427110_10150645139076802_1938552693_nI had a former student email me a few days ago, asking about how I got into comics. He was seeking advice on what to do. There's no singular way to get into comics. There's no path except the one that works, and then it usually only works once and under precarious, fleeting conditions. A few things have worked for others, and any combinations of these tactics (listed below) would be better than doing nothing.

  •  In the words of Steve Martin, "be so good they can't ignore you." People like Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison were always going to be successful, because eventually someone, somewhere would see the genius. The shine was too bright.
  • Find a job where you can hide away or slack off while you actually write.
  • Be homeless. You can access computers at the public library. You can spend your time writing while sleeping in a shelter somewhere in the evenings. I don't know if this works.
  • Take out loans, live under crushing debt, start your own small press company, and attend every major comic book convention as a publisher. You may eventually go bankrupt. However, by that time, you may be well-known enough to get some gigs elsewhere.
  • Start a shitty web comic and self-publish your own projects.
  • Find one small press company and befriend them. Intern. Run errands.
  • Write about comics. Start a podcast or a blog, or both. Be a resource to others. If you can grow as a pop culture authority, eventually, someone might trust you to write for them.
  • Find work as an editor, be really good, and then shift into writing.
  • Pay an artist to work with you on a larger project. I paid someone to illustrate my first 24 page comic. Nice guy. From there, I started getting more breaks.

taught for several years, and that gave me spare time in the evenings, weekends, and summers to write. I started by writing mini-comics, occasionally co-hosting Fanboy Radio, and contributing short stories to anthologies. I met people in San Diego and elsewhere. I always had about two or three things in the works that I could share at a moment's notice, and I wasn't afraid to throw away a project that clearly wasn't working.
If your ideas have a commercial appeal and you can skillfully execute it, someone should be interested somewhere. Make sure you can explain your idea concisely in one sentence. It needs to be interesting, a variation on a theme, with a clear market in mind.
The "how to break in" question is an odd one. Nothing will happen if you aren't clearly better than your peers. So, keep writing and keep writing and keep writing. Being a creative professional requires a certain degree of ego, swagger and deluded sense of worth.
What advice would you have? Feel free to post in the comments.

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