After my last update I've gotten notes from people wanting more in regards to portfolios. Again (to cover my ass), these are only my opinions. There aren't any absolute truths for a good portfolio when shopping around for editors. Essentially a good portfolio is one that shows off your abilities in the best ways possible and hopefully helps you make an impression on an editor.
1. The less the better.
Editors are bogged down at cons looking through a lot of portfolios. When they open up your portfolio they'll size you up in about 5 seconds on your first couple of pages: good or bad. I suggest only 5 pages of sequential art showing a CONNECTED story of some kind, not bits and pieces of things you did over the years and certainly NO PIN-UPS. Having a ton of crap in your portfolio won't change their mind but it will waste their time. 5 pages is more than enough for them to see whether you're ready or not (in their opinion) and it's a reasonable amount of artwork for them to look over and give it the attention you deserve.
2. Make it your best.
Drawing up 5 pages should be FUN. It shouldn't be daunting. If it's daunting then you shouldn't be trying to break in at all. But a lot of wannabes won't figure that out for a while.
Pick a character you like, put him into a scene of some kind that shows off some storytelling and backgrounds, and have fun. Trust me, it's very rarely that you'll get to do whatever you want in this biz so when it comes to these pages, live it up. Don't try to create your written-in-your-head-since-you-were-a-kid epic in 5 pages; just something small that will fit the bill. Draw your backgrounds well and fill in your blacks. Try to nail a bunch of different types of shots. Be aware to show everyday people, cities, cars, trees, etc--but don't throw things in that are out-of-place because then it'll FEEL like a portfolio submission, if that makes sense.
3. Shut the hell up.
Having an editor look at your stuff will suck. The silence in the air as they flip through your art is a lot to take. Yes, it's natural to want to say something, defend your work or explain why you had such a hard time with a certain shot. Trust mejust shut up and wait till he/she's done and then talk calmly, positively, and be proud of your work. No excuses will help you.
Here's a secret: no one likes his owns stuff. At least not during a review. Pointing out the mistakes in your art makes you look nervous, self-defeating and incompetent. Would you act that way around a girl at a bar? Probably, which is why you're a comic geek with no date.
If you're asked a direction question like "why did you choose this angle" then give him your REASON, not your EXCUSE and make it brief. If he points out something he doesn't like (like your bad perspective for example) don't make excuses for why it's correct. If he's seeing a problem then there's probably a problem. Just suck it up, nod your head and ask him for advice on how to fix it and then bitch about it later. (And write his name down and remember him. When you see him next for your next review, remind him of the conversation you had last time and point out what you did to try and improve. He'll be flattered that you remembered.)
Your words are like your art: less is more. And editors like someone who's malleable and not a prick.
4. No funky panels.
Overlapping panels, hovering panels, odd shaped panels or whatever you call them are usually a sign of an amateur. There is definitely a time a place for them (I use them more and more) but there should be GOOD reasons for it, not just you trying to act all cool with your triangle-shaped panels (which, during the submission period of your life, usually brings your storytelling to a halt).
5. If you've been published let them know.
It's to your advantage if they see you've been published before. It shows that you completed a task, worked with an editor (of some kind) and got past that first step in getting to your goal: ultimate comic book god.
6. Remember them, keep in contact but don't bother them.
Check in from time to time. Editors are busy but part of their job is finding new guys. Don't bother them or get nervous when they don't write back the next day. Just email them again in a few months with some jpgs of your new stuff. They don't owe you anything so don't feel entitled to a whole lot of attention at first.
7. Take a small portfolio.
You don't need originals and you don't need to bring that huge, black rectangle your mom bought when you hit a con. Reduce the art and print out copies and put that in a nice, SMALL portfolio that won't weigh you down. Besides, the art looks better when it's smaller. Also, leave copies orf you 5 page sample with whoever will take one. Make sure your contact info it on there as well and a website if you got one. Websites are a REALLY good thing so find a way.
8. Take a shower, jerk.
This goes for EVERYONE at cons who I have to smell when they walk by. Have some god damn self-respect and put something on. Look like a professional and wear deodorant. Don't where a Spider-Man silk shirt or come dressed as a Wookie. You don't want to look like a fan but a professional who's about something more important in life. A suit and tie is a little much but at least you'll stand out.
SOME ADVICE THAT I ADVISE AGAINST
1. If you can ink well, then ink it.
There are some people that think that if you want to be a penciller, then show your pencils. If you want to ink, then show some ink on other people's pencils. And that's all true. But I wanted to do both because I knew I was fast enough to hit a deadline without some asshole inking my shit wrong. In the gray world of comic book portfolios, black inks stands out like, well, black ink. If you COMPETENT enough doing both then it's unlikely an editor will tell you to show him both pencils and inks or try to split you up into one of the two jobs.
2. Drawing certain characters for certain companies? Don't worry about it.
I heard once that Marvel wants to see a submission with one of their characters, and that's not true. If they tell you that then don't listen. If you have killer Batman pages and show it to a Punisher editor, he's not going to care that it's not the Punisher. The only certainty in this business is that good art speaks for itself and will break through boundaries like nothing else. Besides, who has time to draw more than one 5 pager before a con? Let's be realistic. Show it to as many editors as you can until it hurts.
Don't bother showing your Batman submission to indy companies, though. Indy comics is another world from mainstream which few can bridge. If you draw mainstream they'll tend to shun you, like you don't understand their love-now-lost boy-books and the funky art inside. (And I'm allowed to criticize it because I'm at least 50% indy guy.)
That's all I can think of. Hope it helps.
Listening to: The Jam
Reading: The God Dilusion
Watching: History Channel