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    Words of Encouragement from Adrian Tomine

    Adrian Tomine first started writing
    and drawing Optic Nerve, a mixture of autobiographical and fictional stories, when he was 20. He hasn’t looked back since. Besides producing the top-selling Nerve, Tomine also works as a commercial illustrator and has done several New Yorker covers — a high achievement. How can top that? By talking to Comic Foundry and giving advice to you, the readers, of course.

    How did you get started? Did you have a favorite artist or a mentor? Any gritty details worth mentioning?
    I’ve been drawing comics since I was a little kid, and I’ve always wanted to be a cartoonist. I think that lifelong experience and single-mindedness is really what’s brought me to the point I’m at now, more so than talent or luck. I got started professionally by sending my self-published mini-comics to various artists and publishers. Eventually Drawn & Quarterly called me up and offered me a deal. I still recommend self-publishing, even if it’s as primitive as my early efforts were, as a way of getting your work seen.

    What outlets should aspiring artists look to in order to publish their work? Newspapers, magazines, college papers?
    I guess it depends on what your aspirations are. I always wanted to work in the world of comic books, so that was my focus. The commercial illustration work that I’ve done was a byproduct of the comic, not vice versa.

    How about small independent comic publishers? Which ones are particularly easy for up-and-coming writers and artists to deal with?
    Well, there’s only a few left these days, and they all seem pretty decent. I think the real variable is how easy these up-and-coming artists are to deal with.

    (Note: In other e-mails Adrian has mentioned Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly as two outstanding indie publishers.)

    What’s the etiquette in pitching a project to a media outlet? Should creators have a voluminous portfolio or just a few good ideas on paper?
    I feel like this question and the previous one are searching for “the correct way” to get published, and I think the most important thing is just to be good. I know that sounds glib, but the truth is, most publishers I know are dying to find good, new talent to publish. So I don’t think it’s any kind of game, really. If you do good work and behave like a decent person, I think you’ll be on your way.

    It is fair to expect to be paid as a beginning comic creator, or should writers and artists expect to do some pro bono work initially for anyone who’ll publish it?
    If your interest in comics has ANYTHING to do with money, then just give up. For the most part, it’s a very low-stakes situation, and it’s tough way to make a living. (Again, I’m just speaking with regards to the world of “alternative” comics. Mainstream comics might be a whole different matter, for all I know.) I’m not saying that there’s no money to be made, but I think your primary reward has to be the work itself. If you require financial rewards and critical acclaim and popular response, then it might just be too heartbreaking of an endeavor for you. I hate to sound discouraging, but I think people should know
    what they’re getting into.

    What’s your opinion on self-publishing mini-comics? Are they worth the time and investment? Do they work, or would the writer/artists be better off diversifying his or her portfolio instead?
    I like mini-comics, and I think they can also serve as a means of getting your work seen. I know that, for whatever reason, I’ll pay more attention to someone’s mini-comic than a stack of loose Xeroxes.

    How might an aspiring creator market his or her stuff to one of the big-name comic publishers? Is it even feasible anymore to aim for Marvel, DC and Image?
    I have no knowledge about working for mainstream publishers. It’s an empty pursuit, in my mind.

    —Interview by Patrick Rollens

    Posted by Tim Leong on April 20th, 2005 filed in Story Archive |

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