Breaking into Comics

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As a comic store co-owner, it’s kind of amazing how many people come in and ask me about things that I should rightfully have no idea about. One of the questions I get asked the most that actually pertains to comics, though, is how to get started in the industry, usually as an artist.

First off; if I had THE answer, I would be penciling comic books myself. I’d know what I need to fix about my artwork, it would be fixed, and I’d be making funny books instead of selling them.

Secondly, I get asked this question via the Internet. So, clearly, these people have online access, where there is an abundance of information about EVERYTHING. In fact, the Internet even knows what I had for breakfast this morning (It was waffles. See? The Internet knows). And I’m not even some pop-celebrity like Lindsay Lohan or Johnny Depp (intentional key word placement to raise search-engine rankings, there? Hmmm, could be!)

HOWEVER. Somebody, someday will have come here from some random search and been like, “Yo, Andy, why you wasting my time with this?” To those people, I say this:

Read every single thing that Jim Zubkavich has written. He’s an editor for UDON Entertainment (creators of the wonderfully super Street Fighter and Darkstalkers comics, on sale now!), and, as such, knows what editors are looking for (shock and awe!). My personal favorite is in “Portfolio Horror,” with the Sailor Moon crayon drawings.

In addition to reading Zub’s stuff, the best way to learn about what you need to do is READ COMICS. Don’t just get art styles that are what you’re into: Get EVERYTHING! If you like Jim Lee’s work (X-Men, WildC.A.T.S., Batman, etc.), buy comics by Skottie Young (New X-Men, Wonderful Wizard of Oz). If you like Frank Quitely (All-Star Superman, New X-Men, We3), pick up stuff by Takeshi Miyazawa (Spider-Man Loves Mary JaneSecret Invasion: Young Avengers/Runaways). If you like David Finch (New Avengers, Moon Knight), get things by Mike Allred (Madman, X-Statix). The only way to grow as an artist is to look at everything that’s out there, and be inspired by it. Heck, don’t just limit yourself to comic artists – Look at the works of the great Renaissance painters (You know, the ones the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were named after). Check out some Van Gogh. Know who Brunelleschi is. 

Read Scott McCloud’s books – Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Re-Inventing ComicsHow to Draw Comics the Marvel Way should be on your bookshelf. DC has an entire line about becoming a professional comic artist. Wizard has countless Basic Training books. Get them all.

Then, draw. Draw again. And when you’re sick and tired of drawing, do it some more. Because if you can’t even be bothered to draw a portfolio, there’s no possible way you can draw 22 pages of comic a month. And once you’ve drawn your little hands off, go to conventions. Meet creators and editors. Go to portfolio review sessions. Befriend important people! Brian Michael Bendis got a job in comics because he wouldn’t stop going to conventions. Eventually, the editors at all the major companies got to know him, and now he’s the head writer at Marvel. But in 1995, nobody knew who the hell he was.

Make a webcomic! Update it daily. If you’re not comfortable writing, find somebody who is a writer. Go to websites like PencilJack and find people who have stories but are looking for an artist. A friend of mine just got her first published work in the mail by doing exactly that.

These are just some of the things you’re going to need to do to break in. And I don’t even know what I’m talking about.

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