Starting Over in Comics From Scratch. An Experiment.
It’s not unusual for people to declare that if you get work in this business it isn’t because your work is good, it’s because you took advantage of status or other means to cement your position in the industry and keep other worthy people out.
It’s a criticism that is fairly applied in some cases. No argument. Just being in this business long enough means some people know your name, and that’s a plus.
But it’s also a disadvantage as one well-known blogger blows a gasket every time my name comes up because she is “…tired of Colleen Doran being the default for women in comics,” which is a thing that only happens in her head, let me assure you. I visited a major publisher about 5 months ago, and many on staff had to be introduced to me.
I have several disadvantages in this business, not least of which is no regular proximity to my clients (I haven’t visited the Marvel offices since 2008,) being outside the core social circle of most of the professionals (I am not at the bar every weekend,) and I don’t know where people get the idea that being a middle aged woman in comics is some kind of huge advantage, (because it ‘aint).
I am often asked how to break into comics and it has been so long since I did, I didn’t think I had any business giving people advice on the matter.
I decided to try an experiment.
About a year ago, I adopted a pseudonym and put my work out there. I published art and stories online and sent my work to publishers.
One person figured out some of my fanfic was, in fact my fanfic. I’m delighted to know I actually have a recognizable writing style. I am having a great time doing it, and it’s giving me confidence with my prose. I’m going to keep at it, it’s fun.
No one figured out my art was mine. In about 60 days I had a job offer. An offer from a company that had directly rejected my work the previous year.
When I told this story on a panel some months ago, the blogger who rages that she is “…tired of Colleen Doran being the default for women in comics” immediately assumed I had used a male pseudonuym to get work at Marvel or DC and started to pick at the story, presuming I’d been desperate for superhero work.
But I didn’t go to Marvel or DC and did not use a male name. I went to a company well-known for publishing graphic novels for teen girls and making a lot of money at it. She did not seem to be interested in this twist.
When I said I was gratified to see that I didn’t need to be 21 to get a job (or a guy, or anything else, my work sold on my portfolio alone,) the blogger sneered; the assumption is that I must be oh, so sad to have to pretend to be younger to get work.
But I didn’t pretend to be younger to get work. I gave the client no evidence re: my age at all.
On the panel I was, however, trying to make a point that publishers are looking for young talent that they can get on the cheap. Why hire a good artist at $300 a page when they can get one at $100 per page?
People are always going to have baggage about you, your work, your looks, and I just wanted to see what it would be like to start over. I’d even said on panels before that I was not sure I could break into comics today. There is so much talent and so much competition, what would it be like?
Mark Badger who was also on the panel responded, “But you’re good!”
Which was all I wanted to know when I put my art out there as a blank slate.
It’s nice to know.
Anyway, if you want to know how to break into comics, I think Matt Hawkins at Top Cow gives particularly good advice.
The punch line, of course, is that I could not even take the new job because the real me already has too much on my plate. And they were offering me a lower rate than I get, so it wasn’t enticing.
But someday, I may just publish something professionally using a pseudonym for kicks.
Or just to piss off a blogger.