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Sunday August 9, 2009 5:07 pm

The Secret to Publishing Your Comic With Dark Horse


“How do I get my great comic book idea published?” I’m glad you asked because Dark Horse is giving away the answer. No need to pickup a thick copy of “Writer’s Market 2009” to find out what DH is looking for from their creative talent. Senior editor, Randy Stradley, offers specific advice on breaking into the comic book industry. A goldmine of information to aid up-and-coming artists, Stradley offers details on new talent turn-around times and necessities for artist portfolios. A great resource for unpublished and up-and-coming comic books artists.

For More on Randy Stradley:

For more on submitting work to Dark Horse, here is Dark Horse’s submission guidelines and sample script for artists.

Closed-Captioning for the Hearing Impaired per VideoJug:

How can an artist submit his work to you?

We have an open-submission policy. The people can send us stuff through the mail anytime. It tends to pile up for a while. We get a chance to look through it and we’ll whittle the pile down to nothing. It then builds up again. Here at the shows, people sign up ahead of time and it’s generally first-come, first-serve. For years we’ve tried to figure out a way to triage the line so that we tell the people who are ready, yes, get in line. For the people who aren’t, you’re not ready yet. You don’t need to show your work to an editor. It seems like, in recent years, that showing your work to the editor has become the “in” thing that you do. It’s just what you do. They don’t even know why they’re showing their work to an editor because I’m not an artist. I can’t really tell them how to draw better, or what techniques they should use. My job is to find people who can be given an assignment and be expected to pull it off.

What is the ideal artist portfolio?

The ideal artist portfolio is probably five to ten pages of consecutive story telling. Something that starts with a quiet scene and moves to an action scene. It includes everyday people in street clothes, buildings, cars, furniture, the stuff that the readers see every day. I always tell the artists being able to draw all the mundane stuff well is the most important part of seducing your readers into believing what they are looking at. So then when the monsters show up and the superheroes show up they are ready to except things. You have lured them in with this sort of real world that they can believe in, so they suspend their disbelief and the fantastic stuff goes down easy.

Do you prefer reviewing original or photocopies?

I am happy to look at copies, as long as they are good copies. I don’t need to see the full size originals. Yeah, it’s not a big deal.

What is the best advice for an artist submission?

Try before you show your portfolio, try to get a realistic assessment of your skill level and you do that by showing your work to somebody other than your family and friends who are all going to say, “Oh yeah, that’s great.” They’re not really going to be honest with you. So if you can find another comic artist to show your work to or strangers sometime or a teacher or something like that. Find out if you’re ready to be showing your work to try and get a professional job. Then when you do show your work, treat it like it’s a job interview. Be serious about it, come prepared. Don’t come with a bunch of excuses like well I didn’t have time to finish these pages, well yeah because COMICON only happens once a year so it totally took you by surprise didn’t it? Those things don’t fly. I want to see you show up as if you were doing a job interview.

Is having contact information on my work important?

It should be on everything that they leave with me. I’ve had it happen in the past where somebody’s given me great samples and I get back to the office and I realise they don’t have their name, phone number, email address or anything on the pages. Therefore, I have no way to know who that person is and no way to contact them. I’ve had great samples in the past for somebody who didn’t get a job because I didn’t know who they were.

Do you try to match the artist’s work you see to the stories you already have?

No, but I’m greedy. I think about the books I’m editing and what I have coming up and I think, “Oh, this guy would be good for that,” and “Oh yeah, I need an artist for this story”. Theoretically, I’m here being the eyes for all of the artists or all of the editors at Dark Horse, but I always think of myself first.

Do you look for a specific style of work?

You know for main stream comics, personally I edit a lot of Star Wars books. So I am looking for something like an artist who can handle likenesses, who can handle all the details of the hardware and everything but it can also be stylized and we have room for that. But generally if somebody is not drawing sort of, at least quasi realistically, probably their best bet is to either write their own story or attach themselves with a writer. And come up with a story that suits their style. And I am not saying find a Star Wars story that suits their style, but find you know, the kind of story they want to tell. That is how Dark Horse got started was with artists and writers who had stories of their own that they wanted to tell. We did not have any established characters when we started. So we could not say, oh write me this kind of story or draw this. We went with what they had created. The thing that separated Dark Horse at the beginning was that we allowed them to regain control of their own creations. Whereas if they had brought those creations to other companies, they would have had to sign away the rights to them.

Should I submit fully inked or colored artwork?

I would rather see just the pencils, or if they are going to show me ink work, have photocopies of the pencils, because not every artist is their own best inker. In fact, most of them aren’t, and with the way scanning technology has improved in recent years, we actually scan a lot of books directly from the pencils, and are able to reproduce them. In the old days when we had to photograph things, you just couldn’t do that. If it wasn’t dark enough, you needed to have the books inked. But nowadays, I only have one inker and I have got all the other books that are inter-shot directly from the pencils.

What happens if you like my artwork?

That’s when the challenge starts because if I say “you’re hired”, you have a month or forty days to turn around a 22 page story. Some are going to drop dead in terror, because they’re excited about it, at the time they think that’s what they wanted to do, but when it comes right down to it, drawing comics is a lot of work. And, I’ve had a number of occasions where somebody new has drawn one issue and that’s it. They decided “I can’t draw comics any more - it’s to much work.” And you really have to want to do it, especially we’ve had a lot of people who do movie story boards and they work in the entertainment industry and they’re in love with the idea of doing comics. So they do one issue and they are like, “No. I get paid a lot more to do story boards, I’ll stick with that.”

Does being a comic book artist pay well?

Paid rates are all over the board now. There are some people who make pretty good money. I had one agent telling me that, “Hey we’ve got artists who they’ll pencil, ink, letter and color an entire issue for $2500”. So you break that down, that’s a little over a hundred dollars a page for a lot of work. We try to pay better than that. But things aren’t as good as they were in the early nineties during the boom time, when there were artists literally making fortunes, because so many books were being sold and they were making so much money. But comics don’t sell that well anymore.

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