Monday, March 30, 2009

Views from the Top

Again thanks to Jon Colton and more thoughts on getting work, this time from Marvel chief Joe Quesada. (edited by me for spelling and punctuation).

Joe Quesada’s Portfolio Tips
March 19th, 2009

This evening, Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada was Twittering tips for new comics artists who are building a portfolio to show editors. We’ve captured these tweets for your reading convenience. You can follow Quesada’s messages yourself at:

  • Okay, how about some portfolio building advice? Grab your notepads and pencils, kiddies.
  • Okay, first, you’ve heard it before: don’t letter your samples. No SFX either.
  • Don’t ink your work, unless they are ink samples over someone else’s pencils. Don’t color your own work unless you’re a painter.
  • Keep it simple, an editor does not need to see a 30-page portfolio. We can tell by the second page whether someone has the stuff.
  • I see people spinning their wheels doing these gigantic portfolios and I end up feeling bad, because whether they’re good or not, they wasted a lot of time.
  • A perfect penciling portfolio can be built in 12 pages.
  • Three stories, consisting of no more than 3 pages each. Three cover samples that relate to your story.
  • Each story a silent vignette, with a beginning, middle and end. No words, but the viewer should be able to tell exactly what’s going on.
  • Pick a single character vignette, a team vignette and then one with two people doing ordinary things. A quiet moment.
  • Artists have it easier than writers folks, there’s no way to sugarcoat it.
  • However, writers have the ability to make more money than artist if they’re prolific.
  • Okay, so, out of your single hero and team vignettes, make sure one is DCcentric and the other Marvel. The quiet vignette can be Vertigo.
  • Your vignette doesn’t have to be a brilliant story, keep it simple, just make sure it’s clear.
  • Here’s an example of 3 pages and a cover that got me my first gig at DC.
  • Page 1 Small panel of Supes flying, pull back it’s a TV screen, pull back its Luthor watching Supes on Multiple screens, he pushes a lever.
  • Page 2 Supes flies, rescues a cat from a tree hands it to a little girl. Something off panel gets his attention. He flies off.
  • Page 3 Supes encounters a giant robot, knocks it out with one punch, stands heroically on robot's chest. Pull back, he’s on the TV screen.
  • Pull back and Luthor smashes his fist on his desk as he watches what just happened.
  • Cover- Superman struggles in the hand of the giant robot.
  • Simple, brainless story, but the point got across.
  • I was going to give some writers submission advice, but we’re not accepting writer submissions at the moment.
  • Marvel was accepting cold writer submissions until it recently became too overwhelming to keep up with. Hopefully we will again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Great Twittered Tips

Courtesy of AAU grad Jon Colton, a bunch of Twitters from Marvel's head reviewer of art, C.B. Cebulski. Interesting reading, especially when he mentions how he prospects for people online!


* When and if sending an editor samples pages, always save as JPEGs and keep all files under 300K.

* PDFs are cool too, but try and keep them around 2MB tops. Last thing you wanna do is crash an editor’s inbox.

* And limit attachments to your 5 or 6 best pieces. If the editor wants to see more, he/she will ask you to send more.

* Yes, a link to a blog with your art would always be recommended over attachments to begin with.

* Sorry, writers, but I’m offering advice for artists. Maybe some of the editors here can chime in and help you guys?

* Blogs are always structured chronologically with newest posts first which is another reason I recommend them.

* Yes, it’s definitely harder for writers than artists to break into comics these days, in my opinion.

* And when I say “breaking into comics”, I’m generally referring to working for the more major mainstream publishers.

* Truth be told, it’s easier than ever for anyone to “break into comics” via webcomics and self-publishing these days.

* The internet &/or print-on-demand services mean anyone with an idea, motivation & a little $ can bring a comic to life.

* Barely anyone has “broken in” at Marvel or DC directly. We always say it’s better to be published elsewhere first.

* I always recommend people make comics, whether it’s for themselves or to try and break in professionally.

* It’s easier than ever for writers to find artists, and vice versa, here on the net. (cont.) Like Digital Webbing, Deviant Art,, and lots of creator boards, like Bendis and Millar, to name a few.

* The question of digital art vs. on the board is a question each artist needs to answer for themselves.

* Makes no difference to the editor or publisher really. How you create your art is your business.

* Yes, “good, fast or nice.” If you’re two of the three, you can get a job in comics, as the saying goes.

* I can almost guarantee you that my idea of being “Marvel ready” and an up-an-coming artist’s idea of “Marvel ready” are totally different.

* The two main things we look for are style and storytelling. Speed is something we learn and judge later.

* I don’t really know as I don’t recruit writers or review their work, but I would assume so.

* Bad storytelling is bad even w/ the flashiest finish. Good ST is good w/ a crayon.

* Got my first “where does a nobody like you get off giving advice on breaking into comics” note. Must’ve been from someone I didn’t hire.

* If your work gets picked for review at a con, it means yours was one of the better drop-offs the Marvel editors saw.

* Sample pages = TEST pages. They’re a means for artists to “try out” for an editor. They’re not a guarantee of work.

* If you have published work, it’s better to send the editor the actual books than links to the stories online.

* The most important thing to remember about working in comics is that THIS IS A JOB!

* Your portfolio is your resume. Talks with editors are your job interviews. Be professional.

* Yes, working in comics is a lot of fun, but it’s still work and has to be approached as such.

* No need to dress up to meet editors at cons. It’s more about acting professionally. Showering helps tho.

* Proper etiquette for following up with an editor after a meeting at a con? I recommend the rule of 4 Ps. (cont.)
Be persistent. Be patient. Don’t be pushy. Don’t be a pain-in-the-ass.

* Wait a week to send out your initial e-mail. No attachments. Follow-up two weeks later if you don’t hear back.

* Then just send updates letting the editor know what you’re up to every 4 - 6 weeks. Never more than once a month.

* Yup, everything I say here may be common sense, but you have no idea how many people don’t get it right.

* I’d say the Rule of 4 Ps applies to both artists and writers.

* It’s interesting, in discussing it over beers last night, we all seemed to agree that writers tend to be much pushier than artists.

* We also noticed an increase in the disturbing trend of “editor fishing” going on of late. Editor fishing = Telling Editor #1 you’re coming to the office for a meeting with Editor #2 when you don’t actually have an appointment.

* This done in hopes of Editor #1 not checking with Editor #2, thereby tricking him into letting you into offices for a meeting you never had.
Oh, yeah… people just show up at the Marvel offices all the time. The receptionists are experts at dealing with it!

* Although there was one time Dave Finch dropped by unannounced to drop off pages and they didn’t believe him or let him in.

* You’d be surprised. There’re 2 writers famous for it & always manage to pull it off. They usually pull it on new editors.

* Oh, editors check, but you’ll find comics people are very forgiving of talent and always like to believe the best in creators.

* No, wearing a Marvel t-shirt to a con will not improve your chance of getting a meeting with a Marvel editor.

* You know, this is actually working. Gotten lots of e-mails and replies with intros and links to sweet art blogs. Cool!

* Who knows… maybe Marvel will soon have our first Twitter hire?

* Again, I am not trying to pick on or deny new writers opportunities. It’s just not part of my job. NOT what I do. I’m Marvel’s artist guy.
I come across many new artists via links on creator blogs. So new artists, get your pro friends to start linking to you.

* There have more new opportunities for new writers at Marvel these past two years than ever before. I see a new name at least every month.

* Astonishing Tales, X-Men Manifest Destiny, MCP… almost every issue debuts as new voice that the editors have discovered.

* Looking at the new issue of Astonishing Tales, there are two new writers in there. One who had a short story in MCP, one making his debut.
Marvel also has new writer specific one-shots that they do to test run new writers who they think have the chops to write for Marvel.

* I know for a fact Axel Alonso hired an up-and-coming writer he likes just this past Thursday for a Punisher one-shot of this nature.
He’d been following this writer’s work at few other publishers, read his newest issue, thought he’d found his voice, and called him.

* Yes, these gigs are on short stories, one-shots and maybe not the best sellers, so you might not hear read them or hear about these guys.
But the point is the chances are now out there. Systems are in places at Marvel to get new writers in on a regular basis. More so than ever.

* “New” meaning “new to Marvel”, yes. Which brings up another myth I’ll be happy to dispel re: screenwriters and novelists at Marvel. (cont.)
Just because they work in another entertainment medium, that doesn’t mean they have an automatic in at Marvel. Far from the case.
TV/movie/novel writing is very different from comic writing. Writing for an artist, understand the pacing, etc., are completely different.
And the editors at Marvel know and understand this. Any writer from Hollywood or literature has to try out just like any other new writer.

* Yes, you may see more names crossing over into comics these days, but the door wasn’t magically just opened for them.
Maybe they get more “buzz” due to their other writing, but that’s to be expected. But they now write in comic cuz they KNOW and LOVE comics.

* You know, I’d bet there were more “new” writers than “Hollywood” writers hired by Marvel in 2008. You just never heard of the newer guys.

* Yes, you can sit here and argue and debate every point I bring up about breaking into comics, but really… what’s the point?

* You don’t like what I have to say? Feel free to ignore me. Follow your own path. Break in your own way. Please.

* My opinions and advice are my own, formed from personal experience. I pass it on with only the best of intention. I’m only trying to help.
Oh, I don’t mind. I know I’m just a Marvel corporate stooge to some people, doing spin control to covering up the big Marvel conspiracy.

* “I’ve got the best ideas for (insert Marvel character here) since Stan Lee and Marvel won’t publish them cuz they’re scared I’m so good!”
Oh, you found us out. You’re so good that we’re keeping you down just so we don’t have to fire hacks like @BRIANMBENDIS & @mattfraction!

* None of this sours me on Twitter or the internet in any way. I’ve been getting it for years and expect it. Makes me smile actually.

* And I’m saving it all for my book. The chapter on how NOT to break into comics continues to grow on an almost daily basis.

* Yes, breaking into comics really can be murder.

* Most of the comments I’ve been getting have been via e-mail and DMs actually. I guess people want me to see them but not make them public.

* And as some seem to have missed the point, the tweets about a Marvel conspiracy and me calling my friends Brian and Matt hacks WERE A JOKE!
Woke up to inboxes full of material ripe for Twittering about!

* First and foremost, don’t use the current “global economic crisis” as an attempt to get work. It’s not just you who’s suffering financially.

* Comic jobs are given based on talent, not economic need. Can’t believe I had 2 e-mails trying to guilt me into work! What’re you thinking?!

* There are plenty of already established pencilers who have fallen on hard times and who are out there looking for work as well.

* And we’re more than likely to call up and offer a gig to a pro we’ve worked with before and know we can trust.

* I don’t care if “I’m new and hungry and will work cheaper than the other pencilers out there because I desperately need money to get by.”

* And another thing, if you happen to find out personal details about an editor, don’t try and use them as an in to get work.
(And I’m not saying this about me as I put all my shit out here online and am always happy to talk about anything I post.)

* But I’ve heard from other editors how artists at portfolio reviews, complete strangers mind you, asked about their wife and/or kids by name.
Or knew where they went to college. Or challenged them to a game of one-on-one as they heard the editor liked basketball.

* There’s a line between the personal and the professional. Between being friendly and being creepy. Just know where it is and don’t cross it.

* The number one piece of advice I give newer, up-and-coming artists: stick to the grid! There’s nothing more important in my opinion.

* And for those that haven’t seen it, here’s “Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work”:

* Second piece of advice I always find myself giving newbies: Don’t break the panel borders. It’s distracting and usually not necessary.

* New pencilers often make the mistake of breaking borders to add dynamicism to a page but it usually just confuses their storytelling.

* Third piece of advice, don’t neglect your panel borders and gutters. They are an important part of your page that are often forgotten.

* Fourth piece of advice, don’t forget that word balloons and SFX need to go on the page. Make sure you include them in your initial layouts.
Sounds obvious, I know, but there are even pros I know who don’t always take them into account and complain when their art gets covered up.

* And my last piece of advice for new pencilers today, don’t attempt to draw in any sound effects. They’ll only serve to clutter your art.
Certain artists, like Adam Kubert, are masters at it, but it’s an art to be learned. Tell the story first without cluttering your pages.

* And as I’m just a lowly writer & talent scout, I would greatly appreciate any artists here jumping in with advice/experiences of their own.

* As Hollywood’s invaded and San Diego’s grown, it’s not the best con to try and meet editors and show your portfolio at anymore.

* Unfortunately, there’s no real set answer to that. “Marvel ready” is a subjective term. When I see, I know… that’s about it.

* I discovered @skottieyoung ’s artwork simply walking thru Artists Alley in Chicago, so I always recommend new artists get tables at cons.