I’ve gotten quite a few emails from aspiring writers asking how can they either make their own comic books or how can they break into the comics industry. I’ve decided to write an article about it here because there’s plenty to say about the matter.
Breaking in as a writer in the industry is actually much much harder compared to breaking in as an artist. That’s because assessing the work of an artist is easier. Drawings are easier to judge if the artist is any good or not. In just a few seconds, you can already tell if the artist is any good or not. But a writer? You have to spend quite some time reading through a script, and not that many people would have the time and patience to do that. I don’t have the time to do that. Editors at conventions don’t have the time to do that.
The best thing for a writer to do is for them to team up with an artist, come up with their own comic book they would self publish or publish through an independent publisher. When that writer’s story comes out in comics form, everyone will know if he is any good or not. And if that comic book becomes successful, then more people will know that this writer is someone special.
This is how Budjette Tan got recognized as a good writer. He first teamed up with his friend Bow Guerrero on Flying Phantom, and his brother Brandie in 1994 to create Payaso, and published those stories out of his own pocket in Comics 101. It was a good first effort and it got him introduced as a writer. But it wasn’t until many years later when he wrote Trese, this time with another friend, Kajo Baldisimo, that he got a reputation for being an extraordinary writer. That first Trese issue was photocopied, paid for and distributed by Budjette himself. The title became so successful that it was picked up by book publisher Visprint a couple of years later.
That’s how it goes. It’s a ladder. You really have to start at the bottom of the steps and you slowly climb up. Whether you do this for fun, or as a hobboy or as a serious career choice, the process is the same.
My advice is for you to find a friend, preferably a good friend who will draw your story for you. Why a friend? Because a friend, a real friend is the only one who will invest the time and effort to draw your story for free. Drawing comics is no joke. An artist draws, on average, a page in 1-3 days. Let’s just say one page a day. If you write a 24 page story, that’s 24 straight days for an artist to draw it. If he is a young inexperienced artist, that might take much longer, even twice or three times as long. That’s one to three months you are asking this artist to work for free. Who in the world is going to do that for you if not a friend?
Another option is to find an artist and pay him to do it. That would make looking for an artist much easier. Just frequent comic book drawing forums online and interact. Sooner or later you will find an artist who will draw for you. Who knows, you might even find a like minded individual who might do this thing for free.
More often than not, aspiring writers writing to me wishes me to draw their stories. Now I’m glad to be considered, but it’s just not possible. Let me explain.
I’m currently working as an inker for Marvel Comics, working on Indestructible Hulk as Leinil Yu’s inker. Hulk has 20 pages a month. I finish one page a day. That means 20 of my days in a single month are already spoken for. The remaining 10 or so days I have I devote to creating my own projects. At the moment, it’s The Marvelous Adventures of the Amazing Doctor Rizal, and a few writing projects for other artists. In that small amount of time in a month to do my own thing, I would much prefer to draw my own stories. Because I myself have a lot of stories to tell.
Not many established artists will accept working with writers who have not yet proven that they can actually write comics. A lot of aspiring writers believe that they’re good, and for all we know they may well really be good. There’s really no way of knowing how good you are until you actually prove it. And once you’ve proven you are a good writer, it would be easier to find artists, even established ones, to work with you.
Right now, I’m sure plenty of artists would want to work with Budjette. But that reputation took years of hard work and proving that he is good and that he can do it.
Right now you’re starting from zero, but that’s where we all started once. You are where Budjette was in 1994. You are where I was in 1992. If you’re serious about being a writer, that road ahead is long and bumpy, I can promise you that. But I can further promise you this: If you are truly any good and if you work hard and persevere, I have no doubt you will be writing your own stories with the best artists in comics one day.