Today an artist wrote me: «<I hope you are well. My colleague suggested that I get in touch with you for possible artist representation in the comic industry. First, a bit about myself. I am a comic illustrator who has worked on independent and pitch work. My focus is penciling and I have a very strong passion for the comics in general. I am an American living in London which means I have a pretty adaptable approach to my work whether it is for an American, European or UK audience. I work to deadlines and I perform well under pressure. I am sending over some examples of my recent pencil work. Please review and let me know if you have any questions. I am looking forward to speaking with you in the very near future.»>
Here’s what his work looked like:
Skipping over, for a moment, their concept that where a person moved from and to somehow embodies them with the talent to adapt to audiences of different nations, I responded: ««Not bad. Perhaps not stylish, consistent, or “finished” enough to be quite what we’re looking for. We get a number of submissions every week at about this level; not enough to make it stand out in a crowd…which means editors wouldn’t gravitate to it. You need to think about what you can bring to the party that nobody else can, so you can stand out as something wonderful that editors HAVE to hire.»»
Seeking further guidance, he wrote back: «<Thanks for your feedback. When you mean stand out from the crowd, does this mean that either the layouts or the composition of the pages needs to be stronger? Just curious so that I can take a good hard look at what I need to punch up for the next round of submissions.»>
My reply: ««Think of it this way: A lot of beginners trying to break in aren’t getting much work. A lot of long-established middle-range-quality guys out there aren’t getting work. Now look at the top guys who are getting work: Mike Deodato. Ed Benes. Ivan Reis. And so on. If you know their work, you can immediately picture their stuff in your head.
Also think of the other, long-time big-name stars in the biz — Jim Lee, Adam Hughes, Neal Adams, and so on. As each grew into stardom, a ton of copycats came along.
Neal Adams had Mike Nasser, Alan Weiss, Rich Buckler, Bill Sienkiewicz, and many others come along duplicating his style. They all went away — except for Sienkiewicz, who morphed into something extremely different — and only Neal Adams remains.
Jim Lee had, it seems, a hundred copycats in the ’90s. Now only Jim Lee is still around…the copycats have vanished.
The guy who SETS THE STYLE becomes a star everyone else wants to copy. And ultimately he’s the guy who sticks around with a long-term career. If a hundred guys all draw in your quality range, what makes you stand out in a crowd. At this moment, what makes you the guy the editor HAS to hire? Nothing.
A great, fresh style is going to capture their attention. The quality of the dramatic storytelling, character performance, facial expressions, etc., is what’s gonna land you the job and keep them coming.»»
Rather than being miffed at the idea he’s not ready NOW despite some minor credits, he wrote back: «<Awesome feedback. This is the kick in the ass that I need. Let me go back to the drawing board, send you some really hot stuff and lets talk about it again. I appreciate that you are probably pretty swamped with things like this so I’ll take my time and hit you with some more stuff here in the late summer/early fall. Speak soon.»>
I look forward to seeing where he ends up.