Are you an artist, writer, or letterer who has been desperately trying to break into the comic book industry? Well, I really hope you were at Emerald City Comic Con last night to take part in the Marvel Comics “Breaking Into Comics” panel. Moderated by Marvel’s talent scout, CB Cebulski, the panel consisted of a number of current creators in the industry including writers Kelly Sue DeConnick and Chris Yost as well as artists Ramon Perez, Phil Noto and Adi Granov.
The panel began with Cebulski addressing the crowd, explaining that the current state of the industry, and society as a whole, has made breaking into comics both easier and harder at the same time.
We have ways to get in now, through the internet, through communication, through publishing, through Kickstarter, so there’s more opportunities than ever for you as aspiring writers, artists, pencillers, inkers, colorists painters, to publish your own comic and become, you know, a professional comic book creator. The bad news is, is that it’s harder than ever to get paid for it… the talent pool has grown enormously for people like myself who are out there looking for talent, so you’ve got to work extra hard to not only produce good work, but to also make a name for yourself, and get noticed.
In general, the biggest advice given at the panel was “work hard” (that’s paraphrased, mind you). DeConnick talked about her early work when she was just starting out and how she began writing for “Artbomb”. She eventually went on to become a researcher for Neil Gaiman which led to a job adapting Japanese and Korean language manga into English. What worked for DeConnick was the never-ending supply of jobs, one which eventually fed into the other, that landed her in her role as a comic book scribe.
Meanwhile on the other side of the writing coin is Chris Yost, who mostly attributes his success to “being in the right place, at the right time, with the right material.” Having written for animation and a few screenplays, Yost was able to send the work in to Marvel and grab their attention. (Thankfully so, otherwise we may not have the new, awesome Scarlet Spider series.)
Breaking in as an artist is generally a little trickier. Ramon Perez’s history is similar in tone to Kelly Sue’s, wherein he spent intense amounts of time fresh out of college working on his art. He took his portfolio to comic book conventions, most notably New York Comic Con, to seek advice from any professional in attendance that would take the time to look over his work, always striving to improve. But going to the conventions allowed him to network, meeting up-and coming writers, stating:
When these writers actually made it into Marvel, I started getting calls from editors going, yeah, B. Clay Moore wants you to draw this book for him, and I’m the editor on that book.
Phil Noto’s story is similar. He began working as an illustrator for Disney. Over time, he began to grow his own exposure by attending conventions, doing commissions, and posting his work online, an idea that at the time was in its infancy. The approach work, and as his name started to circulate the industry, he started getting alls for comic book worked, allowing him to leave his job at Disney.
Cebuski went on to offer aspiring artists some advice for portfolio presentation.
When it comes to building a portfolio as an artist one of the things I recommend is keeping it simple. You really should have a maximum of probably about ten pages in there: a couple storytelling pages…then a couple pin-ups and a couple cover shots, that’s really all you need. And when you are building your portfolio, I highly recommend, always put your newest work first. This is a common mistake is see every show I go to. People put their old work first and their new work in the back to build a progression, but as they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
The panel closed with an important message for Cebulski, reminding attendees that there is now an important tool that hasn’t been around very long: Twitter. Twitter allows aspiring artists and writers to network with industry pros, which in itself could open doors not previously available. Pros on Twitter often talk about their work processes, tips and tricks, and general “how to”s, making it a learning tool in addition to a networking medium. Cebulski is very prominent on Twitter, often posting guidelines to portfolio presentation, very similar to the message that he closed on. He even went the extra mile, reminding attendees that he can be followed at @CBCebulski.
It’s the dream of most artists and writers to on day work for Marvel Comics, and Marvel is well aware of this fact. However, to be given control of iconic characters like Spider-Man and Captain America is not something that comes easy. It takes a mixture of work, talent, and persistence to succeed in any industry, but even more so in the comic book industry. Luckily, Marvel is taking some responsibility in setting writers and artists on the right path to success.