There are lots of articles floating around about how to become a comic book artist, writer, letterer, or colorist. Most of them are pretty good at giving you advice, and helpful hints, but the bulk of them are not as honest as they could be. Sure, they don’t beat around the bush about how hard it is to break into this field, and it is crazy hard, yet I find that they lack a certain amount of transparency. That in mind, I decided to put together a list of some hard facts from my experience in the industry. I wouldn’t call this a list of tips as much as a list of things to be aware of. So without further ado, here are some hard facts about becoming a comic book creator.
Hard Fact #1
Be serious. Whatever could I mean by such a statement? Well, for starters, know what you are getting into. Making comics is a labor-intensive job, especially for the artist. If you haven’t sat down and committed yourself to a regular schedule of either drawing, writing, coloring, and/ or lettering, then you need to. I know from personal experience that a lot of would-be creators out there can bring enthusiasm to the table at the start, but when the grind kicks in lots of them call it quits. Be realistic, and if you can’t do the work, don’t say that you can. This is a hard gig, and if you can’t do it, no one will fault you if they have half a brain.
Hard Fact #2
If you noticed that inker was missing from the list of creators, then you have a keen eye, and there is a reason for that; inkers are becoming somewhat obsolete. Now, before I get a ton of hate mail, does a good inker improve most art? You bet your sweet backside it does. Just because you can draw like nobody’s business doesn’t mean that you can add the depth and tone that a high-caliber inker can. That being said, with the age of digital art, inking is finding itself left out of a lot of comics, and in some cases it shows. If you’re an inker, then you better learn to diversify your talents and learn to do some other stuff too.
Hard Fact #3
Expanding on the previous idea, if you are a one-trick pony you better learn some more tricks. This hard fact is mostly for non-artists, especially if you’re a writer. Comics are expensive to get done, especially if you are not the artist. If you have to shell out money for everything, it adds up quickly. Lettering is probably the easiest thing to learn while also knocking off an expense for your project. It involves practice and a good eye, but it’s a heck of a lot less arduous than learning to become an artist, colorist, or inker.
Hard Fact #4
This one is closely related to the first hard fact (be serious), but now I mean be realistic about your own level of skill. I will never say that anyone’s art is bad, be it drawing, coloring, or writing, but there are industry standards. If your skill is not up to those industry standards, then you need to be realistic about the marketability of your art. That doesn’t mean you can’t make comics, rather if you want to make comics for one of the big publishers, then you better be ready to produce work at the expected level. Also, be aware of your own style and speed. Some creators’ styles fit better with certain genres. Get to know what niche your style fits best with and pursue that. If you’re slow, then don’t sign on for a big, time-sensitive project. That doesn’t mean that you have to be pigeonholed, but if you’re looking for paying gigs it will help you get them.
Hard Fact #5
At this point, I’m going to sound like a broken record, but making a comic is expensive. Even if you can do it all — the art, writing, lettering, and coloring — it will take a lot of time, and time is money. If you’re not doing it all yourself, then be prepared to pony up the bucks, especially if you’re a writer looking to make a book. Professionals are professionals for a reason, so if you want pro quality, be prepared to pay. If you find like-minded creators who are willing to share in your vision, then more power to you and I wish you the best of luck. It is possible to find a serious creator who will take it as seriously as you do, but be prepared to meet a lot of tourists, as I call them; people who like to pretend they are creators, but then flake out when it comes time to do the work.
Hard Fact #6
If you’re not a professional with a resume to prove it, you better be ready to get to work. If you think that any large company will take you seriously without a proven track record, then think again. It is a well known fact that there are a lot of tourists posing as creators out there, so you need to prove you’re not one of them. Building your resume is the only way to get them to take you seriously. You have to be able to point to work that you have done, not just to show people your talent, but your dependability. There are no shortcuts here — the only way to get it done is to do the work.
Hard Fact #7
You need to work. Many creators refuse to work unless they are being paid. If you have a steady stream of paying gigs, congrats, and the like, you’re already a pro. But if not, then you still need to be working on something. By working I don’t mean drawing pin-ups, or sketches. By work I don’t mean writing poetry, or coloring a children’s book. It means making a comic book. I can hear you now, “How can I make a comic if no one wants to pay me to do it?” Sometimes you don’t get paid. Find a project you believe in so much that you are constantly working and improving yourself. You need to be hungry while making comics. Yes, I know “free” is a dreaded word, but if you’re really serious about becoming a pro then you will have to do it.
If I haven’t scared you off from trying to become a comic book creator by now, then you might just have the passion to do it. Just remember, this is a hard industry to get into, and it’s not for everyone. The trick is figuring out whether or not if it’s for you.