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A friend of mine is producing a Sci-Fi movie and I'm on board to do a special limited edition poster for the project.  They're also putting the original up as one of the incentives! 

Check out this www.indiegogo.com/projects/hom… to see what they're talking about.
Motivation to achieve your goals in life comes in many forms.  I decided to take a look at some of mine throughout my life.  Keep reading if you care to learn my deep dark secrets [ ultimately you can use them against me later in life when I'm weak and defenseless. ]

When I was a kid I wanted to be just like my father. He passed away when I was 28 but man he left a mark!  By the time I was a teenager I was a lot to handle - so we hardly ever saw eye to eye.  He was a tough and talented man.  To me he was like a super hero.  He had a very black and white philosophy about life.  He defined right and wrong very distinctly - there was no grey in his world.  As a kid, a philosophy like that makes complete sense even if it isn't very realistic.  He was a former pro boxer turned commercial artist.  Eventually he ran his own ad agency.  He could play guitar and piano by ear and played baseball as often as he could.  He also loved comic books.  Ideally, he would tell me, he would have loved to have been a comic book artist.  

So you can imagine the sort of impression that made on me.  When I turned 14 I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist.  I had already lost some favor with my father prior to that decision.  At age 12 I lost a school yard fight and he wouldn't speak to me for a month.  It was a tough little stretch.  I decided that I would throw myself into boxing and martial arts so that would never happen again [ sadly, I've won some and lost some since then - but at least I toughened up a bit! ].  At 14, he took me to see the movie Conan the Barbarian.  My father had put me on a steady diet of Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson and Sylvester Stallone [ he gave me the middle name: Duke, after John Wayne... ] - so Conan fit right in.  Suffice to say, the film really resonated with me.  I picked up an issue of Savage Sword of Conan [ my father loved the work of John Buscema, Neal Adams and Walt Simonson ] and my course was set!  I would be a comic book artist!  

Unfortunately, my father wasn't very keen on my artistic or professional fighting pursuits.  He felt that the life of an artist was a difficult one - and it is at times!  Boxing was too dangerous and would leave me brain damaged - I should be a doctor or a lawyer.  I figured he didn't think I had the stomach for an art career. Maybe I wasn't tough enough to deal with the criticism and long hours, etc.  

I was, however, motivated to prove to him that I could do it and earn his respect.

A few months later I submitted my work to Marvel Comics and received a very favorable response from their Submissions Editor.  He said if I stuck with it I could be hired by Marvel and sent me a lot of paperwork that explained what an average artist could expect to earn, including all the medical benefits, etc.  I couldn't believe it.  And neither could my father!  After that, he changed his tune regarding my art career.  He had only given me one art lesson as a kid: How to use a stick figure and apply box like shapes to it in order create a human body that loosely resembled a robot.  After that I was on my own.  That letter changed my life in many ways.  My study books were filled with drawings.  So were my notebooks.  And my bedroom.  I started a business drawing custom RPG [ role play games - like Dungeons and Dragons ] characters for enthusiasts.  I ran an ad in Dragon Magazine with money I made from mowing lawns around my neighborhood.  Before I had my Driver's License I had already bought a car with what I had earned.  It also kept me practicing.  Every day I would come home from school and draw someone's character.  It taught me discipline and how to run a business.    

When I moved to NYC during my early Marvel, DC and Valiant career I had somewhat of a mentor.  I also considered him a good friend at one point in my life.  He was older than me and opened my eyes to the art and comic book world in ways I hadn't explored or even fathomed.  I'm eternally grateful for the experience and the friendship.  He was leaps and bounds ahead of me and I listened to every word he said.   Like all of us, my mentor wasn't without his flaws.  Sadly, one thing he was keen on doing was telling me that I would never be as good as he was.  And also, that I was, at best, an illustrator and not an artist.  He made a distinction.  To be fair, there is a difference.  That really stuck with me.  From that point on I was motivated to prove him wrong.  I'm not sure that I have but it's certainly something that compelled me forward in my artistic pursuit.  

I'll use a sports analogy [ I seem to be fond of them ]: It's rare that an athlete is born and not created.  In the sense that most athletes mature into the players they are by virtue of practicing and testing their skills on and off the court or in the ring. The only way you can improve your Free Throw in basketball is to throw Free Throws.  Lots of them.  It's almost impossible, even without coaching, to not get better at throwing Free Throws if you continually practice.  The same is true for artists.  Learning all you can, varying your study and asking questions are all paramount to improving your artistic skills.  More importantly though, is applying the knowledge you're picking up.  Literally practicing what, inside your head, you know.  Understanding the mechanics of solid drawing is one thing, applying those mechanics is another.  

So, I did everything in my power to improve my art game and prove my mentor pal wrong.  It's a never ending struggle/quest and it's one that I never tire of.  Practice can't make perfect.  That's a myth.  There is no perfect drawing.  Ask your favorite artist what they would change about one your favorite pieces of art drawn by him/her and they'll tell you exactly what's wrong with it and what they would do to improve it.  But practice does make progress.  I'm very happy with the progress I've made since my first issue of Prophet over 20 years ago but I'm hardly satisfied with where I'm at artistically.  That's a good thing.  There's still room for growth and because I'm still learning - I will continue to hone my craft.  

So early on in my art career I was motivated by my love of comic books and my father's admiration.  Later I was motivated by revenge in a strange sense.  What drives me now is the result of my pursuit to learn and grow artistically.  Today my motivation is a healthy passion and it has changed the way I look at everything around me.  When you're motivated for pure reasons there's a certain amount of joy you experience that's unlike any other kind.  If you're following an artistic path, motivation can come from many areas in your life - but when you do it for yourself the journey is the most fulfilling.  I guess that just makes sense, doesn't it?  Funny how it took me so many years to figure that out...  For good or ill, all my trials and errors will most likely be presented on Deviant Art for all the world to see!  Gulp!  Scary stuff!

Motivation and desire for change will create improvements.  Your passion for what you do, whether it's art, photography, writing, music or sports will take you places you never dreamed possible.  Your passion, if properly explored and respected, can change your life.
  • Listening to: sirens and honking
  • Reading: and often weeping
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above
From time to time I'll hear questions from other artists concerning artistic pathways.  

It probably stems from seeing my work over the years.  Early in my career I was given a tremendous opportunity to draw the first Prophet book for Image Comics.  I had years of inking experience behind me but I had never drawn a full comic book prior to that experience.  The first issue sold nearly a half million copies.  My first foray into penciling/inking was quite a spectacle...  Looking back, it's one of the most cringe-worthy books from the 90's.  That was a little over 20 years ago.  When I returned to the comic book field I was a different artist thankfully.  Obviously 20 years is a long time for a growth curve.

Check out some of my Journals here on DA. I delve into getting into the business and what pushed me, etc. Mostly it's just focusing on weaknesses and addressing them. Fixing what's broke or doesn't perform as well as I feel it should. Which, is of course, a never ending quest.

Drawing from life [ Life Drawing ] changed the game for me quite a bit.

The things I learned from attempting to capture live subjects and integrating what I learned into other forms of illustration, for me, was key. Too many artists kid themselves into thinking that their style will change into something similar to what you see from traditional Life Drawing artists. A charcoal, tonal illustrative style that lacks the punch and exaggeration one finds in comic book and video game art. It simply isn't the case.

It's a lot like Cross Training.  All the top athletes cross train.  If you're a Mixed Martial Artist fighting in the UFC like George St Pierre, you'll notice he trains with the Canadian Olympic gymnasts.  You wouldn't say he fights like a gymnast would you?  But it's common for a comic book artist or animation artist to shrug off Life Drawing because they don't think what they'll gain from the exercise can apply to their particular craft.  Also, all too often, no one likes to look bad trying something new...

What Artistic Cross Training does is drastically improve the way you see both organic and inorganic objects.  The way light and shadow truly affects a surface.  Light and shadow, after all, are what outlines and line work are trying to capture.  If your concept of how light and shadow and lines work is learned only from what you've seen from other artists and what you've been taught from studying art instruction books - you are severely handicapping yourself.  That's not to say that there aren't great artists out there that haven't learned how to draw that way exclusively.  But it begs the question of how much their art would improve if they did!  In some cases it's hard to imagine.

The lessons from interpreting forms from Life Drawing can easily be applied to every art style.  Particularly cartooning.  The best cartoonists and animation artists readily study life!  The best studios would even bring in live animals to draw from.  You can't develop into a top artist from just connecting tubes and blocks to create shapes.  You're best served by understanding how those elements work in concert together to create movement and expression.

Okay, enough of that.  The other question I get quite a bit is what tools I use to ink with.

When I first started inking at Marvel and DC Comics a new wave of inking/finishing and even drawing was sweeping the industry.  At first they called it the X-Office style [ due to the almost exclusive look the X-Men books were employing ] and then, later, the Image Style.  At first, very few inkers/finishers took to the style that was started by Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio and Scott Williams.  Scott really pioneered an inking trend that dominated the market for nearly 20 years and still affects the level of detail you see in a great deal of comic books today.  So, like I said, at first - no one had seen anything quite like it [ it was a combination of Gil Kane mixed with Klaus Janson and some Barry Winsor Smith ].  Because I studied Portacio and Williams' Legion of the Night pages religiously in the Marvel offices - I was given the last issue of the series to ink [ and even finish ] when both Whilce and Scott were concentrating exclusively on illustrating X-Factor and Uncanny X-Men.  

Studying an artistic style and actually attempting it are two different things.  But I gave it my best shot.  The results weren't so hot but the only other inker giving that inking style a shot besides Williams was Art Thibert at DC Comics.  So, if you couldn't get Scott Williams to ink your book, it was left to Art Thibert or myself.  Very quickly I was moved to the X-Office and so was Art [ he was kicking ass doing finishes on Dan Jurgen's Superman book at DC ].  All of sudden almost every inker was being asked to ink in the X-Office style.  Well, there had to be a secret to it.  There had to be a trick employed to capture that look.  

Perhaps it was as easy as using the proper crowquill nib or brush...

One day, a veteran inker cornered me in the Marvel Bullpen.  I was 21 years old at the time and I grew up reading the comic books this man had worked on.  He wanted to know what the "Magic Nib" was.  That's what he referred to it as.  It had to be the pen nib that was delivering this new style of inking, in his opinion.  It turned out we were using the exact same nib.  A Hunt 102.  Almost every inker at the time used that nib.  

If you're a basketball player, you obviously need good athletic shoes.  Probably some with ankle support, right?  But it's really the way you play the game that makes all the difference.  It's the same with drawing.  You don't see the best artists turning in work done with Crayola Crayons but... A truly good artist, with only crayons at his/her disposal will still blow away an average artist who's using an array of the finest tools.  Just like a bare-foot NBA basketball player could easily out play a top high school basketball player!

It really doesn't matter what you ink with so long as you understand what you're inking and what the lines you're throwing down mean.  For the longest time I didn't.  Shading lines, outlines, hatching - they were all lines.  Lines that I wanted to look exactly like Scott Williams' lines.  Or Terry Austin's lines or Klaus Janson's lines or Jorge Zaffino's lines.  But until you truly understand what those lines represent - they're just lines.  That's why, for me, it all comes back to life drawing.  Life drawing teaches you what those lines represent.  

I worked briefly for comic book legend, Neal Adams.  Evey morning I would get to his Times Square ad agency in NYC at the crack of dawn.  No one else would be there but Neal and I.  Graciously, he would sit down with me and show me how he fixed all the pages I was working on the day before.  He didn't have to do that but I'll never forget his patience and generosity.  To this day I still recall the lessons I learned from him.  Not all of it sunk in back then - but every now and then I'll draw something and think to myself, "OH! That's what he meant by that!"

One of the most important things he taught me was that the drawing tool wasn't important.  I had just started inking with a brush because I was also working for Marvel.  I had noticed that ALL the pages were inked using traditional India Ink!  I was used to using markers!  I thought, "There's no way I can turn in marker pages!  They'll see I'm a fraud and never hire me again!".  Yet Neal insisted that you could use whatever tool necessary to achieve the final look.  All that mattered was how the book printed.  He used simple Pentel Markers.  I was shocked.  He had used brushes, nibs and Rapidiographs in the past but settled on markers.  It didn't matter.  He was doing things with those markers that I couldn't dream of!  So, for the work I did for Continuity Graphics [ Neal's company ] I used markers and for Marvel, DC and Valiant - I used a brush and crowquill.  

These days I use brush markers.  I use the Kuretake PK10-2 and the Pentel Pocket Re-fillable Brush Pen.  About two years ago I used the pen used by John Byrne, The Staedtler Mars Graphic 3000 Duo and Microns.  But tomorrow, if something comes out that's different I might try it.  The tool isn't really important.  You can get a precise line with almost any pen or brush.  There's little differences, sure - but it's really what you can do with that implement that's important.  It's the number of times you've thrown that Free Throw all alone that makes the difference when it's game time on the court.  Not the shoes.  

You can check out Scott William's amazing work by clicking on this inkist.deviantart.com/ and Art Thibert's incredible work at this aethibert.deviantart.com/ .  And Neal Adam's work by clicking this www.nealadams.com/
  • Listening to: sirens and honking
  • Reading: and often weeping
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above
Check out this www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGjGhU… and prepare yourself to be amazed and [even] astounded!  Kim Jung is a crazy creative machine!  

Some very humbling but inspiring stuff!  Enjoy!
  • Listening to: sirens and honking
  • Reading: and often weeping
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above
The website is up and ready!  If you have a stylish cat that demands all the best things in life - then I have a litter box for you.  Or more like a friend of mine does!  Cinematographer Robert Brinkman came up with the concept and I designed it!  Check out this iovo-designs.myshopify.com/ for more info and ordering!




Photobucket
  • Listening to: sirens and honking
  • Reading: and often weeping
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above
Nice journal title but what it should really have said was: Interviews with me.

We discuss art [ naturally! ] and influences and technique in both of them.  Yet, amazingly, each interview is kinda different.  How is that possible? Probably because I'm a bit of a scatterbrain.

There are two interviews.  One, compliments of Deviant Art and :iconshyree:  It can be found at this www.facebook.com/notes/deviant…

AND this one by David Harper for Multiversity Comics.  Check out this multiversitycomics.com/intervi…

There's also a cool interview with :iconseangordonmurphy: by the same site! Check it out at this multiversitycomics.com/intervi…

Why so many interviews?  I can't say.  That would be a question for another interview and this is simply a journal entry.
  • Listening to: sirens and honking
  • Reading: and often weeping
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above
Hey Barbarians,

I'm a part of a new blog that features the talents of :icondevilpig: :iconmarkchidc: :iconandrew-robinson: :iconericcanete: :iconbeckycloonan: :iconrafaelalbuquerqueart: Duncan Fergredo, Bill Sienkievwicz, Sean Phillips, Cliff Chiang, Amanda Conner, Francesco Francavilla, Phil Noto and Jock!

What Not Blog Spot is basically a diverse comic book related talent source attacking a very wide variety of themes each week.  Should be a lot of fun!  Take a look!

You may wanna check out our whatnotisms.blogspot.com/ from time to time and see what's going on.  

I'm still a part of the mightiness that is Comic Twart too.  Check out this www.comictwart.com/ to see the latest comic book and animation themes being attacked by the Twartists!
  • Listening to: sirens and honking
  • Reading: and often weeping
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above

DRAW! Magazine Cover Feature!

Tue Sep 6, 2011, 8:51 AM
Hey Barbarians - check out this twomorrows.com/index.php?main_…

I'm featured on the cover of Draw Magazine and I'm interviewed by Mike Manley!  There's a few pages of the interview to preview using the link above, if you wanna check it out!

Please share the twomorrows.com/index.php?main_… if you're so inclined, as well!  

Anyway, I just wanted to announce it!  I'm very honored to be a part of such a cool magazine!  Thanks!

  • Mood: Llama
  • Listening to: sirens and honking
  • Reading: Robert E Howard
  • Watching: UFC
  • Eating: selectively
  • Drinking: see above
My last Journal was a compilation of some varied ideas regarding Creator Owned comic book properties. Some discussion of what Marvel and DC represent to writers and artists. My random thoughts regarding Diamond Distributors and some ideas I thought Image Comics might want to consider.

Since I hit the Publish Button I've received a lot of interesting feedback and there's been a lot Internet talk on the subject. The most interesting feedback so far was directly from the Publisher of Image Comics, Eric Stephenson. I guess he might have some insight, right? I thought so too! Eric and I have known each other since the very, very early days of Image Comics when he was writing and editing and he's always been very helpful over the years. I was surprised that he stumbled across my journal and thrilled that he took the time to address what I brought up. He's good that way. After emailing, we thought it would be nice to make our discussion regarding these loose topics available to creators and fans alike.

ERIC: After reading your thoughts on Image's position with publishing I wanted to clear some misconceptions up. I'm all for ideas about how to increase the awareness of our material. I think there's some big problems across the board in comics and one we all need to tackle. But making erroneous statements about what we do here doesn't help matters, because a lot of people are already walking around spreading a bunch of half-truths where Image is concerned.

You wrote: "For one thing, not everyone that is creating their own comic book is a Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane or [ insert comic book creator with a built in fan base ]. Image comics offers all their creators the same privileges. That privilege includes ONE page in Previews."

In most cases, if a book is starting out, its first issue gets more than one page in Previews. I've got the Previews for titles shipping in April 2011 in front of me right now, so let's just look at that as an example:


Super Dinosaur #1 has four pages
Blue Estate #1 has two pages
Green Wake #1 has two pages
Undying Love #1 has two pages
'68 #1 has two pages
Nonplayer #1 has two pages
Zero: JM Ken Niimura Illustrations TP has two pages


Obviously, we can't give every single title multiple pages on a regular basis, but we've actually been giving launch books a couple pages to show off interior art for years now.

You also wrote: "Image pays for that or has a deal with Diamond [ Diamond is the biggest means of distribution in the comic book marketplace ] which is great - but that's it. That's the ALL the advertising you get."


Also not true. We actually do place banner ads on comics Websites like CBR and we regularly highlight titles on our own Website. We also advertise in other Diamond publications and through a weekly retailer newsletter, not to mention the Diamond Website. We also distribute preview copies of books (these days, more and more, we're doing this digitally, using ISSUU) to retailers and reviewers. We send review copies out. We frequently do posters for books that are sent to retailers. Whether those posters are put up is entirely dependent on the retailers in question, but we have done and continue to do these when they seem like they'd help. We send out postcards for books. In the past, we've done bookmarks for various trade paperbacks and graphic novels. We also run house ads in our comics, and we frequently run previews for other titles in our comics, too. Running a preview for, say, CHEW #1 in THE WALKING DEAD certainly helped increase awareness of that book.


Most of the press you see for Image comics? We set that up. The preview art you see online? We send that out. The articles on Image and various books that have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, etc.? We did that. Signings, panels at conventions, etc.? All of that is arranged by Image. The implication that we do nothing is a little insulting, especially coming from someone I would have thought understood the company a bit more. Given that there are a grand total of ELEVEN people working here, I think we do an admirable job – Dark Horse has over 100 employees. IDW has something like 30. Could we be better at certain things? Certainly, but we do a lot for a small staff.

DAN: That is an impressive amount of work for 11 people...! I had no idea. I didn't mean any offense by my journal - I just thought the advertising was pretty limited and the policy was different. Taking into account all the convention work and the means of solicitation - I stand corrected! Thanks Eric!

ERIC: Not at all. I love this business and all of this is very important to me. Concerning the advertising aspect, though, I'm not sure where you want any of us – Image, IDW, Dark Horse – to advertise. Entertainment Weekly? TV? That isn't cost effective for Marvel and DC, why would it be for the rest of us?

DAN: A man can dream, right? I was thinking of targeting college campuses to start with. I wouldn't imagine that would be as costly as huge magazines and national broadcast television. Maybe some authorized Image Comics Panel discussions on campus that could lead to organized clubs or the present day equivalent of what a club might be on a college campus these days? What do you think? I'm sure that's not as simple as snapping your fingers and with the limited amount of resources available, etc... But maybe mentioning that Image Comics and some of it's creators would be up for some University Tours or something...

ERIC: I think that's an interesting idea, and you're right, it's not going to be as expensive as advertising. What's more, I have to think it would be a more direct method of engaging readers. Honestly, there are probably lots of things everyone could be doing beyond merely advertising in the usual places, and it's good to hear new ideas. I was reading something online recently, it may have been Skottie Young's blog or maybe it was Tony Harris, that said there's a lot of talk about how something needs to be done to broaden our readership, but very few ideas suggested about how to actually do that, so ideas like this and some of the others you brought up in your journal are a big help.

DAN: Gotcha. So what's one of the things most new creators don't pick up on when they're starting out? Any pointers or suggestions?

ERIC: The one thing most people don't seem to get is that the most successful books at Image are the ones that come out on time, by creators who are motivated to make their books successful. For every John Layman or Robert Kirkman, there is a creator content to just turn the book in, LATE, and then wonder why things didn't work out. I've seen it time and time again. There's a book right now – the first issue came out in January, great reviews, sold out. The second issue should be out now. Tumbleweeds. Probably going to be over a month late. That doesn't help on any level, and it's the main reason creator-owned books aren't supported by many retailers: They don't believe they're going to come out on time or, in some cases, ever.

DAN: Thanks, Eric. Mind if I share this on my next Journal? I know you're super busy and you won't be able to field questions - but I think everyone would dig hearing your perspective.

ERIC: Sure thing. More than happy set the record straight on all this stuff.
Photobucket

My last Journal was a compilation of some varied ideas regarding Creator Owned comic book properties.  Some discussion of what Marvel and DC represent to writers and artists.  My random thoughts regarding Diamond Distributors and some ideas I thought Image Comics might want to consider.

Since I hit the Publish Button I've received a lot of interesting feedback and there's been a lot Internet talk on the subject.  The most interesting feedback so far was directly from the Publisher of Image Comics, Eric Stephenson.  I guess he might have some insight, right?  I thought so too!  Eric and I have known each other since the very, very early days of Image Comics when he was writing and editing and he's always been very helpful over the years.  I was surprised that he stumbled across my journal and thrilled that he took the time to address what I brought up.  He's good that way.  After emailing, we thought it would be nice to make our discussion regarding these loose topics available to creators and fans alike.

ERIC: After reading your thoughts on Image's position with publishing I wanted to clear some misconceptions up.  I'm all for ideas about how to increase the awareness of our material. I think there's some big problems across the board in comics and one we all need to tackle. But making erroneous statements about what we do here doesn't help matters, because a lot of people are already walking around spreading a bunch of half-truths where Image is concerned.

You wrote: "For one thing, not everyone that is creating their own comic book is a Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane or [ insert comic book creator with a built in fan base ]. Image comics offers all their creators the same privileges. That privilege includes ONE page in Previews."

In most cases, if a book is starting out, its first issue gets more than one page in Previews. I've got the Previews for titles shipping in April 2011 in front of me right now, so let's just look at that as an example:


Super Dinosaur #1 has four pages
Blue Estate #1 has two pages
Green Wake #1 has two pages
Undying Love #1 has two pages
'68 #1 has two pages
Nonplayer #1 has two pages
Zero: JM Ken Niimura Illustrations TP has two pages


Obviously, we can't give every single title multiple pages on a regular basis, but we've actually been giving launch books a couple pages to show off interior art for years now.

You also wrote: "Image pays for that or has a deal with Diamond [ Diamond is the biggest means of distribution in the comic book marketplace ] which is great - but that's it. That's the ALL the advertising you get."


Also not true. We actually do place banner ads on comics Websites like CBR and we regularly highlight titles on our own Website. We also advertise in other Diamond publications and through a weekly retailer newsletter, not to mention the Diamond Website. We also distribute preview copies of books (these days, more and more, we're doing this digitally, using ISSUU) to retailers and reviewers. We send review copies out. We frequently do posters for books that are sent to retailers. Whether those posters are put up is entirely dependent on the retailers in question, but we have done and continue to do these when they seem like they'd help. We send out postcards for books. In the past, we've done bookmarks for various trade paperbacks and graphic novels. We also run house ads in our comics, and we frequently run previews for other titles in our comics, too. Running a preview for, say, CHEW #1 in THE WALKING DEAD certainly helped increase awareness of that book.


Most of the press you see for Image comics? We set that up. The preview art you see online? We send that out. The articles on Image and various books that have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, etc.? We did that. Signings, panels at conventions, etc.? All of that is arranged by Image. The implication that we do nothing is a little insulting, especially coming from someone I would have thought understood the company a bit more. Given that there are a grand total of ELEVEN people working here, I think we do an admirable job – Dark Horse has over 100 employees. IDW has something like 30. Could we be better at certain things? Certainly, but we do a lot for a small staff.

DAN: That is an impressive amount of work for 11 people...!  I had no idea.  I didn't mean any offense by my journal - I just thought the advertising was pretty limited and the policy was different.  Taking into account all the convention work and the means of solicitation - I stand corrected!  Thanks Eric!

ERIC: Not at all.  I love this business and all of this is very important to me.  Concerning the advertising aspect, though, I'm not sure where you want any of us – Image, IDW, Dark Horse – to advertise. Entertainment Weekly? TV? That isn't cost effective for Marvel and DC, why would it be for the rest of us?

DAN:  A man can dream, right?  I was thinking of targeting college campuses to start with.  I wouldn't imagine that would be as costly as huge magazines and national broadcast television.  Maybe some authorized Image Comics Panel discussions on campus that could lead to organized clubs or the present day equivalent of what a club might be on a college campus these days?  What do you think?  I'm sure that's not as simple as snapping your fingers and with the limited amount of resources available, etc... But maybe mentioning that Image Comics and some of it's creators would be up for some University Tours or something...

ERIC: I think that's an interesting idea, and you're right, it's not going to be as expensive as advertising. What's more, I have to think it would be a more direct method of engaging readers. Honestly, there are probably lots of things everyone could be doing beyond merely advertising in the usual places, and it's good to hear new ideas. I was reading something online recently, it may have been Skottie Young's blog or maybe it was Tony Harris, that said there's a lot of talk about how something needs to be done to broaden our readership, but very few ideas suggested about how to actually do that, so ideas like this and some of the others you brought up in your journal are a big help.

DAN:  Gotcha.  So what's one of the things most new creators don't pick up on when they're starting out?  Any pointers or suggestions?

ERIC:  The one thing most people don't seem to get is that the most successful books at Image are the ones that come out on time, by creators who are motivated to make their books successful. For every John Layman or Robert Kirkman, there is a creator content to just turn the book in, LATE, and then wonder why things didn't work out. I've seen it time and time again. There's a book right now – the first issue came out in January, great reviews, sold out. The second issue should be out now. Tumbleweeds. Probably going to be over a month late. That doesn't help on any level, and it's the main reason creator-owned books aren't supported by many retailers: They don't believe they're going to come out on time or, in some cases, ever.

DAN:  Thanks, Eric.  Mind if I share this on my next Journal?  I know you're super busy and you won't be able to field questions - but I think everyone would dig hearing your perspective.

ERIC:  Sure thing. More than happy set the record straight on all this stuff.

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I saw this www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPk6ch… on :iconbrohawk: 's page and it really hit home for me.  Eric Powell is an amazingly talented writer/artist [ The Goon ] and he put together a very funny video that encourages creators and fans to support independent comics.  Please watch it and spread the word!  

I have an idea.  It may bother some creators that have decided Marvel and DC don't give back enough or should take more responsibility for the industry, etc, etc... But here's my ham-fisted thoughts:

I think Marvel/DC do a GREAT job of doing what they do BEST.  

[ Both Marvel and DC offer creator owned options for top tier talent.  That said, they're in the business of making money - so their percentages probably don't match the smaller companies regarding incentives.  Marvel and DC Comics is not a government run operation designed to "support the arts".  They have and always will be businesses designed to elicit profits.  For every chance a publisher takes on something like Watchmen or Hellboy - there are hundreds and thousands of failures.  They make money with superhero comic books on proven commodities like X-Men, Spiderman, Batman and Superman because of licensing and movies and other media besides just publishing comic books.  That is their business model and companies like Warner Bros and Disney would not be interested in them if they didn't do so. ]


You can't ask a lion to be a wolf or a lamb or an alligator.  Marvel and DC print primarily superhero comic books.  And yes, they're owned by very large corporations.  It simply is what it is.  There's a place for those companies.  We LOVE those companies and their characters.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But asking them to cater to Creators doesn't make financial sense to me.  It's like asking NBC or HBO to offer some Public Access shows in their weekly line up... That's not gonna happen.  That's why there's Public Access and Cable.

Image Comics prints independent creator comics.  If you create a comic book for Image Comics you own 100% of the rights to that book and licensing, etc.  But I think Image Comics needs to expand their printed comic books into broader marketplaces [ Who doesn't, BTW... I'm sure they are keenly aware of this ].
  
IMO, Image should consider also offering a limited partnership with creators and share some of the creative ownership $$$.  

"Why" you might ask?  Why should they take a cut of someone's ownership?  

For one thing, not everyone that is creating their own comic book is a Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane or [ insert comic book creator with a built in fan base ].  Image comics offers all their creators the same privileges.  That privilege includes ONE page in Previews.  Image pays for that or has a deal with Diamond [ Diamond is the biggest means of distribution in the comic book marketplace ] which is great - but that's it.  That's the ALL the advertising you get.  It's certainly better than nothing but it's not really enough to really push your creator owned property in front of comic book shop owners and it certainly isn't enough to get NEW readers interested in your book that hasn't come out yet...

But that's what happens when you own 100% of something.  You get 100% of it's funding/advertising responsibilities.  If your book hits - AWESOME.  If it doesn't.... Well, you're out a month or more of work that you could of had if you simply worked that month for Marvel or DC.  [ And let's face it, not too many writers/artists can really create a brand new character/storyline and put it all together in one book in one month.  Creating a new book takes a while.  Once it's "up and running" it's possible to do so monthly for some. ]

Ideally, you have money saved and you can advertise and build hype for your 100% creator owned book.  EVERYONE has plenty of money saved for that, right?  I'm joking, of course.   

Which is why I think it might behoove both Image and Creators to offer a limited partnership.  Image could take a percentage of book and licensing profits from Creators and in return offer a broader, richer marketing strategy.  In fact, they could vary their percentage rates depending on how much support they give by way of advertising.  Plan A could be 15% which would equal "X" amount of marketing and Plan B could be 30% and would offer more than Plan A, etc.  You may even have a situation where Image may own a Controlling Share of profits but really push that book like no other!  I'm sure some newer creators could really benefit from exposure like that.  

With that type of exposure they could always opt for Plan A, B or C for their next project or maybe they could simply rely on Image's existing Previews Ad Only Plan that has been in play since they emerged in the 90's.  [ Obviously their original plan works well enough or they wouldn't be around today! ]

Something to think about.  

I'd rather not waste time trying to make a lion into an alligator or a lamb.  I think it would be smarter for a company designed to give Creators a viable launching pad for new books even more of a boost.  It wouldn't take much of a policy change and it would open more doors for both individual creators and Image Comics.  More potential money for both Creators and for Image.  I think that makes good sense.

UPDATE: I've heard from plenty of sources that thanks to Eric Stephenson and Robert Kirkman there are plans similar to what I discussed above already in the works.  Also, as you can tell by my ramblings - my journal here has almost nothing to do with Eric Powell's cool video anymore.  It just sort of sparked some thoughts.  Probably things that you or others have bounced around plenty.  Here's some thoughts on Diamond below.  They get a bad rap and I'm sure there are plenty of horror stories from both publishers and comic shop owners.  But there are some factors to consider.

CONCERNING DIAMOND:

They're taking a big chance on a truly independent publisher. Under the best circumstances, an average Indy won't survive long or make ANYONE any money.  The Creator, the publisher, the comic shop owner or Diamond.

What is a distributor? The simple answer is they distribute comic books from a publisher to a commercial business. Do they dictate how much you can sell? No. It's up to the publisher to create demand for their product. That's not the job of the distributor. The reason Batman sells comic books is because DC Comics promotes Batman. Not because Diamond promotes Batman.

Should Diamond agree to carry an Indy Comic that doesn't sell over 2000 copies? Maybe not. Maybe that person or super small Indy company needs to build hype/advertise, create demand for their product so that a company like Diamond feels safe distributing their product.

If Diamond does agree to carry a product it doesn't guarantee people will buy it. They are gambling on Indies. Until that Indy can guarantee more sales they probably need to take a big chunk to insure they don't go broke delivering everyone's Indy...

It's not Diamond's fault. It's the marketing approach. And Diamond is a distributor - not a marketer. They deliver products to businesses. That's it.

There's more than one way to skin a cat. And there's more than one way to get a book noticed and build hype/sales. Sales equal leverage.

All I'm saying is that you can't realistically expect Diamond to advertise for you.  They're not in that business.  They're middle men.

Beverage distributors don't pay for Coke ads.  Coke does.  If Coke stopped advertising and Pepsi continued to, beverage distributors would eventually be distributing more Pepsi than Coke.  It's pretty simple.

If you have a product - you need to advertise/hype it.  Besides a rich uncle, who's going to take a chance on an unknown quantity?  Why should Diamond take a chance on you?  Just because?  Because you "could" be the next big thing that saves comics?  "Just because" is probably a good way to go bankrupt.

One of the determining factors on what Diamond will "buy" is also based on perception on their behalf.  

If your "product" is getting a lot of attention [ advertising, hype, whatever ] that will influence their participation.

Diamond is in the business of moving as much product as they can.  If it's Marvels, if it's Image and even if it's some new company.  They can't make money otherwise.  They're not trying to keep anyone down.  

If Marvel lays down a ton of money on advertising a new book - Diamond is going to order a lot of copies because they'll anticipate big sales.  

Advertising works in every consumer market.  It works the same way in the comic book marketplace.  

But Diamond is not going to do the hype for you.  That's your job.  Or Marvels or Dark Horses.  

If you can create demand or perceived demand - they will order respectively to a point.  




Now, here's an idea for Disney/Marvel or Warner/DC:

Leak some pictures of Miley Cyrus reading a Spiderman comic book.  Any Marvel comic book.  Have all of their stars reading comic books in public.

They control/influence media trends.  They're why you know who Miley is.

Pepsi pays money for movie/television product placement.  Disney should have their manufactured celebrities reading comic books when "caught" by paparazzi.

Every young girl or boy will want to read comic books.

Leo DiCaprio actually digs comic books.  Interview him about them on some talk shows regarding this.  Build.  Do you think it's a coincidence DiCaprio or Christian Bale is on Letterman or Conan a week before Inception or The Fighter is due to hit the theaters?  It's all studio hype.  It's time those studios hype the comic book companies they own.  Once America sees their stars buying comic books they're gonna buy comic books.  Arnold bought a Hummer.  Everyone bought a Hummer or wanted one after that.  We're lemmings.  We know this.  We're very easily lead.  Lead us.  Tell us what to like.  

Heavily market college campuses.  That's our real audience.  Not every kid in college is at the Frat Party.  Most aren't.  They're on their own and need entertainment/distractions.  Think Facebook, the Social Network movie.  

This isn't rocket science.  Disney should have already been on all of this.  So should Warner Bros.

  • Mood: Llama
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  • Reading: Oscar Wilde
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A Salute to Clement Sauve!

Thu Jan 27, 2011, 9:50 AM
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I remember looking at a digest handout years and years ago from Dark Horse Comics distributed at the San Diego Comic Con and always finding myself studying a particular page every time I opened it up...  I can't explain why his illustration of a man in his garage tinkering with some outlandish machinery captivated me to such a degree - but it stuck with me.  The artist's name was Clement Sauve.    

Years later, Mark Irwin forwarded me an email from Clement.  By now, I had seen more of his work and every artist "in the know" was aware of him.  The email was just a very kind note from a man I hadn't met but whom I admired greatly.  In my world it became something of a benchmark.  I thought to myself, here's an artist that's leaps and bounds ahead of me and he took time in his day to let me know he's fond of my efforts.  To me, that was a trophy.  A badge of honor.  I probably mentioned it to every artist I knew for days on end.  

As time went on I discovered more and more of his work and was always stopped in my tracks by not only his awe inspiring creativity but the seemingly effortless execution of his illustrations.  He's one of those artists that draws things that look absolutely plausible and unreal at the same time.  He managed to create an aesthetic for a world that you wished/hope would one day take form.  I can't explain just how talented the guy is.  I suggest you see for yourself.

:iconclementsauve:

I was fortunate enough to meet him once.  So I can say I shook hands with the man and shared a paltry few emails over the years.  I guess that will have to be enough.  We have been robbed of more.  I honestly can't imagine what he would of produced in the years to come.  He was only 33...  The man hadn't even hit his stride yet but he could already run with the best of them...  His talent and generosity is something I'll always cherish.

To Clement Sauve.  Your talent lives and inspires.  Always.

  • Mood: Llama
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Breaking into Comics Part Five

Tue Nov 16, 2010, 12:52 PM
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Your First Assignment

So let's pretend all your hard work has paid off and a publisher/editor has given you a script to draw or a page to ink.  Maybe it's only a back up story.  It doesn't matter.  You have an assignment.  

Naturally, you'll want to do your very best work to impress the heck out of the editor and the fans - but you may be a bit intimidated or feel some pressure to perform.  Of course, that's very natural.  It's a lot like your first time up to bat in a baseball game.  Sure you've practiced and hit the ball before.  In this case, your samples were batting practice.  But now there's a few people in the stands and the pitcher isn't your coach or a friend of yours.  It's different.  Very much so.

Regardless, it's time to draw.  My suggestion is to start immediately.  If you're a penciler - this means reading the script and maybe doing some thumbnail sketches.  Convince yourself that they are merely starting ideas and not final thumbnails.  If you're an inker, start Hardlining the page.  Bring out the templates and start finding all the ovals and circles and lay down some ink.  Again, you're just doing some very basic things that don't require much artistry or much time.  

In both cases, beginning this way accomplishes two things:  One, without realizing it, you're starting.  It's the hardest thing to do when it comes to comics.  And Two, you're actually giving yourself a strong base for the following day.  When you return, you've built up some momentum.  There's some actual work to build on.  You've broken down that first scary wall.  Baby Stepping your way through each element of completion makes the process that much easier.  Before you know it, you'll be finished.  Each step won't consume or overwhelm you.  By breaking down the process and starting immediately, you take all the fear and pressure off yourself.  

Let's back track a bit with the penciling.  It's day two and you're sitting there with your initial rough thumbnails.  They might be almost too vague to really use.  That's fine.  But you have some storytelling ideas in front of you.  Here's a fun technique I use when I ink - but it can also be used for the pencil stage: How many times have your critiqued someone else's work?  Even if you've never formally addressed another artist about his or her work, you've probably critiqued it in your mind.  You might think, "Personally, I think this particular shot would work better from this angle..." Or, "This doesn't make sense, you should try this..."  Well, try doing that with your own work.  Pretend those thumbnails were drawn by someone else and you need to "help them"... Suddenly, your eyes open up and it's easier to see ways to improve on your initial ideas/designs/composition.  Trust me it works.  I use this technique on my pencils when I go to ink them.  I pretend the page was drawn by a new artist that really needs some serious help in every aspect of the game and I go to town.  Magically, I fix mistakes [ sadly, not all of them... ] and the page turns out much better than if I were to remain faithful to my original scribbles.  

The process works because it allows you to step outside the box.  You step outside of the immediate problem and look at it with fresh eyes.  You remove pressure from yourself and analyze and improve as if you're the teacher.  It feels safer.  As a result, you'll see dramatic improvements in your work.  The first step is thumbnailing.  The next step is refining those thumbnails.  Then you want to block in the key elements on the actual page.  Next, you may want to start defining shapes and key figures.  Then continue to refine figures and elements until you're satisfied with the page.  Little by little, all of it painless, you've completed a page or series of pages.

One side note: Don't blow your deadline.  This, above all else, is paramount.  Turn that job in on time.  Just like a job at a store or restaurant - if you're late - you get fired.  It applies to comic books too and yet so many artists blow their deadlines.  Editors vaule great art but they also value artists that can deliever on time.  Because if you can't deliver, it costs the company [ printing, scheduling, retail commitments, etc ]. If the company can't deliver then they can't stay in business.  If they can't stay in business, your editor loses their job.  To the editor, their job and livelihood is more important than yours.  Sorry.  It's how the world works.

Alright, you've finished your pages - now what?  Obviously you want to deliver them but let's say there's no concrete promise or indication of future work?  What to do?  You need to start sending out your work.  Don't rely on one editor if you don't have another assignment lined up.  You need to hit the pavement again the same way you did when you landed this first assignment.  The good news is that now you have some published work on your side.  New samples.  They're probably considerably better than the samples you used to get your first assignment.  

Until you've secured a solid work arrangement, you need to continue pursuing publishers and editors in the same manner you did initially.  There is no mystery group of editors that sit around worrying about whether you have work or not.  I know working professionals today that don't get steady work and they wonder why their phone isn't ringing.  They imagine that there's a weekly meeting of editors and they discuss everyone that's ever worked for their company and keep tabs on them.  Obviously there aren't any businesses that work that way but sometimes it's easy to think that if a company has hired you once or even several times - that you're "in their system".  The system rewards those that pursue the system.  You won't get a piece of pie in the cafeteria line unless you ask for it.  It's there, but the cook behind the counter can't read your mind and he's not going to plop food on your tray unless you tell him what you want.  You need to ask.  

So ask.  Send samples.  If you don't get another assignment based on your last one, do more samples.  Improve.  You improved enough to get that first job, now it's time to improve some more to get another.  Believe me, each time you complete a job you will improve dramatically.  If you don't, you're not as passionate about the medium as you thought you were.  There's so much to learn and improve upon with every stage/level of art.  It never ends.  Only your passion to learn and grow does.  

Good luck barbarians.  Break down that gate.

  • Mood: Llama
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Breaking Into Comics: Part Four

Sun Nov 7, 2010, 12:51 PM
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PART FOUR: Self Publishing and Working on Spec

One way to get noticed by bigger publishers is to self publish your own comic book.  Obviously, this requires quite a bit of work.  A story needs to be written, penciled, inked [ optional ], colored [ optional ] and lettered.  You also need some capital to pay for printing costs and some type of game plan when approaching distribution.  But the biggest factor is the time it takes to create enough of a story to publish.  If you're out of school, most likely you're working at some kind of job to pay your bills.  Managing your time properly to put a book out requires discipline and passion.  It's obviously not impossible.  People do it all the time with varied degrees of success.  The amount of experience gained from such an endeavor is probably the equivalent to a year's worth of schooling.  

But if you've decided to skip the Portfolio Review aspect route to gain employment at one of the larger comic book companies you have to be willing to accept the pros and cons of the experience.  Because this is most likely your first foray into sequential storytelling, the chances of critical acclaim are fairly slim.  It's probably a good idea to go into it knowing that the venture is one big learning experience.  It certainly is.  And, of course, there's always a chance that your self publishing will catch on and actually be a success.  It happens and it could happen for you.  However, in most cases, the experience will help you to create samples an editor can assess.  Like I mentioned, the more pages you draw - the more you should improve your craft.  Publishing a comic book will force you to draw things you probably would have never drawn before [ even if you write the story yourself ].

The downside of publishing a comic book, without prior work experience, is the extra time and energy required.  To be honest, you probably won't recoup your costs.  That said, you may want to consider working on spec[ulation].  Also, it should be noted that a professional artist that decides to self publish has a much greater chance of success both monetarily and career-wise.  What we're discussing here is only the Pros and Cons for the amateur or budding artist.

Working on Spec means working with the "speculation" that [ in this case ] the comic book you draw for free will make a profit and the publisher can eventually pay you.  You must understand that working for spec, 99 out of 100 times, means simply working for free.  After over twenty years in the art business I have only been paid for a Spec Project once.  I have done so many spec projects [ like most artists ] that I generally have a rule that I NEVER work on spec.  And if you're a professional artist, I highly recommend you never work on spec.  Just like a barber wouldn't cut your hair for free.  You shouldn't draw something for someone for free.  Your talent has value.  

Early in your career is, however, not a bad time to work on spec - provided you understand that, even with the promise of later payment, you will almost never be paid.  The reason to accept Spec Work is simple: Published Work Experience.  It's as simple as that.  Just like Self Publishing, the experience you will gain from illustrating an actual comic book is priceless.  By the end of the process you will not be the same artist.  You may learn you don't ever want to draw a comic book again. But most likely you'll learn what you need to improve.  You'll learn what you do well.  You'll discover how you work when confronted with an artistic obstacle you had not previously encountered.  

If you're considering either of these options, I would personally go the Spec Route [ with the understanding that Spec really means Free ].  In both cases you gain tremendous work experience and solid samples to show publishers.  The advantage of Spec Work is that you aren't coughing up any of your own money for publishing costs.  Drawing a comic book for free is hard enough, paying a printer to publish it is an expense I would do my best to avoid if I could.  

The other option is to work harder on your samples.  Deviant Art, your own blog or website can be used to promote your efforts and build recognition.  There are so many tools at your disposal today.  Most of them free.  Take full advantage of them and take control of your artistic success.  You might want to set up a Internet Destination Point [ Deviant Art, a blog or website... ] where you publish one new page of a story a week.  By the end of 22 weeks you would have an entire issue's worth of content and plenty of viable samples to show a publisher.  You would also be building a Web Presence.  What's nice is that you would basically be self publishing without the printing costs.  Something to think about.

In the end, the idea is that you won't be hire-able until your work improves.  And your work won't improve unless you draw more sequential pages.  The saying popularized in the film, Field of Dreams, "If you build it, they will come" has real power.  The trick is building something worth coming to.

NEXT WEEK:  Your first assignment.

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Breaking Into Comics: Part Three

Mon Oct 18, 2010, 6:51 PM
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PART THREE: Submitting samples

Okay, we've already discussed that breaking into the comic book market [ or any art based market for that matter ] takes a self conscious - critical eye and, generally speaking, you can't just draw 3-6 sample comic book pages for the first time and nail a job with the top publishers.  Even though that sounds reasonable enough, some artists simply don't understand that you need to baby step your way into a comic book career.  

Let's put it this way:  You may want to be a lawyer.  Perhaps you have received high marks in school and consider yourself very intelligent.  In fact, you might be very intelligent - but that doesn't mean you can pass the Law Exam for your state [ country, etc ].  It's true you don't need to go to law school to be a lawyer.  But you have to pass the exam.  So, technically, if by some miracle you taught yourself to pass the exam, yes - you could be a lawyer.  But, most law firms want to hire a lawyer with a degree.  It tells them you've covered all the bases and are familiar with all the basics. Luckily, you don't need an art degree to become a successful artist.  But you do need to develop your artistic chops to become a valid consideration in the eyes of comic book fans and, more importantly, comic book editors.  

After reading Part Two you realize it's probably necessary to start on the bottom and work your way up.  It's also probably a good idea to make a lot of your artistic mistakes at the expense of smaller publishers.  Think of the smaller publishers as Gladiator School.  They get you ready for that big battle in the coliseum.  So... let's get you published.  

The first thing you need to do is assess your talent level.  Where do you fit in the current industry?  You need to look at your talent level realistically and answer that question.  Aiming high isn't a bad thing but if your ego can't take rejection - you're probably better off starting with a publisher that puts out books befitting your current state of ability.  Remember, think of it as a training ground.  You might even get some offers to work on "spec", which is short for speculation.  We'll discuss that in a bit.  But right now let's say you've assessed your talent and believe that a company we'll call Dreadful Comics would consider hiring you.  

So what does Dreadful Comics publish?  Hopefully Dreadful Comics isn't a comic book company that publishes only one comic book.  If they do, it probably means they're self publishing.  If they're self publishing, meaning it's just a writer and an artist [ or a writer/artist ] publishing his or her own comic book, they're not going to have the funds to pay you to draw a comic book for them.  Even if you would draw a comic book for them for free - they probably aren't interested in doing all the leg work required to make your dreams come true.  So you need to find a comic book company that publishes at least a few comic books.  

Pretend that company is called Capital Comics.  They publish at least five titles a month.  Some are just mini-series but they have a few ongoing titles.  They're going to need to find artists to draw these books.  Trust me.  Small publishers always need new talent because a lot of their artists get better and move on to more lucrative work.  Or, in some cases, they'll hire a new artist that can't deliver work on time.  Missing deadlines causes a trickle down effect that costs publishers money because distributors also have delivery deadlines.  Penalties and other costs will bleed a small company dry [ and a big company ].  So, you'll always find some opportunity at a smaller company.  Maybe not every single one but if you've assessed your talent well, you'll be on your way to a comic book career.  So, now that you've found a company - you need to draw some sample pages.  I suggest picking a title of theirs that you could see yourself drawing and come up with a 5 page short story that incorporates their character[s].  Can't come up with a story?  C'mon, try!  Alright, for some reason, even though you're creative enough to draw comic books you've decided you can't write... Fine.  Here's what you do: find a five page [ or six or eight, whatever ] story with, say Batman or whoever, and adapt it to their character.  Your samples don't need lettering, they just need to look like they tell a story.  

Now, since you've studied the medium and you're familiar with comic book page layouts you know you want to give them some variety.  Show some "regular people" in your sample pages.  Not just super heroes or the beautiful girl detective - this is very important.  You may not need more than a panel that shows some bystanders reacting to the action or a situation you're illustrating.  But, show the editor or publisher that you can draw a wide range of things well.  You'll want to show the exterior of a building or buildings and the inside office or room where the story takes place [ remember, you don't have to take me literally.  Maybe your story takes place on a ship.  Which means you'll want to show the ship on the water and from the cabin, etc. ].  Give them some range.  Just drawing muscular super heroes won't make for good samples.  Show as much as the story allows and as much as your skill set can handle.  

You may have hundreds of drawings you would like to submit [ in person at a show or via email or snail mail ] but don't.  Too much is never a good thing.  Inevitably, if you have hundreds of drawings or sample pages that means that they vary in degrees of quality.  You only want to show your best work.  And you don't to give them too much because the more you send the more chances they'll have to see something they don't like.  Leave them wanting more.  To be honest, if you draw 5 nice pages, that's all you need.  Maybe throw in a faux cover and make it six!  But that should be enough.  If they want to see more then that's a good thing.  Ask them for a sample script at that point.  It means you're building a rapport.  

To reiterate, you never need to show a publisher, editor or an artist at a convention more than 5 to 10 pages of samples.  No one really wants to look at more than that.  5 to 10 pages is plenty for an editor to assess your talent level and give you an assignment.

What about including pieces of art that aren't comic book pages?  Well, let's think about that for a minute.  What exactly will they be hiring you to do?  Draw pictures of their character posing without backgrounds?  Headshots?  Nope.  They're going to hire you to draw comic book pages.  So why would they want to see stuff that looks like it could belong in a sketch book?  They wouldn't.  So don't waste their time.  You may want to include a faux cover but it's really not necessary.  Editors are smart enough to know that if you can draw a comic book page that you can probably draw a single image for a cover.

With your comic book page samples ready to go, make some clean copies of them or scan them.  Email or mail them to the editor you wish to work for.  Never send originals.  If your pages are fairly general and you've come up with a generic hero to fill your story - you may be able to get away with submitting samples to many publishers at once.  Excellent!  Keep the opening email short and sweet.  Introduce yourself and get to the point.  No sob story.  No, "I want this so bad!".  Nope.  Just make it professional and let your work do the talking.  If you're emailing your samples [ provided you've found the editor's email address, of course ] make sure the files aren't too large.  I know you're proud of your work, but don't send huge files.  Nothing more than 150 DPI is necessary via email [ in fact, 72 is probably fine ].  At 100% viewing size the pages shouldn't take too much scrolling to see them in their entirety.  

Less is more when it comes to art samples.  

Next week we'll discuss the option of self publishing and working on spec.  The following week we'll discuss what to do when an editor agrees to give you an assignment.

  • Mood: Llama
  • Listening to: Alt Nation
  • Reading: REH books
  • Watching: Deadwood re-runs
  • Eating: Healthy
  • Drinking: H2O

Breaking Into Comics: Part Two

Mon Oct 11, 2010, 4:37 PM
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Like most comic book artists [ or working artists in any capacity ] I get a lot of "How can I break into comics?" questions. Regardless of how talented you are the answers are all pretty similar.

PART TWO: Baby Steps


Let's get you a job.  Let's say you don't have an opportunity to go to NYC [ or wherever it is that the comic book or graphic album company you wish to work for is located ] - how do you get hired?  Samples.  You need great samples to get noticed.  

Every working comic book editor has a wealth of talent at his/her disposal.  If an artist can't complete his deadline and they have to find another artist or they have a new book that needs drawing - they have a Phone Book filled with numbers to call.  Ideally, you want to be in that Rolodex.  So how do you do that?  You have to impress them.  You have to impress them so much that they want to call you instead of another working artist.  The problem is: You don't have the experience that these other guys do.  That makes it kinda tough....

So let's rewind a bit.  Maybe starting with Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or Image isn't the first thing you do.  You need samples and your samples only get better by creating more and more of them.  All of us have at least a hundred "bad" pages in us.  Yep, they're in there and there's only one way to get them out. It's not by drawing more pin-ups of Power Girl.  You actually have to draw comic book pages.  Comic book pages force you to draw things you're not familiar with.  Pages help you see things in a different way and explore and expand your talent base in ways that drawing a "hot chick" or "Wolverine flexing his muscles and showing off his claws" can't.  Drawing a page with an underground hi-tech secret headquarters in one panel and Alfred the Butler in a normal kitchen in the next...  The initial ones will look okay upon first inspection - but chances are - they'll be "bad".  Don't despair. Practice really does make perfect.  You need to start small and build.  You might have to start very small.  But no matter how small the assignment - you'll be taking a step in the right direction.  That's the key element here.  Baby steps.  One step leading to another.  One small job to another.  

Only your work can take you to the next level.  If your work doesn't merit advancement or a better job, it means you need to apply yourself more.  Here's my advice to you:  When you're starting out - take that terrible job - no matter what it pays.  Do your absolute best work on it.  If the job pays $5 - treat it like you're being paid $5,000!  Because, at the end of the assignment you can take that work and get a better paying job with it.  You'll have samples in your hand that will hopefully impress another editor at a bigger company.  You'll have working experience.  You'll know how long it takes you to draw a page.  You'll learn so many lessons from that one crummy job that you would of paid them if you could have!  

Depending on your growth curve, you may need several of these jobs.  You may need to draw, ink or color several issues in a row at a smaller company before developing your talent to move to a larger company.  But here's the thing, when you're ready - you'll be ready.  If your samples aren't up to par, you'll know.  You'll know because you won't be hired.  Which is why I said, always do your best work - every chance you get.  

Doing enough to get the assignment finished doesn't help you in the long run.  Forcing yourself to work harder forces you to grow and improve.  I knew an artist that NEVER did his best work.  He was always waiting for someone to pay him what he believed he deserved.  To this day, he hasn't done his best work.  It's in him somewhere, waiting... But here's funny part about that:  What publisher is going to pay you an astronomical amount of money for something they've never seen evidence of.  Where is this "Best Work"?  It doesn't exist because you haven't been paid enough to draw it...  But an editor can't guess what you're capable of and therefore pay you accordingly.  They have to see some your best work.  If your work is excellent, your rate will reflect that.  But until you deliver excellent work, you're going to be paid based on what you're currently handing in. That old saying, "you're only as good as your last job" is very true.  And it's also very important that every job you do, you show improvement.  

So, always draw to the best of your ability.  The next time your draw something, you'll have that experience on your side.  It'll be easier.  And, of course, you'll have terrific samples to show around which will lead to bigger and better things!  

So how do you get in to the Big Three [ or Four ]?  You have to kiss a lot of frogs along the way.  And those kisses need to be dripping with love!  You can't fake them.  Otherwise, you can't expect any magic.  

Next week, I'll discuss how to submit samples and in what quantities.  See you then.

  • Mood: Llama
  • Listening to: Alt Nation
  • Reading: REH books
  • Watching: Deadwood re-runs
  • Eating: Healthy
  • Drinking: H2O

Breaking Into Comics, Part One

Mon Oct 4, 2010, 5:43 PM
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Like most comic book artists [ or working artists in any capacity ] I get a lot of "How can I break into comics?" questions.  Regardless of how talented you are the answers are all very much universal.

I'm going to write a series of Journals that address this question.  Step by Step.  From the day an artist makes that crucial career defining decision to getting and maintaining steady work flow.

PART ONE: Developing your Inner Critic

You've been drawing for a while and all of your friends and family think you could "do this for a living".  And, at long last, you've decided that drawing for a paycheck is going to make you happy and pay the bills.  Okay, now what?  How do you get your first paying job and set the world on fire?

The first thing you need to do is critically examine your own work.  This is the most important step.  Is your art ready to be published or do you need more work?  Well, contrary to your first impulse - which is to get the opinion of a working professional or that of your best friend/biggest fan - you need to look within.  You actually know the answer.  I hope you do.  I mean, you want to make a career of this, right?  So, ideally, you've practiced drawing for hours on end.  Maybe you've attended an art school.  Regardless of how you've acquired your drawing skills, I'm hoping you have a level of artistic taste.

Here's what you do:  Draw FIVE comic book pages.  If you can't get a hold of a script - use your imagination or rip one off an old story you remember. No one is going to hire you based on how well you draw a mock cover or pin-up.  You need to draw some sample pages.  Maybe you don't know what tools to use?  Uh-oh... Guess what?  You need to draw more.  Because you'll figure out which ones work best for you.  Asking your favorite professional which pencil or pen they use is not the answer.  Because it's not the pencil - it's who's pushing that pencil that makes it sing.  You need to develop your own style and that means you need to grow as an artist and experiment with tools until you have a look that you, personally, are satisfied with.

Are you done?  Good.  Now, pick up a typical comic book.  Not one drawn by Alex Ross, Mike Mignola or Sean Murphy.  And not one drawn by an artist that is widely thought of as a "terrible artist".  Nope.  Pick up a typical comic book.  Pick up a few of them.  Regular Marvel or DC titles that are selling decently.  That's your benchmark.  Your answer is right there.  Take a look at the comic book in front of you and ask yourself: "Can I draw as well as this guy?"  Can you draw everything he or she has drawn just as competently?  Not necessarily in the same style but with the same level of professionalism?  That's the key.  Can you draw cars well?  Can you draw backgrounds?  Can you draw a dog, a cat or an elephant?  How about a telephone?  Because the scripts you get will require you to draw just about everything.  Your level of drawing is not based on your ability to draw Batman perched on a gargoyle above Gotham City.  

So, now you've asked yourself the tough question.  If you answered "Yes" then you're ready to move on to Part Two.  If you answered "No" [ which requires a great deal of maturity on your behalf ] then you're going to have to ask: Why?  What skills are you lacking?  Is it storytelling?  Is it your anatomy?  Maybe you've only drawn figures but never a background.  Maybe you only draw figures facing forward.  

Basically you need to address your weaknesses.  But "how", you might ask.  Good news.  There's a book for you.  It's called How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way.  "Oh noooooo!" you might say, "That book looks like it was made over thirty years ago!  No one draws like that anymore!  I wanna draw like Jim Lee or Jeffery Scott Campbell!"

Everything you need to know is in-between those pages.  Everything.  If you can master that book [ and few people can ] you'll become a top artist.  Don't worry, you won't end up drawing like John Buscema when you're done.  You'll be influenced by him but influenced in a good way.  Your style is going to come through [ unless you consciously try to draw just like him, it's not going to happen ].  It's like people that say they don't want to lift weights because they don't want their arms to get too big...  If only it were that easy.  No, going through that book will give you the strong foundation you need to become a solid comic book artist.  Whether you like Manga or abstract storytelling/art like Ted McKeever.  It doesn't matter.  You don't need a fancy book on Perspective or on Figure Drawing.  

Also, it never hurts to attend Life Drawing classes.  Even if you cartoon your work, drawing from life will improve your craft in ways you never imagined.  All the best cartoonists have practiced Life Drawing.  Don't fool yourself into thinking otherwise.  Here's the trick: Don't worry about being terrible at first.  And don't go to Life Drawing classes and stay within your comfort zone.  Try earnestly to draw the human form using tone.  Using shadow.  Drawing the figure like a cartoon is not going to help you understand form better.  Drawing what you see, realistically, will.  Then, take what you learn and apply it to your cartooned style later.  You'll be blown away by the results.  On a side note: I've seen more than my fair share of "professional artists" that are too intimidated to attempt Life Drawing.  It's a real shame.  They make every excuse in the book too.  It's pathetic and they wonder why their abilities remain stagnant.  Don't be a coward and fall back on things you already know.  If you want to improve, dare to fail.  Each time you attempt it, the results will improve.  I have miles and miles to go as an artist and resisted Life Drawing for many years.  Finally, I took the leap!  Guess what - I sucked.  It was so embarrassing.  But, each time I improved, little by little and I'm still improving.  Nothing has helped my drawing more.  

NEXT:  Part Two - Knocking On That Door

  • Mood: Llama
  • Listening to: Alt Nation
  • Reading: REH books
  • Watching: Deadwood re-runs
  • Eating: Healthy
  • Drinking: H2O

Liam Sharp's Art Book!

Mon Sep 27, 2010, 6:02 PM
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I really appreciated the support with the art book.  Liam and I have talked and he's changing the name.  His friend and mentor [ and plenty of others ] call him Urban Barbarian and so there's a very personal connection he has with the name.  He's also a big Frazetta fan.  At any rate, the man's a first class gentleman and a terrific artist.  I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of it soon.  The cover alone looks awesome.  

Anyway, blah, blah, blah...  I'm happy that mess is over and I feel lucky that you guys took the time to listen to me vent.  On one side the whole thing is silly but on the other end, I am very personally connected to the name.  My father and I had a very mixed relationship but one of the few things we bonded on was Frazetta and Conan.  It's close to my heart in a very special way.  Thanks you guys.   And, if you're not following :iconliamsharp: you should check out his work.  Both of us have very similar tastes.  I guess that's fairly obvious now...

Also, you can check out his entire book and order it by clicking this www.blurb.com/books/1619961 . I've already ordered one for myself.

  • Mood: Llama
  • Listening to: Alt Nation
  • Reading: Conan [ seriously ]
  • Watching: Rubicon
  • Eating: Healthy
  • Drinking: Protein Shakes! Yum!

Why Dave Wants Llamas Revealed!

Tue May 25, 2010, 7:23 PM
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This really sickens me - mainly because I have a deep respect for Llamas, but when I stumbled into a local latrine I couldn't believe my own eyes.

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I'm not sure how, but :icondevilpig: has managed to transform Llamas into Urinal Cakes!  According to some sales charts [ which I found on the Internet ], he's making a bloody fortune!

If you gave a llama to Dave, someone has probably already soiled it in one form or another.  Dave's clients aren't exactly Fortune 500 companies.  After all, what kind of place would even buy Llama Cakes for their urinals?!?!?

Do me a favor.  Give me a llama badge instead of giving one to Dave.  I'm sure that after I turn this photo over to the authorities an investigation will ensue - but until he's properly shut down, I don't want to see anymore llamas harmed and turned into Urinal Cakes!

BTW, :iconstephenbjones: could use a llama badge or two as well.  Thanks.

UPDATE:  Thanks to a generous benefactor [ who will remain anonymous unless he wishes to be named! ] I've pulled ahead to FANCY LLAMA!!!  At long last!  My dreams have come true and in doing so, defeated the Devil(pig) all in one fell swoop!

Man, it feels good.  Thanks to everyone that donated badges!  Hit me here if I didn't throw you one back and I'll gladly return the favor!

LONG LIVE LLAMAS and down with :icondevilpig:  ( sometimes good does conquer evil! tee-hee! )

  • Mood: Llama
  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Times
  • Watching: the world recognize Dave for what he is!
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Give the llamas what they want - ME!  Take a look below and see for yourself.  

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Take that :icondevilpig:  

Special thanks to :iconshmisten: for bringing a video camera to the Los Angeles Llama Convention.

  • Mood: Llama
  • Listening to: Dave cry because his llama count sucks
  • Reading: Llama Times
  • Watching: the world recognize Dave for what he is!