I recently went through all the notes that I took at panels at Wondercon in Anaheim at the end of March. I was reminded of all of the great advice that I heard on breaking into comics and self-publishing comics. I thought some of you might be interested, despite the fact that this con review is coming almost two months late! Anyway, I decided to post summaries of the most informative panels I attended ("Breaking into Comics", "Terry Moore's Talk", "Mainstream Monsters" and "The New Face of Self-Publishing") over the next week or so. Here's the first one.
"Breaking into Comics" was a great panel led by Matt Gagnon, editor in chief from Boom Studios [link]
and Caleb Monroe, [link]
, one of the Boom Studio writers. One of the first things that Matt said which struck me was "You need to put yourself into a comics community- at conventions, online, in comic stores. Find like-minded people and it will lead to opportunity." Caleb advised beginning writers to start by writing short stories and to write them simply for 'the love of the game'. These stories might one day be published in anthologies, or else just given away to friends. As Matt said, in comics, self-publishing is the best way to prove that you are serious. Being able to put a finished comic, even a short one, into other people's hands is really important. Many editors who don't have time to read comic scripts will take the time to read a short finished comic. As Caleb said, you can't tell bad writing from good at 20 paces, but finished comics with art you can see right away. Self-publishing shows commitment and stick-to-it-ness. Self-publishing can be easier for someone who is both a writer and an artist, as you don't have to find someone to team up with. Caleb called finding comic artists willing to collaborate on small things "the eternal struggle". He says he never asks artists to go in on a big project with him if he's not paying much, as he knows they probably don't have time. Instead, he asks how many pages the artist feels he or she has time for and then provides a story of that length- anywhere from 2 pages upwards.
Caleb said that when he finishes a story, he shows it to everyone. He has had the experience numerous times of showing work to someone whose current job is as an assistant to an assistant to an assistant, but three years later that person is an editor in chief at a publishing company. Over and over in this panel Matt stressed the importance of building relationships with other people who love comics, whether they work in comics right now or not. As he said, comics is still relatively a small industry- everyone knows everyone. The relationships that you make with other creative people will outlast any single project, and can be far more valuable.
When asked what they look for in a portfolio, Matt said panel to panel storytelling. He likes seeing sequential pages, and a variety of different types of pages. Caleb said improvement. He likes being able to see that an artist is getting better with each page that they draw. He reminded me of something I find very encouraging, that after every page you draw you are one page better.
As a closing note, Matt said never stop making comics. You have to put yourself in a position to fail or you can't succeed. It will be a journey, but if you are persistent you will get there.