It stands to reason that at a huge conference full of comic fans, there might be one or two who want to give things a try for themselves. For many, however, it’s hard to even know where to start. Well, C2E2’s got you covered with their Breaking into Comics panel, filled with experienced pros like Andy Schmidt, Carlos Giffoni, Jay Fosgitt, K. Lynn Smith, Kyle Higgins, and Robert Atkins, where they share their years of wisdom in the industry with us hopeful creators. This panel was sponsored by Comics Experience, an online learning community that teaches courses and provides services related to getting into the comic industry in any way, shape, or form.
After introducing themselves and some lighthearted banter, the panel jumps right in. The audience is pretty split when it comes those who want to be artists and those who want to be writers, but most would rather do creator-owned books than work for hire. Without further ado, the panel started, and we were quickly introduced to the Comics Experience Three Fundamentals of Breaking into Comics. Schmidt led the panel and started off with the first fundamental being talent. According to Schmidt, everybody has talent because everybody has a vision of what they want to create in their heads. There may be some disconnect when it comes to the skill required to transfer what’s in one’s head onto the page through writing or art, but everyone has the initial talent of vision.
The second fundamental was persistence. It’s important to always try to learn, work, and build skills. Schmidt said, “You have to commit to learning and doing the work. There is no shortcut around doing the work. I hate to tell you that.” The third fundamental is luck, or being in the right place at the right time, which is what I have heard a lot of creators say during this con. That can happen if you aren’t persistent, but the more work you do, the more situations you can potentially put yourself in, and you can artificially increase your luck. Schmidt continued to say that while all three together are “the golden goose,” there are plenty of opportunities and plenty of creators who make it with just two. Atkins chimed in and talked about how breaking in might look a little different for everyone, and that it could range from doing a couple fill-in pages to publishing your first book, and you have to find what it means for yourself.
Carlos Giffoni didn’t feel he’d made it until he had his first official contract in front of him. At the same time, Giffoni had been making his book for a while and said he would have found a way to make it even if he didn’t get the contract. He was also persistent by pitching it for four or five months at six or seven cons. He went through the grueling back-and-forth process with publishers and editors, and it paid off for him.
K. Lynn Smith started her comic as a webcomic and realized she could be an artist when someone spent money on something they could read for free. Fosgitt was drawing comics for years before he got paid to do it, so it’s important to him that people don’t base their validation off a paycheck. In Fosgitt’s eyes, he’s a creator as long as he’s making comics. Schmidt agreed with that and said, “Don’t give someone else the power to validate your art.”
Next is the Three Fundamentals for Staying in Comics. The first is talent, the second is professionalism, and the third is being nice. Professionalism is about building a brand and reputation and managing your deadlines. Schmidt said to always set a deadline 1.5 times as far away as how long you think you need, so just in case something goes wrong, you can still hit the deadline. Additionally, be careful with social media and the message you use it to project.
Being nice should be taken at face value. You need to realize the right place and time to pitch things and make time for those in high positions then you. Like with breaking in, the odds are that you can manage to stay in if you can have two out of the three fundamentals, but it’s best if you have all three. Kyle Higgins made the great advice of remembering to have foresight and remembering to be amenable but firm. After a certain amount of work, you will be pigeonholed into an archetype for the kind of work you do. There’s an unfortunate political side to comics and you have to remember to pick your battles carefully and fight for what you think is important, but remember not to fight over everything. Higgins stated, “Picking the right hills to die on can kind of make or break your career.”
Did you learn a thing or two about breaking into comics or staying in? Let us know!