I CANNOT express how true this is. If you want to be in comics or any form of art, read and burn into your heart and mind.
I've been meaning to write this in some form or fashion for a while now. Orignally I was going to try to write it as a Cracked article (which I still may) but these are in my view among the most important things to remember when struggling to get into the comic business:
1. It's not just about how good you are. Comics are a highly competitve medium and everyone wants to get a shot at their favorite book. Many of the people trying to get that break have great skills, and i'm certain fine ideas. But can you meet a deadline? How well do you communicate your ideas or issues with your Editor/Writer/ Penciller/Inker? How reliable have you been on the books you've done in the past? How easy are you to work with?
Honestly most of these questions are more important in many ways than how talented you are. As an artist you are not an island unto yourself. Ask anyone whose been in the business how long it took them to get recognition for their abilities. Leading to my next point...
2. You're a comic artist, not a rockstar. For every Jim Lee, Mark Silvestri, Alex Ross and Joe Madueira there millions of guys like Mike Dringenberg, Bob Mcleod, Mark Bagley, Chris Warner, Steve Lightle, Bill Reinhold, Angel Medina and others that don't immediately roll off the tongue when the average person thinks of comics. These guys worked their way up in the business and became staples of the companies they worked with often, always churning out quality work and getting the respect of their peers without the upper tier fanfare and adulation. Some are the idols of many of the artist in the business: Ask any artist in the business about the likes Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kevin Nowlan, Mike Golden, Jackson Guice, Steve Rude, Paul Gulacy and Jon J Muth. These are highly respected names a lot of people don't immediately recognze if they are casual fans, but are instrumental to a lot of careers.
And the common trait to all of them? A profound love of the business and a powerful strength of storytelling and illustrative skill. If you get into comics to become a big name in the business, you're completely missing the point. Always focus more on becoming better and being vital to the book you're on. Focus on being consistent and reliable. I guarantee the word reliable will continue to pop up here.
3. Maintain the absolute best relationship you can with your editor. No one is perfect, and comics regardless of the public perception it is very much a business. And the editor has one of the hardest jobs in the business: Keeping artist on a monthly schedule. This is in addition to maintaining the story plots in numerous capacities. It's about creating synergy with all parties (writers, pencillers, inkers, letterers, and colorists) and when an editor gives the new guy a chance he's taking a risk on his title based not just on the quailty of your work, but how reliable you are. The more you can be counted on, the more opportunities you will be afforded. And the editors are the people you need to deal with when looking for work.
You screw up that relationship and you very quickly find out how small the business is.
4. Understand what it means to work from home. This is one of the trickiest parts. Unless you work from home regularly you really aren't prepared for what it's like to work around your comfort zone. That's what your house is. You go through great lengths to buy the stuff you want to enjoy for the best comfort you can afford yourself. Someplace that when you get home from work, you can relax.
Now, picture that as your work environment.
It sounds easy and for a short while it's great to be around all the stuff you like (because after all you bought it) but if you never find a way to separate your work life from your home life, especially if you have a spouse or children, working from home is impossible.
5. Understand you are self employed. Another one of the trickiest parts of the process of being a comics pro, though certainly not the only one for which this is a reality. This means there is no one deducting taxes from your check, reimbursing you for supplies, or often as your starting out paying for you to get to conventions to promote your work and do more networking. You have essentially become your own business agent, tax preparer and travel agent. The relationships you make in comics will directly affect whether you can pay your bills.
It is a labor of love, but it is also work. You must treat it as such.
You also have to consider getting outside work, or doing art that your fans are willing to buy. All of it on your dime until you're making enough money for it to support you.
If there is one thing I can pass on it is to balance what you bring in monetarily with what you can afford to live on. The only regular checks you will get are the ones you can make happen.
6. You are on the ground level. I am going to say this as nicely as I can. No one owes you anything just because you landed a job in the business. The most successful guys regardless of your opinions of them worked their asses off in the trenches to make the careers they have. You want examples? Greg Capullo. There are millions of comic pros that I could use but Greg Capullo at this moment stands out. Why?
Because he started out working on obscure books like Quasar and worked through the ranks. He improved visibly with most every project he was given, he took advantage of every opportunity. He worked on X-Force and made the book his own stylistically when Liefield's popularity was at it's peak. He earned fans. He went to Image and did Spawn, Angela, and his own book Creech, learning more and becoming more disciplined along the way. Now he's enjoying a highly celebrated run on Batman. On Batman.
Not because he was owed anything. Because he started at the bottom and worked his way up through work ethic, respect and reliability. He earned it.
I'm working to do the same. I'm at the ground level.
And still hungry.