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Hawkins Details Top Cow’s Second Annual Talent Hunt

by  in Comic News Comment
Hawkins Details Top Cow’s Second Annual Talent Hunt

Top Cow Productions launches their second annual Talent Hunt on Sept. 2, looking to give undiscovered talent an opportunity to break into the comics industry by submitting scripts and artwork utilizing a selection of Top Cow characters.

The first Talent Hunt took place last year, drawing 1,100 total participants. (Winners of last year’s competition included CBR columnist Hannibal Tabu). Due to the overwhelming success, Top Cow president and COO Matt Hawkins and company co-founder and CEO Marc Silvestri, decided to bring it back for another year. The contest will be open until Jan. 31, 2014, with four writers and four artists being selected to do paid work for Top Cow in 2014 or 2015. Ten runner-up writers and artists will be offered an opportunity to complete work for a Top Cow anthology.

Hawkins spoke with CBR News to dive deeper into this year’s contest, including a new rule to reserve two winning spots for female creators and his hopes for the future of Top Cow Talent Hunts. Courtesy of Top Cow, we also have the exclusive first look at the Talent Hunt rules and submission form, which can be downloaded in PDF form.

CBR News: What inspired you and Marc to launch this talent hunt?

Matt Hawkins: This is the second year we’ve done it and the original inspiration was just to find new artists to work with. In sort of laying that out, we got to talking and realized that there isn’t really a means for new comic writers to break into the industry without self-publishing, which can be expensive to do if you can’t draw and have to hire an artist. So I added the writer component last year and was shocked at the volume of submissions we received from writers. It was three writers for every art sample we were sent.

I think both Marc and I look at how we got in the industry, and in both our cases someone helped us get in. Gave us a shot, a chance. That’s all you can ask, really. Sometimes talented people need that opportunity or it’ll never happen for them. This may sound dumb, but it makes me proud when I see people in the industry that I helped discover. Most of those to date have been artists, but will be fun to see hopefully some writers find a voice.

Are any of the previous winners currently working on Top Cow titles?

Yes all three teams that won last year are currently working on issues of “Artifacts.” I believe issues #33-#35 will feature the Talent Hunt winners.

It’s mentioned in the official rules that Top Cow intentionally reserved one spot for a woman in the artist and writer categories. In last year’s talent hunt, did you seen strong female participation?

There was some female participation but not nearly on the level of the male. One of the art winners from last years Talent Hunt was a woman: An Italian woman that goes by -Rom-, with no affiliation to the Spaceknight (that I know of, at least). Women read the bulk of fiction, and it seems stupid and narrow-sighted to not cultivate talent that may be able to attract a larger female readership to comics in general.

What are some of the most important qualities Top Cow looks for in new stories? What are you hoping to see from participants?

The key for these stories for me is that it is a self-contained story, about a character that we understand clearly and with at least a nod to the overall mythology of the “Artifacts” universe. I think people were shocked when I picked a winner last year that intentionally did not use his artifact. It was an Ian Nottingham story about how Ian wanted to prove that he didn’t need the Blood Sword. I really liked that.

Key for me is something different, something new and something with at least some memorable aspect to it. The key to all three winners last year is that even after reading another 500 entries, I could still recall what they were about. Most of the entries I read last year were in and out of my mind quickly. It’s a problem I see in comics today. How many thousands of comics have we all read that we instantly forgot because they were simply so forgettable? I read about 10 comics a week and 9 of them two weeks later I couldn’t tell you what they were about.

The submissions are open through January 31, 2014 — when do you think you’ll announce the winners?

Hopefully within 30 to 60 days. There is a huge number of these that all come in on the last couple days, probably 70 percent of them.

What is the difference between this Talent Hunt and the standard submissions process?

The difference between the Talent Hunt and regular submissions is the way I approach them. When someone submits something to me normally, even an established creator, I’m generally looking for a reason to say no. If I find it, then there it is. For the Talent Hunt I approach it in the opposite way. I’m looking for a reason to say yes. Some things that are unforgivable in a pitch by an established writer I may be more forgiving on with an up-and-comer. With last year’s, I was shocked how many professional-level writing submissions there were. There are a whole slew of writers not working in comics that I believe should be. We need new blood and not simply giving the same 50 writers 3-4 books each.

Do you plan to do a talent hunt annually?

That’s an unknown. I’d say probably. After I did last year’s I knew I wanted to do another one, because I learned better ways to do it and handle it. I hope so, I think this is an opportunity for people to get published and that’s pretty cool. I remember the first time I was published, I bought 50 copies of the book and sent them to every relative and close friend I had super excited about it. Established, long running professionals lose that joy and excitement over the years. I think we should encourage it, and allow some new blood into the mix.

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