July Prontocast: Phil Jimenez

On July 5, Pronto welcomed famed comic artist Phil Jimenez to our monthly podcast meeting. You’ll recognize Phil’s name from his work on DC’s Wonder Woman (2000-03) and the 2005-06 Infinite Crisis series, as well as Vertigo titles Swamp Thing and The Invisibles, the Barack Obama cover of The Amazing Spider-Man, and many others.

Phil had a shockingly straightforward start in comics. He went to New York’s School of Visual Arts (at the time one of only two U.S. schools with cartooning programs), but was forced to drop out after only two years when he could no longer afford the cost of tuition. He sent out his portfolio to a handful of publishers, and just before he was ready to head back to his hometown in California, received a phone call from DC.

Phil’s first gig was to draw just four pages in the DC miniseries War of the Gods. However, he says he doesn’t think the portfolio he was using at the time would ever get him into the industry today. “I got into the business 22 years ago. It’s a different time now,” Phil told us. “They were giving pages to anyone who could hold a pencil…I think they hired me because they needed hands.”

At the time, though, Phil couldn’t have been more thrilled. After following comic book artist George Pérez for years, Phil was now working with his “primary influence,” and was “drawing his heroes.”

As for the modern comics era, things are far different now. There’s generally no such thing as a “staff artist,” and most companies (Marvel and DC included) do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or portfolios.

If you do want to break into the industry, though, there is one skill that matters just as much now as it did 20 years ago: the ability to tell a story sequentially. Shortly after first being hired, Phil was told that that’s why he’d been selected—not because he could draw.

“The great fun of drawing comics is the problem of telling a story sequentially,” he explained. “Most people want to just draw big splash pages of their favorite characters…But the splash page moment is never going to get you hired.”

Further, there’s more to drawing compelling characters than their faces. Body language and behavior are just as important in creating a personality on a page. Phil lamented the tendency for many characters to look the same, and seemed disappointed in the fans who like that look.

Phil also denounced any sort of diva attitude. He said that when the writer or employer says they want something, it’s the artist’s job to give it to them. He referred to himself a “hired hand,” though not in a bad way. After all, Phil gets to draw his childhood heroes for a living—even if he may be dismayed by the direction a story takes, you really can’t beat that.

Click here to listen to the complete interview with Phil Jimenez.

-Leah Hansen, Associate Editor

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April ProntoCast: Andrea Grant

On April 5th Pronto Cast featured our very first female guest for the podcast: writer, poet, and all-around Renaissance woman Andrea Grant.

Andrea is currently continuing work on her self-published comic, “Minx.” Minx (the character) is a half Native American resident of New York City who falls into a coma after a vicious attack and wakes up in an alternate reality called Dreamtime. The story features elements from Andrea’s own Native American heritage, as well as “Greek mythology, Taoist philosophy, and the classic archetypes developed by Joseph Campbell.”

Andrea writes the comic (“I can’t draw,” she says). The first four issues of “Minx” were recently collected into trade paperback format, and can be purchased through her website, or in stores through Diamond Comic Distributors (if you can’t find it, ask your local comic retailer to order it).

If the comic’s title sounds familiar, you may be thinking of DC’s cancelled “Minx” imprint of graphic novels aimed at teen girls. Interestingly, DC actually sent a cease and desist letter to Andrea over the shared name, and a lawsuit resulted. But “Minx” the alias first appeared in 2001 and the planning for DC’s imprint began several years later.

“Minx” is a self-publishing success story. Andrea felt that no publisher would “get it,” and that it was up to her to make the comic the best it could be, instead of relying on a traditional publisher. She found her artists by “walking around a comic con,” and got the work out there by simply pounding the pavement. “People will sense your passion, and value that,” she says.

Now the first three issues are sold out on Andrea’s site, there’s a full-color graphic novel, and the series has been written up in The Village Voice, Newsarama, Examiner.com, and a slew of other publications and websites. It’s an inspiration to all us self-publishers.

Andrea can be followed on Twitter @copiousamounts. The entire podcast will be up on Pronto Wednesday April 25th.

-Leah Hansen

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.