Blah Blah Blog – Breaking In, Breaking Out

A post from my old Marvel blog about breaking into the industry.

Breaking In, Breaking Out

June 26, 2009 | 1:00 AM | By Tom_Brevoort | In General

One of the questions that anybody in comics hears again and again from folks on the outside is “How do you break into the business? What’s the secret?”

And the truth is that there is no secret, no special handshake that’ll get you through the door, no magic word that’ll make people take you and your work seriously.

This makes sense if you think about it. Practically everybody who reads comics regularly harbors some desire to write them, whether they possess the talent and the drive to do so professionally or not. It looks so easy from afar. And new people are coming into the field all the time, so clearly there’s an entry point. If only I knew what it was!

As I’ve said many times before, the reality is that you need Talent, Perseverence and Luck in order to make it as a comics pro. And you can’t necessarily control all of these factors. But you can do things to improve your chances.

First off, realize the cold, hard fact that nobody starts out playing for a Major League team. Everybody goes through boot camp of one kind or another. So never turn your nose up at the opportunity to hone your craft in any venue that might be available to you. All writing can help to improve your comic book writing, all artwork can help you to improve your comic book artwork. And if your only ambition is to write or draw Spider-Man, unless you’re some kind of super child prodigy, make other plans. Nobody starts out playing in the Major Leagues.

Very important: get a legitimate grasp on just how good you are. In order to work in this business, you do need to have a bit of an ego–you need to feel like the material you’re generating is worthy of being seen and read. But so often would-be creators so fall in love with their own work (and the enthusiasm shown to it by their parents, spouses, significant others or friends) that they lose all perspective in terms of how they stack up against the professionals already working in the field. Be realistic about how good you are, and be open to feedback from people with the experience to know what they’re talking about that will point you in a direction to get better. Along the way you’re sure to encounter some advice that’s off the mark, and some critiques that are more brutal than they may need to be. Grow a think skin, and figure out what you can take away from any criticism that you get.

Network with people who are in a position to provide opportunities for you, but be careful not to become a pest, or worse, a stalker. There’s all sorts of information available on the internet that can help guide you on your way, everything from archives of professional scripts to tutorials about how to start a webcomic. I would particularly pay attention to the Twitter feeds of people like CB Cebulski and Joe Quesada, who often dispense invaluable insider information about the artform and breaking into the business.

Above everything else, work your ass off. This is a fun job, but it’s a hard job, and it’s for serious people. And you’re competing with each and every other person around the globe who is also reading these words, and more. You need to be better than 99.999999999 44/100% of all the potential creators out there, and diligent enough to improve your work and strike when an opportunity comes your way.

Good luck!

Tom B

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