Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How To Break Into Comics

Originally I posted this "how-to" on my tumblr but since it's proved so popular I'm reposting it here for those of you who follow this site.  My apologies to anyone getting a double-dose of pedagogy! 
This weekend at SPX I had a very nice fellow come up to my table and ask me if I had any advice on breaking into comics.  As someone whose only been in the game since 2009 I felt a bit unqualified to give him an answer, but as we talked I realized I do have some ideas in this department, and I wanted to share them and invite your feedback and thoughts.

1.  Forget about breaking into comics.
There are no gate keepers.  Or rather, there are so many gates that there’s no way someone can keep you out of comics if you truly want to participate.  As long as you are producing work and putting it out there you will find an audience and a place in the community.

2. Start small.
This may be stating the obvious, but if you don’t make comics you’re not a cartoonist.  Draw a bunch of short stories and FINISH THEM.  Once you have some short stories under your belt, maybe try some longer ones.  There are a lot of cartoonists out there with chapter one of their magnum opus.  Don’t be that guy.  If you can’t finish a short story, you won’t be able to finish a graphic novel.

3. Success doesn’t equal money.
Or rather, money is just one way of measuring success.  Absolutely artists should get paid for illustration work and comics drawn for clients, but if you are working on your personal projects and not making money it doesn’t mean you’re not succeeding.
This year I made the decision to stop pursuing paid work in order to focus on my personal projects and I feel really happy about it.  There’s no shame in having a day job as long as you are doing work you feel good about.

4. Go to conventions.
Bring a bunch of minis and trade with people.  Don’t be hurt if they say no.  If they won’t trade, just give them your comics.  Give your comics to people who you admire so much it scares you.  When you go back next year, give them your new comic.  Repeat until death.

5. Work hard.
You can’t control how much natural talent you have, or how good your luck is, but you can control how much time and elbow grease you put into your work.  It’s literally impossible to not improve if you work hard.  This thought has gotten me through many nights of self-doubt and despair.

That’s really it.  This may seem incredibly obvious to many people, but I really wrote it for that one guy, new to comics, who was kind enough to think I knew how to break into comics.  Thanks dude.

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