weeks where I don’t feel I can give advice to anyone due to how useless and aimless I’m feeling with my own career.
In the mean-time I refer you to this post, and I will answer said questions when things pick up and I’m feeling confident enough to do so.
Okay, I finally feel brave enough to answer this question.
90% of the big job offers I have gotten have been through editors or writers who I had met, or had encountered me or my work before. I didn’t go out seeking these jobs, because comic jobs are usually not advertised. (Unless it’s a small press company.) I got to know Gail Simone through her forum and subsequently ended up meeting and working with her, just by being a member of her forum for a couple of years and getting to know her. After that Gail passed on my info to other people and I got work from there, it snowballed because industry people are very wary about working with people they don’t know. But if they hear a story from someone that ‘oh, you should try such and such, they were great to work with!’ you’re much more likely to be considered for the project. Comic creators talk. (So don’t be a d-bag to pros at Conventions or on the Internet, you won’t be doing your career any favours. Also, tagging someone on Facebook with a link to your art isn’t ‘networking.’ Please don’t do it, if they’re anything like me they de-tag the item and immediately remove you from their friends lists.)
Even if you want to be a comic artist and not a writer, getting to know writers and editors and listening to their advice will help you. Besides forums and other webspaces, Conventions are a great way to book some face time with industry pros. (I’ve never been to a big, International Con but have met pros over here that came over as guests.) If you can make it to a local Con and show off your work consistently you’re hopefully getting some good advice, hopefully cementing yourself in their minds AND showing that you’re seriously committed to working in the industry. This is a nice seg-way to my next point:
If you’re lucky enough to score a golden ticket in the form of an editor’s business card at a Convention, they expect you to follow up with your art. (It’s very rare for a pro to take your contact details and follow up with you, especially after a Con. Imagine how many business cards they get thrust at them daily.) I suggest doing this maybe a week after the Con has finished?
Or as soon as you have some new samples to show them. Don’t be offended if they don’t remember you or don’t get back to you. This is where you show how committed you are by consistently (not spamming) emailing them every few of weeks with new samples of your work. If your show shows improvement or they have a project for you, they may just offer you a job.
A lot of people underestimate the importance of getting an industry pro to take you seriously but I know from personal experience that it’s damn hard sometimes and sooo valuable. Years ago I tried to get representation through a comic talent agency, someone there was very lovely and had me do some drawing exercises and gave me some advice. But after all that he told me that although my work was okay, he couldn’t get me a job because he wasn’t sure I was serious about drawing comics. This is a very hard barrier to overcome, they don’t want someone that’s going to say yes to drawing a book and get half-way through and stop. This makes the agency look bad, this makes the publisher look bad and causes a whole lot more work for everyone else just because you lacked commitment.
I was going back through C B Celbulski’s blog the other day (he is Marvel’s talent scout, get to know him, follow him on Twitter, his insights are invaluable for anyone looking to make a career in comics) and he made a comment that he can count on his fingers how many artists had gotten their very first comic job at Marvel. (It turned out to be a little more than that, maybe toes included?)
But the point remains that you should be drawing comics, cutting your teeth on small press jobs and work your way up to Marvel and DC if that’s where you want to be. I’m currently working on a book for Image, this is my first gig at a major publisher (and my first paid work as a penciller) and I’ve been drawing comics for years. My work has now been included in 3 Gathering anthologies and I’ve done other small press gigs too, all for free in the hopes that they’ll help me get to my dream job. Most industry people don’t rifle through small press books looking for hidden talent, so if anyone tries to sell you on a project for ‘industry exposure’ don’t listen to them. Instead, tell yourself this: ‘Draw comics because that is that you want to do.’
Every page you draw improves your work, by working with other writers and editors you get a feel for what it’s like working with that team dynamic. It also means that if you ARE at a portfolio review or talking to someone at a major publisher and they ask you ‘have you been published before?’ You can answer ‘yes’ and list off your previous work, or better yet; show them. I talked before about showing people how serious you are, and drawing comics, even small press comics help show that.
I should also mention that web comics count as well, publishing comics online these days is just as good as having a printed book.
Seek advice and knowledge
There are some great places online to learn more about the industry and even get some critiques on your work. Here are some linkges:
Digital Webbing forums A great place not only get advice and critiques but they have a ‘Help Wanted’ section where you can pick up small press gigs.
Gutter Zombie forums A forum populated by industry pros and those seeking to break in, if you’re looking to be a comic flatter - this is the place for you.
Concept Art This is mostly a community for digital painters but there are still a few sequential artists here, a great place for honest critiques.
Comics Career.com I’m not familiar with this site but it looks promising.
Breaking into Comics by Gail Simone a great post from Gail, writers take note!
The Tao of Breaking into Comics by C B Celbulski Great advice for anyone looking to get into any job in the industry.
(video) Ian D Sharman gives tips about portfolio reviews Ian is on Tumblr, follow him!
I feel like there is so much more to say but there is already an epic wall of text. The thing is there isn’t really ‘one way’ to break into drawing comics. Everyone has different stories, Michael Turner was discovered at a Con by Jim Lee when he was 18, and Marc Silvestri got his first gig by getting into an editor’s hotel room by pretending to be a bus boy. (Please, please don’t do this. Even Marc admits that he’s lucky that no-one hit him.) So while in the end it’s up to you how you get into the industry, these tips will *hopefully* get you part of the way there.
More than anything though I will say, breaking into drawing comics professionally is hard. It’s hard and it’s even harder for writers. (Even Nicola Scott attended 3 or 4 SDCCs before she got offered a gig.) I’ve worked hundreds of hours without pay, my soul gets crushed when projects fall through and some days you’re having such an awful day that one critique makes you feel worthless and you do honestly think about giving up. But for me comics are a labour of love and for me drawing comics is worth all the bad days and all the tears.
I feel bad about giving advice about ‘breaking in’ because in my own mind, I haven’t yet. I haven’t reached the point where I can say, ‘yes, I’m a professional full-time artist.’ I STILL work part-time at a day job and although I feel like my full-time career is closer now than it’s ever been, I’m not there yet.