Entries Tagged 'beginner tips' ↓

The Career After Comics

In the past few weeks we’ve lost two legendary creators from the Golden Age of comics, Jerry Robinson at age 89 and Joe Simon at 98. Robinson co-created Batman’s nemesis The Joker, and Simon co-created Captain America and dozens of other characters and even comics genres.

Both men were visionaries whose influence spread far beyond the comic book page. While there is much to learn from a study of either man’s comics work, I believe that a young creator may learn more about how to manage a comics career by studying their lives outside of comics. The reality is that very few artists, writers, or editors — even the most influential creators — actually spend their entire working life creating comic books. Many comic book writers and artists work in the industry for less than a decade.

Both Robinson and Simon found other ventures and distinguished themselves in art, publishing, and support for creators. If you’re a young, aspiring professional, what is your game plan? What will you second career be?

Here’s an excerpt of Joe Simon being interviewed by Mark Evanier at the 1998 San Diego Comicon.

Todd McFarlane Art Lesson 1: Photoshop Basics

The first in a series of art lessons by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane.

10 Questions for Buddy Scalera

Buddy Scalera is an accomplished comics writer, journalist, and compiler/publisher of photo reference for comics artists. In addition to writing comics including Deadpool, Agent X, Weapon X, X-Men Millennial Visions, Marvel Knights Millennial Visions, Necrotic, 7 Days to Fame, and Decoy, he has contributed to magazines including Wizard, Spin Online, Comics Buyer’s Guide, and Comics Values Monthly.

He was also the original online editor for Wizard Entertainment, and co-developed Wizardworld.com, Wizardschool.com, Toyfare.com, Toywishes.com, and Inquestmag.com. The Wizardschool.com site was so popular that Scalera hosted live events at conventions in Chicago and Philadelphia. For over four years, the New Jersey resident also hosted ComixVision, a cable-access television show devoted to comic book hobbyists.

His Comic Artist’s Photo Reference book series (Impact Books) features models in hundreds of poses, ranging from the dynamic to the mundane. The three books, People & Poses, Women & Girls, and Men & Boys, also include illustrated examples of how the photos can be used and modified for various purposes, plus a CD-ROM with hundreds of additional photos.

He’s just wrapped up planning and hosting the comics education panels for the 2009 New York Comicon. He recently written several licensed properties, and is self-publishing two new graphic novels through his After Hours Press imprint.

You can find out more about this very busy man on both his personal (buddyscalera.com) and publishing (ahpcomics.com) websites.

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

In college. I worked on the student newspaper and one of the editors mentioned that his internship was going to be at Marvel. It never dawned on me that you could work in comic books, but at that point I just knew I wanted to do it. I got a degree in Journalism, so I sort of broke in as an industry reporter.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

That would be my father. Even from a young age, he tried to get me to understand visual language. He was an artist, so he taught me how to tell a story with pictures.

I don’t draw much, but I use what he taught me to take photographs.

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

I’m lucky, I have a good group of people who have influenced me creatively and professionally. The Godfather of Comics, Jimmy Palmiotti, was one of the guys who really helped me the most. He taught me a lot about the kind of discipline you need to work in this business. Mike Marts was my editor at Marvel and he taught me a lot about dialogue and pacing. And a former Marvel editor named Glenn Herdling taught me a lot about story structure. I’m close friends with Chris Eliopoulos, who really helps me stay focused on the core story elements. And, finally, Darick Robertson has helped me a lot, since he’s such a visual thinker. We only worked together a short time, but the influence remains.

Everyone you meet influences you somehow, but these guys have left a lasting imprint on who I am as a writer.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I try to get out and do things. Too many writers are insulated. You need to have experiences, so you have things to use as a foundation for your stories.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

There is none. As a freelancer, I am usually reacting to work that comes in to me. And for the most part, I work in surges, so I don’t have steady projects.

But I will tell you, when I work, I have to focus. No instant messenger, no email, nothing. I just turn on iTunes and work. If I am on a serious deadline, I cant even relax, so I don’t read or watch television either.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

When I write, I just use my Mac with Microsoft Word. When I write for video or television, I tend to use FinalDraft. As a photographer, I use a nice dSLR camera and Photoshop. I also carry around a digital audio recording device to save ideas.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Like a lot of writers, I am very critical of my own work. But when I meet a fan or get an email, it’s worth all the time and effort. If you can entertain or influence someone through your creativity, it’s really fulfilling.

Most of my work has been in doing photo reference for comic artists, so I get a lot of email regarding my pictures. Artists sometimes send me art that they’ve created from one of my photos, and that’s really exciting for me.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

I think my most rewarding was my first CD-ROM Visual Reference for Comic Artists: Vol. 1. This project was rejected by several publishers and even by Diamond. Nobody wanted it. So I took a risk and printed them myself and sold them directly at Wizard World Philadelphia. And I completely sold out.

That led to a lot of interesting opportunities, including a three-book project for IMPACT books.

Sometimes you have to ignore the critics and experts and do what you think is right.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

“Treat it like a real job.”

I’m amazed at how poorly people present themselves at conventions or over email. You may just be breaking in and there may be no money, but that’s not a good excuse to present yourself or your work in a sloppy way.

Dress, speak, and act as professionally as you can, and people will treat you as a professional. Even though comics may be a dream for you, it’s still a business.

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

For me, it’s a simple idea: “You can pay now or pay later. But you always have to pay.”

I learned a long time ago that there is a price for everything. It usually means that you have to spend time to get where you want to be.

If you try to skip that time — specifically in how you practice your craft — it will come back and haunt you. You have to practice and work at your craft before you progress to the next stage. It is true for writers, artists, and anyone who wants to work in a creative field.

Work hard now, benefit later.

Want more? See the index of “10 Questions” interviews.

Discuss “10 Questions” in the ComicsCareer.Com Forum.

10 Questions for Andrew Wales

Andrew Wales is the creator of T.A.I.L.S. (Traveling Adventurers in Laboratory Science) for Boy’s Quest magazine, and a similar comic for their sister publication Hopscotch. In addition he’s also creates comics and illustrations for Fun for Kids magazine. He’s currently working on his self-published comic book, Eclectic Comics.

He lives in Athens, Pennsylvania, and teaches art to elementary kids by day. You can find out more about Andrew on his blog.

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

Can we make comics and even make a little money at it without quitting our day job? I’d like to think that my story suggests that it’s possible! I am an elementary art teacher, which is a very rewarding career. I think that in making comics I’m being an example to my students. I encourage every one of them to find something creative that they really enjoy and I hope that they will always make time in their lives for creativity. Making comics is the thing that I do for myself. I make a little bit of money from freelance jobs, which finance the self-publishing ventures I want to do.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

There have been many, but one book I read was called Creating a Life Worth Living. This book encouraged me to be diligent to always make room in my life for creative pursuits. These creative productions will have immense value, whether they are shared with a few friends — or become blockbusters.

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

Sergio Aragones, Stan Sakai, and Jack Kirby. I cut my teeth on Aragones as a kid. Sakai has been a real encouragement and an online mentor through his website and forum. His Art of Usagi Yojimbo is a helpful resource that shows the steps in making a comic. Kirby has always been a constant source of fascination — his innovations, his wild imagination, his dynamic art.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Reading and sketching. I like to read and look at comics of the Silver Age. I like that simplicity, goofiness and the iconic nature of it. I like to use writing prompts and sketch games, like the one at the Gurney Journey.

When I feel like I have a really good idea, it’s hard to keep me away from the drawing board.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

During the school year, it’s difficult to find time to work, but I do find some time on evenings and weekends. During the summer, it’s easier, and I almost accomplish the “page-a-day” goal. I first start with the idea. Then I make very rough thumbnail sketches. The writing is done during this stage. Then I sketch them out on comic boards. I do pretty tight pencils of the foregrounds, and then ink. The erasing is my least favorite part! Then I add background details, and a little texture with Micron markers. Then come the scanning and computer work, which is also not an aspect that is enjoyable.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

I do the thumbnails in my sketchbook with a fine point gel pen. I draw on Canson comic book art boards with pencil and ink with Speedball C-6 pen and crow quill pens. Then I finish up with the Micron markers.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Seeing it in print – holding in my hands that final product. Getting feedback from readers is also great.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

Most of my work has been work-for-hire that I’ve been pleased with to varying degrees, but what I have really found rewarding is making Eclectic Comics. For this project, I give myself permission to do anything at all within the comics art form. So far I’ve done autobio, superhero slapstick, biography — but you never know what you might find when you pick this up.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

I’ll try to paraphrase what I heard from many sources: If you want to make comics, make them. Just get going. Your first several pages are not going to be that great, but don’t be discouraged. Get those bad pages out of the way and keep going. Find the style that is most comfortable for you. If you make something that you enjoy and ten other readers love — would it be worth it to you? I think it would. If it snowballs into something beyond that, so be it!

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

I think every person is an original work of art from The Greatest Artist ever. I think each of us should be ourselves and not try to be like someone else. Here’s a quote from The Message Bible: “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out — plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” [Jeremiah 29:11]

Want more? See the index of “10 Questions” interviews.

Discuss “10 Questions” in the ComicsCareer.Com Forum.

Twitter advice from Marvel’s C.B. Cebulski

Marvel Comics talent liaison C.B. Cebulski has been twittering up a storm of advice to new creators of late. Cebulski, who scouts for new artistic talent for the publisher, has had a lot of practical things to say. Keep track of his latest by following him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/CBCebulski. We’ve recaped most of his recent tweets for you here.

  • When and if sending an editor samples pages, always save as JPEGs and keep all files under 300K.
  • PDFs are cool too, but try and keep them around 2MB tops. Last thing you wanna do is crash an editor’s inbox.
  • And limit attachments to your 5 or 6 best pieces. If the editor wants to see more, he/she will ask you to send more.
  • Yes, a link to a blog with your art would always be recommended over attachments to begin with.
  • Sorry, writers, but I’m offering advice for artists. Maybe some of the editors here can chime in and help you guys?
  • Blogs are always structured chronologically with newest posts first which is another reason I recommend them.
  • Yes, it’s definitely harder for writers than artists to break into comics these days, in my opinion.
  • And when I say “breaking into comics”, I’m generally referring to working for the more major mainstream publishers.
  • Truth be told, it’s easier than ever for anyone to “break into comics” via webcomics and self-publishing these days.
  • The internet &/or print-on-demand services mean anyone with an idea, motivation & a little $ can bring a comic to life.
  • Barely anyone has “broken in” at Marvel or DC directly. We always say it’s better to be published elsewhere first.
  • I always recommend people make comics, whether it’s for themselves or to try and break in professionally.
  • It’s easier than ever for writers to find artists, and vice versa, here on the net. (cont.)
  • Like Digital Webbing, Deviant Art, conceptart.org, and lots of creator boards, like Bendis and Millar, to name a few.
  • The question of digital art vs. on the board is a question each artist needs to answer for themselves.
  • Makes no difference to the editor or publisher really. How you create your art is your business.
  • Yes, “good, fast or nice.” If you’re two of the three, you can get a job in comics, as the saying goes.
  • I can almost guarantee you that my idea of being “Marvel ready” and an up-an-coming artist’s idea of “Marvel ready” are totally different.
  • The two main things we look for are style and storytelling. Speed is something we learn and judge later.
  • I don’t really know as I don’t recruit writers or review their work, but I would assume so.
  • Bad storytelling is bad even w/ the flashiest finish. Good ST is good w/ a crayon.
  • Got my first “where does a nobody like you get off giving advice on breaking into comics” note. Must’ve been from someone I didn’t hire.
  • If your work gets picked for review at a con, it means yours was one of the better drop-offs the Marvel editors saw.
  • Sample pages = TEST pages. They’re a means for artists to “try out” for an editor. They’re not a guarantee of work.
  • If you have published work, it’s better to send the editor the actual books than links to the stories online.
  • The most important thing to remember about working in comics is that THIS IS A JOB!
  • Your portfolio is your resume. Talks with editors are your job interviews. Be professional.
  • Yes, working in comics is a lot of fun, but it’s still work and has to be approached as such.
  • No need to dress up to meet editors at cons. It’s more about acting professionally. Showering helps tho. :)
  • Proper etiquette for following up with an editor after a meeting at a con? I recommend the rule of 4 Ps. (cont.)
  • Be persistent. Be patient. Don’t be pushy. Don’t be a pain-in-the-ass.
  • Wait a week to send out your initial e-mail. No attachments. Follow-up two weeks later if you don’t hear back.
  • Then just send updates letting the editor know what you’re up to every 4 – 6 weeks. Never more than once a month.
  • Yup, everything I say here may be common sense, but you have no idea how many people don’t get it right.
  • I’d say the Rule of 4 Ps applies to both artists and writers.
  • It’s interesting, in discussing it over beers last night, we all seemed to agree that writers tend to be much pushier than artists.
  • We also noticed an increase in the disturbing trend of “editor fishing” going on of late.
  • Editor fishing = Telling Editor #1 you’re coming to the office for a meeting with Editor #2 when you don’t actually have an appointment.
  • This done in hopes of Editor #1 not checking with Editor #2, thereby tricking him into letting you into offices for a meeting you never had.
  • Oh, yeah… people just show up at the Marvel offices all the time. The receptionists are experts at dealing with it!
  • Although there was one time Dave Finch dropped by unannounced to drop off pages and they didn’t believe him or let him in. :(
  • You’d be surprised. There’re 2 writers famous for it & always manage to pull it off. They usually pull it on new editors.
  • Oh, editors check, but you’ll find comics people are very forgiving of talent and always like to believe the best in creators.
  • No, wearing a Marvel t-shirt to a con will not improve your chance of getting a meeting with a Marvel editor.
  • You know, this is actually working. Gotten lots of e-mails and replies with intros and links to sweet art blogs. Cool!
  • Who knows… maybe Marvel will soon have our first Twitter hire?
  • Again, I am not trying to pick on or deny new writers opportunities. It’s just not part of my job. NOT what I do. I’m Marvel’s artist guy.
  • I come across many new artists via links on creator blogs. So new artists, get your pro friends to start linking to you.
  • There have more new opportunities for new writers at Marvel these past two years than ever before. I see a new name at least every month.
  • Astonishing Tales, X-Men Manifest Destiny, MCP… almost every issue debuts as new voice that the editors have discovered.
  • Looking at the new issue of Astonishing Tales, there are two new writers in there. One who had a short story in MCP, one making his debut.
  • Marvel also has new writer specific one-shots that they do to test run new writers who they think have the chops to write for Marvel.
  • I know for a fact Axel Alonso hired an up-and-coming writer he likes just this past Thursday for a Punisher one-shot of this nature.
  • He’d been following this writer’s work at few other publishers, read his newest issue, thought he’d found his voice, and called him.
  • Yes, these gigs are on short stories, one-shots and maybe not the best sellers, so you might not hear read them or hear about these guys.
  • But the point is the chances are now out there. Systems are in places at Marvel to get new writers in on a regular basis. More so than ever.
  • “New” meaning “new to Marvel”, yes. Which brings up another myth I’ll be happy to dispel re: screenwriters and novelists at Marvel. (cont.)
  • Just because they work in another entertainment medium, that doesn’t mean they have an automatic in at Marvel. Far from the case.
  • TV/movie/novel writing is very different from comic writing. Writing for an artist, understand the pacing, etc., are completely different.
  • And the editors at Marvel know and understand this. Any writer from Hollywood or literature has to try out just like any other new writer.
  • Yes, you may see more names crossing over into comics these days, but the door wasn’t magically just opened for them.
  • Maybe they get more “buzz” due to their other writing, but that’s to be expected. But they now write in comic cuz they KNOW and LOVE comics.
  • You know, I’d bet there were more “new” writers than “Hollywood” writers hired by Marvel in 2008. You just never heard of the newer guys.
  • Yes, you can sit here and argue and debate every point I bring up about breaking into comics, but really… what’s the point?
  • You don’t like what I have to say? Feel free to ignore me. Follow your own path. Break in your own way. Please.
  • My opinions and advice are my own, formed from personal experience. I pass it on with only the best of intention. I’m only trying to help.
  • Oh, I don’t mind. I know I’m just a Marvel corporate stooge to some people, doing spin control to covering up the big Marvel conspiracy.
  • “I’ve got the best ideas for (insert Marvel character here) since Stan Lee and Marvel won’t publish them cuz they’re scared I’m so good!”
  • Oh, you found us out. You’re so good that we’re keeping you down just so we don’t have to fire hacks like @BRIANMBENDIS & @mattfraction!
  • None of this sours me on Twitter or the internet in any way. I’ve been getting it for years and expect it. Makes me smile actually.
  • And I’m saving it all for my book. The chapter on how NOT to break into comics continues to grow on an almost daily basis. :)
  • Yes, breaking into comics really can be murder. :)
  • Most of the comments I’ve been getting have been via e-mail and DMs actually. I guess people want me to see them but not make them public.
  • And as some seem to have missed the point, the tweets about a Marvel conspiracy and me calling my friends Brian and Matt hacks WERE A JOKE!
  • Woke up to inboxes full of material ripe for Twittering about!
  • First and foremost, don’t use the current “global economic crisis” as an attempt to get work. It’s not just you who’s suffering financially.
  • Comic jobs are given based on talent, not economic need. Can’t believe I had 2 e-mails trying to guilt me into work! What’re you thinking?!
  • There are plenty of already established pencilers who have fallen on hard times and who are out there looking for work as well.
  • And we’re more than likely to call up and offer a gig to a pro we’ve worked with before and know we can trust.
  • I don’t care if “I’m new and hungry and will work cheaper than the other pencilers out there because I desperately need money to get by.”
  • And another thing, if you happen to find out personal details about an editor, don’t try and use them as an in to get work.
  • (And I’m not saying this about me as I put all my shit out here online and am always happy to talk about anything I post.)
  • But I’ve heard from other editors how artists at portfolio reviews, complete strangers mind you, asked about their wife and/or kids by name.
  • Or knew where they went to college. Or challenged them to a game of one-on-one as they heard the editor liked basketball.
  • There’s a line between the personal and the professional. Between being friendly and being creepy. Just know where it is and don’t cross it.
  • The number one piece of advice I give newer, up-and-coming artists: stick to the grid! There’s nothing more important in my opinion.
  • And for those that haven’t seen it, here’s “Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work”: http://tinyurl.com/lcgqu
  • Second piece of advice I always find myself giving newbies: Don’t break the panel borders. It’s distracting and usually not necessary.
  • New pencilers often make the mistake of breaking borders to add dynamicism to a page but it usually just confuses their storytelling.
  • Third piece of advice, don’t neglect your panel borders and gutters. They are an important part of your page that are often forgotten.
  • Fourth piece of advice, don’t forget that word balloons and SFX need to go on the page. Make sure you include them in your initial layouts.
  • Sounds obvious, I know, but there are even pros I know who don’t always take them into account and complain when their art gets covered up.
  • And my last piece of advice for new pencilers today, don’t attempt to draw in any sound effects. They’ll only serve to clutter your art.
  • Certain artists, like Adam Kubert, are masters at it, but it’s an art to be learned. Tell the story first without cluttering your pages.
  • And as I’m just a lowly writer & talent scout, I would greatly appreciate any artists here jumping in with advice/experiences of their own.
  • As Hollywood’s invaded and San Diego’s grown, it’s not the best con to try and meet editors and show your portfolio at anymore.
  • Unfortunately, there’s no real set answer to that. “Marvel ready” is a subjective term. When I see, I know… that’s about it.
  • I discovered @skottieyoung ‘s artwork simply walking thru Artists Alley in Chicago, so I always recommend new artists get tables at cons.

Insider Briefing: Dan Vado of Amaze Ink / SLG Publishing

This is the second in our series of interviews with the behind the scenes decision makers at America’s comics publishers.

In 1986, Dan Vado decided to see if he could write and publish his own comic book, so he started a publishing company, SLG, which was then known as Slave Labor Graphics. “Soon I started getting approached by people asking me to publish their work,” Vado said. “Twenty-three years later SLG remains a springboard for new talent.”

As president and publisher, Vado works with SLG editor-in-chief Jennifer de Guzman to select projects and guide them onto the market. Over the years, SLG’s best known titles have included Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Milk & Cheese, Gargoyles, Tron, and Haunted Mansion.

SLG and its Amaze Ink imprint are responsible for several new titles each year. “We are slowing down a lot these days,” Vado said. “In 2009, we will publish twelve to fifteen graphic novels and maybe three or four comics.”

In addition to considering projects with established creators, SLG accepts and reviews unsolicited submissions. They pay creators royalties only, which are based on a sliding scale percentage of the cover price depending upon the number of copies sold. You can find out more about SLG on its website, and creators should be sure to review the submissions guidelines before contacting the company.

SLG has also launched a series of creator workshops to help guide comics writers and artists on the path toward a professional career. You can find out the latest information about the workshops here.

Comics Career: What’s the most unique or magical aspect of comics as an art form?

Dan Vado: Comics are like making a movie with an unlimited budget, the only limitation being the talent of the artists and the imagination of the writers. I think you have a much greater control over the reader’s experience in comics than in most other storytelling mediums. You can get away with more in comics, and you also have an ability to really study characters.

An example from something we published is Egg Story, which is a graphic novel about eggs. It truly goes to places that you might not try to go if it were a film. Another great example is The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks.

Comics Career: Who has had the biggest influence on your professional life, and how has that person affected your career?

Dan Vado: Archie Goodwin would be the biggest influence. I learned a lot just from working with him when he was at DC Comics. It was the first time I had ever worked with an editor, and I really was influenced not so much by his editorial input but by the way he made suggestions and how he handled himself. He was a good man, one of the best editors I have ever come across, and a real innovator. I really think we need a meaningful industry award named after him because he was indeed someone who we all could have learned from and whose example we should try to follow.

Comics Career: What’s the most important thing a creator should know about your company’s approach to new projects or new talent that’s not covered in the submissions guidelines?

Dan Vado: Well, I guess it is that we will consider almost any kind of project, even a superhero project. Our history is that we are sort of all over the map, and very few of the books we do actually relate to each other. Each project is reviewed first on its own merit and then on whether I think we can sell it.

Although I do review and consider superhero books, for example, we have historically had a hard time selling them, so the likelihood of us taking on a superhero project is pretty slim. Likewise something that has a load of back-story and a complex universe is not going to be something I am going to want to do. The ideas presented should be self-contained and present a complete idea or story, and this is true for all genres of comics, not just superheroes.

Your 25-volume graphic novel series may be a little too ambitious, so be prepared to reduce your idea down to something that can be told in a single volume.

Comics Career: What are the main criteria that you use when deciding to accept a new project or work with a creator for the first time?

Dan Vado: Did I like it enough to publish? That’s number one. If I decide to publish something I am committing myself, my employees, and my company to a relationship and responsibility that will last months — if not years — as well as committing thousands of dollars of my money to something. So, I need to like it and not regret doing it later.

Secondly, of course, would be its commercial potential. That is not to say that if something seems noncommercial that I will not publish it, but I have to think it has the potential or that the creator has the potential to break out and be something at some point. When I invest in a project I am really making an investment in the creator or creators. I have a tendency to publish people who are maybe just a little shy of being really ready in the hopes that they will grow into something. At a certain point, a creative person needs to have the experience of being published to get them over that hump and on to the next level, so I am investing in the next level.

Which brings me to point number three, the creator or creators themselves. If I think they are going to be a pain in the ass or difficult to work with, I pass. Seriously, life is too short and, these days especially, money is too tight and the rewards are too minimal for me to have to work with someone I feel is going to give my staff and me a lot of heartburn. I will be honest here that the commercial and sales potential can wash away point number three, but I have yet to meet that person.

I would then come to a place that I would call point three-and-a-half, which is the expectation of the creator. Some people come into comics with huge expectations, which I as a publisher need to dampen down. If the expectation still remains too high, then I will probably stay away from a project, because I am going to get heaped with all the blame for something that does not meet what I might see as a creator’s unrealistic expectation.

Comics Career: What are your expectations of the creators you work with? What do they need to bring to the equation to be a good fit for you and your company?

Dan Vado: They need to work hard and be willing to help promote themselves. They need to understand the limitations of a small company and get in there and do the hard stuff that comes after a book is published. They need to understand that movie producers are not handing out film deals at Comic-con.

Halo and Sprocket Volume 2Comics Career: When you’re working with a creator for the first time, what guidelines or instructions do you typically provide?

Dan Vado: Creatively, very little as we want each project to reflect the creator as an individual. On a functional level, I try to make everyone as familiar with the process of getting their book solicited, published, and distributed and where they fit into each part of that process.

Comics Career: What should a creator never do when pitching a project to you? Or, conversely, what should a creator always do when pitching a project to you?

Dan Vado: Well, first, I hate the word pitch. I don’t like being “pitched” in the traditional sense where someone is going to sit with me in a meeting and go over their ideas and try and get me to like them. Seriously, your work needs to speak for itself. The reader is not going to have the creator hanging over them play-acting their scripts and telling you what to think or feel. So, first and foremost do not pitch me! I do not want to be pitched, especially at a convention where I am usually tired all the time.

What I want you to do is to send me a submission that follows our guidelines. If you want to hand me something at a convention, great, but really don’t spend a lot of time telling me about your project because I am going to want to read it. If you hand me a proposal at a convention, then be prepared to follow up by mailing me a copy later because anything can happen to a proposal at a convention. Usually they get tossed into a box with my name on it and sometimes those boxes don’t always make it home in one piece.

The no pitch thing gets loosened a little as I work and get to know someone, so it is not a hard and fast rule, but if I have not published you, a good thing is do not pitch.

The other thing a creator should not do is bug me about whether I have read their proposal yet. It takes a lot of time to seriously consider something and I have a lot to do in my daily life. SLG is a very small company, so in addition to my publisher duties I am the financial officer, the IT guy, the guy who deals with the plumbing when it goes bad, the purchasing manager, and so on.

You get the idea. So, really, sitting and reading your unsolicited submission is not going to be the most important part of my day.

Another thing, please don’t send me samples which are pixilated and poorly reproduced. I cannot try and draw a conclusion on your work based on something that looks like a printed version of a web image or like it is a twelfth generation photocopy of your original art. And then, to add to that, if you show me that work in person, please don’t tell me how much better the original looks than what I am looking at because that doesn’t do me any good.

Comics Career: What’s the craziest excuse you’ve ever heard a creator give for missing a deadline?

Dan Vado: I’ve heard some doozies, believe me. One person, who was already late with a book and whom I told that if they did not get it done in a certain amount of time I would have to resolicit, told me that he had destroyed all of his pages because I gave him a deadline.

Comics Career: What do you expect the comics industry to be like ten years from now?

Dan Vado: I have no idea; I can’t even tell you what the industry will look like in ten months.

Comics Career: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

Dan Vado: It is not possible to be all things to all people. Seriously you have to be honest about who and what you are and you also have to have the courage of your convictions.

Comics Career: What are the biggest knowledge gaps that you seen in new creators?

Dan Vado: Artists need to take time to become familiar with digital formatting of their work. I think we spend more time trying to explain why an RGB image prints differently than it looks on screen, or why someone who letters digitally should not anti-alias the lettering, or trying to explain what an aspect ratio is. We spend a lot of time and creators waste a lot of time on pages that are submitted to us which are unprintable. If the only version of your comic page is the one that you made for a webcomic, well, we can’t use it and I really should not have to explain that over and over again.

If you are going to work in comics you need to learn about printing, digital production and prepress and how things work. Printing is becoming a digital medium and when you are drawing a comic book page you are actually preparing the page for printing, so you need to know what you are doing before you start.