The one thing you can count on in the comics business is people want to get in. By this I mean there are a zillion people who want to make comics their lifework. To some “comic books’ is a silly way to make a buck. Well forget them. Tell them to have a ham sandwich and shut up. I’m talking to all the young creators who want to make this their careers. I know a bit about this and if you allow me I would like to share some of what I know with you.
The first step on the road to comic immortality is education. I want to talk to the young artists out there. I will let my good friend Mike Baron in a guest column talk about becoming a comic book writer (Mike, please write a guest column for me!).
There are a lot of young artists who think it’s smart to simply copy Image Comics from the nineties and that will give them the art background they need. It won’t. By the way, Image does great books and Jim Valentino has a fantastic nose for good content. I’m sure that Jim would agree that the books Image is doing today are vastly different from the ones they were doing when they revolutionized the comics industry in the nineties. There are a great many young artists who think that copying Todd McFarlane or Rob Lefield will give them the tools they need to be the next Todd McFarlane or Rob Lefield – again, it won’t.
There are no sure fire ways to break into the comic industry as an artist. The industry is filled with self-taught artists-some of these self taught creators are superstars. However, most people can’t simply draw themselves into the field. For the majority of you I think a good art school is a great first step, the first step you will need to establish your own way in a very competitive comics business. How do you choose a good art school?
An art school should not just teach you art, it should equip you to navigate the business. You want a school that will deal with you as an aspiring professional and not just an artist. A lot of schools don’t do that. Some of the best schools have working professionals teaching there. You would think that will be a great place to go right?
Some instructors will share with you every single thing they know. Some won’t. Why won’t they? Because you will be their competition in a very short time. Because they will someday fear you.
Oh. Nobody told you that?
Look, the professional art school is a business. Before I go on let me be clear: I’m not talking about teachers in fine art curricula. Those teachers teach students who want to make art for art’s sake. Those students want to bring their vision to people for no other reason than to make their personal statements. I’m talking about teachers of Illustration, Cartooning, Animation, Graphic Design or any commercial art course. Chances are if your teachers are working professionals they will not share with you all their contacts or their knowledge. Or to put it another way, if you were an rookie on The New York Mets and your position was center field, do you really think the veteran who held that position would tell you all he knew?