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Issue #140

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Issue #140
  • There’s a theory that the only remaining audience for comic books consists of those who want to break into the field. With publishers telling me that, despite desperate cries of market recovery, things continue to slide, that their sales are still sinking yet their market share remains the same so everyone else’s must be sinking too (this is an exact conversation I recently had, and while market share and sales aren’t necessarily directly correlative, they remain indicative), there’s some reason to at least consider that possibility.

    It’s not unusual for comics today to sell in the 15,000-20,000 range.

    Which roughly corresponds to the number of people who attend the San Diego Convention (AKA Comic-Con International) each year. And since nine-tenths of the people attending San Diego seem to want to break into the business…

    Okay, I’m exaggerating. San Diego attendance figures are regularly questioned; it’s unclear whether they count each ticket or each ticket holder, a crucial difference since the same person attending four days running is four tickets but only one attendee. Which, if the case, means everyone attending San Diego wants to break into the business.

    No, I’m kidding. It’s no more than 80% tops.

    Ha. I could keep this up for pages.

    But there are a lot, as any attending professional could tell you. San Diego is the king of comics conventions. While companies strapped for cash send fewer and fewer editors and talent out to promote their books, it’s still the only place most of those wanting to break in can meet professionals face to face.

    True, there’s always New York. But in New York you have to make appointments and get past snooty receptionists who eye you like they think you’re working for the Taliban. Or, worse, you could sit in an overpriced hotel room making phone calls to editors, getting answering machines, and never once making contact. In San Diego, where the hotel rooms are also overpriced, you can ambush Stan Lee in the bathroom.

    I wouldn’t advise it, but you can do it.

    So every year they trundle down, portfolios and samples stuffed in duffle bags or stuck under arms, visions of glory in their eyes, knowing in their hearts that their work is so brilliant companies will snatch them up if only they can get their work seen. Hundreds of them. Literally hundreds. Living in fantasy land.

    Which is good, because it gives them somewhere to go back to when reality slaps them in the face.

    As a business, we’re not very good at staring reality in the eye. (Obviously not, or we’d be doing things differently instead of – like Detroit at the height of the ’70s oil crisis insisting the only cars Americans are willing to buy are costly gas guzzlers while small, cheap Japanese imports gutted their business – clinging to fantasies of how good things worked in the good old days.) (And, yes, for those picayunes in the audience, I did mangle that grammar on purpose.) This isn’t surprising, as we’ve evolved into largely a medium of fantasy, where unreal beings do impossible things despite natural law and not only get away with it, but it is considered good. Okay on the page, but fight reality in the real world and reality usually wins.

    But fans and professionals alike continue to expect that the comics industry exists under special conditions. No group seems to believe this more about themselves than would-be professionals, whose behavior perhaps smacks more of desperation than fantasy, as they try to get anyone at all to notice them. Also not surprising. I even sympathize. I’ve been there. We all have, and to some extent we all sympathize with the poor sods.

    But sympathy doesn’t go very far.

    The fact is: you have to be a little crazy to want to work in comics, particularly under the current conditions. That’s okay: we’re all a little crazy. The market is so far south we can look north and see Antarctica. The available slots for work are filled and shrinking and there are several thousand people already in the business trying to be the next to fill them. Companies aren’t particularly interested in discussing creator-owned material. Failure is rampant in a business predicated on stories of success against all odds.

    And every year more people come to the convention convinced (and, perhaps, secretly terrified they may be wrong) that they can put out work far more spectacular, more captivating, more able to appeal to a mass audience, that that of those who already work in the field. Believe me, there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s something else we all go through, at least at the start. (Some are still going through it, despite years of opposing evidence; this is an aspect of the theory of cognitive dissonance, that a firmly held irrational belief will only grow stronger in the face of contradictory factual information.) You have to have that much faith in your work just to have the guts to step up to the plate.

    Because those three balls whiz by you awfully quickly, and the vast majority find themselves back in the showers before they can blink, wondering what happened. Wondering how their genius could possibly have been overlooked. Some give up after the first try. Some nurse their wounds, convincing themselves they’re way too advanced for the industry to appreciate, and a tiny fraction might even be right. A very, very tiny fraction. Far too few will understand it’s way too easy to be impressed by your own work, and that most work is just mediocre. Not great, not terrible, just mediocre. Virtually no one erupts full blown from their own skull; careers are a long process of creative evolution. Would-be pros seem to rarely factor in the need for perseverance, self-criticism and dedication to improvement, or consider that their behavior might be what spells the difference between a career in comics and a day job giving out cocktail wiener samples at Costco.

    When you send samples over the transom, your samples are what an editor judges. The problem is they might take months to even open the envelope. The problem with meeting them face to face in a venue like San Diego is that you’re your own competitor for their attention; they are now judging you as well as your work. In a convention setting, it’s not so important that you sell your work as that you sell yourself. I can’t guarantee anyone will get a job in comics, but if you’re going to take a shot, here’s a way to improve your chances: do it right.

    This is the absolute first thing you must do: bathe. (Showers are acceptable.) Wash your hair. Comb it. Use a deodorant. Every day you’re there. You’d be amazed how many people don’t seem to know this. San Diego is hot in July and August. The convention is crowded and stuffy. An editor remembering you for your body odor is the last thing you want, ’cause you’re never going to see the inside of his office.

    Dress decently. You can be comfortable, you don’t have to wear a suit, but anyone approaching an editor while wearing nothing but bikini underwear held up by suspenders with Pokemon stickers all over them is going to be viewed as several buffalo short of a herd. Your work’s got to be pretty damn good to overcome that sort of first impression.

    A lot of people seem to think being obnoxious or critical is a good way to score points. When I started working for Marvel, a friend called wanting me to take him up to the offices so he could tell them everything wrong with their books so that they’d hire him to fix them. I figured just putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger would do my own career a lot less harm. There are good modes of behavior when dealing with comics professionals, and this applies to all fans, not just would-bes: we don’t like snotty, we don’t like obsequious. Pleasant is fine. Mildly polite is fine. Don’t offer us things. Don’t try to buy professionals drinks. Even if it’s just a friendly gesture, it makes us wonder what you’re up to and when the other shoe’s going to drop. If you’re a would-be buying pros a drink and your work isn’t good enough to get you in, you’re just going to end up feeling betrayed anyway because, despite your largesse, we still won’t cut you any slack.

    I emphasize editor in most cases because many people take their samples around to every professional writer and artist they see. (And letterer and colorist.) Don’t bother. While once in a blue moon a professional will usher a would-be toward an editor – when Matt Haley showed me his work at a Portland convention a few years ago I aimed him at Archie Goodwin – it doesn’t happen very often. If you’re an artist just looking for tips on what you’re doing wrong, that’s one thing. But professionals have no incentive to give you an honest appraisal if your work sucks. We’re not there to alienate fans (most of us aren’t, anyway) and that’s about the quickest way to do it. Most professionals say non-committal things like “You’re a little rough yet, but keep practicing” just so they can get out of there graciously. Problem is many bad artists go away all cocky because Mr. Big Name just gave them a stamp of approval. They feel vindicated. They stop trying to improve. They never get work, and wish that Big was an editor so they could get work from him, overlooking that the only reason MBN could say it is that he’s not an editor.

    It’s also a bad idea for would-be writers to ask other writers to read their unpublished samples. Lawyers make whole careers out of civil prosecutions over things like that.

    But here’s the real reason it’s only worthwhile to show your work to editors: editors are the only ones who can make you a professional. They’re the only ones who can give you work (unless an artist is fishing for an assistant, which doesn’t happen often). They’re the only ones, for your purposes, whose opinions matter. (Even if you self-publish and are your own editor, this is true.) They’re the ones who will remember the longest if you or your work stinks.

    Artists, of course, have an easier time of it. Editors can usually judge art at a glance; very few pre-professional samples are so sophisticated or original they’re outside the criteria for quick assessment. Most editors are fairly relaxed about being approached at conventions, but avoid accosting them in toilets or at meal tables. If you see them on the town with a crowd of people, or at a party, or chatting it up with Mr. Big Name at the hotel bar, discretion would dictate keeping your portfolio to yourself. Most companies now have set times during which editors look at portfolios, and these are still your best bet. Don’t be slow about signing up, though, as most cap the list at a certain number.

    Artists shouldn’t try to prove they’re jacks of all trades, particularly if they want to work for companies like Marvel or DC. Most artists begin as pencilers or inkers and slowly work their way to full discipline. If you want to pencil comics, here’s what you do: five pages of samples, comprising a single story sequence. Don’t ink the pages. Most people don’t know how to ink properly even if they pencil well, and inking weakens their samples and obliterates their pencils. Don’t letter the samples. Don’t color them. Editors want to know what your pencils look like. Anything else obscures them. If you need lettering to connote a general sense of what’s happening on the pages, your storytelling is crap. Do a sequence because individual pages – or, worse, full page pinup shots – don’t tell an editor what he needs to know to give you a chance: can you draw, and can you tell a story with your drawings?

    This is what you want to prove. So don’t dick around. Do it. On regulation size paper (Bristol board, 11×17, with art borders approximately 10×15; don’t bother with tricky stuff like art bleeds). Anything else looks unprofessional, which means nothing scrawled on 8.5×11″ typing paper. That’s for the set of sharp, clear downsized photocopies of your samples, each page notated with your name and phone number, that you’ll give the editor to take with him. And aside from that bathing thing, if there is one bit of advice you must not ignore, it’s this: only show your absolute best and most recent work. Don’t wander around with five years worth of material and explain how you did this one eight months ago and that one in January of ’95, and how you’ve learned so much since then. Editors want to know how you draw right now. You don’t need to show them a lot of work (just enough – which is how we arrive at five pages – to indicate what you’re showing isn’t a fluke), you need to show your best work. Period.

    For everyone besides pencilers, here are two magic words: business cards.

    Inkers should prepare a couple inking samples, but the smart thing to do is ask an editor if you can write him for Xeroxes of penciled pages to ink for professional samples. Give him your business card so he has an excuse to remember who you are. Then, when you have permission, send a stamped self-addressed flat manila envelope so he or she can send you pages. Make it as easy for them as possible.

    Letterers and colorists have a much tougher time because these disciplines are being increasingly computerized so fewer people can do more and more of the work. My guess is it won’t be long before most writers are lettering their own books and most artists are coloring them. My best suggestion is – sorry – find another line of work. Again, if you have samples, in addition to originals, have brief Xeroxed sample packets for editors to take with them. Notated with your name and number, of course. Business cards couldn’t hurt.

    As for would-be writers… frankly, you’re screwed. Conventions aren’t conducive to reading. Unlike art, which can be assessed at a glance, writing takes lots of time to judge, and time is something editors don’t have. Particularly when they’re working for their companies, meeting their freelancers, making deals, vamping on panel discussions, signing autographs and greeting an ocean of fans. Don’t waste your time giving editors sample plots. Give them a business card by way of introduction, and sell yourself, not your work. Ask for permission to send samples to the editor’s office. Most editors don’t read when they get back to their rooms. (If they get back; drinks can flow nonstop) some do a little reading on the red-eye home, but usually they’re dead tired. But, if you make an editor anticipate your samples, nine times out of ten they’ll read them fairly quickly.

    If they have the time, which is a big if.

    If this is depressing you, good. Welcome to the bitter taste of reality. Wash it down with a shot of ambition and a pinch of hope.

    One editor did ask me to pass on this bit of advice: always remember, different editors have different opinions. If you don’t like what an editor has to say about your work, there’s always the chance you’re right and he’s wrong. Talk to a different editor, and you might get a different response. There’s always a very slender chance you’re an evolved genius who’s just ahead of his time. But probably not. If many editors tell you the same thing, you might want to reconsider your position.

    Most would-bes aren’t going to come out of the convention with work. As I said earlier, the market’s still contracting, and unless you can bring something to it of potentially great interest that it hasn’t seen before, it’s harder than ever getting noticed. If you’re really lucky, the first seeds of a professional relationship were planted. Don’t take rejection as a dead end. Be patient. Listen to why the work was rejected. Learn. Think of rejection as another chance to get it right.

    There’ll be another San Diego Con next year.

  • The longer-lived of you in the audience may recognize the above. I wrote it five years ago, in MASTER OF THE OBVIOUS. Truth is, I had a column all planned out this week, then time jammed up on me for various reasons so I’m on forced vacation this week. Back to normal next week, knock wood.

    The ugly part of this is how little has changed, really, since I wrote it, and how good most of the advice still is. Consider that. Meanwhile, over the following years I ran a couple companion pieces, which I’ve added below.

  • Know how, right before Thanksgiving, all the women’s magazines, all the supermarket rags, all the local TV news broadcasts run pieces on how to keep from in shape during the pig-out holiday season?

    Sure, it’s a cheap sales/ratings gimmick, but they time it that way for two reasons: because even though it’s the same information every time people still scour it looking for a new hot secret that will make the rest of it moot, and because there’s no point in running pieces like that after the holiday season.

    Every year in the comics industry there’s a convention season. While there are exceptions, such as APE and the Orlando MegaCon, the season starts roughly in mid-April with Oakland’s Wondercon and runs through Comic-Con International in San Diego in mid-July. (It’s a sign of the distress in the comics industry that the season has been shrinking over the years. There was a time it began in mid-March with the Motor City Con and continued into September and beyond depending on what cons were in the U.K. that year. Until recently, Comic-Con International was held in August. Motor City Con still exists but no longer has major con status.)

    Every year in convention season, young fans’ fancies turn to making a career for themselves in the wonderful world of comics, and every years dozens dash their own dreams by charging in half-cocked. Because they don’t understand one simple tenet: this is a business. We may come across as auteurs and artistes and condescending schmucks, so fans might be excused for thinking that’s what it takes to get into comics, but the truth is we’re all businesspeople too. Whether we want to be or not. When you’re talking about a career, about earning your livelihood doing something, you’re either a businessperson or you’re an idiot. There’s no middle ground. Even Gary Groth is a businessman.

    Last year, shortly before Comic-Con International, I wrote a MOTO about how to pitch yourself at conventions. Some felt I was insulting and crude, others called it “refreshingly blunt.” I was only chipping the iceberg. Fact is, if you want to push yourself at conventions, you have to start now. You can’t listen to only the advice you want to hear, because that may not be what you need to hear. You can’t go by your own delusions if you want to hook in any industry, and conditions in the comics industry are bleak enough you’re cutting your own throat if you don’t take as much as possible into account. As Iggy Pop put it, you got to deal with the real, living on the edge of the night.

    This is a medium largely predicated on fantasy. The real’s hard to come by. First rule, which I said last year but deserves repeating: if you want to work in the comics business, only show your work to editors because they’re the only ones who can give you an assignment. Sure, show your work to writers and artists if you like, but don’t delude yourself into think they’re likely to be so bowled over they’ll do your legwork for you. They’ve got other concerns on their minds, like how late the bar stays open. You still have to deal with editors. The really good advice editors don’t want to tell you. Not because they don’t want you to know – they do – but because it’s harsh. It’s the sort of advice that makes enemies. It’s impolitic. Editors don’t like to make enemies of anyone but freelancers. Fans buy the books. It’s important to keep fans’ hopes up because that keeps them interested. Pissing on dreams is the sort of thing that loses readers.

    But it’s time you knew. It’s not just you: editors don’t even like to say these things to talent, though sometimes the best advice is the harshest. People have a bad habit of taking harsh criticism personally. I recently compared notes about an artist with an editor. “The problem,” the editor said, “is that his work is just pretty good. I can get all kinds of artists whose work is ‘pretty good.’ It’s to the point where if art doesn’t stand out and grab attention, I can’t afford to use it.” (The same goes for writers.) Discussing a second artist, he said, “He’s a great guy, everyone likes him, but I can’t use him as a lead artist in a book. The market has decided he’s not salable.” The upshot: the market is dire enough now that you only get one shot to wow ’em. Which is a lot like would-bes approaching editors at conventions: you now only get one shot to wow ’em.

    I figured if editors had a venue to say what they wanted to say, anonymously, a lot could come out without them having to be the bad guy. Me, I’m perfectly happy to be the bad guy. What follows are statements by real editors. They’re editors at major comics companies. Believe it or not, they want to help you. They’re telling you the truth.

    Editor A:

    “A word of encouragement to the comics niblets? I don’t know if I want to go on record as supporting this view, but dedication will get you further than talent. I’ve seen lots of hot portfolio pages from guys at conventions, and never gotten any follow up, even when I’ve called… but I’ve hired the guy who was good (but maybe not astounding) who sent more samples, responded to critiques by redrawing his samples and sending more in (all in a steady, non-obsessive way, of course).

    I think the other (unpopular) thing I would say is that if you want to work in this business, you should take responsibility for your professional education because no one else will have the time (or likely, the skill) to do it for you. Learn about deadlines, and work schedules, and try to gain skills you might not have already (like use of lighting, or advanced perspective, and of course, the ever needed life drawing).

    Writers? There I might say abandon hope all ye who enter here, but the same advice (except in triplicate) applies – study work outside of comics. Learn about story structure, but don’t be hamstrung by it. Learn about art, because while no one will care about your opinion, if you actually get to talk with the artist, you want to be able to describe how you want aspects of the story to look in terms other than “this awesome bad dude”.”

    Editor B:

    “1) Get over yourself. You score no points by whining. Yes, your stuff is so much better than what’s in print. Whining to the person in between you and getting in print won’t get you printed.

    2) To writers: no one has time or the necessary concentration available to read your proposal at a con. Mail it in; don’t make a pro carry twenty extra pounds of paper home.

    3) No, life is not fair.

    4) You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Don’t make the first impression you leave be “Look at me! I’m an asshole!”

    5) If a pro has just been sitting behind a booth for several hours, you want to get in their face on the way back from the restroom, but don’t.

    6) Do not start a conversation with “I like the way you bleach your hair, Mr. Grant.”

    7) Every editor or pro was once on your side of the table. If you have talent, we want to see you succeed. We are on your side. (Unless you get on our bad side by violating rules 1-6.)

    8) Pay attention to how pros got started. The answer is rarely “by sending in a submission.”

    9) For artists getting their portfolio reviewed: it’s opinion, not fact. (Unless twenty reviewers say “you draw heads too big.” Then it’s fact.) Don’t take one reviewer’s opinion as gospel and toss out work you’re proud of. Show it to as many people as will cooperate and see what the common comments are.

    10) By submitting work for review to a publisher, you are soliciting professional employment. Treat this at least as seriously as you would an interview with the representative from Sears. It’s not a joke or a game to us; it’s our livelihood.

    11) We’re judging your work, not you. (If you stutter, or are nervous, we’ll look beyond that.) [To amplify: unless it’s made extremely clear to you that it’s meant personally, don’t take any criticism of your work as an accusation or insult. Criticism is intended to help you learn and improve. If you don’t want criticism, don’t show your work. – SDG]

    12) We’re also judging you. (Don’t be a jerk-we’ll notice.)

    13) Be willing to start small, but give it everything you’ve got. All jobs are worthy of your talent.

    14) Know your goal. Comics are an art form and a commercial art form. Which one are you interested in? Being true to your muse and then trying to find an appropriate publisher, or having a job writing or penciling or inking or lettering or coloring comics? The rules and approaches are different.

    15) Be persistent but not obnoxious. Try to remain aware of where the line between them falls.

    16) Timing is everything. Accept the reality that you may have talent that no one can use. Comics professionals are a blend of talent, skills, ambition, professionalism, and opportunity.

    17) Know your target: do not show CrossGen your proposal for a new series because they don’t publish outside ideas. Don’t show DC Comics your porn work because they produce mainstream comics. Don’t pitch a mainstream superhero idea to Oni Press because they publish alternative, edgy things. If you can’t take the time to research the field, why should we take the time to look at inappropriate samples?

    18) Learn, learn, learn. Every encounter is an opportunity to learn more about how this field works. At least act like you’re paying attention.

    19) Be respectful. You may think the particular editor reviewing your work is an idiot. He just might be. You’ll get further in the field by respecting the fact that he is spending his time to review your work. Would you, as a pro, put in those hours to bring in the next new talent?

    20) No one wants to review your portfolio in the elevator, at the registration desk, or at dinner. They’re just being polite. They’re not paying attention, they’re just getting through the interruption so they can get back to their room or dinner.

    21) If you happen to know what room a pro is staying in, it is never cool to knock and introduce yourself.

    22) Godiva chocolates, specifically “creme brulee.” I can’t really be bought, but I’ll act like I can.”

    Editor C:

    “It’s been my observation that if you really want to do comics, you should just do comics, and not worry about writing and/or drawing BATMAN or X-MEN, because the odds of you getting hit by lightning are probably less than the odds of landing such a gig cold at a convention. Putting out your comic shows you can put out a comic, and that speaks more to the folks at the dance than a plaintive plea and a doe-eyed look from an innocent white-knuckling his portfolio.


    If you’ve got it in your head that you have The World’s Best Comic Book Story in you, and you’ve got talent that makes you think that you’re as-good-or-better than your favorite artists and/or writers, then I’d say you may have a SLIM chance at elbowing industry veterans with better connections (and possibly incriminating photos) out of the way of the paying gigs and getting to the head of the line.

    Getting a job from a top publisher is like standing in front of Superboy, Saturn Girl, Cosmic Boy, and Lightning Lad, and petitioning for membership in the Legion of Superheroes. (And if you want to do LEGION, that might not even be a metaphor.)

    But you’re trying to join a club; a select few who entertain… and you better have the chops or you won’t make it. If you’ve got the power to excrete roasted coffee beans out from under your eyelids, chances are the Legion’s not going to have use for you. But human nature being what it is, my advice is to forget going to conventions with the express purpose of landing a job. It’s most unlikely.

    I’d work on my social skills, if I were you. Don’t ask other creators to help you get work, because chances are they’d sidestep your dead body to just talk to an editor. Do some research on the company you want to work for: if your dream is to do illustrated Shawn Colvin lyrics, you’re wasting air if you pitch the project to AiT/PlanetLar.

    Don’t assume Mike Carlin is your friend because you can quote RATBOY 2000 dialogue to him. If you don’t know what RATBOY 2000 is, don’t expect to write SUPERMAN.

    Don’t think you’re gonna get work because you buy James Lucas Jones a beer. He’ll drink anyone’s beer.

    But, y’know…

    People like to work with talented people. And given a choice between two sets of creators that are equally talented, the job’ll go to the guy who the editor won’t mind talking to for an hour on the phone. Go to a convention and shmooze.

    That’s what Doselle Young did. He’s a talented writer, and a convention fixture. Just by dint of his compelling writing talent and peerless hail-fellow-well-met and nigh-infectious laugh, ol’ Cousin Do first landed a Frank Quitely story in GANGLAND, a WONDER WOMAN stint, and the bastard’s now writing MONARCHY.

    Yep; Doselle has talent oozing out his pores and there’s not a nicer guy in comics.

    And it only took him eight years to swing it. Eight. Years.

    So, don’t give up, or lose heart.

    ‘Cause guys like Doselle are ahead of you.”

    Editor D:

    “Don’t quit your day job! Seriously, at every convention I attend, I find myself giving most of the young wannabes a lesson in reality. To wit, the market is hardly at its healthiest when even longtime professionals can’t get work, so the prospects for a neophyte breaking in are dim at best. There are some things, however, that can aid their presentation: like studying what it is the publisher actually publishes before submitting to them. Fantagraphics reps, for instance, are hardly likely to look upon a portfolio featuring exclusively superheroes with a kind eye. The wannabe artist is best served by gearing his or her submission to the specific publisher he or she is approaching. Bring BATMAN samples to Bob Schreck. Bring ALIENS or STAR WARS or BUFFY samples to Dark Horse, etc. It’s not essential, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. And don’t expect an editor to sit and read your 500-page manuscript on the spot at the show!

    I also often recommend that would-be writers team up with a local artist and put together a minicomic. Those are easy to hand to an editor at a show; they’re a quick read (on the flight home, say) and demonstrate a great deal about both the writer’s and artist’s abilities, or lack thereof.

    Other than that, just the usual stuff: storytelling samples, not pinups; pencil samples, not just one’s own inked art, as one’s inks may be so poor that they hide what might be strong(er) pencils underneath.”

    Editor E:

    “My advice to writers: don’t expect to get anyone from a major publisher to review your work at a large convention. It’s almost impossible to tell if someone can really write from a brief review of written samples, and the proper time and environment needed to actually read and analyze something of any length just isn’t likely to be available in the frenzied, noisy atmosphere of a convention. Bring some stuff just in case and network, network, network, particularly among other writers, small publishers, and talented young artists, with whom one might be able to put a project together. In comics, it’s far easier for a writer to get the ball rolling as part of a writer/artist team (providing the artist doesn’t suck, of course). It’s much more difficult to break into comics as a writer than as an artist. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Act accordingly. Don’t push too hard, but always be ready. Prepare to take low-pay or no-pay writing work at small publishers or even to self-publish to get some of your work in print. And, God help you, consider trying to get in the door at a publisher as a staffer. Many comics writers have broken in from the inside.

    For artists, before you hit the convention floor, be totally realistic about your level of craft. Be your own harshest critic. If your work isn’t of professional quality, don’t waste your time showing it to editors at large shows. You won’t get work, and they don’t have time to give you a quality critique. Why spend two hours sitting in a line for nothing? If you want to find out whether your skills are ready for prime time, show your stuff first to other artists and ask them “Am I ready?” If the consensus is positive, get in line and let it all hang out; if you’re voted off the island, spend your time getting critiques from other artists. At the big shows, there are dozens of pencil-pushers sitting at tables all day long, many of whom will be more than happy to take a look at your wares and give you the kind of feedback you need. BTW, if twenty artists and/or editors tell you your figure drawing needs work, guess what? Your figure drawing needs work. Follow their advice.

    Now, what should an artist show? First and foremost, have a recent four to six pages of continuity; i.e., story pages, preferably from the same story, unlettered, tight pencils and copies of the original pencils if you’re going to inks. That’s all you need to show, providing the work is finished (never ever show an unfinished page) and the best you have to offer. I don’t know how many times I’ve been shown second-rate work and then offered some sort of qualifying statement that the six crummy pages I’m seeing were drawn in two days. What do I care? As an editor, I’m far more interested in finding work that knocks my eyes out than dogfood that’s ground out at lightspeed. Believe it or not, there are about a thousand artists out there already to whom an editor can turn for fast, crappy work. There really isn’t much of a market for that anymore. Editors are looking for artists who draw better than the next guy, not faster. Speed helps, but not without adequate talent. Plus, as an editor who’s been around the block a few times, I won’t believe your claim that you can pencil three pages a day anyway.

    Now, while you should make sure that what you show is the best you can possibly do, don’t overdo it. Artists sometimes feel that to impress an editor, they must draw every brick in the wall, every window in the building, every book on the shelf. Don’t: that just shows inexperience. Look at how other professionals handle pages and backgrounds and storytelling and make sure your pages tell a story clearly, dynamically, and economically. Go to town on the images that really benefit from detail and rendering and let the peripheral stuff show only as much as you really need to show. Be tight, but don’t have every square inch of space competing with each other. And sell your skills by selecting scenes that offer variety: the fantastic and the mundane, the real and the imagined, the range of human expression, explosive action and reflective silence. Range is the key.

    Outside of that four to six pages of storytelling, it’s a good idea to bring along some extra stuff to show-pinups, design work, additional stories-but only in reserve in case an editor wants to see it. Don’t expect an editor to dig through a foot-high pile of artwork, and please don’t ask them to look at more of your work if they show no interest in doing so. Buy a nice presentation portfolio and make it on the smaller side, just large enough to hold full-size 11×17 copies. Nothing is more irritating than dealing with portfolios the size of a picnic table. Put your story pages up front, followed by (if anything) a few finished kickass cover-quality illustrations and/or an example of your storytelling in a totally different visual style (if you actually have one) or in a vastly different genre, and that’s all you’ll ever need to show. Get a folio with a back pocket of some kind to hold a few other items in reserve (preferably just extra copies of what you’ve shown should an editor want to take them), but believe me, less is more. The more stuff I see, the more likely I am to find something I don’t like. And for God’s sake, if you’ve just put together a dynamite new set of samples, do not show inferior work from three years ago alongside it – in fact, don’t show it at all, much less as the first thing in your portfolio, which, believe it or not, I’ve seen from dozens of artists who are, for some reason, intent on showing how much they’ve improved over the years. How much you’ve improved is utterly irrelevant, and you don’t get bonus points. All editors care about is how good you are right now, today. Put you best and newest work up front and if you haven’t had time to work up good samples, then spend your time networking and jawing with other artists and leave the editors for another time. I can’t stress this enough: don’t put anything in your portfolio that doesn’t represent you at your absolute best. If your work isn’t absolute dynamite, you don’t have a prayer of getting work with a top publisher these days. These ain’t the good old days of 1992.

    And here’s a helpful bit of advice in terms of protocol: don’t try to fob off your copies or even your business card on an editor. If an editor wants ’em, he’ll ask for ’em. If he doesn’t ask (or doesn’t ask you to send them to him at his office), he doesn’t want them – the request or lack thereof is the life and death of the coal-mine canary in regard to that editor’s opinion of your work. The editor may be polite and take your proffered card or copies, but they’ll likely end up in a trash can about thirty seconds after you’re out of eyeshot. If an editor really wants copies or your card, he’ll ask, trust me, and adding up the asking/not asking tote board is the surest may to tell if you’re there, short of an editor actually begging you to come to work for him. If nine of ten editors ask for copies, you’re going to get work sooner than later. If none ask, get ready to roll up your sleeves. P.S., make sure your address, phone number, and/or email are clearly printed on every page of every copy you give an editor. An attached business card or addressed envelope alone won’t cut it, particularly when the card falls off or the envelope gets consigned, sans copies, to the inevitable knee-deep slush pile in the editor’s hotel room while he’s in a mad scramble to pack his dirty clothes and POWERPUFF GIRL toys and get the hell out of Dodge. Cards get lost, copies get mixed up. Maximize your chances for success, minimize your chances for failure.

    Your mission, though, is to not get discouraged if you don’t break through right away. Hardly anyone ever does, and there are brigades of established professionals foraging for work every day. Relax. The elevator will get here when it gets here. And don’t be crestfallen if an editor or favorite artist gives you the bum’s rush or acts brusquely or even rudely. There’s no excuse for rude behavior – unless you really asked for it, buddy! – but conventions are often exhausting experiences for professionals. We’re not always at our best – particularly if someone else was buying the night before – so don’t take it personally. Try it from our side sometime, and despair! Excuses notwithstanding, let’s face it, some people – not me, of course! – are just assholes. That’s not your fault, let it go. Conversely, don’t be an asshole. Or a pest. And don’t think that a three-minute conversation with a professional makes you friends for life (buying a thousand bucks worth of original art, however, does – bear that in mind). All things being equal, editors and creators really don’t owe you anything, even if you’ve dutifully bought their books and worshipped (without reason, frankly) the ground on which they tread. Bottom line, they’re doing you a favor by looking at your stuff and by (hopefully) imparting some serious, vital knowledge to you on their dime. That’s all gravy. Show them your stuff, listen to what they have to say, thank ’em and move on. Even if you don’t get a job, you’ll get your money’s worth if you play your cards right. And then some. If an editor hires you, then you’re owed something: it’s called money and beats second place by a couple of laps.

    And good luck to you. The more talent the industry finds, the better off the industry will be. That story never changes.”

    Editor F:

    “It pains me to admit, but never do I feel like more of a fraud than when I am doing portfolio reviews. I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like, but I don’t consider myself any sort of art expert, and take great pain to avoid portfolio reviews. I can tell if somebody is good or bad, but the biggest problem I have is talking to the people who are close, because I never feel like I have the vocabulary to really get somebody close to the “next level.” Therefore, I urge anyway looking for my advice to take it with a big grain of salt.

    But here goes:

    This might be basic, but a pin-up tells a person next to nothing. We need to see evidence of storytelling, so concentrate on sequential pages. A few head shots or pin-ups are really as good as useless.

    11×17 copies are vastly preferable to 8½x11.

    Concentrate on one thing. If you want to be a penciler, don’t ink your stuff. It just gets in the way. Sometimes a promising penciler will do tremendous damage to their work if they are a substandard inker.

    Excuses are bad. The worst thing somebody can do is come up to me and say “well, I didn’t have a lot of time last night, so it’s not very good.” If it’s not very good, it’s not going to get anybody a job and is just going to waste everybody’s time. Don’t show work you are not 100% satisfied with, and for god’s sake don’t make apologies for it.

    And my favorite: while an editor may hold some of the cards when it comes to hiring, I do not consider them art experts in the same way artists are. Keep in mind the editor’s opinion is just that. If they had more art expertise it’s likely they would be artists. That being said, if you can get a portfolio review from a penciler or even an inker, it’s likely to go a lot farther in actually improving one’s work.”

    Editor G:

    “Writers: get published. You won’t usually start your careers on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN or SUPERMAN or at MAD magazine. In the current marketplace this is less a problem than it used to be. There are literally hundreds of publishers (plus self-publishing) – the pay may not be great, but the experience is! And the published sample is key: with the world becoming more and more litigious many bigger companies (and not just in comics) have policies of not reading unsolicited submissions for fear of accidental duplications of ideas. Odds are that if you’re working from the same starting point (either a baby is rocketed from a doomed planet or a teen is bitten by a radioactive spider or anything established) there will be some duplication.

    Artists: The situation is less confusing. Simply be good. Be a good artist. Draw people good (muscle-men and fatsos). Draw buildings good. Draw cars good. Draw horses good. Draw textures good. Draw drama good. We can always use good artists.

    There’s a lot of competition for spots these days… so being good in a unique, eye-catching way is better!

    Remember “good” is subjective… so that leads to the general comment for all:

    Don’t take any criticism or rejection (or, more likely, simply not being hired) personally. There is no way everyone who wants to do comics can at any given time. And your work won’t match the tastes of every person who could hire you. And timing does factor in: if your style of writing or art is perfect for a series that has a regular writer or artist who hasn’t missed an issue in 25 or 50 issues – even though you’re perfect for the gig, you probably won’t get it. Nothing personal and not a criticism in any way… just reality.

    Keep a realistic perspective on things… try to be aware of your real objectives and limitations and the grand scheme of things (easier said than done, I know) and someday your talent will get you in… if you’re lucky!

    Talent AND luck. A lethal combo.”

  • What do you want?

    If you want to work in comics, this is the single most important question you can ask yourself, maybe the only question worth asking yourself. What do you really want?

    There’s an old wives’ tale that people get what they deserve. That’s a bit karmic for my tastes – karma’s a myth only very young children could take seriously – but, on careful observation over the last 30 years or so, it’s my belief that, above a certain socio-economic level in our culture, most people get what they really want, whether they acknowledge it or not.

    For instance, a guy who wants to go to college at UCLA but whose parents want him to go to college locally. If he stays and goes to college locally, what he really wants is to keep his parents happy. If you want to leave your significant other but stay with them because you don’t want to be alone, what you really want is to not be alone. If you hate your job but you don’t want to lose your pension or threaten your income by shifting to something you’d rather do, what you really want is your pension or your income. If you’re bored by crappy, outdated concepts in comics and want exciting, original material, but you keep spending your comics budget on crappy comics with outdated concepts, what you really want is crappy comics with outdated concepts.

    It’s not a difficult equation.

    For the last two weeks, I’ve let editors – and, yes, they were all notable editors at notable companies – pass along their unfiltered advice for people planning to use comics conventions as a forum for presenting their work and getting an assignment in the field. Some of the threads repeating through the responses:

    This is a very difficult time to enter the industry at a mainstream level. Well-established talents are having difficulty finding work; unknowns will have an even harder time unless their work is spectacular.

    Artists will find a much more receptive audience for samples than writers will.

    Being polite will score you more points than being obnoxious.

    When one editor tells you a specific thing is wrong with your work, it may just mean it doesn’t suit his tastes. When a majority tell you that thing is wrong, it’s likely wrong.

    You should consider negative response as a guideline for improvement, not an insult. Don’t thrust items (sample packets, business cards, your sister’s telephone number and nudie photos) on anyone unbidden.

    If you really want it, don’t give up. Keep trying.

    Which brings us back to the original question: what do you want?

    Prior to the early ’70s, very few people shifted from reading comics to being comics professionals. Around 1943, a bunch of kids from Brooklyn weaned on the first wave of comics in the ’30s got in, with names like Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Alex Toth. Their break came as much from more seasoned talent being drafted to fight the war as from their talent. Post-war saw another little wave, buttressed both by returning GIs who were being paid to learn trades like art (ask John Romita Sr. about it if you see him at a convention this summer) and by a post-war depression in the comics industry that saw the bread and butter books rapidly decline in sales and an exodus of seasoned talent to better paying commercial art fields. But comics were something basically produced in New York City by people who lived in NYC. A tiny spate of writers managed to sneak in during the ’60s (Roy Thomas, who co-created comics fandom, Pennsylvanian Jim Shooter, and Roy’s fellow Missourian Denny O’Neil). Proportionately, though, the vast bulk of comics were produced by “seasoned professionals.” Whatever comics had to say in letter columns about readers being “the true bosses” didn’t mean anyone was offering anyone a job.

    The ’70s changed that. Why? It began with an uprising of “seasoned professionals” who threatened to unionize and claim a bigger piece of the pie, including more pay, health benefits, and all the other things workers usually want when they’re underpaid, they don’t have insurance and the cost of living is rising dramatically. Solution: there are a bunch of young kids out there chomping at the bit to write and draw comics, and they’ll be so glad to break in they’ll work for the peanuts we want to pay. Whether this resulted from another depression the comics industry was descending into, or whether this triggered the depression is hard to say. The fact is that the dramatic influx of new talent in the ’70s corresponded to a dramatic decrease in sales. Even at its most dramatic, the ’70s influx was nowhere near as overwhelming as the influx of the ’80s, and by the time I entered the field in ’78, it was pretty much over.

    What really changed everything in the ’70s and ’80s was the introduction of possibilities. Eclipse and Star*Reach capitalized on the fetal direct sales market and developed the “independent comics” that focused (to some extent; the kinks weren’t worked out) on creator liberty and, to a lesser extent, creator rights. (Looking back, the deals weren’t so hot but compared to what existed they were the difference between Neanderthal and Australopithecus.) Dave Sim, Wendi Pini and others continued the spirit of the undergrounds by self-publishing work that would have left traditional comics companies laughing themselves to death. (Cue Rogers & Astaire singing “Who’s Got The Last Laugh Now?”) When we say “breaking in,” we tend to automatically mean “breaking into the comics mainstream,” by which we mean the two top tier major companies, Marvel and DC, and the next tier of smaller companies that make up the top five or six sellers according to the Diamond charts. But they’re now a small portion of the industry and getting smaller, if you look at all comics sales cumulatively.

    These are the possibilities you, the pre-hired, now have to choose from. To do that, you have to ask yourself, again: what do I want? Be absolutely honest with yourself about what you’re really looking for. Answer that and you’ll know how to proceed.

    Do you want to break into comics to make a lot of money?

    Forget it. For the vast majority of comics talent, even some of the most talented, those days are over. (Cue Merle Haggard singing “Are The Good Times Really Over For Good?”) There is no money in the comics business now. When I was in college, I took a technology of television seminar for which I had to hypothetically wire up a town for cable TV, which was a brand new technology at the time. I chose Sun Prairie WI, right next door, calculated costs of equipment, manpower, maintenance, promotion and service, and projected profit over ten years, and my professor took one look at the bottom line and said, “Forget cable, open a liquor store.”

    If all you want is the money, open a liquor store.

    Do you want to be famous?

    This is like the old joke about the idiot actress who wanted to become a big Hollywood star, so she slept with all the writers. Forget it. Nobody in comics is famous. Except maybe Stan Lee, and look where that got him. At best you can end up a large fish in a tiny pond that very few come near anymore because the pond is polluted by its own muck and drying up. If that’s your idea of fame, go for it, but I’d consult a dictionary first. If you’re obsessed with becoming famous via comics art, syndicated cartoon strips are a better route to take. (Start with a book by Lee Nordling called YOUR CAREER IN THE COMICS, which interviews many top cartoonists and discusses all aspects of the current state of that business. If you think MOTO is depressing…)

    Do you want to create stories for your favorite characters?

    This is a perfectly valid motivation. It’s also the hardest, most frustrating objective possible in the business. If your favorite character is creator-owned, forget editors and companies and impress the hell out of the creator. If your favorite character is company owned, go get a job at that company and worm your way in. (Of course, almost no companies are currently hiring in any capacity, and if they’re not actively firing they’re eliminating and consolidating positions as people leave.) Artists have the edge here, if they’re any good: books always need artists sooner or later, and the better the artist the better. Unknown writers may be able to wheedle a fill-in, but an unknown getting a top regular assignment is marginally less likely than the XFL lasting another season. And fill-ins are simply not being done anymore. One major company has a policy of only commissioning a new fill-in for a book when an existing one is scheduled, unlike in the old days when editors could commission gobs of them. Companies are still eating a lot of those indiscriminate buys. Judd Winick got the GREEN LANTERN assignment by impressing the hell out of Bob Schreck with his independently-published BARRY WEEN. (And a well-publicized stint on MTV’s REAL WORLD probably didn’t hurt.) Brian Wood got the GENERATION X writing job on the strength of his CHANNEL ZERO. They established themselves, with idiosyncratic and well-done material, before they made a move on the mainstream. And I’m pretty sure the mainstream went to them, not the other way around. David Goyer, Kevin Smith, Geoff Johns and Joe Straczynski made names for themselves in movies and TV before taking a swing at comics, and even Smith and Straczynski established their comics credentials at smaller companies before jumping to Marvel and DC. They proved they could write, they proved they could crossover. Now they’re writing GREEN ARROW and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

    Do you want to tell stories involving your own creations?

    Skip Marvel and DC. Unless you’ve already established your credentials (or you have such a blazingly brilliant billion dollar idea even they realize they’d be idiots to let it slip from their hands)and have some kind of track record, whether huge sales or critical acclaim, they don’t do that. Even most smaller companies, like Top Cow and Dark Horse, will want big chunks of your rights. It’s rare these days, for instance, that Dark Horse will publish a creator-owned comic they can’t secure film rights to, because much of their continued success is predicated on turning comics properties into movies, since the comics market is currently so flat. There’s nothing criminal about that; all they’re doing is trying to up the odds of survival. Other companies want control of all ancillary rights – meaning they get to determine where and how your creation is used in other media and other markets, or if it’s used at all, and you can’t really take it for granted they’ll defend your best interest over theirs – and many demand creative control as well. Meaning, regardless of what jargon’s in the contract, it’s really their property and not yours anymore.

    So what other options are there? The simplest, and most dangerous: self-publish. Know what impresses comic book editors? Comic books. Well-written, well-drawn comic books that grab their attention. If you’re as good as you think you are, your book will grab them. If you’re not, you’ll find out the hard way. The downside: you’re not likely to sell the things. Even if you can get Diamond to carry your book, it’ll be buried in the bowels of their catalogue. Meaning you’re either going to quickly develop marketing acumen or rent a storage locker. The upside: it’s yours. You own it lock, stock and barrel. You get to decide what to do. And you’ll have something to show.

    Because we’re not talking about whether Diamond will distribute it. We’re talking about how to connect with editors at conventions. This is 2001: time is short. The quicker you grab ’em, the better your work, the better your odds.

    So here’s the action short list:

    Know your craft. Have it down pat. Don’t go off half-assed, because it will come back to haunt you. These are unforgiving times. Today I got art samples from a guy in Florida looking for work in the comics field.

    Fact 1: they’re not bad. Ten years ago, there’s no reason this guy wouldn’t have had gobs of offers.

    Fact 2: his work is easily as good as that of many artists currently working in the business.

    Fact 3: Not bad is simply not good enough anymore. A few weeks back I was talking with an editor about an artist for a potential project and we both agreed that while the artist was a nice guy, and his work was pleasantly attractive, it was also just like what could be got from dozens of other artists. There was nothing specifically distinctive about it, and thus nothing that would really help attract an audience to the book. It’s just not good enough to be good anymore, even at the major companies. Especially at the major companies. You have to be good enough to stand out. And that goes for writers as well as artists.

    Create something dazzling. A great idea. Not an epic sustaining endless convolutions before it gets to the point but an idea that walks up and kicks you in the gut. It doesn’t even have to be in the particular genre an editor works in. Something original. If you want to approach Peter Tomasi but you don’t want to do a superhero book because you’d rather do a western, if you produce your own comic book that’s an original enough take on westerns, trust me, Peter Tomasi will be impressed. He might even think someone who could do that kickass a western would be great on material DC publishes, western or not.

    If you’re a writer who doesn’t draw, hook up with the best artist you can find. Sad truth: no matter how good the idea, if the art sucks no one will read long enough to find out how good the story is. If you’re an artist who doesn’t write very well, find a good writer. Lord knows there’s plenty of talent out there. Hook up. Make this a joint effort. Don’t try to do badly what someone else can do well. Again, it comes down to what you want. If you want to write comics, you want your story presented in the best possible light, just like all pro writers do: go for the best art you can get, and don’t sign up your best pal who sort of draws because you’re not in it to make your best pal feel good. You’re trying to get work. If you want to be a writer-artist, make sure you do it all damn well. If your only real interest is to be an artist, don’t try writing it. Your objective is to create as professional an artifact as possible. Inept=bad. You don’t want editors to come away from your work thinking you’re inept.

    When you attend conventions, hand out your comic with a business card stapled inside (otherwise they’ll lose it) and, preferably, your contact info also printed somewhere in the comic. If an editor asks you for that material. Bear in mind what I’ve said before: finding new talent is something editors do, but it’s not really their job. At work, their job is to put out comic books that sell. At conventions, their job is to give readers a good feeling about the comic books they produce and the comics company they work for. Anything they do beyond that is gravy. This doesn’t mean editors often aren’t looking for good new talent, it just means it’s an avocation. Behave with them as you would anytime you’re applying for a job.

    And that’s about the best you can hope for now. With luck, you’ll get work. With even more luck, you’ll find you won’t need work: your own comic will be your doorway to success. Which, in a perfect world, is how it would be anyway. You might find out it’s what you really wanted all along.

    I’ve been talking about writers and artists, but what if you want to break in as an inker, letterer or colorist?

    My best advice: learn to use a computer. Quick.

    Good luck.

  • No TWO HEADS TALK this week. But it’ll be back with all the other stuff next week.

    Steve Gerber, James Hudnall, Bill Willingham and I were gang interviewed for the LAS VEGAS WEEKLY on the current state of comics and other subjects a couple weeks ago, we did the photoshoot this Monday, and the story will be running tomorrow. (If you’re reading this on Wednesday. Who knows what we said…

    Among the foul-ups of the week was the mass destruction of the Comic Book Resources message boards during a site redesign (now in progress) so the Permanent Damage Message Board has a new address. For some reason the old one now leads to a book discussion group. Make a note of it.

    Finally, courtesy of last week, the rundown on all I have currently available on the market. Go buy some. I could use the royalties.

    Finished the new ROBOCOP mini for Avatar over the weekend, plus a Robo-short story, though I’m not sure what the venue is. Some dark and vivid projects on the horizon over there for the end of this week. In the meantime:

    Speaking of Avatar, I’m told they’re resoliciting the entire run of MY FLESH IS COOL this month. If you missed it the first time out, take this chance to bug your retailer for it. Among a slew of hot reviews, my favorites were from COMICS INTERNATIONAL, which had this to say:


    by Grant and Fiumara

    An experimental drug enables Evan Knox to work as a highly paid assassin and troublemaker who can take over other people’s bodies. He can get to anyone, anywhere, without detection. He does whatever he wants, and uses other people in a ruthlessly instrumental way. The catch is this: what if everyone could get their hands on the drug? Both script and art are adult and gritty. This comic is cool. 8 [of 10]


    Evan Knox comes round to discover his worst fears have been realised. The drug ‘go’ is being sold on the street, and society is crumbling across America. Steven Grant’s story takes a bold leap here: from a ‘cool’ thriller with the wish-fulfillment fantasy of taking over other people’s bodies, we’ve moved on to the nightmare scenario where the hero’s powers are no longer unique. What was gritty is now apocalyptic. 8


    This excellent miniseries concludes in the same vein of nudity and violence established in parts one and two, with the outcome decided by a competition to see who’s the most ruthless son of a bitch. Even given the desperate and grotesque situation readers have seen unfold, the final episode still holds some shocks and surprises. 8

    Do I really have to tell you to order it? (Sorry about the hardcore hype, but if I don’t do it, who’s going to?)

    As I mentioned last week, IBooks will be publishing the complete EDGE sometime this summer, while DC’s including my CATWOMAN story in an upcoming trade collection due out around the time of the Halle Berry CATWOMAN movie. Keep your eyes open when you read PREVIEWS.

    While you’re at it, order:

    DAMNED: trade paperback from Cyberosia, art by Mike Zeck and Denis Rodier, coloring by Kurt Goldzung

    Crime. A parolee jumps parole to fulfill a promise to a dead cellmate, and finds himself hunted by mobsters looking for missing money he knows nothing about, in a city where he has no friends.

    MORTAL SOULS: trade paperback from Avatar Press, art by Philip Xavier

    Crime/horror. A police detective tracks and kills a female serial killer, only to gain her gift of seeing her targets for what they really are: the dead, who run the world, and who hate the living.

    BADLANDS: trade paperback from AiT/PlanetLar Books, art by Vince Giarrano

    Crime story, set in 1963 and starring the man who really killed John Kennedy.


    Screenplay version of BADLANDS, designed to ward off anyone who wants to make a movie of it.

    PUNISHER:CIRCLE OF BLOOD: trade paperback from Marvel Comics, art by Mike Zeck and John Beatty

    Crime. The original mini-series that transformed The Punisher from a minor character into a movie-franchise spawning star. Imprisoned for his killings, the Punisher fights to survive and escape, but the war he declares on organized crime once he’s out takes an unexpected turn.

    HATED AND FEARED: Best Of X-MEN UNLIMITED: trade paperback from Marvel Comics collecting a number of short X-Men stories, including two by me: a “Blob” story with art by Sean Phillips, and a “Lockheed The Dragon” story drawn by Paul Smith.

    GREEN LANTERN: TRAITOR: trade paperback from DC Comics, art by Mike Zeck, Gil Kane, Scott Kolins and Klaus Janson

    Superhero action. Three generations of Green Lanterns – the alien Abin Sur in the old west, Hal Jordan joined by the Atom in the Silver Age, and the modern Green Lantern Kyle Raynor – battle an unstoppable cyborg powered by the stars and driven by a religious calling to snuff out all life in the universe.

    FRANK MILLER’S ROBOCOP, monthly comic from Avatar Press, art by Juan Jose Ryp

    Science fiction action. The most faithful adaptation of a screenplay in history. From the version of ROBOCOP 2 that was never filmed, Frank Miller’s vision of the decaying future city of Detroit is realized for the first time, as Robocop crosses swords with a demented squadron of military police and a program-altering self-proclaimed moral watchdog, while the real police go on strike and OCP readies an even more powerful Robocop to replace him.

    I encourage the patronage of local comics shops where applicable, but don’t forget that if you can’t find what you want there, you can always shop the fine online retailers Khepri and Mars Import. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from people wanting to know what address to send review copies to. If you continue reading down to the bottom of the column, it’s right there.

    Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it’s not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They’re no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don’t really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don’t ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

    Those wanting to subscribe to the WHISPER e-mail newsletter should click here.

    I’m reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I’ll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send ’em if you want ’em mentioned, since I can’t review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can’t do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

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