Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Breaking In / Making Comics TweetUp 1/4/12 - Last Questions Answered!

icon-designed-by-thedesignsuperhero.comWe had a few "breaking in / making comics" questions that went unanswered at last week's first Comics Experience TweetUp (hashtag #CMXEXP), but former Marvel and IDW Editor and Comics Experience Founder, Andy Schmidt, took the time to provide the answers!

You can follow Andy (and Comics Experience) on Twitter at: @ComicExperience.

Now for the Q&A...

How important do you think it is it to attend US cons if you're hoping to break the US market but based elsewhere?

Andy Schmidt
This is a tough one and kind of hard to answer without more information, but I'd say if you're looking to get freelance work from American companies, going to American conventions, or at the very least a convention with American publishers, is a really valuable resource. Not being able to attend wouldn't prevent you from breaking in, but it just means that one (of many) resources isn't available to you. You can still reach out to American publishers and their employees via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and various online communities like the Bendis Boards or Kirkman's boards or Millarworld or a host of others. Heck, the Comics Experience Creators Workshop has several working professionals as a part of the community and that includes a handful of editors. So while it's a slight handicap, it's only that--a SLIGHT handicap.

When trying to build a relationship with an editor or publisher, can you send them work, without pitching? Or is that seen as annoying? I mean sending them things you've worked on but not looking to pitch them on.

Andy Schmidt
Writer or artist, it's fine to send editors work if they've said it's okay. There's a lot of fear about annoying people, and I get where that's coming from, but if you simply ask if it's okay on a person by person basis, you'll likely avoid falling into that trap. So if an editor says to go ahead and send your work, do so. Don't send them something every day, maybe once or twice a month at most. Often they'll even say something like, "Sure, that's fine with me. No more than once a month though please." I used to say that a lot.

When dealing with an editor in person, is it a bad thing to pitch more than one story?

Andy Schmidt
When in person, pitching is actually pretty rare unless you already know the editor fairly well. Regardless, it's not bad, per se. I might just start talking to figure it out as you go. Maybe ask to follow up with them with a couple of quick-fire ideas on characters that editor works on. That'll give you time to think and hone those ideas into concise, one-paragraph pitches to send in. That way you're giving him or her something polished and he or she is expecting to hear from you.

When creating a new story do YOU typically start with character or conflict?

Andy Schmidt
I typically start with character. But that's just me. I usually come up with a character I like. Other ways I've gone are: A title that worked for me and the rest fell into place, a high concept that seemed like fun to explore (then I figure out the right kind of character to go in that concept), a world that seems interesting and the kinds of people who might inhabit it.

how often will a penciller ask for/make changes to finishes/inks independent of editor input?

Andy Schmidt
I think you're asking how often a penciler or finisher gets asked to make changes by an editor. If that's the question, it's sort of an avenue of last resort. If I can't cover a minor mistake with a tidy dialogue bit, a color correction, or something like that, and it's not a small error I can live with (and that means doesn't disrupt the story), THEN I'll ask an artist to make a change. There have been times when art has come in that hasn't been up to snuff and I've asked for art corrections at that time.

What advice would you recommend for a writer trying to pitch a story to a publisher like DC comics?

Andy Schmidt
Have some other work to show in the comics field. Your own creator-owned book is great. Work published by other publishers. Most creators don't start at DC at Marvel. It can happen, but that's becoming rarer. If your only goal in comics is to write Batman, then right now you'll have to be more than better than Scott Snyder. You'll also have to be able to PROVE that you're better than Snyder, prove that you can deliver on deadline and prove that you can do it again and again. And most of that is covered by a body of work to support that assumption. And even then, you'll have to wait for Snyder to leave Batman when he chooses to do so. Sounds harsh, I know, but it's yet another case for why making your own comics with your own characters is such a great and rewarding thing to do.

What was toughest obstacle for you to overcome in your comic career in the beginning?

Andy Schmidt
Wow. I think learning the ropes of editorial at Marvel was really difficult for me. There were specific reasons for that in my case. I was in an office down a long hall from my boss, so it was really difficult to learn from him. In the office with my boss was his other assistant who had been working with him for about two years. They were a well-oiled machine so I was a third wheel for a while. In that six months, the smartest thing I did was talk and make friends with the good and talented people in Marvel's bullpen. I learned a lot about things I didn't know about production work, the importance of file sizes, copy safe, bleed, all these things that are extremely important to publishing good comics that doesn't get talked about a lot. Also, those guys were willing to do a little extra on my projects from time to time because we got along. I also talked with as many freelancers as I could and learned as much as I could from them. For that first six months, I felt like I was pretty useless and was likely to get let go at any moment--and I wouldn't have blamed them. Then, and I'm not sure whose idea this was, it could have been Tom, my boss's idea or it may have been Marc, his first assistant, or someone in management, I honestly don't know--but the decision was made for Marc and myself to swap desks. I moved in with Tom, allowing me to learn from him directly--and what a huge amount there was to learn from him. And it allowed Marc, who had done great work, to start to establish himself independently of Tom a bit more so he could move his career forward a bit more. It was really an elegant solution. But those six months were really tough for me. I think once I was in the office with Tom for a few months, he began to feel like he could depend on me more and that was when I was able to start growing as an editor and a collaborator.

As an unknown, do you think I should focus on one idea--start a series--or throw a lot out there, multiple books?

Andy Schmidt
That's a tough one. I think that depends on a lot of factors, the first of which is how you work most effectively. Are you the type of person who really focuses on one thing and only that or do you enjoy bouncing from project to project? Also, your financial situation may come into play. If you're working on multiple projects, that could be a lot of money going away from you before you see any start to head your way. There are a lot of factors, but basically, I think it would come down to how you work and what's comfortable for you in your situation--and ultimately--what your real goals are.

If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
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