Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Breaking In Part 1

So how do you break into comic books? Good question.
First you need to answer this question.


Why would you even want to? The comic book industry isn’t the most extravagant of jobs out in the world. You seem to work endless hours working for minimal pay (unless you are at top ten artist…). You work so much you hardly see your family and hardly have enough money to cover the bills. While you’re working endless hours at the same time you’re looking for work. Sometime it seems like you can’t find work, then it seems like there’s so much work you don’t know what to do… though you can’t turn anything down because you don’t know if the company will offer you work again…

So why do it?

Because you love it. You absolutely love it. That’s why I did it for six years. Six years without sleep, worrying about the next job, bugging editors to give me work and taking in all the excuses they’re feeding me, listening to my wife complaining that we don’t spend much time together, or why I have to work the weekends all the time. I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I loved going to the conventions and feeling like a star. I loved the thrill of beating out hundreds of artists going after the same job. I loved seeing my artwork in print. I absolutely loved it.

So I’ll give you the basics today and I’ll give you guys some breaking in stories of my own in the next few. I’ll also let you know why I left too – and why I’m keeping a toe into the pool so to speak.

So if you want to be in the industry, the first step is simple. You have to want it. You have to want it bad. You have to want it so much you are willing to sacrifice what need be to get it. The most obvious is time and sleep. Sometimes it’s money. But most importantly, it’s your inner being – you have to convince yourself you’re going to be the best and are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best.

Next is practice. I mentioned this yesterday, but it’s the most important thing. Draw everything. The cool drawing of Daredevil you did won’t mean anything if the building you’ve drawn behind him looks like a tree. Start with the basics – life drawing, perspective, etc… Take a class and read the books. The more you draw, the better you get. Period.

Next, don’t be lazy. What sets the winners and the losers in any industry is your work drive. The fact is everyone will face the same obstacles and hurdles. However when something hard comes your way, the losers will stop or take a break. Winners will work through the pain until it’s finished. Be willing to do whatever it takes to be the best. Bryan Hitch is a great example of that – and yes he was late when doing Ultimates – but I’ll cut him some slack – he deserves that privilege. He paid his dues. Working at Marvel UK, he finished a complete issue, 22 pages in 4 days. Four Days!!! He threw up and almost died of exhaustion, but he did it – and it didn’t look like crap!!! Now I’m not saying do 22 pages in 4 days, because unless you’re Bryan Hitch, it will look like crap. I’m saying try to be like Mark Bagley who sits down at his desk Monday – Saturday working from 7am-7pm straight time without getting up, finishing 1.5 – 3 pages per day. Like anyone else there’s times he doesn’t feel like drawing, however when others (myself included) would stop, he pushes himself to keep going. That’s the definition of drive and self motivation. That’s why he’ll always get work in this industry. Okay, maybe 3 pages a day is still unrealistic. A page a day keeps the editor away...

Next, be good. Compare yourself. How do you expect to land a job if your work does not stand up to what’s on the shelf? Put your artwork side by side with the top artist and ask yourself; why are they getting the work instead of you? Chances are right now, your work doesn’t stand up - but you think it does.

That’s why you need unbiased feedback. Take criticism and not from your mom. Get yourself online and try to get feedback from other artists out there. Most importantly Listen!!! Being a freelance artist, you will have so much criticism thrown at you and it will never stop. The ones who won’t listen and walk away are the ones without work – and I was like that before which I’ll explain later. The ones who take criticism in stride, learn from it and incorporate it in there work is on the fast track.

Technically to show to editors it’s best to have 5-6 pages of sequentials and one pin-up at a time. Any more than that to me is overkill. Six pages is enough to show your skill to them. You might notice that I said “…at a time”. Most likely you won’t get work right away with the first sample you show them. One month later send another 5-6 pages of sequentials of a different type of script – but better. If the editor gave you feedback, use it and show in the next set that you understood what he was talking about. And don’t be afraid to show the same sample to different companies – the stuff about them only wanting to see their own characters is secondary to the artwork skill. If DC saw two drawings – a really good drawing of wolverine and a crappy drawing of Superman, chances are they’ll pick the wolverine guy for the job.

And finally, be patient. Waiting is the hardest part. But the fact is, these things take time. It takes time to develop your style into something that is commercial and something readers would buy. Also, editors who love your work usually can’t give you work right away anyways. You need to wait. How long? For as long as it takes.

So that’s the basics. If you follow these steps, there is no reason why you can’t do well in the comic book industry, or any industry you choose. Tomorrow I’ll talk more about sacrifices you need to make and the types of things you should do to start off. I’ll also tell the story about how I got my first job at Dreamwave, and in the following days I’ll tell you the experienced I’ve learned and the mistakes I made – so that you guys won’t fall into the same holes that I did.

Pics today:
1-2) A Superman Sample
3-7) A Nightwing sample
Both didn’t get me a lick of work.

If you guys have any questions about this, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Happy Tuesday everyone, and I’ll talk to you soon.
James Anthony Raiz
Stand-Up Joke of the Day from Jackie Martling:
What do you call bees that gives milk? Boo-bees


Kris Carter said...

Hi James

Fantastic read - I'm looking forward to reading more from you!

jamesraiz said...

Thanks Kris! Glad you're reading :)

Jason Copland said...

Great advice, James. I'm really digging these posts.