Writers Block #15: So what do I do with this thing? Part 1

Congratulations, it's a script! And just like any proud parent, you feel like you've just given life to the greatest thing that will ever be. Sure, it's a little misshapen, and is making a weird noise, and is constantly secreting all kinds of mystery fluids, but dammnit it's yours, and it's perfect. So now that you have it, what the hell are you supposed to do with it?

Well do you have somebody who's willing to draw it? If yes, continue on. If not, then that's probably the first thing you need to figure out. Wooing an artist to work on your project is tricky. For one of your first projects, I highly recommend trying to find someone local. For one, you'll actually be able to have a sit down talk with them about the project, which is always nice. For two, if this is a project you're paying them for or have a tight deadline, you know where they live and go knock on their door and say "hey, how's that thing going?" Hopefully you'll never have to, but it's a good option to have. If you can't find anyone near you, then it's time to turn to everyone's best/worst friend, the internet. 

Finding an artist on the internet is basically like online dating. You do your best to make yourself seem presentable and worth taking a chance on, and every once in a while you'll get a bite. Then there's a bit of back and forth before you both agree to get together, and then you just have to cross your fingers and hope they don't murder you (metaphorically or literally). Sometimes it works out great, other times you talk once or twice and they completely disappear on you. Such is the modern world we live in. I will advise doing a few things to hopefully increase your chances of finding someone good to work with: 

  1. Make sure when pursuing through portfolios that you only reach out to artists with sequential work. That Batman sketch might look Jim Lee quality, but that's not the same as doing 22 pages with at least 5 panels a piece. Comics are visual stories, and you need a visual story teller, not a pin-up artist (no offense to pin-up artists). 
  2. Following that thread further, look for elements that match your story. Again, that giant robot fight sequence might look amazing, but if your story is about a supernatural lawyer. How good is this artist at drawing smaller moments or doing tense character drama? Can they draw cars? That would help if your story is about a getaway driver. Not everyone is going to have every element of your story in their portfolio, but if you can't find anything that resembles your story either in practice or in tone, they might not be the one for you. 
  3. Check and see if they have any completed projects. You'll often find artists with several pages of Spider-Man or Batman stories, but no actual completed work. This isn't necessarily a crimson flag, but maybe a burnt orange. Making comics is a time consuming process, and you want someone who will see it through. An artist who has at least one completed book under their belt is definitely a good sign. 
  4. If your still not 100% sure about an artist, give a link to their work to an artist friend and ask for their opinion. You'll be amazed at what your untrained writer eye can miss, and it always helps to have a second opinion on things from someone you trust. 

Other things to keep in mind. Are you doing this in black and white book or color? This might require multiple artist, so be sure to keep that in mind. Some artist already work with a colorist which is nice, but it's not always the case. Can you pay? There are certainly artist out there who will work for backpay or just to get some experience under their belt, but there's often a huge quality jump between them and working artists. Rates vary widely depending on the length of the project and the artist, so make sure you say upfront how much you can afford to pay, and make sure you can actually pay it. It's not fair to an artist to agree to a certain amount thinking you'll have the money by the time the work is done, but because life happens, you're a couple hundred dollars short. 

Once the art starts coming in, you'll need someone to do the lettering for it. If you're self-publishing your project, I highly recommend learning how to lettering. There's a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it's an invaluable skill. For one, that's less money coming out of your pocket. Secondly, it can really help you see how much text can fit on a page. It's one thing to type it out and send it to another person, but when you have to try and figure out where all these balloons go, you'll quickly learn what's going to work and what won't by just looking at it. Finally, it will make last minute changes much easier to do, not that you should make them a habit. Just be sure you take the time to make it look as good as possible. Lettering often goes overlooked, and that's because good lettering seamlessly fits in with the art. Bad lettering on the other hand sticks out like a bad thumb. See the following:

 Credit to Jaycrowcomics.com

Credit to Jaycrowcomics.com

 Credit to Jaycrowcomics.com

Credit to Jaycrowcomics.com

And then compare that to this

Enough said.

The last person you'll want to find is someone to do the cover of your book. Covers, like lettering, are often very overlooked and undervalued part of comics, but they are literally the first thing people see when they look at your book. It's the very first impression you'll make on a reader, so if it's not something that pulls them in, and something that also conveys a bit of what your story is about, then it's hurting your book. I've had several people come over to my table at a convention just to look at my books because they where pulled in by the cover.

Take a look at some of these covers and see if they don't make you want to at least see what the comic is about

So lets leave off there for now. I'll leave you with a few good places to find artists, letterers, and cover artists. Digitalwebbing.com, tumblr.com, deviantart.com as well as the forums of places like comicbookresources, millarworld.tv, and comixtribe.com. Good luck, be nice, be patient, and make some comics!