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.