So today’s big development is that Joel stepped outside.  Trust me, we are getting somewhere I promise!  I wanted to point out that pretty new button to your right.  As I mentioned last time, I am trying to come up with the money for a new computer, plus I know some of you have offered to donate in the past, so I set up this donate feature where you get an exclusive Octo-Bear wallpaper if you donate.  This is also a preview of the art that will be on the upcoming Octo-Bear tee shirt I’ll be selling soon.  HUGE THANKS to everyone who has already donated.  You guys are so generous.  I’m honored that you enjoy this comic to the extent you are willing to donate to it.

You may also notice the “Upcoming Appearances” section has been added, which will let you know if I will be coming to a convention near you any time soon.

Also, I did a shirt in this new series of Comics on Tees over at Threadless.com.  The series was written by Jhonen Vasquez, and then the four shirts were designed by Jhonen, Becky Cloonan, JR Goldbreg and me.  I am pretty proud of mine, and to be among such fabulous art.  My assignment was to draw a robot fighting a sea monster.

Since today’s page doesn’t inspire much commenting, I’ll answer another Comic Q&A email I got from a guy named Pat.  If you have a question send it to info at Bearmageddon.com

 

Hey Ethan,
So I’ve wanted to start working on a comic I had the idea for a couple of months ago, but since I am a terrible artist and a nearly competent writer I decided to hire an artist. My first choice was a friend of mine who is a phenomenal artist, and after a few months of pussyfooting on semantics(mostly me) I’ve formally commissioned him to do my comic. Problem is every week for three weeks now he has said that he’d have the cover done by the end of the week, then every Monday he says, “no I’ll get on it.” I don’t want to fire him because he is a friend and probably the best comic book artist in the city. So I was wondering as an artist do you pick up tempo as you work on a project? This is how I am as a writer. Also I have a lot of plans for the comic but the first issue may read a touch dry. Even though I have faith It will get better as time goes on it still worries me. As a comic book writer/artist do you think it’s alright for a first issue to be a bit bland? Write back whenever you can I’m in no hurry I’ve just never written a comic before and could use some guidance.

 

Well, working with your friends has its drawbacks for sure, and the fact that your friend has no problem missing your deadlines, and you have a problem with enforcing them causes a real issue.

The thing is, if you are willing to pay money, there are a ton of talented, up and coming artists on the net that would kill to get paid something to draw a comic.  You go to your friends for favors, not to hire them, unless you know off the bat they are reliable.

The toughtest thing to find is a reliable artist.  Especially if the artist has not drawn much in the way of comics.  They may have drawn some pretty awesome scorpions and Dragon Ball Z fan art, but comics is not that.  Comics is drawing EVERYTHING and organizing it so it all tells a story.  It is a huge undertaking and a lot of artists who are great at illustrating suddenly turn to crap when they try to put it into little boxes that tell a story.

So, when shopping for an artist you need to look for someone with drive.  Someone who has already drawn a stack of comic pages.  That shows they are determined.  It is generally a bad idea to invest money into having a guy who draws awesome dragons draw a comic, unless every panel is just a dragon in a cool pose.

Good, reliable comic illustrators are hard to find, and I would not try to get someone amazing on your first bit of work.  This is going to be pratice for you as much as it is for them.  So get an up-and-comer who is hungry to produce more stuff.  If you have money, tell them you will pay to self-publish the books when it is time.  A lot of young artists simply need that much.

My own case in point.  When I attended my first San Diego Comic Con I realized first off just how bad I really was at drawing comics.  I decided at that convention I needed to draw some more comics as soon as possible so I could improve.  I went to a panel for aspiring writers and during the Q&A I stood up and said I was an artist looking to work with a writer.  I did want to write my own stuff, but I simply did not have anything written at that point, and I did not want to wait until I got good at writing to do a book.  I’d rather learn to draw on someone else’s book anyway.  I was clobbered by writers dying to get an artist to work with them.

The guy who got me was a guy who has a stack of three story ideas written up as pitches.  He also said that he was willing to print and publish any books we did because he could afford it.  I jumped on it because I wanted to have comics to show around, and I wanted my art circulating.  I wanted a finished product.

So we did it, and the comic was pretty bad.  It was called Creep.  I learned a lot, and the books were printed, but very few people have ever read them.  But I improved vastly from one issue to the next, and I now had been able to at least prove to myself and others that I can finish books.  A LOT of artists can’t finish books.  You think it’s hard to find a good aritist… it is even harder to find a good artist who can finish a book.

This is one reason i have a lot of respect for how Brian Michael Bendis went about creating Jinx, Goldfish and his other books in those noir series.  The guy was not an amazing artist, so he figured it out.  He took pictures of people acting out the parts then stylistically drew over the photos and created something unique.  He did not let his lack of an awesome artist stop him.

To move on, you asked “As a comic book writer/artist do you think it’s alright for a first issue to be a bit bland?” No, I do not.  Do you think it is OK for the first episode of a TV series to be bland?  Do you think it is OK for the preview of a film to be bland?  Your first issue communicates one thing: This is what you, the reader, are in for.

But beyond just a bland first issue, you need to go one step deeper and make sure your premise is not bland.  You need to be able to sum your story up in a sentence or two, and those sentences should captivate your audience and make them excited to read.  The premise itself has to draw them in.  This is a big element of the Save the Cat books which I recommended over at Axe Cop on Monday.  Check those books out.  He not only teaches you how to write a story, but how to pitch it.  How to tell someone about it and make it something they are excited to read.

It is true that your first act is often the least exciting.  Here we are at Bearmageddon.com and we have not seen any real bear action and we are on page 23.  That’s because, generally whatever is on your poster, whatever your story is about, bursts into the story at act two.  Act one takes you there, and making act one interesting is a serious challenge. This is one reason a good premise is so important.  A reader excited about the premise is much more apt to walk a little uphill in act one if they are excited to get to act two, as long as you don’t draw act one out too much.  No one went to see Jurassic Park to see Dr. Archeaology kid hater meany pants talk to a rich Santa Clause expedition guy about dinosaurs.  But they endured it because of the promise of the premise.

I in no way claim to be the master of any of this, but I have tried to be as conscious of it as I can be in making this story.  I try to constantly plant reminders of the premise into the story… the Octo-Bear at the beginning was a promise to the reader that you are in for this kind of craziness.  The dead bear in the intersection, the newspapers in the newsstand proclaiming bear attacks on the rise, and the mauled security guard are all there to remind you that hell is on its way.  On top of that, I am trying to create a situation where my characters, who I am hopefully getting you to eventually care about, are heading into about the dumbest situation they could put themselves in as it is all about to hit the fan.

So yes, the first act, the first issue, the set up, the world you character must leave to go on their journey… it’s hard.  But do your best not to make it bland.  Get your premise solid and exciting.  Find a great title.  You need those things to make the first act even worth the read.  A lot of people think you just have to write a cool story.  No, you have to let people know why it is cool.  You need to give them a reason to read it.  For me, I drew that banner on top of this website.  This is my hook.  This tells the reader what they came for and what I intend to deliver.  It is many things, but I can say with confidence that it is not bland.

Good luck.  If you can’t find an artist, figure out a way to tell the story.  Don’t let anyone stop you.

I’ll also say to aspiring artists here on the site.  Talk to Pat.  You may want to draw comics but don’t know where to start.  You may feel you need practice. This is the perfect opportunity.

But if your friend is constantly missing deadlines, I’d look elsewhere for an artist.  You need someone who will get it done, and like I said, if you are willing to pay, you are already upping your chances of getting someone decent.  It is really hard to make any money drawing comics.

And seriously.  Read Save the Cat.  The first and third volume will be priceless.  It is about screenwriting, but it all applies to comics.  Godpseed!!

Ethan