Feb 26
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AGENT, TALK TO MY AGENT

An artist submitted a portfolio that was all decent-quality pinups. No sequential pages. Then he caught me on Facebook to discuss it.

ARTIST: I am looking for work at Marvel or DC. Yes, my agent also works for publishers.

ME: You already have an Agent? Then I guess you work with him. When your contract with him expires, contact me.

ARTIST: I can only do any work after that pass through it.

ME: When does your contract expire?

ARTIST: I don’t know yet.

ME: You signed a contract but don’t know when it ends?

ARTIST: I’m gonna stay with them until I get into DC or Marvel.

ME: OK, so it will be a few years then. Who are you drawing sequentials for, right now?

ARTIST: No one at this moment.

ME: OK. So…you don’t have a TRACK RECORD of meeting deadlines to impress Marvel and DC with your dependability. You don’t have a great portfolio RIGHT NOW of amazing sequentials to impress them into even giving you a test script. And the portfolio you DO have is pinups — not covers — and they almost never buy pinups. So, my question is: How do you expect any agent to get you in to Marvel or DC? I’m trying to understand your plan, your thought processes.

ARTIST: OK, man. Thanks.

ME: Oh…I was hoping for an ANSWER, so that I could understand.

ARTIST: Speaks with my Agent, please, he will explain it all better. He will give you all the informations.

….So let me get this straight: He’s already repped by an Agent and has no sequential pages or career dependability to prove his competence, yet he wants to get into Marvel or DC, and plans to leave his current Agency as soon as they get him in to one of those companies. So much for loyalty.

I don’t get it.  Could someone explain it to me?

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Jan 13
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MANNEQUIN MONDAYS

I had a conversation today with an artist who likes using Poser to help him create his panels, and he would draw over those compositions; the results, while good enough with foreshortening and such, always come up lacking in life. 

The illusion of life, as they say, comes from bringing as much MOVEMENT and CHARACTER PERFORMANCE into each panel as possible While it’s fine to use Poser — or Google Sketch-Up, or Manga Studio, or any tool, for that matter — as a TOOL, it’s wrong to use any of them as a crutch.

Here, let me walk you through an example. Let’s say an artist creates a scene in Poser — a Kryptonite girl, glowing green on a rooftop, grabbing two super-heroes who are helpless in her grasp. Usually, you only end up with something like this. (I found this on Heromorph.com. I have no idea who did it.)

That Poser image is stiff, much like staging mannequins in a store window.  Using this as a starting point is perfectly fine, but it’s the THINKING behind adding MOVEMENT to bring it to life, that really counts in the final drawing.

Below, Glass House Graphics artist Jinky Coronado shows you how to make that happen. She changed one of the figures from the reference to Superman (which makes sense with a Kryptonite villain) for this example.

*  For Superman, she’s added his expression, his helpless pose, the head movement, the bits of debris around him, the flowing of his cape. 

*  From Kryptonite girl, the expression, better pose, movement of her hair, and more dramatic arm poses. 

*  From the dangling Supergirl, the flowing skirt, expression, hair and cape whipping around. Even the “sexy panty shot” comes off as more cute than clumsy and blatant as in the Poser image. 

*  What’s more, she’s added damage and billowing smoke to the buildings behind them, telling a story about the battle that got the characters to this point.

That’s how a professional comics artist goes from a starting point reference to a finished image, bringing it to life on the page.

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Jan 10
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SO MUCH BLEEDING!

Decades ago, when comics were printed on letterpress, no pages except the covers bled images off all four sides; each page had a nice white margin around it, except for the rare double-page spread that was still a bit of a nightmare to get lined up on press. Pages were drawn 10” x 15” on 11” x 17” art board, and that meant a clean 6 x 9” image area on a comic page.  It also meant a page, or a spread of two pages, was pretty easy to follow.  Like this —

Over the past few decades, comics shifted to offset printing which meant better paper and FULL BLEEDS were possible, with images going to and past the trim area.  That’s when the problems started. Some artists decided, because bleeds were possible, they were necessary. That was fine on occasional pages, but suddenly EVERY page was a full bleed, and that became confusing to comics readers, particularly to new ones.

Reading a comics page already involves a set of learned skills.  We discover that oval balloons signify spoken word balloons; bubbly balloons and tails are thought balloons; jagged balloons are yells or screams, unless the tails are also jagged, in which case they are electronic, such as from a radio or TV or bullhorn; broken balloons are whispers; wavy balloons indicate wooziness; double-thick or dripping balloons indicate evil or eerieness; rectangular boxes are captions; double-bordered captions are usually voiceovers.  Words or letters outside any balloons or caption boxes are sound effects.  Wide panels stretch time; narrow panels are smaller slivers of time.  And on and on.

Children are also taught from an early age to read from left to right.  So if two comics pages full bleed and butt side-by-side, the tendency is to want to read them all the way across, just like a Sunday newspaper strip.  That results in a visual MESS, such as this —

Further complicating things is the realization that, sometimes, a spread is MEANT to be read across as a spread, rather than as individual pages. A good artist, of course, makes it clear —

Too many artists don’t bother thinking out what the pages will look like when printed. So you get confusing pages across many, many of today’s comic books looking like this —

I was horrified to pick up the DC’s BATMAN ODYSSEY hardcover and see the legendary Neal Adams fall into this trap — as with this set of two single pages where even the panel borders on both sides practically line up, forcing you to read the pages across — incorrectly.  Knowing that these comics bleed pages will end up collected in a book, where the binding swallows up another 1/4” off each side, makes it read even worse —

Today’s artists who actually pay attention usually do it right — such as this set of pages by Mike Deodato, Jr. He has the first page full bleed, but the second page has plenty of white gutter space, making a clear visual distinction between the two pages. There’s no question how to read these —

In this one below, Mike Deodato makes intelligent, judicious use of bleeds and of white space. 

On the left-hand page: Shang-Chi’s foot and hair bleed off the edges, emphasizing his kick is too powerful for panel borders to hold. The villain in the bottom two panels bleeds out of those panels, stressing his larger-than-life evil. 

On the right-hand page: Deodato takes a boring “conversation” page and gives a 3-D quality with the female figure in the bottom right panel.   It makes sense that a figure with such foreshortening of her right hand would bleed off the bottom and right edges of the page to further emphasize dimensionality, all without needing to add superfluous background detail. His use of white space on both these pages gives the images “room to breathe” so they read better, and have far better effect, than sets of pages with too much jumble.

So best advice:  No two consecutive side-by-side pages that full bleed.  If pages or panels DO bleed, make sure you’ve a good STORY reason to do so, so they don’t lose their impact.

Simple enough?

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Dec 17
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EMAILS FROM THE PLANET SNARK

I’m sort of sick of snarky amateurs who think they have all the answers but are so clueless that they don’t even know the questions.

Back in September, someone sent me a proposal for a SF project; it contained a very dark, clumsily-made cover done in Poser, some space ship art, some spare text, and a slowwwwww preview video of the same art.  I spent probably 25 minutes giving him a detailed reply of what worked, what didn’t, and how to make it better.  More time than I would have otherwise, but one of my top artists had recommended that this guy check in with me.

He wrote back asking me to rep the property and help him make it great; he even had a publisher on board.  I wished him luck, was glad he had a publisher already, then explained that publishers have editors who can help him shepherd his project into the best possible shape.  I think a total of eight Emails went back and forth — more time than I should have spent, but I striving to be helpful.

Today he wrote to tell me he got this Email:   “The artwork for the cover of [your project] looks beautiful.  Congratulations.  Stan Lee”

I typed back, “And…?”

"It’s enough, for us!" came the reply.

Wha—?  “I’m glad it’s enough for you,” I typed back, shaking my head.  “Stan never says a critical word about anyone or anything…that’s against the public image of Stan….Now, if Stan’s POW! Entertainment has agreed to PUBLISH your project, then great!”

"Then you know that Stan nothing can to do for us (Marvel)."

I tried to explain that Stan is only a figurehead at Marvel and has no power there.  And the replies and comments to me from the sender just kept on coming and coming, some of it worded in a snarky way.  “It’s a hard life, buddy.  No one to hear you in a deep and lonely space!”

What’s the point?  Why his need to argue with the same person who claimed he wanted representation and editing services from?  And if he already has a publisher, why was any of this necessary?

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Nov 22
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MAN OF STEEL, WOMAN OF CLAY

Artists keep asking me for sample test plots, often not realizing we have a bunch of them up on my company’s website specifically so they can draw solid samples.

While I’m on my trip to Brazil this week, I’m seeing a lot of weakness in portfolios artists are showing to me.  First:  Too many generic faces; have you seen what DC and Marvel are publishing?  That’s not it.  Second:  Unattractive girls.  Really?  Are any top artists right now drawing ugly women for our still 95% male readership?  Third:  Weak action scenes, with figures way too stiff.

Want a new sample test superhero plot to draw, that will help you to battle aganist those weaknesses?  Try this one:

WONDER WOMAN/SUPERGIRL/SUPERMAN SEQUENCE

DC SAMPLE PLOT

PAGE 1 —

* Establishing shot. Big panel. Late afternoon. WONDER WOMAN is on the sidewalk of a busy city street. She’s hunkered down on one knee, next to a little girl about 5 years old. WW is signing a magazine that has herself on the cover. They are surrounded by teenage girls excited about meeting their hero. She’s noticed by guys on the street, too. She’s exactly as sweet and wonderful as you hoped she would be.

* Some of the girls look into the sky, pointing at a meteor hurtling down.

* Closeup on WW, looking up, wide-eyed, mouth open. “Oh, my!”

* Upshot: WW flies upward, to intercept it, leaving the girl happily holding her magazine. The PEN that WW was holding is broken on the ground.

PAGE 2 —

* KRASHH — WW is smashed to the ground by the meteor, which is the size of a wrecking ball. It’s glowing.

* She crawls out from under it, hair dishevelled. “Unghhhh” We see this happens near a warehouse building.

* Close-up on her eyes, glowing.

* SUPERGIRL flies down, to help her.

* Medium close-up on Supergirl and WW, as Supergirl reaches to help.

PAGE 3 —

* WHAMM! WW punches Supergirl with both hands locked. 

* BA-THOOM! Supergirl is careens through the warehouse building wall.

* She grabs Supergirl, swinging her around by the cape….

* And hurls her through the roof of the warehouse and into the now-darkening sky. Rubble starts to fall down to join the rubble already on the floor from the smashed wall.

* SUPERMAN’S hand grabs WW’s shoulder (our point of view) — and WW whips her head around, to face him.

PAGE 4 —

* WHOKK! She slugs Superman with her right fist. It hurts him!

* Fists clenched, Superman staggers back, pissed off. WW holds her right hand as if it is aching from punching Superman. Her stance is legs wide apart, yet slightly vulnerable, reacting to Superman’s fury.

* Close-up on WW’s eyes, glowing.

* Suddenly: KRASSSHH! WW leaps out a warehouse window to escape, shattering it.

If you want your work reviewed, send your samples to me at submissions@glasshousegraphics.com!

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Nov 13
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GLASS HOUSE GRAPHICS AT FiQ!

Glass House Graphics’s head honcho David Campiti, Brazil manager Paulo Teles, and such luminaries as Will Conrad, Fabio Laguna, Cliff Richards, and Luke Ross are all attending FiQ!, the Belo Horizonte, Brazil-based biggest comics convention in that country.  

The Festival Internacional de Quadrinhos is held today through Sunday, November 13 through 17, at Sawmill Souzo Pinto in Belo Horizonte.

Paulo Teles will be there today through Sunday, reviewing portfolios and chatting with artists, while David arrives Thursday afternoon to add his considerable skills to the portfolio process rest of the week.  

Artist, painters, colorists, and designers can show their work at the Casa de Quadrinhos booth, where Glass House will be present.  Their artists will be signing books and doing sketches at various venues through the Convention.  

Superstar artist Will Conrad will also be premiering the Will Conrad Sketchbook at the event.

For further information about the event, go to http://www.fiqbh.com.br/

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Sep 30
Permalink

BEEF JERKY

A would-be coloring from Sao Paulo sent me a dozen pinups that he’d colored, saying only, “These are my works as colorist.” 

We began a dialogue, as I wrote, “A couple of questions: 

*  What are your goals/plans in submitting these?  95% of any professional colorist’s job is coloring sequential panel-to-panel pages, and yet ZERO % of your samples are over sequentials.

*  Have you read THE DC COMICS GUIDE TO COLORING & LETTERING, which is every professional comics colorist’s Bible for the proper way to do coloring?

(I then linked him to this book.)

It seems you do a lot of tricks and effects that at first glance look cool, but do nothing to improve the art or tell the STORY better.”

He responded with excuses, not results.   “Thank you for your attention; I appreciate your critics.  I tried to download the .tiff files of sequential art, but it didn’t work, I tried a lot of times and with different browsers, this is why I sent artwork and not sequentials.  My goal is colorize comic covers because it´s where I could use more colors than the common palette generally used on internal pages.”

Lofty hopes!  And if he were unable to figure out how to download large files to do samples, how could he ever do assignments that require the same thing?   “Of course, to get a job coloring/painting covers, you need to be BETTER than the people coloring interiors,” I cautioned, thinking I was pointing out the obvious.

"You don´t need to be a Jerk," he typed back.

"Huh?  What are you referring to?   Any artist coming into this learns the process.  The editor will get the INTERIOR colorist to color the cover, unless you are better than he is.  How precisely does that make ME a jerk?

It doesn’t make the editor a jerk, either.  He wants the absolute BEST guys and gals for a cover, because that is the packaging that sells the book.  My top guys, Jay David Ramos and Rainier Beredo, colored interiors for YEARS until editors deemed them ready for covers.  Now they do a LOT of covers in addition to their interiors (a lot being 3 or 4 a month), but it was a long climb to get there.  Even so, covers don’t pay hugely more than interiors for coloring (maybe rate-and-a-half) unless the colorist brings an exemplary painting skill to the work, in which case they can be paid several hundred dollars for painting a cover over someone else’s line art.  For example, I’m dealing with video game painters in Malaysia who are doing this for some of our clients.

And that doesn’t make them, or me, jerks either.

You came to ME for guidance, and called me a jerk when I gave it.

You owe ME an apology.”

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Aug 30
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WHY YOU CAN’T GET A WRITING ASSIGNMENT

A question came up today: “I want to know why it’s become so difficult for writer’s to get into the manga/comic business? “

You mean, aside from your messed-up sentence structure and misuse of the possessive?  (I say this with snark, but think about it:  If a single-sentence first contact from a would-be author comes over so poorly written, how is that supposed to impress an editor or agent?)

It’s difficult for newcomers to get writing jobs in comics because all too often, writing assignments aren’t about ideas or talent. They’re sometimes about who is the editor’s best drinking buddy; or Editor A giving writing work to Editor B so that Editor B will reciprocate; or office politics; or editors wanting to rub shoulders with people from Hollywood.

Beyond that, bizarre arbitrary “rules” are sometimes in place, such as from the editor who said, “I would buy that story from [so-and-so], but you haven’t been in the business long…you haven’t earned the right to do that type of story.”

I’ve even seen stories rejected by editors who didn’t realize the editor in the next cubicle had already published them….or rejected on the goofiest, thinnest of excuses. “We would never publish a series with that character.” And seven months later a series starring that character is on the shelves.

By contrast, it’s easy for great artists to get work, because most editors can’t draw but they can easily see strong storytelling, great faces, and artistic finesse.

When I was editing at Innovation Comics some 20 years ago, I did what some considered shocking: I gave equal weight to over-the-transom writing submissions as I did to established people submitting. Several times, I asked to review series and plot proposals with names removed, specifically so I could judge the work, not the name of the person submitting. That system resulted in my giving writing assignments to an awful lot of “new” writers.

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Aug 21
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THE PROFESSIONAL PORTFOLIO

Artists:  Please learn the difference between an “art school”/”art classes” portfolio and a PROFESSIONAL portfolio that’s designed to get jobs for you.

I’ve seen way too many portfolios recently that were depositories for every sketch, drawing, tracing, half-finished thing the artist ever did.  Including a ton of artsy-fartsy pieces done in art school that may service the soul but not the wallet.

But please, please please, take it the next step:  WHERE in commercial illustration do you see stuff that looks like that?  (Usually:  Nowhere.)

Your portfolio needs to showcase examples of the types of assignments you want.  If you don’t KNOW what you want to do, do you truly believe an art director will look at your vague, unfocussed portfolio and decide for you what your career should be?  C’mon…be real.  They seen dozens, sometimes hundreds, of portfolios per month.  The able, focussed, professional portfolios will get their attention…and the assignments.

It boils down to this:  Wanna draw or create CG product illos?  Do some.  Wants to design ads?  Design some that look like real, finished ads.  Wanna draw comic books?  Draw some comics.  Wanna storyboard commercials of film?  Storyboard some!

Sometimes it really is a simple as that.

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Jul 24
Permalink

IF YOU’RE READY TO HEAR IT….

…Then it’s OK to ask for the truth about your submission.  Although I’m as nice as I can be when someone submits an obviously-amateurish portfolio, artists can still be shattered by anything that isn’t blind praise.  Such false praise, however, does nothing to help them to improve.

Lately, both to lessen the number of hours I spend reviewing portfolios each week and to lessen the blow, I’ve taken to writing a simple response to beginner-level submissions — something along the lines of:  “Thanks for submitting.  Unfortunately, it’s not at a professional level that we can sell to our clients.”

Some accept it for what it is.  Others demand to know more about WHY their work is being rejected, which draws me back into the same review I’d hoped to avoid.

Take this Red Sonja sample that I received today.  I responded as I noted above, but the artist insisted on knowing more.  

image

So I wrote, “Looking at the cover:  Boring layout.  Weird proportions for Sonja, with swollen thighs and a mannish torso, an unattractive hunched-over pose where she seemingly has no neck, and the fact you’re apparently faking everything with no reference so that nothing looks finished or professional-level.”

image

"The splash suffers from the same problems — and Red Sonja’s expression and pose don’t even match the story.  Why the bored expression instead of reacting to the fireballs or the monster?  Why isn’t her body twisting and writhing to escape from the creature?  Why is she oblivious to the fireballs?"

image

"On the other pages, the drawing is simply beginner-level."

 

"And on the last page, WHY does she look to her RIGHT to spot the wizard, yet in the establishing shot he’s coming in from the LEFT?"

I hit SEND, and moments later came his response.  Instead of answering the questions I posed, wrote, “Wow. Brutal but honest.”

I remain troubled by this.   Why do artists today take a straightforward, honest review and preface it with “BRUTAL”?  I see that more and more, no matter how nice I am about it.  Had I time, I could have gone into far more detail — but that still wouldn’t mean I was brutal.  It was not mean-spirited or even negative…let alone brutal.  Mostly I asked questions, giving the artist an opportuntiy to THINK about his work and, perhaps, offer me an answer that made sense.

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