MURPHY APPRENTICESHIP, year 2!!! If you're interested in the Apprenticeship, then read below. At the bottom you'll find a link--just click to download the application WITH your finished pages to Murphy.firstname.lastname@example.org
1. 5 pages of black and white sequential art. The pages must be inked, no pencils and no "darkened pencils" using Photoshop--I want students who can do both! Digital inking is also fine as long as you bring your own computer/wacom/cintiq materials.
2. The pages can be from any genre/character/script you like. Feel free to write your own story, or use a professional one you find online (I don't know where to find them, so don't ask). The 5 pages must all be in sequence and from the same script.
3. The pages must be done recently--either for this submission or in the last year.
4. Send the files as 200dpi b&w jpgs to email@example.com --nothing too huge, please.
5. DO NOT send pencils and DO NOT send the script.
6. DO NOT use Photoshop gray tones or digital effects--I want to see your work bare.
7. DO NOT paste Sketchup models into the pages--I don't care if the industry allows it, I don't.
8. DO NOT send pinups.
9. DO NOT trace photos or Sketchup models.
10. You must be 21 years old to enroll--as long as you're 21 by October 1st, 2015 you're fine!
1. Include plenty of backgrounds. Not for every panel, but enough so that the pages don't look empty.
2. Focus on 3-6 panels per page. Stay away from splashes and spreads if you can.
3. Including some sort of tech would be helpful. The script I'll be providing you (for the anthology) will have a car or motorcycle in it, and part of the course will include lessons on handling machined objects.
1. The apprenticeship starts on October 19, 2015 and ends on November 2, 2015.
2. Along with 5 pages of sequential art, the students will also fill out an application (which we will be provided in the coming week) due by July 5th.
3. I'll choose 10 students by July 10th, then begin Skype interviews for the following week.
4. 5 students will have been chosen by August 1st (it would be a good idea for the students to arrange travel in this month). They will have until August 31st to sign the contract and submit their nonrefundable $1000 deposit.
5. The remaining balance will be due September 30th, as well as your flight itinerary. If we do not receive your remaining balance by September 30th, your spot will be given to an alternate.
6. Students will arrive on Sunday the 18th at the Portland (MAINE) airport where I'll pick them up. Classes will be in session from October 19th through November 2nd. These extra few days will be used to finish up pages, scan them in, clean them up and size them correctly for publication.
7. Food costs will be each student's own responsibility. There is a kitchen to cook in and likely we will dine together as a group and all chip in a little bit of money for large in-home meals.
THE TWO WEEK BREAKDOWN
The goal is to put together an anthology that Sean and Katana will be writing. Sean will be doing 10 pages, while each student will be expected to complete their 5 pages by the end of the session. So week one will be about preparing for the 5 pages, while week two will be spent completing the pages.
Part of week one will be lessons about storytelling, analyzing movies, going over layouts for the 5 pages, and working on character designs. Sean will also be teaching tips on how to handle things like perspective and drawing techniques. Discussions about the business of comics will be peppered into each day's work schedule. And as we'll all be spending a lot of time together, other tidbits about surviving in comics will likely come up.
Week two will be spent drawing and inking the pages. We'll all be set up in the same room, so I'll be working on my own pages while hovering around students who might need help.
Once the work is all finished, we'll move forward with printing out the anthologies. And within a few months, students will be able to sell them at conventions to help them recuperate the cost of the Murphy Apprenticeship.
While this will be a lot of fun, it'll also be a lot of work. I want serious, well behaved, and hard working "do-it-yourselfers" who are willing to work late nights for 6 days a week in order to complete their 5 pages if need be. There will be no smoking in the house, and alcohol will be limited on the property.
Interested? Click the link below and download!
After the success of last year's Murphy Apprenticeship with CAFE RACER, my wife and I are gearing up to open submissions for our second year. It'll be a two week course in the autumn where you'll be flying to Maine and staying at our house to work on another anthology.
Students should be ages 21-35 (sorry, there will likely be booze around). Foreign students are also invited to apply. No college background necessary. The price will be around 2k (plus your travel/food costs), so if this sounds like something you'd be interested in, it's time to get your portfolio ready.
We're looking for 5 sequential pages of art of ANY TOPIC YOU LIKE. Because the course also focuses on technical drawing, you might want to include pages that contain trains, planes, automobiles, spaceships, etc.
I'll update again in the next few weeks and shoot you the email where to send your portfolios. The window to get them in will be about a month. Soon, we'll be rolling out another Kickstarter campaign (we won't be asking for as much this year--just printing and shipping costs), so stay tuned!
For the most part, I think this is a great thing for the creators and our industry. While a few might miff at the thought of comics being intruded upon by other industries, it means more chances for starving artists to make money, more money for commissions and prints, and chances to travel to exotic locations that were never previously on our agenda.
More and more frequently, creators are being lured to shows all over the world with travel costs (at least partially) comped. When they arrive, they'll be met by capable handlers, lines of cheering fans, and fancy parties while they're given the brief whiff of stardom that's usually reserved for Mick Jagger.
But not always.
While many of my pro friends are eternally grateful for their careers and for these generous invites, some of the shows are taking advantage of creators--ALL levels of creators--and not following through with what's promised. Believe me, I love traveling and I want to visit all my readers in every country I can, but there's nothing worse than getting to the "convention reserved" hotel room and finding out you wasted your money staying in some foreign ghetto.
So here's a list of Creator's Rights when it comes to comic conventions, compiled from many different conversations I've had with both amateur and professional level creators. Keep in mind this isn't a list of complaints by the elite--most of the shows I attend are still on my own dime, and with so many options of conventions these days, it can only be helpful to compile a list of things we're looking for when we choose a show.
This is also meant to help conventions: there's a lot of money at stake and if you're guests aren't happy, then creator word-of-mouth can sink you. We all gain from communication, so hopefully this will start the ball rolling.
*I'm also including bits about shows which are good examples of getting it right.
1. WORKING FOR FREE
If you expect the creator to sketch for free, please check with them ahead of time and make it clear what you're expecting of them. They're taking days off from being paid by their publisher, so it's fair to let them know whether they can supplement their income. Can they charge for commissions? Can they sell prints? Books? Some creators have an attendance fee, which I think makes more sense for writers, because they're not making money sketching.
And I don't mind working for free. In fact, I'll likely be doing it this week with my great friends at Urban Comics to attend Angoulême. A few years back, they put my wife and I up for an extra week at a 5 star hotel while Hurricane Sandy delayed our flight, while also providing us with some of the best wine I've ever had. They took care of us, so I take care of them by helping in any way I can. They were clear about their tradition with sketching in France, so I'm happy to do it. And I recommend them to everyone creator I can, even providing them with contacts they don't have. Because that's how much I love their wine.
2. UNFAIR SCHEDULING
Before agreeing to a show, I ask to see a proposed schedule. And if I agree to go, then I'll print the schedule out and have it on me in case there's ever disagreement between me and the show about what's expected. But most shows don't have a schedule ahead of time, and this is something I'd like to see changed.
Here's what creators don't want to see: back-to-back signings with no breaks, events that force them to skip lunch, panel discussions that start after 9pm when they'd rather be at the bar, surprise extra signings at the local comic shop, parties where they've raffled off “hang out time” between you and total strangers, and late night duties followed by early morning duties to ensure that you only get 4 hours of sleep.
I did a show in North Carolina with the great Tommy Lee Edwards. And because he's a friend and also an artist, I knew he'd take care of us: when I arrived with Fiona Staples, I knew my schedule, the walking distance to the free dinner, the time of my panel discussions (which I agreed to ahead of time), and we even had someone to grab us from our tables to make sure we weren't late for anything. I highly recommend that show.
3. TRAVEL ASSISTANCE/HAVING A GUIDE (mostly concerns international travel)
There's nothing worse than getting off a plane in a foreign country (where you don't speak the language) and not seeing a representative the show promised you. And reimbursing us with cab fare isn't good enough, because we usually have no idea where the cabbie is going, and having us chase after you for money isn't professional. Better to send a friend in a run down Honda then ask me to take a cab. Even if you're paying your own way, if you're a FEATURED GUEST of any kind that the show is using to sell more tickets, the least they can do is help you around.
I was recently in Brazil where I was scheduled to fly back home 24 hours after the show ended, which is 24 hours I could have spent drawing pages. Luckily they'd hired an event coordinator--when I found out that another creator had a flight back to NYC immediately following the show, I begging the coordinator to switch my flight. Which she did! I'm not saying every show needs a coordinator, but the Supershows definitely should.
As a side note, Brazil also paid each creator for giving a 2 hour talk. So even if we didn't make money selling prints, we were guaranteed at least some income for our time away.
4. BAD HOTELS
A bad hotel can ruin a trip. I've walked into convention hotels with greasy windows, unmade beds, and dirty showers. Creators don't expect expensive 5-star accommodations, but being stuck in a bad hotel means you're going to bed and waking up in a bad mood. Even the rooms conventions reserve for guest who are paying their own way should pick hotels that are halfway decent, because most out-of-town guests have no idea where they are.
Also, is there anything to do in the hotel? Do they have a store to buy the toothbrush I forgot? Are their restaurants within walking distance? Are the streets outside safe, or is all the German razor wire just for decoration?
One of my favorite con experiences was at a small show in Pennsylvania. The promoters didn't have much to work with, but I appreciated their honesty from the start: it's in a small farm town with nothing much to do, the hotel is the local Howard Johnson which wasn't amazing but it was guaranteed to be clean, and the town had been hit badly by the economy so they hinted that I likely wouldn't be selling many $500 commissions. But they'd pay for gas, buy a few meals, and told me how they tried to invite other guests I was friends with. I went, I partied, and I loved it.
5. FOOD AND FRIENDS
Here's a convention insurance policy I can't stress enough: invite a group of creators that you know get along, and give them amazing food.
Sometimes even the best shows have problems: higher attendance than expected, a few fans that lack convention etiquette, or broken bathrooms and air conditioners. Some of this stuff gets to me even when I know it's not the promoter's fault, but it's less of a problem if I know there's good food and great friends waiting for me. Inviting a clique of friends will always increase the experience, and the promoters will have a better time as well as they witness stuff no one should ever tweet.
Promoters: if there's one takeaway from this list, then it's this one. DO NOT skip on the food and drink.
Can you think of anything to add? Please comment. Some of these concerns apply more to professionals, but I think it's worth posting just so artists ON THEIR WAY UP will know how to handle the landscape. I'd also love to see a similar list on the side of conventions: what can we do as creators to help? And how can we better understand what our duties are? Please help spread the word by retweeting, linking, and favoriting.
So lucky to have two podcasts hit the web today! The first is with 2 of my favorite ladies in comics at The Hangout (Jessica was MIA)! We chatted about one of my favorite subjects these days: women in comics! And also about erotica. Here's the listen:
And the other is with my old friend Shawn Crystal (and awesome Marvel/DC artist so check him out) at Inkpulp audio.
Along with Cafe Racer books (you should get sketches from my students), I'm selling PUNK ROCK JESUS deluxe HCs, Wake HCs, and prints! So if you can't make it, send a friend!
Here's the link nccomicon.com/
Comic careers are like any other career in entertainment: if you don't stay relevant and adapt to a trend, you'll eventually peak and then bottom out. But there are more things that can help end a career. Here's a list of 5 that I've been thinking about lately.
1. SOCIAL MEDIA TAKE-DOWN
The creator does something that somehow goes viral, turning his (or her) readers against him. Bad behavior at a convention, sexual harassment online, or a semi-racist Tweet made worse by bumbling attempts to correct it. Or maybe the creator gets blamed for something innocent: innocent comments taken out of context, or involvement in a controversial project that he had no say over. Whatever the case, “social media take-downs” can harm careers, leaving a permanent black mark on your career.
I imagine this one is the most common: no matter how hard you work—and no matter how much ass you kissed—you're never able to get wider recognition by the industry. And because of this, you never get the books you want, the fanfare you deserve, and the paycheck to help with those bills. I think creators are all prepared to pay their dues for a certain set of years, but eventually they expect to make it out and find a way to cut back on work and enjoy their success. But comics is a demanding industry, and a lot of us burn out.
3. RAPID SUCCESS
A few people hit the lottery very young—an amazing gig, an awesome rate, a killer writing/drawing partner, and high sales. And because they never paid their dues, they have a hard time later on when the industry throws them a curve ball. Most of us struggle—and that sucks. But that struggle also builds character, and those life lessons come in handy when you have a tough year: you're more likely to deal with the depression, find new ways to motivate yourself, and cut back on spending.
Rapid success hurting a career is unfortunate, because it's not usually the creator's fault that he (she) hit the lottery. But if he doesn't step back and re-access his understanding of the industry, he may never snap out of it.
Creators spend a ton of time alone in a room. We're all in danger of becoming an island, and when a brain is unsupervised, it might find it's way into a bottle. Other forms of addiction are drugs, sex, money, beating another creator out of a gig, and fame. I suppose something like “fame addiction” can lead to more success, but I'll bet it's better to find other ways to motivate yourself. Like trying to earn the respect of the artists you also admire.
5. GOD SYNDROME
A very small percentage of creators get so successful that they lose touch. They're surrounded by yes men, they're so wealthy that their monetary motivation for working is gone, or maybe their ego stops them from seeing the mistakes in their own work. Young and hungry artists—driven by insecurity and the need to pay their bills—generally make the best art (not all will agree). Old and satisfied artists need to find new ways to motivate the second act of their career, or risk being forgotten or dismissed.
6. CAREER ROT
(I know I said 5, but a friend pointed this one out to me yesterday)
((And yes, I ran this list by a lot of comic creators first, and generally they agreed these things are true))
A creator's negativity eventually burns too many bridges, rotting their career from the inside. Maybe it never actually ends their career, but it's a cycle that keeps feeding itself: creator is unhappy, creator lashes out (maybe without realizing it), creator's editor fires back, creator removed from book, totally reinforcing creator's initual negative opinion of the book. Word of mouth happens, so that the creator's next editor is pre-warned of creator's negativity. If the creator is talented enough, publishers might be willing to excuse that creator's negativity if the pages are awesome.
So if you're naturally negative, try to get that shit contained. Bitch to your friends and family, but keep it professional with your employers when you can. You get a few free “freak-outs” per decade—don't go using them all at once.
So be honest with yourself, and chat about this with your friends to get their opinion: what's most likely to take you out? It's an complex subject, and while negative (and over-simplistic) in its descriptions, I think this sort of thing can lead to positive changes if we keep an eye out for our shortcomings.
And if you think of another that I've missed, please respond!
...but better if you buy it directly from my students when you see them at a show.
They're not available on Amazon or from Diamond. Digital copies available from Comixology soon. If you're a shop and interested in buying the book in bulk, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks everyone! Please spread the word--not for me but for my students!!!
(Most of these questions are paraphrased, or a mix of two different questions.)
1. You charge way too much for commissions (between $1000-$3000 for 11x17). How do you justify that?
I agree it's a lot of money. When I first started pricing commissions so high, it was for 2 reasons: I only had time for a handful a year, and having a commission list stressed me out. I priced them high so less people would ask. Commissions are nice, but I see it as a short term money game, whereas working on creator-owned properties is more lucrative over time when you think about prints, t shirts, licensing, etc.
The work I put into a 1k commission is the same I'd put into a Batman cover. And I sell Batman covers for 3k. So, in one way, my commissions are a bargain.
2. Why don't you do a Batman title?
I love Batman. And I have open offers to do Batman titles--continuity stuff, minis, maxis, etc. I promise one day I'm going to do my Dark Knight or Batman: Year 100. And I'm even considering writing something myself. But not in the next 3 years. I have a long career ahead of me, and Batman isn't going anywhere, so there's no rush.
3. I hate drawing cars, motorcycles and other machines. You clearly love it—why?
Cars and bikes are exciting, and I love the challenge of drawing them. So many comic artists avoid drawing cars, so because there was a void in the marketplace, I went after it that much more aggressively when I asked John Arcudi to write me a Batman short that highlighted the Batmobile. I also started offering “hero plus his/her vehicle” commissions for 1k just to drive the nail in the coffin. An artist like Otomo in Japan draws some of the nicest cars I've ever seen, but even he had assistants. I'm not at his level yet, but I draw everything myself so one day I hope to surpass him.
4. When I met you at the show, you were nicer than I was expecting.
I get this one a lot.
I've written journals in the past where I made strong statements on topics ranging from digital inking to photo tracing to copyright law. I eventually realized that most people like looking at comics as a rock concert, and anyone who questions the stuff behind the curtain is ruining the show. As my career advanced, I got to see more “behind the curtain” stuff, and I felt a responsibility to try and share it because I thought the information would be useful to people looking to break in. But while some people really found those blogs insightful, most people were turned off by them. So I stopped, but the reputation still lingers.
Oh, and doing a comic where Jesus becomes an atheist probably didn't help.
5. I see some artists swiping your style. Are you aware of this?
I'm heavily influence by Zaffino and Toppi. If they saw certain pieces I did, they'd probably accuse me of the same thing. Being influenced by another artists means you run the risk of getting too close to their style, but when it's infrequent then it's a compliment. When it happens all the time, then you're a clone. And while I love Zaffino and Toppi, I'm not a clone.
When I see people influenced by my stuff, it's mostly just the inking and the textures. That's just the cheap, easy-to-see stuff that they're taking. What they're not getting is the storytelling and a lot of the subtle things that I'm juggling in my pages. Plus many of them haven't studied writing, which heavily affects how you draw.
Once or twice a year I'll see a drawing that I think is too close to my stuff, but mostly I'm thrilled that people are inking with REAL ink and inking themselves. And if I'm influencing that, then I'm flattered.
-DELUXE means it's hardcover and printed at in a larger size, still B&W
-new cover/dust cover
-380 pages in all (more than 150 pages of added never-before-seen content)
-includes extra story pages from the trade
-includes pencilled versions of some of my favorite pages
-all the original pitch material I submitted to Vertigo
-KAEL story pages I drew in 2006
-scribblings in notebooks of PRJ's evolution from 2004 (including story stuff that didn't make it in)
-photos of my studio and working environment
-daily warm up sketches (I'm often criticized for not having a sketchbook, so this'll have to do for now)
-notes I've written on each character, along with notes on my favorite panels of them
...and some surprises!
Order from you LCS or online, or use the link here:
I'll be taking quick 10 minute inked commissions for $30 each, first come first serve (no pre list).
Tana might be taking a pre list, so I'd hit her up NOW before she gets huge at Marvel! My other student will also be around, so be sure and hit up as well.
Everyone that donated to the Kickstarter, thanks for being patient. We hit a few delays due to the loss of our dog, Red, and my broken collar bone/shoulder which delayed The Wake. But me, my wife, and my students are almost done making the final touches, and we hope to have digital and hardcover editions available soon.
I'm thrilled to say that 3 out of 5 of my students have landed work with major publishers--two with Marvel and one with Boom! Studios...and Cafe Racer isn't even out yet. I'd love to think that the Apprenticeship had a hand in their success, but the truth is that each artist got work based on the caliber of the talent they possessed long before I got my hands on them. I did what I could for them on my end, which included sharing all my editorial contacts, vouching for their professionalism with publishers, and advising with contracts where I could. When Cafe Racer is published, I plan on handing out copies to every editor I can while visiting the Marvel and DC offices until I get 100% placement for all my students.
If you're interested in attending, the next session will be in summer 2015 (we'll make plenty of announcements before then to take applications). Not only is summer a better time to be in Maine, but I find this will open it up to college students. The Apprenticeship works best for students who've attended art college in some form--whether you're a graduate or soon-to-be (but it's not required).
A focused class like mine can take the cream of the crop and give them the next steps toward being a professional:
1) a pro work environment with a consistent, repetitive 9-5 schedule to work out your kinks
2) inside knowledge I've collected from friends and colleagues at the top of the biz (as well as one in-person guest speaker and other personal Skype sessions)
3) access to any networking connection I have
Thanks again for all the support, and spread the word!
I should have written something sooner regarding the Murphy Apprenticeship (where I took 5 students into my house in Maine and taught them comics for 2 weeks). Mostly I think I wanted to let the experience settle in before saying much about it. And now that I've had a few weeks back to my real life in NYC, I think I'm ready to post.
For photos and a student's perspective on the Murphy Apprenticeship, check out Tana Ford's page:
Here are the names of the students for the 2014 winter session (along with their Twitter):
Tana Ford duckacomic.blogspot.com/
Corin Howell rinpin.tumblr.com/
Jorge Coelho brandnewnostalgia.com/Jorge_Co…
Clay McCormack digboston.com/tag/dead-meat-cl…
Stephen Green stephengreencomics.tumblr.com/
I caught a lucky break for this first session: 5 talented students who were already at publishing levels. Clay and Stephen I'd met before, and knew they'd be considerate house guests who were motivated to complete the work I gave them. Corin I'd met briefly at NYCC--I respected that she sought me out via my autograph line to say hello. Jorge was already a working pro for Boom! Studios, so that was a no-brainer. And lastly there was Tana, who's enthusiasm was obvious even over Skype.But the biggest part of the Apprenticeship was my wife, Colleen Katana. Not only did she cook for us and run errands while I taught, she also gave up her husband for two weeks while I focused on giving everything to the students.
We spent a lot of time together. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, trips to Walmart, pub crawling, watching movies, learning from our guests (Klaus Janson, Fiona Staples, Becky Cloonan and Scott Snyder), and not to mention drawing Cafe Racer pages for 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. I kept waiting for a blowout to happen, but it never did.
Well, there were a few heated discussions about GMOs, religion and women's rights, but we settled like adults.
It was exhausting, but completely fulfilling. I'd start each day with a lesson, stuff ranging from perspective tips to how to manage taxes. At one point I was able to help a student negotiate a higher page rate on a gig they were offered--the extra money they'll make MORE than pays for the cost of the Apprenticeship.
I'm not a very patient person, and to be frank, I never had any desire to teach professionally. But I do have the gene in me, otherwise I'd never write those long journals where I get teaching off my chest. I'll do it a handful of times per year as an invited guest, and I've had vague offers to teach at a few different colleges, but it never take time away from comics. The most I ever learned about art was from apprentice type relationships, not from overpriced colleges. So I always knew that if I DID ever teach, it would have to be on my own terms with a selected group of hand-selected students who would absorb the information fully (rather than teaching 30 college students, 80% of whom don't have the chops). And that's what the house in Maine allowed me.
As much as the students got out of it, I got more from them. My wife and I can't have children, so doing this was a chance to fill that need to give back and imprint on other human beings, even if most of them were my age. Having 5 people live with you in an intensive environment with lack of sleep is a great way to start a cult, so I was careful to separate fact from opinion. I was happy to have students challenge me, which they did. I also tried to be clear that my path wasn't the only path--each student would have a unique career, and part of that would mean ignoring some of my advice. Which was fine.
Watching them leave was hard. Each time one left, another drawing table was cleared off in the studio, which made me sad. And when it was over, I realized the chances of us all ever being in the same room together again was zero.
The final artwork of Cafe Racer is all turned in, and we're working on getting the book out very soon (as soon as I'm done my set of 10 pages). As far as the Kickstarter deadline and getting copies of Cafe Racer, we're going to be a little late because of my Wake schedule--which is completely on ME and not on any of the students. It'll be out when summer begins, and rest assured I'll post another journal when copies are available for purchase.
Either way, I do have a few thoughts on what artists can do to pull themselves out from under the rug.
1. DON'T DRAW LIKE A COG.
If you conform to a "house style", then you're at higher risk of being treated like an interchangeable cog in the comics machine. Yes, you're more likely to get consistent work, but you won't stand out as much. Therefor you'll be sought after less by big name writers, you're less likely to make a lasting impression on reviewers and readers, and you'll have a harder time getting raises (12 others draw like you and for less money).
I also suggests inking yourself if it helps. Pencils get covered up, so the key to retaining more distinct personality in your art is through inks (unless you publish pencils). If you're not into that, then work with an inker who will help you BOTH stand out, like JRJR and Klaus Janson.
2. DON'T GET OVERSHADOWED BY BATMAN.
I drew Batman/Scarecrow: Year One in 2005, and then things dried up for a while. You think doing Batman means you've made it? Wrong. More than likely, Batman is the star. Not you.
Around the same time I did Batman, I wrote and drew a book called Off Road. My sales were much lower (only made about 4K that year), but my art started getting recognized more. Most of the projects I've taken since are books that had no history, no fan-base, and no Batman to overshadow me. Joe the Barbarian, American Vampire: SOTF, Punk Rock Jesus and The Wake. And I have two Image books I'll be working on in 2014 (one with Mark Millar), and they're both from scratch. I try and pick stuff where the writer and I are the main event, not the characters.
*I admit I've found weird success by taking on creator-owned books more than mainstream stuff. It's a risky path, for sure. Mathematically, more artists have found success by eventually overcoming the Batmen they're drawing. But things are shifting to creator-owned, and with digital distribution and Kickstarter, this option should be more tempting than ever before. Think about it.
3. FIND BETTER PARTNERS
Currently, I'm drawing The Wake with Scott Snyder. Scott's a great partner, but it's not because he's a top writer at DC. I work with Scott because he's talented, a hard worker, he takes his job seriously, he's available for questions, he asks my opinion on the story, and he writes around stuff that I want to draw. He's also very considerate toward my schedule, my needs, and never does an interview without mentioning me, Matt Hollingsworth, and the other people who work hard on his books.
Some writers don't want to share. They lord over their books and keep artists away from interviews, contracts, and other business affairs in order to maintain control. Which is totally within their right to do--I'm not judging writers who run their books this way. But if you're an artists working for a writer like this, and you're feeling diminished, then find a new writer. And try to do it amicably.
4. AVOID SPORADIC SCHEDULING
Readers need to know where to find you. Rocking Superman for a single issue and doing a mic-drop isn't enough to get attention. The minute you leave, readers will be like, "who the hell was that?" unless you're already a name.
The other thing to avoid is double shipping schedules--where a single title is handled by one writer and multiple artists. That's like trying to get noticed from inside a crowded, revolving door. Yes, you'll be well paid for your talents. And people might buzz about your art. But it's better to be on a title where you're the only artist on a substantial run.
5. CHECK YOURSELF
Here's a quick list of complaints that I hear from artists when it comes to feeling diminished, followed by my response. In my opinion, artist who employ these arguments should look again at the reality of the job they signed up for.
"How come we don't get flown to summit meetings with the writers?"
-Writers plan years ahead with stories. They make blueprints, whereas you're the architect who's brought in later. There's not much point in flying you to a summit meeting so you can sit on your ass for two days going, "Yeah, that would be cool to draw."
"But I have good ideas on what works in comics. I should be included in summit meetings!"
-You have good ideas? So do they. No offense, but your two-cents isn't worth the $400 plane ticket, the $60 in food and the $15 of hotel porn.
"It's a writer's industry. It's not fair for artists"
-Artists ran the show in the 90s, and look how that turned out. You want artists in charge? Because I don't. Somewhere in the middle is best.
-Learn to write. Ever read a comic you thought sucked? Think you can do better? Then do it. Bad books hit the shelves all the time, so there's no reason why you can't write one, too. Or work harder and put out a half-decent one.
"How come I don't do as many interviews?"
-How many books do you draw a month? Just one? And a writer writes 3-4 a month? Then he gets to do 3-4 more times the interviews. Deal with it.
"I don't sign as many autographs as the writer!" or "How come I don't get as many questions during panel discussions?"
-Story is in our DNA, art is not. Proof? People can do a great job describing what a movie meant to them--the characters, the plot twists, the surprises, the music, the action, and the ending. Send those same people to an art museum and they get much quieter. Why? Some of them don't get art. Some of them like it, but don't know why. Even the ones that loved it can only use limited vocabulary to describe it: neat lines, nice color, good mood, blah blah blah. And that's totally fine--it took you years to learn about art, so ease up on people that don't have your education.
I hope you don't mind me plugging my wife's book. She contributed to an anthology called "Scribbling Women and the Real Life Romance Heroes who Love Them." In there is a short story about how we first met.
I haven't read it yet, so I'm not sure how revealing it is. If you SUDDENLY see this post removed, that means I've discovered it was filled with embarrassing stuff I don't want you knowing about.
All proceeds go to a charity called "Women in Need".
1. READERS WILL ONLY LOOK AT A PANEL FOR 5 SECONDS, SO DON'T SWEAT IT TOO MUCH.
I understand the intention of this bit of wisdom, and I mostly agree with it: drawing great interiors is important, but at the same time, you don't want to get bogged down with small details that most readers won't even notice.
But here's my concern with this: if you treat every panel like it's disposable, then you're less likely to make an impact with readers.
Think of it this way: even if readers ONLY look at a panel for 5 seconds, and your book sells 20,000 copies, then that tiny panel you were fretting over will be looked at for 100,000 seconds, which is around 28 hours of total viewing time. So, if you have the time and energy, try not to phone it in.
If the art is good enough then people will look longer than 5 seconds; readers will appreciate your extra effort even if they don't see every detail. And if you get REALLY good--if your art is thoughtful, layered, and compelling enough to withstand a second, third or forth viewing without falling apart-- then other artists will study you, which means they might be looking over your panels for hours.
2. TO BE A PRO, YOU NEED TO BE AT LEAST 2 OF THESE 3 THINGS: TALENTED, NICE, OR ON TIME.
I wish this was true. In fact, I wish that a professional artist had to be ALL 3 of these things in order to succeed--but they don't.
If you're talented enough, then you don't need to be timely or nice. Proof? We all know that some creators are always late. And on Twitter, we often see these same creators acting unsavory. So why do they have careers? It's because they're talented and sell well--publishers see them as an asset are willing to put up with difficult/late creators if the sales are high.
Keep in mind I'm not giving anyone full license blow deadlines and act like a jerk. If you can be all 3 of these things, you're better off. I've always liked this bit of wisdom, but I'd like to adjust it:
For me, success is...
10% being nice/easy to work with
10% being on time
10% blind luck.
The numbers are all subjective, of course.
3. IF YOUR PAGES ARE GOOD, THEN EDITORS/PUBLISHERS WILL NOTICE.
You can be the best artist on the planet, and some editors/publishers might not see it. They tend to respond more to sales figures, internet hype, and buzz by the office water cooler. It's frustrating, but understandable. At least to me.
Try to keep in mind that most editors aren't trained as artists, they're trained as administrators and coordinators. They worry about shipping books out, not about facial expressions, mood lighting and fish-eye lensing--that's your job. Most editors are swamped with more work than they can handle, and they work for publishers who have hundreds of creators to keep track of. Getting dozens of books out on time is a difficult task, and while most everyone at these companies makes a genuine effort to put out a good, consistent product, sometimes things fall through the cracks. Plot lines don't come together, books ship late, and sometimes valuable talent gets overlooked.
So if you think you're talented, and you're frustrated that editors aren't noticing, don't take it personally. Hang in there, keep plugging away, and if you're truly talented, eventually someone will notice.
And if you meet a talented editor who DOES have an eye for art--someone like my friend Mark Doyle who edits me on The Wake--stick with him.
4. DRAW EVERY DAY.
Yes--practice, practice, practice. But once in a while, take a break and PURPOSELY let your drawing skills erode. When you relearn them, you'll come back a bit stronger.
This job is demanding, and if you're not careful you can end up in a sweaty, nervous, nail-bitten mess as you struggle to hit your deadlines. When you're in this state, you're probably putting out B level work. You start making mistakes you don't see while developing other bad artistic habits. Your style becomes stale and incestuous (when was the last time you actually LOOKED at a photo ref of a tricep?). And when you're in this state, you're usually not growing as an artist because your main goal is output--things are going out, nothing is going in.
Taking a break from drawing and letting your skills erode seems counter productive, but it's a good way to ditch bad habits and re-approach your style in new ways. It's like when master chess players set up matches with amateur players--they end up learning more about chess when the game gets shaken up.
5. DON'T GOSSIP.
It's naive to think you can avoid gossip, so I say embrace it in a healthy way. Gossip is a commodity, and it should be traded just like any other commodity.
I know "gossip" is a dirty word. And yes, gossip can often lead to useless, Jersey Shore style hen-pecking. But there's a lot of good information in gossip, and I don't see the shame in filtering it in a fair, balanced, and mature manner to help you make better decisions. Gossip can create friendships, solidify loyalty, help you avoid swindlers, spread helpful memes, weed out unsavory trends and raise awareness about issues that need fixing.
The "women in comics" issue is a perfect example of gossip being well utilized. The information came along with a lot of mud slinging, of course, but at the end of the day we've all had our awareness raised, and it's a good thing.
The trick is to utilize useful gossip while discarding TMZ style gossip. There's an art to it, and getting good at it requires practice. If you can ignore it--fine. But it might be worth listening in every now and then.
Hey all! The Kickstarter has been a huge success. We're a short skip away from 50k--when we hit that, we'll be upgrading everyone who bought a softcover book to a HARDCOVER for free!
We've responded to your demands, and we now have a $20 tier on our Kickstarter that gets you the Café Racer PDF via Comixology! Plus EVERYONE who bought an unleaded tier and above is getting the FREE digital download! Stay tuned for details on the HARDCOVER...
We hit our goal for the Kickstarter! Here's the link if you missed it:
Within 24 hours, we had about 25k which is more than we wanted. Most of that extra money will be going to the added printing and shipping costs to fulfill the tiers, but we're also using some of that money to add stretch goals. If there's anything else you think I should add, let me know on Twitter or here on dA. We're considering the following:
-a DIGITAL download tier
-extra print tiers by artists like Dave Johnson, Dustin Nguyen and Tommy Lee Edwards (though nothing is verified yet)
-a hardcover tier
-and if we get funding to 50k, we MIGHT upgrade everyone to a hardcover Café Racer!
It's all in a flux now, so bear with us. I just wanted to fill everyone in. Thanks again for your time.