What It Takes To Be a Pro

By Al Tudor

Unless you love comics more than eating and sleeping, I don’t suggest even THINKING about trying to work in the field. The deadlines are oppressive. The hours are long, unless you’re blessed with the speed of a John Byrne. The competition is fierce, with every person and their next of kin trying to get their “great idea” out to the reading public.

O.K. That’s the down side. If you simply MUST do comics or die, here’s my suggestion: First, try to get work with an established publisher. Getting work from established publishers means working on THEIR characters. That’s where the money is-- for them and maybe for you, if you’re good enough. Do some treatments of their characters and send them to those companies. I’m talkin’ the big guys here: Marvel, DC. If you’re really gifted and PERSISTENT, you might get hired.

Visit comic conventions in your area, or travel to some of the big ones like the Chicago Comicon (now WizardCon) or San Diego if you can, and show your work. Get as much criticism as you can and LISTEN to it, especially when it comes from established professionals. Don’t be defensive. If a pro takes the time to even say that you suck, thank them. Then fix it.

Now, if you absolutely HAVE to see your own brilliant ideas in print, and you can’t wait a few years until you’re an established professional who’s proved his metal by making OTHERS’ ideas and characters look good, then you can attempt to sell your concept to someone like DARK HORSE. Again, the competition is fierce and there are LOTS of great ideas and artists and writers out there. Also again, if you’re REALLY good, you have a chance. Draw up a complete ready to publish episode, and send it along with an outline of the rest of the story. Send copies of the work. Keep the originals for yourself.

Most established publishers have submission guidelines that they will supply upon request. Get those and follow them. Go to the library and check out the most recent Writers Digest or Artists Digest from Alliance publishing. There’s a wealth of info about how to submit work to publishers, including comics publishers.

If you must do it, and you must do it NOW, self-publishing is a way to go. In this case you run the whole show. YOU are the publisher, editor, proofreader, writer, artist, inker, production team, colorist, chief cook and bottle washer and the money person. (Unless you have a lot of friends willing to work cheap, or a rich uncle.) Self-publishing is the most grueling and time-consuming way to work in comics. It’s also costly. Depending on your print runs, a B&W comic with a full color cover can cost $1500.00 or more (much more) to print. Distribution right now for us independents is VERY poor. There are very few distributors who will even look at an independent, and all too few Comic shops that will order them. Typical orders for new issues are in the low 100’s (and that’s for collector’s issues like #1). In other words, you will lose money. Big time.

Contact Brenner Printing at 106 Braniff; San Antonio, TX 78216. Ask for their sample pack, production guide and pricing guide.

Again, if your work is OUTSTANDING, you can make it. Jeff Smith is having great success with BONE, for instance. But it took lots of time and effort. I once heard him say that it took years for BONE #1 to break even.

I don’t want to discourage you, but on the other hand maybe I do. If you CAN be discouraged, better to face it now and get it over with. It’s important to take a realistic look at yourself and decide if you have what it takes to make it in this field. Part of what it takes is the ability to keep on keepin’ on in the face of repeated rejection and disappointment.

Of course, if you’re incredibly talented, fast and a gifted story-teller, and a little bit lucky, perhaps things will go very easy for you. Most of us are not most of those things, and so have to depend on perseverance, hard work, an unshakable faith in ourselves, and a little bit of luck.

My last word is this: If working in comics is what you want-- really, REALLY want-- then go for it with everything you’ve got! You can make it happen, but only if you keep trying.

Suggested reading:

People to listen to:

People whose opinion should be taken only as that, an opinion and nothing more:

Back to Panel Discussions

Return to the Convention Floor

™ and Copyright © 1997-
by Al Tudor
All Rights Reserved