I'm often asked how I broke into the comics industry. Whenever I am, I point folks to this piece I wrote back in 2009 for my old Blogspot blog. It's an oldie, but still valuable, I think. At the very least, it saves me having to repeat myself. Please enjoy.
C.B. Cebulski just posted a six-page short we collaborated on a few years back, which was published in the HERO Initiative’s Charity Anthology for that year. I’m slightly blushing over the age of the work, but feel free to check that out.
For those that don’t know, C.B. is a writer and Talent Scout for Marvel Comics and has been doing a series of Twitter posts on Breaking into Comics. His posting of our short inspired me to share a bit of my experiences breaking in, a pretty long, but interesting ride.
I began making the push into comics around 2001, and it all started with a pretty simple plan. Now, I’m not saying this is the “Breaking-In-Plan-to-End-All-Plans”. This is just what worked for me as the 20-year-old, no-money-having, south Louisiana artist that I was at the time.
My Break-In plan was cyclical and had a few different legs, as complex as that sounds. It went like this:
1) Hit a con. Walked the alleys, working past my own general awkwardness to meet, greet and get portfolio reviews from artists, editors and the occasional writer. Take note of whatever feedback I got in a sketchbook. Be polite and not too self-deprecating. Ask questions. Trade business cards for instant connection. Network!
2) Go home and Follow up. I’d email almost all of the creators that I’d meet, just as a thank-you and as a way of saying “I’m serious about doing this for a living”. Oftentimes, creators would encourage me to send them new work, and they’d respond with invaluable advice. Jim Mahfood was the first creator that did this for me, and it was a huge boost to me when things got hard. And since we’re on the subject of using the Net…
3) Post Work Online. I posted new work at least twice a week on at least five different message boards. Sometimes, people would respond. Sometimes, they wouldn’t. Sometimes, they were flaming assholes, but whatever. This was a priceless way to getting my work seen, getting feedback, and meeting people. I can’t count the number of professional contacts I’ve made just because the right person was surfing my site at the right time. This is how Marvel Talent Coordinator/Writer C.B. Cebulski found me via MySpace, of all places. I was just minding my own business when he messaged me one day, saying he dug my work, and asking if I’d be interested in working with him. Crazy. You’ll be amazed.
4) Work my Tail off. Apply what I’d learned at the last con and try some new things. Build a new portfolio and get ready for the next one.
5) Hit another con. I’d hit two conventions a year. Once every six months, roughly. Being from the south, going to these shows usually required an expensive trek out of state, so this gave me plenty of time to save the necessary cash, as well as produce a whole new portfolio of work for each con. Simple enough idea. Added bonus of hitting these cons regularly was that I became a face to creators. People remembered me and my work, often to the point that many of those folks are now good friends.
And that was it, really. I paid some dues by doing a bunch of non-paying indy stuff for guys I’d meet at the cons. Eventually, there was a snowball effect, and that free work became paying gigs as my work got better. Simple as that. Approaches and results may vary.
It’s very odd how this stuff comes back around.
FYI: C.B. was the guy that introduced me to Tokyopop President Jeremy Ross at a San Diego bar. Of course, Ross then hired me to work with Brandon Jerwa on a never-released pilot called Jason Mason. Jerwa, in turn, was the guy that referred me to John Layman, who hired me to draw CHEW.
You just never know…