Monday, November 30, 2009

Breaking the Fourth Wall: Episode 10

It's been quite a while since the last update about my quest to break into the comics business as a writer, so I thought I'd get you all up to speed today. When last we met on this field of battle, I was discussing some theories on how to craft a competitive submission for Zuda Comics. One of the reasons I was interested in the topic is that I believe that Zuda may currently be the best opportunity for new creators to break into the field and as a result I have spent my time since working on developing a few Zuda projects of my own.

That, however, has its own pitfalls, in that I've discovered an industry secret that you probably aren't aware of, but which I am now going to share with you free of charge. You ready for this insight? Okay, here it is: comics need artists.

Yes, amazing as it is to think, comic books do require artists in order for them to have art and thus be comics instead of scripts. This is actually the next phase for me anyway, as I have already been sending out scripts and pitches to the few publishers that still accept them. But with those avenues in play, it's time to look to other venues, i.e. those that require completed art to accompany (or, more accurately, replace) the script.

Now, finding an artist isn't my strong suit. Many of the people I have spoken with about this subject have recommended certain online venues for meeting artists, but to be honest, none of them hold a lot of appeal for me. I have spent a decent amount of time reviewing art on these sites and checking out possible collaborators, but it's a pretty random and off-putting process that is not altogether unlike internet dating. Without being able to meet face to face and really talk about the concepts and ideas, it's hard to judge whether an artist would be a good fit for the project or not, or whether they would be enthusiastic about the project or not. And when it comes to art for my stories I am a bit of a perfectionist; comics is a visual medium and thus the art makes or breaks a story. No matter how awesome my script may be, bad art -- or simply art or an artist that doesn't suit the story -- will invariably undermine it. If something is going to be submitted professionally with my name attached to it, then it has to be professional and the best effort that can be put forth.

In terms of finding an artist, then, this means basically one thing: pay. The only way to really be sure about what you're getting is to hire a professional who has samples to prove both their suitability and their professionalism itself. And, of course, many of the artists available even through these online meat markets are freelancers looking for pay as much as portfolio credits, so when you do find someone good, chances are they are going to want some action up front. While many Zuda contestants have back end arrangements with their artists (i.e., if it gets accepted, then they get paid), that's not going to fly with your better, more experienced and more desirable artists.

So where does that leave me? Well, for now, I'm still looking for artists, but I'm also concentrating on making some money so that when I do find an artist I can actually pay them for their work. This has meant a bit of a break from actively pursuing comics work as I get other, paying jobs, but in thelong run I think it will pay off once I can find that elusive artist. And in order to do that I am currently exploring membership in the Comic Book Artists Guild, which will likely be opening a Boston chapter early next year; it is designed specifically as a networking organization to help up and coming creators develop their works and skills, so hopefully it will be a good way to meet a like-minded artist.

Until then, I will likely be sitting on my hands more or less. But that's okay. In the meantime I can still read comics, study Zuda and hone my craft until the time when I can actually take the next step and work with an honest-to-god, living, breathing artist.

And when that -- or any other development -- happens, you, my beloved readers, will be the first to know.

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