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    Raven Gregory’s Guide to Breaking Into Comics

    By Raven Gregory

    CHAPTER ONE — SO YOU WANNA GET INTO COMICS

    (Please forgive me if this sounds familiar. I can’t separate what I’ve heard before from what I’ve learned.)
    So you want to get into comics. You have this Wolverine story that will change the way people look at comics and the world forever. Your buddy is an artist, and you both have the most original idea that either of you have ever heard of. It’s better than the Matrix. It’s that good.

    If only you could finish writing/drawing/inking/coloring/distribute/advertise/creating it. Or, and here’s the big one, if only you could afford it.

    So how do you get into comics?

    Good question. The best and easiest way to answer that question is with three simple words. (You writers pay attention. You’re going to have to learn how to say things in the least amount of words.)

    It’s. not. easy.

    Oh. Here’s the other three words you’ll need to remember.

    Never. give. up.

    Still with me? Good. Because if you want to get into this biz there are a few things you’re going to need to know.

    Because I’m a writer I not going to talk about the path for the artist, inker or colorist, as I haven’t the slightest fucking clue.

    So what’s stopping you from getting started? Doubt, fear, worry, nervousness, all these, and just a downright fucked-up sensation of not knowing where to begin.

    Which takes us back to the first thing you need to do. Write.
    Sounds easy? It should. We’ve all been doing it since we were 3. The idea you have is so fresh, so real that the ideas are just pouring out onto the paper. You have pads full of notes for what is most assuredly the most epic journey ever told in the English language.

    Writing is like anything else in this life. If you have a talent for it, if you practice every single day, if you love and enjoy it more than anything else you do, if you keep seeing yourself getting better and better, and if you would do it knowing that you might never, ever get paid, and you are willing to sweat … blood, sweat and tears and have no problem with working a job 40 hours a week and putting another 50 hours on top of that to work on your writing …

    Whew.

    Then come get a hug because I know exactly how you feel. The journey is long (started writing “The Gift” in ’99) and not for the weak of heart, but for us there’s nothing else that completes us as much as story.

    And nothing makes the journey move faster than to write.

    So why aren’t you writing?

    CHAPTER TWO — BAD SHIT WILL HAPPEN

    So let’s say you have started the journey. You have sat down and begun writing your masterpiece. You have developed a routine (you must do this) and are writing every day for at least two hours. You have never been so hyped and jazzed in your entire life. Wow! How cool is this? This is great! How could it have taken you so long to discover something this cool that you love this much?

    Pretty cool feeling, ain’t it?

    Well, get ready because here’s where shit happens. You’ll get a ticket, your wife will divorce you, you’ll find your boyfriend cheating on you with your best friend, your dog gets cancer, you get a flat tire, someone steals your car, you lose your job, your parents kick you out, your boss yells at you, your wife cheats on you, your mom dies, you lose all your stories because your computer fucks up, your artist flakes, your backer dumps you or any of the bullshit life will throw at you at any given time happens.

    What do you do now?

    First, you get through it. Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. This is not some blurb, or cliché bullshit. It is the absolute fucking truth. And how do you get through the above shit? Simple.

    Time. Time heals all wounds, no matter how bad. It does.

    And once that wound is healed enough for you to think straight, it’s time to write. The best stories are the ones where the writer is trying to deal with the fucked-up shit that floats around in our heads. It takes the art form to another level.

    I loved writing issue three because I just couldn’t figure out how normal people could turn around and kill their kids.

    I loved writing issue six because I got fired from my job and got to use all that anger and hate to fuel the story.

    I loved writing issue 11 because my wife cheated on me, and writing it into a story helped me deal with all those pent-up feelings that shred your belly in those lonely moments late at night.

    Writing is our therapy. It’s what gets us through — the love of story.

    Now if you’re still with me and you’ve got through the bad shit and are still standing with your head up and shoulders tall, let’s get to the good stuff.

    CHAPTER THREE — THE FIRST THING I EVER LEARNED

    This is the exact e-mail I sent five months after I started writing “The Gift.” Excuse the extra, current-day comments I made, but I couldn’t help myself.

    12/9/00 1:39 a.m. Ravengregory@aol.com wrote:
    I have begun to think that my questions will never be answered or that my thoughts will never be heard. God, I was such a drama queen.
    I am a freelance writer currently working on a (HA! YEAH RIGHT!) 12-issue run of a book of my own creation. I have absolute faith that my book will change the face of the comic book industry and give something back to the readers that they have long been yearning for. For future reference, NEVER, EVER, say this shit to anyone, I can’t believe Renae replied
    Six of the 12 books have completed scripts and plots. I have a conceptual artist who has designed most of the characters with my supervision. I have the financial backing to put a finished or semi-finished product in a publishers’ hand.
    NOW THE QUESTION
    How does an individual who has no experience or contacts get into the industry?
    I wrote countless artists, creators, and writers with no reply. I would like to know what steps should be taken in trying to establish myself. Any help that could be given would be greatly appreciated. I realize there is a long road, much hard work, and no promised success, but a start I have made. See … this is why you NEED an editor

    Any advice would help.
    Thank you.
    Yours Truly,
    Raven Gregory

    I sent this e-mail to everyone I could, and only one person answered. Renae (Zod) Geerlings
    then: managing editor of Top Cow
    Now: vice president of publishing of Top Cow

    Hmm. You caught me on a Friday night/Saturday morning deadline. Good timing.

    Yes, I am quite familiar with the Catch-22 that is this industry. You can’t get work without a name, but you can’t get a name without work. The best thing IS to self-publish and show that kind of forethought. Once you have a finished first couple issues, the company will know you mean business and it won’t be such a risk to take you on. Also, make friends in the industry. That’s big. Go to shows, cons, etc. Meet people. Get your face and work out there. Bang doors down. It works. :)

    Renae

    And THIS is what really started it all. One single e-mail. God, I love Renae.

    CHAPTER FOUR — GETTING STARTED

    Besides writing, you should be reading. The more you read the better you will write. The better you write the more enjoyable shit I get to read, so it’s better for everyone if you just take my word for it.

    So what should you be reading?
    “On Writing,” by Stephen King, for inspiration
    “Story,” by Robert McKee, this will be your bible
    “Fortune and Glory,” by Brian Michael Bendis, for the light at the end of the tunnel

    Start with those, and then read everything you can get your hands on. The information in those books is priceless. If you’ve been doing all of the above, pretty soon that first story should be nearing completion.

    Now here’s where things get interesting.

    CHAPTER FIVE — I’M DONE. HUH. I’M NOT DONE?

    You’ve finished your first story. You’ve read all the above material and after months of not looking at your story you pull it out to give it another looksee and …

    It’s shit. You spot misspellings, plot holes, and after you read it aloud you know, you just know that no artist in their right mind would be able to understand the shit you wrote down.

    Don’t panic. This is normal. It’s rewrite time. Pick your head up and rewrite your ass off. Now put it away for a couple weeks and repeat until you are satisfied with the final product.

    Now it’s time to find an artist.

    CHAPTER SIX — PRODUCTION

    Find an artist. Not going to explain how but you have to find an artist to make your vision into a reality. Publishers (especially if you don’t have a name) rarely read scripts. Hell, it’s hard to get them to read comics. But once you find an artist, you’ll have to find an inker, maybe a colorist and a letterer. Once you do that and finish your book, it’s time to take your book to the big leagues.

    CHAPTER SEVEN — PLEASE SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE?

    Your book is done (well, at least the first issue) and you’re hitting the cons and giving out samples of your book and no matter what you do, no matter who you talk to, no matter who you beg, no one wants you.

    In fact, they tear your book to shreds and say there is no way this crap will ever sell. FYI - It’s time to start developing a tough skin or you’re not going to make it in this biz.

    It happens. Happened to “The Gift.” Hell, I was lucky to have an initial cut, let alone a director’s cut.

    What do you do next? It’s time to go to the big leagues.

    DIAMOND COMICS DISTRIBUTION.
    These are the guys who distribute all the comics to all the comic book stores in the world. If you have your book done then you’re ready for this. Submit your book to them and if they decide to carry it, then you have just gone national, baby. Congrats. Now the real work begins.

    CHAPTER EIGHT — THE GIFT MARKETING PLAN

    Here’s what I did. It’s not the only way to do it, but the most important thing you have to do is get the word out about your book. It could be the best comic ever to hit the stands, but it just doesn’t matter if no one knows about it.

    The first thing I did was make a list. I pulled out all the comics I had been collecting over the past 10 years and wrote down every e-mail address I could find in the letter pages and e-mailed them about my book. I also went to www.the-master-list.com and sent a free copy of my book to every comic book store in the country. Then I called them and talked to them about my book. Then I called them and pretended I was someone else looking for “The Gift.” Then I hit the message boards and private message everyone I could about my book.

    In other words, I got the word out. I also got a lot of hate mail about spamming people. Nothing says keep working hard like getting, “If you ever e-mail me again I’m gonna FUCKING SUE YOUR WORTHLESS HACK ASS, BITCH. FUCK OFF!” at 1 in the morning.

    After you do all that and you get some buzz on your book, start hitting Wizard. Send them whatever you can. If these guys give you even one good word, good things can happen. Be persistent because while you’re doing your thing, about 10,000 other people are trying to do the exact same thing.

    So why aren’t you writing right now?

    CHAPTER NINE — HEY! I’M MAKING COMICS

    You’ve climbed the mountaintop and can officially say you’re in the industry. What’s next?

    You go back to the first thing you need to do.

    Write. And you do it all over again. It should be easier this time.

    EPILOGUE

    Keep in mind that anything worth getting isn’t easy. Sacrifices will be made, and they won’t be small. You have to decide how bad you want this. If you decide you want to jump out of the plane without the parachute, keep on reading.

    The most important thing I can say is this. Comics are not about the money. The telltale fiction that Hollywood will buy any idea that gets turned into a comic is false, so don’t buy into it. It does happen, but it’s rare. If there is a thought in your mind about doing this for money, turn around right now and don’t look back because this is not for you. But if you’ve been reading comics since you were a kid, if you love telling stories more than anything, if there is something about comics that just gets you, then I can say this with 100 percent honesty.

    There is nothing in the world like this. There is nothing like finishing that first script, or going to your first con, or meeting your favorite writer for the first time, or seeing the pencils turn your words into an image, or seeing the finished product on your computer and reading your comic for the first time, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing cooler than seeing your book hit the stands.

    Nothing makes you feel better than having fans write you and say how much they likes your book, or meeting them at a con, or just the quiet joy of sitting down and reading a book that you created. It’s a beautiful thing, and for those lucky enough to experience it, welcome to the world of comics. It’s all about the love.

    Posted by Tim Leong on April 6th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |

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