Because I worked on-site for Archie, and edited some of their publications, I am regularly approached by artists for advice on how to improve their chances of getting work from comic book companies. I’m happy to respond to anyone who wants to show me a portfolio for review, or give anyone advice if they want to reach out to me privately. At the same time, there are a few basics that it doesn’t hurt to be aware of.
I hope this is helpful! Work hard, and go the distance. I’m rooting for you!
Your email address
Your email is part of your brand. It doesn’t have to be firstname.lastname@example.org, but it should have your name in it. It’s better to have Darren.Artwork@yahoo.com than bdfaftrp89@ anything. Best case scenario, if an Editor you sent your work to six months ago suddenly finds the perfect project for your artistic style, it’s much easier for him to find your email if all he remembers is your name. Some Editors get multiple hundreds of emails a day!
It should also go without saying that your email address shouldn’t be darrenshotnudes@gmail (even if you specialize in nude figure drawing.) This goes extra for women. Please, please, please, for the sake of us all, don’t initiate professional contact from your hotbae69@hotmail account.
This one is probably the most time-consuming of all the tips I have. If you’re sending out a lot of letters of inquiry, it can be really tempting to cut and paste letter content. But it order to make a persuasive argument as to why YOU are the artist that should be hired by any particular company, you should be able to show with confidence that you know something about the company you’re applying for. This goes double for your portfolio: If you’re applying to a comic book company, make sure your drawings of the characters they own are the first things they see.
You have to have one.
Say an artist named Amanda reaches out to every comic book company she an think of. She’s worked in children’s book illustration, and wants to work with more sequential narrative. She loves comic books, and outlines this all in a perfectly drafted email, and sends it to all the Hiring Managers she can think of. But Amanda doesn’t send her website in the content of any of these emails — it’s not even in her email signature. She’s illustrated over fifty books, but no one she’s reached out to has any proof of this. They can’t even see what her art style is.
In an ideal world, Amanda has amandasillustrations.com, which shows all of her published work as well as examples of the kind of work she’d rather be doing. If Amanda, who has only worked in book illustration, has at least five samples of well executed comic book pages on her portfolio page that showing her diverse range of abilities, and and are easy for recruiters to find, she’s can at least be evaluated as a potential contributor to any comic book company.
If Amanda has amandasillustrations.tumblr, or a behance site, that might be enough for some people. Companies can vary on what they think is acceptable format. I would avoid using DA or Sheezy as a professional portfolio, but I don’t think everyone would agree with me. Some people prefer to critique artwork sent to them as a Facebook album! I would advise on professionally formatting your work whenever possible, but at the end of the day the quality of Amanda’s portfolio pieces will be more important than whether she submits them via amandaillustrations.com or amandasillustrations.deviantart.com.
Just so long as it’s not amandashardcoredrawingsofyourcomicbookcharacters.deviantart.com.
Spelling and Grammar
Check it. I usually write my first draft of anything quickly, leaving a trail of horrendous typos in my wake in an effort to get everything down on paper. I know this about myself, and re-read everything. I use spellcheck tools like the crutch they are to make me appear to be a functioning, literate member of society. Double check your spelling of the names of people and companies. If you write a perfect inquiry letter, or follow up email to someone you had an excellent meeting with at a Con, that person might not give you the time of day if you spell their name wrong.
Try, Try Again
When an Editor, Hiring Manager, or I (in this post) point out something you did wrong, this doesn’t mean that you are a failure. Fixing the problem (a quick change for Amanda or Darren) or revamping your portfolio based on critiques from an Editor (which can take a bit longer) and returning to apply again says something about you. It says that you are someone who can work with feedback, and willing to do the work it takes to produce quality. Editors like to see an artist who’s willing to change their work to adapt to the needs of a product.
It certainly makes you look better than the art diva who writes their editor an eight hundred word treatise on why their request to redraw a leg on page seven makes them want to quit.