Ask the Comic Book Guy: Introduction

Welcome, readers, to Pronto’s newest column, Ask the Comic Book Guy. Here, comic writer and Pronto contributor Dennis Knight will answer questions about working in and creating comics. If you have a question for Dennis, leave a comment on this post (or any other) and you may see the answer in a future post. Without further ado…


Ask the Comic Book Guy: Introduction, and How to Pitch to a Publisher

By Dennis Knight

Hello everyone! My name is Dennis Knight and I have six years experience working in the medium of comic books and graphic novels. The purpose of this column is to offer advice to individuals who want to work in this medium professionally. This post will discuss how to submit an original creator-owned story to a publisher.

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The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist ~ Fast Times

By James Donahue

One of the more challenging aspects of creating something editorial is keeping up with the fast-paced environment of the news cycle. If it’s an article, a cartoon, or even a letter to the editor, by the time the ink is dry or the send button has been pushed, is your point still relevant to the news of the day?

The big news story of the morning might be an afterthought by lunchtime. Did a major event happen on the other side of the country while you slept? It may be a topic on which you have an interesting opinion, but by the time you publish it may hardly seem valid. No matter what form you use to express your opinion, it’s best to move fast.

Write fast, draw fast, and send it to wherever it’s going just as fast. This hardly seems like a problem with the technology we have at our disposal. Most people have access to a computer, a tablet, or at the very least a smartphone, all which can be used for writing and publishing. Handheld technology can also be used to draw. A quick search yields a minimum of 15 drawing apps for the iPad alone, ranging in price from $0.99 to $14.99. The means to express yourself are certainly available; the real question is, do you have enough time to do it before your topic becomes passé?

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Advice from Jamal Igle

 

At November’s monthly meeting, Jamal Igle was kind enough to speak to Pronto. Jamal can be described as nothing less then a consummate professional. He has worked on Nightwing, G.I. Joe, Firestorm, and Green Lantern, just to name a few titles. He has been called a triple threat: talented, reliable, and pleasant to work with! Here is the advice he gave Pronto:
On Breaking In
Started as an intern
Held onto his editorial contacts from interning
Get editors business cards
Ask if you can show them your portfolio
Have work online
Deviant Art is important
On Pitching
Bank as much material as you can
Have at least 3 issues done
The business has changed because of lawsuits (ie, DC + Marvel won’t read unsolicited pitches)
On Getting Work
He made the decision early on that he would work in comics no matter what.
Took whatever job he could get for whatever money
Wore a lot of hats
Independent work indirectly led to getting comics work
Be aware Indies will low-ball you
Know what your time is worth
You can’t just put anything out there (focus on quality)
Ape and Arcana are good to new talent
The playing field is very high; you are competing with pros, even in independents
Make sure your game is tight, on par with Marvel, DC, IDW and so on
On Staying in
Have a good work ethic
Work even when you don’t want to draw
Stay on schedule, even if you don’t have motivation
When you are working on a monthly, you are behind schedule most of the time
Don’t expect to have references supplied
Average 1 page a day
On Craft
Concentrate on storytelling not style
Everyone is an individual
If it is in the script, try to get it on the page
Focus on character first; build around the character
Create complete personalities
The character will dictate his/her world
Super hero comics should have 4 to 6 panels per page
More panels slow down beats of time
On Money
If you have a day job, hold onto it
There is a financial toll for doing creator-owned work
You need 12 issues, a solid year, to gauge your sales

Advice from Brian Smith

 

During our September meeting, Brian Smith, a former Marvel editor, freelancer for Nickelodeon, and creator of Stuff of Legend and Intrepid Escapegoat, came to talk to Pronto Comics. He offered advice on breaking in, staying in, small publishers, conventions, promotions, and good city colleges to attend. His advice was well received and Pronto was lucky to have him.

On Breaking In

Put your work out there.
Constantly network cause you don’t know where it will take you.
You have to make people aware of your work.
The more you know how to do the better.

On Submissions

Send a letter first, a query letter.
Physical, snail mail letter is best.
Be specific in the editors you send it to, don’t blanket the company
Breaking in as a writer is a nightmare.
They won’t read a pitch, but they will read a comic.

On Staying in

You constantly have to prove yourself.
Everyone is only interested in your last project.
When you’re working with other people, just do your job.
Don’t overstep your role and dictate.
Give your artist things they like to draw.
Be easy to work with, do your best to walk away when it’s done.
Editors are involved, but are hands off.
They’ll help you generate ideas and connect the dots.

On Process

Not-so-good ideas can have merit, if executed well.
Find good, honest sounding boards for your ideas.
As yourself, “Is it as entertaining as something I can buy at a store?”

On Drawing Craft

Life drawing will lead to everything else.
Draw what you see, use books and life drawing sessions
Always look at original art when you can.
You will see more then what is in the original comic

On Work Ethic

Go to work, even if you don’t feel like it.
If you can treat it as a 9 – 5 job, that’s half the battle.
Time is more valuable than money.
If you can put the time in, everything else will fall into place.
You’ll figure out your schedule as a freelancer.

On Publishing

Self publishing and small publishers are a good way to go.
Start with small publishers.
Small publishers are more personal and hands on.
Digital is a good way to go.

On Stores

Free Comic Book Day is huge for small publishers.
Develop relationships with store owners.
They can help recommend you book to customers.

On Conventions

Pick the conventions carefully for what you want to get out of them.
San Diego is a massive show and a tough show to work.
N.Y. is similar, but there are more editors.
Smaller shows are better.
Hero’s con in Charlotte is good, so is Baltimore.

Advice from DC’s “Answer Man”

It was during our August meeting that DC’s “Answer Man” Bob Rozakis visited Pronto Comics. Bob got his start in comics working on the pro-zine “The Amazing world of DC Comics.” While working at DC he worked on (either as a writer or editor) Superman, Action Comics, Detective Comics, and ‘Mazin Man. Between 1981 and 1998 he ran DC’s production department.

While talking to Pronto Comics, he gave an informative and entertaining talk about the history of comics and graciously answered our questions, while imparting advice to us.

– Currently people are looking for entertainment.

– Better to get one good stand alone issue, then 12 padded issues.

– Tell as story in an issue. Give the audience their monies worth. It worked well for early Vertigo.

– Companies need to pay attention to what is coming up and trending.

– Trends cycle every 10 to 15 years.

– Creator owned independents is the most innovative work.

– The big 2’s mindset is-“this is what we do and that’s it.”

– Pronto is an ideal spot, because we are publishing and getting something done.

– Pronto should build a fan base and show we can sell.

– Try to appeal to younger readers, but make sure you pick your age carefully.

– Kids are interested, but price is a factor.

– Comics have gotten caught up in Trade Paper Back fever.

– Print-on-demand levels the playing field.

– Everything is going digital.