millarworld.tv Comics Creators

What I look for in a comic artist...


#1

I’ve been posting lots of comic advice and musings elsewhere such as on LinkedIn + Creativepool - so thought I’d repost these thoughts here.


I’ve commissioned a fair amount of art in my time. Some of it comic based, some just one-off pieces in a particular style for a particular brief. I know what I’m looking for and what I expect when I commission a project. In my side career as a comic writer, I’m often the first port of call in recommending an artist for an upcoming series. This could be anything from a single issue (20 pages) up to 8 issues across (256 pages). If you ever wanted to dabble in the world of comics, below is a little run down of the things I’d always be looking out for. (N.B. This isn’t a definitive list by any stretch of the imagination, just some pointers I tend to work to.)

1. A solid art style.

On the surface this may appear pretty obvious. However, consistency is a must. It’s important to make sure you can maintain your style as a series develops. In some cases, there will be a slight change of style as characters are committed to muscle memory and the flow eases as a story progresses. Watch your line weights, try to ink with the same level of detail and balance. Borders should also be the same thickness (unless weighted differently for a design reason). If you are struggling to ink your work evenly, consider working only on the pencils and letting a professional inker handle this aspect (there is no shame in splitting up the responsibilities). I also understand that artists are constantly developing their styles, just remember this shouldn’t happen midway through a story arc.

2. Master your art.

By this, I mean understand how to draw. Too often I’ve seen potential artists get everything right except the smallest detail, such as hands or feet. Although minor, these are critical details which need to be drawn correctly. Often these areas show up a weakness in an particular artist. My advice is: practise, practise and practise. Invest time in Life Drawing classes, make sure you understand anatomy, most comics will feature a man or a woman at some point (probably more often than not). A poor interpretation of the human form could be the difference between hiring or passing. The best artists I know are always sketching regardless of where they are.

3. Draw everything.

Okay, not exactly everything… but draw enough to convince me you can cope with complicated scenarios. Can you draw animals? What about cars? How are you with buildings? Spaceships? Orcs? What about a table with a bowl of fruit? A horse? What about a bike with a horse riding it while balancing a bowl of fruit? I’m not expecting you to cover all the bases, but I do expect to see enough in your work to reassure me you are comfortable with whatever a script throws at you.

4. Watch those angles.

Watch any film for five minutes and tell me how many different camera angles you spot. Two? Ten? Twenty? Whatever the number, you’ve got to be able to move the panel POV to match the script. A good artist can follow any given script and draw any given angle, a great artist can look at a script and suggest a better angle the writer hasn’t even thought of.

5. Practise layouts.

Word flow through a page is critical and an art in itself. Ensure your examples showcase your understanding of narrative flow as dialogue travels down the page.

6. Remember the Letterer!

A Letterer is a critical part of the team, they are going to be the one placing all the dialogue, onomatopoeia and narrative inside your drawings. Keep an eye on each panel to make sure you allow enough room for the Letterer to do their thing. Otherwise you may find that amazing drawing of the bike riding horse with the bowl of fruit obscured by a large, unexpected, word balloon.

7. Remember the Colourist!

Your colourist is your friend… Give them enough guidance with your work so they know what they you need them to do before they begin (this isn’t always needed, but I have found some artists like to give notes for additional details such as reflections etc). If you colour your own work, great, but make sure you can colour correctly. Don’t be offended if I get Colourist to do this for you - it might be because I have a tight deadline to hit and you’re going to need the help.

8. Deadlines are real.

Your work is a part of a larger publishing machine. You have a responsibility to ensure your creative output is delivered on time. This is something you’ll improve on with time, but do try to review the script and give a good guide to your page per week output. You can’t foresee complications like illness or incidents, but you do generally know if you are going on holiday one week before your pages are due. Ensure you keep an open and up-to-date dialogue with your writer/publishing team to keep things on track. There’s going to be a Letterer, Colourist, Editor, Publisher, Writer and Printer all waiting on your pages to follow a pre-planned schedule.

9. Be Professional.

Don’t bail halfway through a project just because you got a better deal from a bigger publisher. If you committed to a comic series and you are already working on it in good faith, at least do the right thing and finish that issue. If you have a contract for the entire series, then see that series through before starting another (unless you want a legal batte on your hands). Poor professional behaviour will stick with you regardless of who you work with.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Writers and Publishers aren’t your enemies. If something is bothering you or a deadline can’t be met, or you’re struggling for whatever reason, then say something. I’d always prefer to know as early as possible so I can adjust expectations, rather than giving bad news to a client at the 11th hour. Help is always available and there’s always a solution to every problem… if caught early enough.

I hope the above helps in some small way.

As ever, you can find me on Twitter @AndiEwington


#2

This is a great list. Must read for any would be artist - and not just read but understand and learn.

The big two I think are establish your own style (every great artist has art that’s immediately recognizable as their work) and learn to draw anything. If you can’t draw a car or a giraffe or a budgie then you’re not ready to be a full time artist.


#3

Cheers Jim - appreciate the feedback :stuck_out_tongue:


#4

Here’s a follow-up post about Comic Pitching.

I recently posted on Twitter a bunch of #ComicPitch #Tips. I was subsequently asked to re-blog them in one handy place, so here you go!

In no particular order:

• Make sure you include some professional lettering and colouring. Try to supply a few example pages of the finished thing.

• Show you understand your audience - give an indication of the demographic you are aiming for and marketable opportunities.

• List previous publishing credentials for your team.

• Try and make the pitch look professional, invest in a bit of design time on the pages.

• Keep the outline for the story to one page. Hit the main beats and avoid meandering into every tiny detail.

• Leave room for publisher involvement in your idea. Be welcoming of additional input and change of concept direction.

• Understand your publisher needs. Check their current slate. Anything close to your own IP will probably be passed on.

• Try to network with editors at events, building a rapport over time will improve your chances over a cold unsolicited email.

• Get into the habit of building bibles for your IP. You may be asked for it if there’s genuine interest in your pitch.

• Your IP should be first presented as a short elevator pitch before being developed with a deeper series outline.

• Number all the pages, add a project title to each footer and add full contact details on the title page.

• Unless you are a designer or know someone with design experience on comic titles, avoid designing a logo for your IP.

• Pitch your IP with a full team, ensure you have secured your letterers, colourist and artist before your make an approach.

• Don’t rest on your laurels, pitches to publishers can take a while to review. Keep busy by working on your next pitch.

• Try to track IP trends, avoid pitches ideas that already exist in a saturated market. Look at what’s popular in TV/Film.

• Be ahead of the curve. publishers are more likely to engage with original content with broadcast potential than worn tropes.

• Be realistic with your planned comic series. Most publishers will look for 4 issue minis or a 6 issue run. Anymore is rare.

• Unless you are legally trained, any contract offer you get should be looked at by an entertainment lawyer.

• Most publishers will take a set percentage of your title in return for publishing. Ask what costs will also be taken out.

• Be aware of what rights you are relinquishing by signing with a publisher and what happens if it is optioned.

• Unless specifically invited or you’ve permission to, avoid pitching ideas which belong in part to a third party.

• Remember there are significant differences between full copyright vs publishing rights, it’s your job to understand them.

• Publisher contracts will often work in favour of the publisher. It’s not unreasonable to negotiate any sticking points.

• Accept Publisher rejection gracefully. This isn’t the moment to start telling your contact why they are wrong about your IP.

• There is always more than one way to market. Comics shouldn’t be the start and end of your journey. Think laterally.

• Show passion rather than obsession. Don’t harass for an answer, be patient and keep busy with your next idea.

Feel free to share.


#5

Good to meet you last night, Andi. This is all useful stuff for people, thanks for sharing your thoughts.


#6

Pleasure fella - was a good night. Hopefully see you at the next one!


#7

Some thoughts I posted on: IP and learning when to say ‘Au revoir’ rather than ‘Adieu’.

Creating is a very personal experience, we see our ideas as our children, born in our imagination to be proudly shared with the world. The stark reality is that not every idea will see the light of day, no matter how much we nurture and grow them. Market resistance is inevitable, not everyone is going to see what you see in your IP. Publishers will be following trends, be constrained by budgets and have to balance what their audience wants versus what they believe will succeed.

I have phases of self-doubt when I find my ideas aren’t gaining publisher traction, I take it very personally and become self-critical of my work. The truth is, there’s probably nothing wrong with my idea, it’s just not the right time for it to shine.

I’ve had to be very disciplined when faced with rejection. That doesn’t mean that I simply abandon the idea altogether, more that I park it and head in a new direction. It’s about saying to your idea ‘I’ll see you again’ rather than ‘farewell’. Learn from your rejection as to what your market wants, try to find out from a publisher what they are looking for and write ahead of the next curve.

We’ve all heard stories about successful writers who champion their idea through hundreds of rejection letters before finding fame. Yes, that is wholly possible and some of you will persevere to the end. For those that stay the course and find El Dorado, I applaud your tenacity and never-say-die attitude. However, for every single recorded success there will be a thousands of those that fail, only you will know when you’ve exhausted every possibility. All I’m saying is don’t despair, your IP’s time could still come.

Often these trends go in cycles, rotating on an axis of popularity which will go through a gamut of genres before returning again. Maybe on the next trending wave you can catch a break and see your IP ride off to glory. But while you wait, you should be writing in a new direction, pushing boundaries and trends that are going to get you noticed. Breakaway from your old IP and develop a new angle for yourself. It will, in the very least, show you to be a versatile writer.


#8

Great advice too!


#9

This is GREAT! Always love hearing insights like this!!
THANK YOU!!


#10

Pleasure! :facepunch:t2::wink::+1:t2:


#11

Hey guys and gals, this is another post I wrote about: The Art of Creation - enjoy! AE

I’m sometimes asked in interviews, ‘Where do your ideas come from?’ It’s an interesting question and truthfully, there is no right or wrong answer. I’ve always found ideas can originate from a multitude of sources at any given time, most often when you’re not searching for them at all. Making much sense? Probably not… but then that’s exactly what I mean.

Let me try and formulate the above in some digestible short-form answers:

Be influenced vs taking influence.

What do I mean by that? Surely this is the same thing? Well yes and no. I see taking influence from something to mean just that. You’ve seen a film, read a book and said to yourself, that’s what I want to create. You’re taking the core idea and putting it through your own blender, mixing the idea up just enough to become your own. This is a great way to keep the ideas flowing and generate fresh and relevant content. As a designer this is something I see on a near daily basis. Ideas are passed like a baton from one creator to the next, changed then passed on. There’s nothing wrong with this approach as long as you not blatantly ripping off the previous idea and painting it as your own. Always be respectful to your source material.

Being influenced is something else altogether. It’s experiencing something enough that the idea forms from outside of the source material. It’s like watching Private Ryan and wanting to write a war film vs watching Private Ryan and wanting to write a story about heroism and self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming odds. Being influenced can stir powerful emotions, it can generate the passion that resides only within you and no-one else. It’s a message that needs to be told in ways nobody else can communicate, and it can be the most personal and satisfying ideas of them all.

Break the rules.

Most ideas follow the same rules and formula which broadly follow a familiar path from opening set-up through to conflict and resolution. Along this path will be additional stages such as progression, higher stakes, set-backs, etc…

Wait.

Stop.

Rewind…

If your aim is to make a film or a TV show, then yes, this framework will be the bedrock of your idea. Nearly every story you watch on TV or read in a book will follow this trusted formula. It doesn’t mean you have to approach it in the same way when thinking about your own concept. This is the development stage of your idea when you should be pushing the rules, breaking out of the stereotypical path and forging ahead on your own. Sure, you’ll probably wind up back on the same familiar road because the story naturally takes you that way but don’t be afraid to break from convention and try something different. You may discover characters and scenarios you hadn’t even dreamed of.

Understanding your audience.

This point has become my mantra of late, but without understanding ‘who’ your audience is, how will you know your idea is going to resonate with them (unless you are channeling the spirit of Kevin Coster from Field of Dreams)? From studio executives to the fan in the street, you should have a good idea of the age bracket of your target audience. If you can’t pin down the demographic then how will you know what language you should be using within your narrative. Will sticking in a few swear words reduce your target audience and give your idea an edge? Or will make it appeal to teens give you that market penetration your idea desperately needs? Having a good understanding of your readers before you start will help set the tone of your idea. When I create an idea I always try to steer it towards a set group I believe will connect with it.

Absorb everything.

Ideas can come from anything and from any direction. It could be a conversation, a piece of music that inspires you or a feeling at from any given moment. Creativity, you should be a sponge, absorbing every tiny detail from your working day. Do you have a long commute? Then watch what is going on around you, imagine the stories your fellow commuters hold behind their phone obsessed fixed stare. Feed off these moments and try to channel these thoughts into a creative muse. There are even ideas in routine; just because something is boring doesn’t mean there isn’t a gem of a story there… somewhere.

Write them down!

My memory is the worst, especially when it comes to the matter of remembering the numerous ideas I have. I quickly learned that I need to keep all my sparks of inspiration in one easy-to-reach place (on my laptop for those wondering) -I admit, it’s grown into a massive list of mad ramblings but they’re there for the future. Sometimes it’s just a line or two, other times it’s a whole page. Be active and keep adding to it. The worst thing you can do is have a spark of inspiration in the shower and forget it by the time you walk out of the house. I’ve lost so many good ideas by not putting them down as quickly as possible at that moment.

Let it brew for a while.

The best ideas can take months even years to come to the boil. Give them time to grow, try to develop the story every day you think about them. Bat around different scenarios and play out different outcomes. Just because you’re not finalising that idea right now doesn’t mean you can’t think about it. I often let an idea bubble away in my mind before deciding write it out fully. There’s nothing wrong in giving your idea time to grow from a good idea into a great one. If you followed my advice from the point above and kept your idea in one handy place, it should be a simple matter of referring to your notes to pick up the creative trail once again.

Don’t be afraid to step away.

Ideas are fickle beasts, they are wild and are hard to tame. If an idea is being particularly difficult, step away. Do something else, centre yourself and clear your mind of it. There’s no sense in beating yourself up or forcing the idea. You’ll only end up doing it, and yourself a disservice.

It’s not a race… it’s a journey.

Once you settle on your idea, don’t sell yourself short by rushing through to get to the end. It’s not a race to be first across the finishing line, it’s a journey that needs to be savoured at every stage. Like a country walk, stop and review where you’ve been, take in what’s around you, and look at what lies ahead. It’s important to find time to take a breath, be steady with your writing, make sure you are hitting your beats and your ideas will flow naturally.


#12

Another previous blog post: Writing: Your State of Mind.

Writing is an extremely isolated experience. Often one that requires a degree of closure to the rest of the world. Sometimes, when I’m lost to those lonely moments, I’ve found myself questioning my writing ability, convinced that nobody is ever going to read the words I’ve slaved over. All writers will go through periods of self-doubt and critical self-analysis. This is a natural part of the creative process. These probing questions are good as long as you remember to balance the darkness of self-doubt with a little beacon of self-belief.

Writing is about the journey, not just the end destination.

It is possible that we can lose sight of what is going on around us as we write. Hastening through scenes to hit that magical ending. Remember, it is important to keep looking where we have been and where we are right now, just as much as where we are going. Keep the end in sight but make sure you enjoy the whole journey towards it.

Writing is a marathon, not a race.

Unless you are on a time critical deadline, don’t rush your work. Rushing is a compromise of output over creativity. Mistakes will creep into your narrative if you hammer through it like Usain Bolt on roller-blades. Be objective! Are characters reacting in a consistent way? Is your plot water-tight? Is it making sense to your target audience? Take your time, if Rome wasn’t built in a day, then it certainly isn’t going to need a detailed guide of the city written within 24 hours either.

Don’t seek praise.

We all love to receive praise but we can sometimes be too focuses on seeking peer approval. To have our work recognised by others is a massive high and can give you a confidence boost. However, it’s better to have this level of adulation given freely than to hunt for it. Be wary not to fall into the trap of putting your own work down in passing conversation, to me, that’s just another way of seeking out plaudits from others. I’m a firm believer that good work will always be recognised.

Accept failure.

Failure isn’t final. Accepting failure is all part of the creative process of making you a better writer. Sometimes you will write yourself into corner, or discover your Magnum Opus already exists in one form or another. Don’t dwell on it, digest what you have learned, develop what you have written, take a deep breath and plunge immediately back in. There is nothing worse than staring at a blank page on a screen and letting it beat you before you’ve even begun (again).

Be dedicated to your craft.

Writing is a passion that has to be nurtured; ensure you set part of the day aside for it. The more regimented you are with your writing, the more it will become part of your daily routine. Give yourself a page rate target (mine is around 4 per day), if you don’t hit that target, don’t stress -just make sure the pages you do turn in are the best of the best.

Be Healthy.

It’s important to ensure you are eating and drinking correctly while working on your copy. Make sure you remember to hydrate while writing, take a break from the screen and adjust your posture. It’s all too easy to be lost in a writing ‘moment’ and forego the small things that could have have a huge impact later on in our lives. I often suffer from migraine attacks from staring at the screen or backache from sitting in the wrong position too long. Look after your body as well as your mind.

Human Interaction.

As I mentioned at the beginning, writing is the lonely path we tread. I do encourage you to reconnect with the people around you. This doesn’t then mean you seize the first opportunity to talk about what you are writing, that’s a cheap shot courtesy of your creativity as it tries to woo you back to your keyboard. Switch off and start living again in the real world. It’s only through the enjoyment of living experiences that we can, in turn, enrich the content of what we write.

Trust yourself.

Probably the biggest ally you can have is yourself. If you are writing then you are achieving something only others can dream of. That alone should be applauded. Have faith in your abilities and always enjoy what you write.