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Thread: Week 57- The Good Ol' Boy Network

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    Week 57- The Good Ol' Boy Network

    It’s Tuesday! Here in sunny Tucson, it’s the supposed monsoon season, but we’ve had precious little rain. I miss the rain. Reminds me of Long Island. Then again, I miss real seasons. When I lived in Virginia Beach, it was either hot and raining, or pretty chilly and raining. At least it was green. What are you going to do, right?

    Welcome back to Bolts & Nuts! This week, I figured we’d take a small break from the genre stuff we’ve been doing, and talk a little more about creating comics. Actually, specifically, about the Good Ol’ Boy Network. I know some of you are groaning and complaining, but we’ll jump back into it next week. I felt this was important.

    I’ve been somewhat remiss over the past year, and for that, I apologize. I should have gone on this tangent about twelve weeks or so ago. It was staring me in the face, but, I’m not all-seeing, all-knowing. I’m just trying to give you the benefit of my experience, in order to cut down your development time to reach the Promised Land.

    In order to do this, though, I’m going to have to talk about me for a little bit. You know that I don’t do it often, and they’re invariably long. So, sit back, relax, and let me regale you with two stories and a realization.

    When I was with Paper Dragonz, before becoming Editor in Chief, I was also trying to get a superhero book off the ground. The artist I had originally I wasn’t too happy with, and he flaked out on me. The second artist, though, the second artist was brash, talked a lot of trash, and from the samples I saw, he could do the job. And yes, I must admit, I wasn’t particularly happy with the original artist, besides the flaking. So, I let this artist take over the reigns.

    Well, first, he would only commit to doing twelve pages. He had other, paying work he had to get to. Since he was doing this for free, I wasn’t in a position to complain. Then, when the pages came in…they were small. No, I mean small. At one hundred percent, they were about the size of banner ads that you see. Yeah. Useless. And his reasoning? He needed the paper in order to do real work, not pro bono stuff. And did he complete the twelve pages that I had completely rewritten in order to tell a complete story? No. He disappeared, presumably for paying work.

    So, a few months later, I’m trying to get another project off the ground. I had an idea from my KingFinger Comics days that I wanted to continue on. I got in contact with a guy who seemed like he was moving and grooving, and he gave me a list of artists to choose from. One of them was the artist who bailed.

    I told this guy in no uncertain terms that there was no way I was going to work with this artist. I’d pick from the list, but anything that we would do together, would not be done with this artist, no matter how talented he was. I told him the story, and he understood totally, and we moved forward with the project.

    Nice, right?

    Right now, I’m working with a new writer in an editorial capacity. I’m taking this writer through the ropes as a first time creator. They wrote a script, and their original artist flaked on them. Once the script was basically up to snuff, it was time to go through an artist search. I had them write up an ad for my review, and after some tweakage, I told them to put it up on Digital Webbing, and then to sit back and watch the flood happen.

    The flood happened.

    I informed the writer to forward all of the e-mails to me, and we’d whittle through them together, making up a list, talking about it, and then making decisions and making offers. The first thing I want you all to realize is this: you’ll get more credible artists if you offer money than if you don’t. There are some artists out there that are more concerned about concept than money, but let me tell you, the good artists that are like that are few and far between. Even if you offer just a little bit of money, you can often get a worthwhile artist. (You’ve said this before. Say something new!) I’m getting there.

    Anyway, among the deluge of artists that responded to this writer’s ad are a comics legend [an offer will be made, knowing it will be rejected, but it never hurts to ask], a scam artist [Ron Runstrum, one of Josh Hoopes’ alter egos], and a host of artists that are either damned good, pretty good, decent, or not yet ready for prime time. And I’ve still yet to go through all the e-mails!

    However, what I’m doing is going through each one, accepting or rejecting, and giving my quick thoughts as to why. And when I run across a name I recognize, that name goes higher up the list. And when I say recognize, I’m talking about we’ve either worked together before, we’ve met in person, or I know a person that worked with the artist before.

    Here’s what I want you to realize. Creators talk. A lot. And not just creators. Editors ALSO talk. A lot. Probably more than creators.

    Let me go back to the recent San Diego Comic Convention. I had inadvertently sat through a lecture aimed at artists about making their portfolio better. It was moderated by Andy Schmidt [go get his book, The Insider’s Guide to Creating Comics and Graphic Novels—it’s worth your money!]. Andy is an editor: used to work for Marvel, left there to do Comics Experience [which also has online classes now—I plan on taking one, so you should, too! www.comicsexperience.com ], and is now editor over at IDW. So, basically, he knows his stuff. Now, if he says that editors talk a LOT, then you have to take that as gospel.

    He also gets calls from other editors at different companies: their book is going to be late, and do you have an artist that could do some fill in pages/issue? Sure, but I want them BACK. PLEASE, don’t steal my artist. And that’s how it goes.

    And THESE, ladies and gents, are examples of the Good Ol’ Boy Network.

    Hard work and determination will only take you so far. Look at this column. I put in a LOT of hard work, and I’m EXTREMELY determined to put it out every week, without fail. The same thing with The Proving Grounds. I write ahead, and I keep writing ahead, so that I’m rarely behind. I make arrangements for when I’m going to be out of town, in order to make sure the columns go up like clockwork. However, how many radars am I on?

    Honestly, I don’t know. When I was linked by Newsarama, I was very surprised. However, no company has come knocking on my door, asking for my services. Some creators come to me every so often, saying they want to hire me, but they are few and far between. No, you have to go get the opportunities, but you also have to realize that the hard work you put in will only take you so far as an unknown creator.

    Here’s what happens: editors are more willing to hire someone they know than someone they don’t. Or, if they’re thinking about hiring someone they don’t know, but they know they’ve worked at a different company, they’ll call up that editor and see what’s going on with that particular creator. A bad report, and that creator may not get the gig.

    Now, editors aren’t the only ones who do this. Creators talk, too. They’ll talk about the artist or writer they worked with, and how that experience went down, and when it comes time for getting the gig, that report may be the deciding factor. Yes, in the current crop of artists, there are some whom I’m recommending based on other creators testimony that I know and trust, and there are some that I’m going to pass on due to personal experience—at least one of which the writer I’m working with likes.

    In comics, a lot of it is who you know. It helps if you’re known as well [or at least noticed], but if you know someone, you can parlay that into work, because they’ll recommend you to their editor.

    It happens. It happens more often than you think, on scales big and small. Your body of work helps, but it’s just your resume. It says that you may be able to do the job. It speaks nothing of your personality, which is where the Good Ol’ Boy Network comes in.

    I remember reading an interview with Peter Tomasi, a former DC editor and currently a writer there. He was talking about being at a convention, and there was a guy hanging around that he didn’t know. Once the guy was vouched for by someone that Peter knew, he was able to relax and go with the flow. Being known as a “good guy” (or girl!) [yes, or girl] is a good thing. It gives you access that you wouldn’t otherwise have. If you’re good, you can turn that into a meeting, and that meeting into work.

    So, the unspoken question is, how do you get to be part of the Network? (Yeah, Steven! Tell me how!)

    The simple answer is this: hard work and determination. [HA!] The long answer is not satisfactory. Remember, I warned you ahead of time.

    You need to put in the work, and you need to get your work out there, and you need to get it out there consistently, and you need to be nice while you do it. Then, maybe, just maybe, you’ll get onto someone’s radar. Someone will start watching you and what you do, in order to see what you do next. You’ll have to spend a lot of money, fail a lot of times, learn a lot of lessons, before someone will say “Hey, Kletus, I see you’ve been putting in the work. How would you like to write a backup story of Leggs, International?” And then, if you do a good job there, they’ll remember it, and if another job comes up, you may get recommended, rehired, or have someone speak positively about you. (That sucks.) Told you it was unsatisfactory.

    Anyway, the Network is the reasoning behind LinkedIn. You get LinkedIn to other professionals and peers, and the more people you know, presumably, the more people they know, and possibly, you may be linked to the President! Think of it as the professional version of Kevin Bacon taken literally: you’re only separated by degrees from people you may need to talk to, and you have the opportunity to be introduced to that person by your mutual connection.

    I’ve gotten referral requests from people I barely know—and that never ceases to amaze me. How can I refer you to anyone if I don’t know you? Or if I DO know you, tried to do some work with/for you, and got no answer back [which is a rejection]—why would I refer you? Yes, that’s happened. No, I didn’t refer them. Really, don’t know how they got into my circle, anyway.

    Getting into the Network is no easy thing. It presumes you have a skill someone wants, a body of work to show off that skill, the ability to produce, and a somewhat favorable disposition. Like I said before, hard work and determination is nice. It’s great, and you need it, but you also need something akin to a sponsor to get in.

    Where do you start? Digital Webbing is a great place. You go, watch for a little bit, get a sense of the place, and then introduce yourself and start interacting. [Again, I suggest you use your real name.] Don’t get all wrapped up in trying to make a move immediately. It’s a great community where creators go not to just create, but to also hang out. And during that interaction, you will get known, and then when you start showing off what you can do, people may start to look at you differently, and hit you up to create something. Then, while you’ve got your mojo going, you create your stuff, and hopefully it gets noticed. And so it goes.

    This is how you become part of the network. You keep your nose to the grindstone, you keep up the hard work and determination, and you interact with your peers. You get good enough, you get some gigs, and then people start to talk about you. You get more gigs, more talk…and that’s how it goes.

    And that’s it for this week. Next week, we dive back into genre stuff. I think we’re talking about cookbooks…
    Last edited by StevenForbes; Tuesday, September 08, 2009 at 06:21 PM.



  2. tylerjames Guest

    Another good one, Steven. One thing I'll add (and a big lesson from Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People") is that the quickest, surest way to get people interested in you is to take and avid and genuine interest in other people.

    Zero sum thinking (that a job given to creator x is a job lost to me) will get you no where. Rather, a pay it forward mentality, where you reach a hand out and support other creators will build a ton of good will that is going to help you later on down the road.

    But, these things do take time. First when you're just getting started, and especially after you've been doing this a while and start to think you're ready for bigger opportunities, it can get frustrating. But there are no over night successes in comics. And would you really want there to be?

    I'm getting ready for some conventions this month and next month and was flipping through some issues of Super Seed I haven't looked at in a while. I realized that just in the back pages I've worked with a bunch of talent who have made major strides in the past year. I've got a pin-up by the artist on the recent Farscape mini who is doing great work, and had some coloring assistance from a guy who is inking for DC now. These are both guys I really enjoyed working with and am not surprised they're having increasing success in the industry. I'd recommend them for work...and obviously others with more pull than me felt the same way.



  3. Join Date
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    Working here at PFB has been the greatest networking move I ever made.

    I took the gig telling myself I'd be networking, but not really expecting much to come of it. But, thanks to my writing here, I am no friendly with several creators, writers, and editors at companies ranging from the Earthbound Comics (publishing my Cat. 5 story next month) to Dynamite, Boom!, DC, and Top Shelf. I STILL can't get over meeting mark Waid for the first time, only to have him look at my shirt and say, "Project Fanboy? Which one are you?" and when I told him my name, he said "Sure, you've done reviews for us." Then we talked for a while.

    I met Martin Brandt through a strange, and now defunct, online artists guild for Central Floridians. now we both hang on PFB, and he's publishing my Zombie story in the 2nd issue of DEAD FUTURE. We're even ironing out a signing at FAMOUS FACES & FUNNIES.

    Doing interviews, reviews, and even some of the news stories here has really helped open a lot of doors for me.
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



  4. StevenForbes Guest

    Thanks,Tyler.

    The writer I'm working with? One of the names on the "we'll look further into this, depending if there's someone better and cheaper" was Koko. We both liked the samples (TotD), but were concerned about the different timeframes for some sequences.

    But, Koko was on my list based on your gushing, not just because of the samples that were sent. If this were a different project that didn't have such a retro look in some places,the job would have been theirs.

    THIS, ladies and gents, is how the network works. I've worked with Tyler on other things, and Tyler has worked with other creators. We talk, going back and forth. The subject of the conversations will either get work or get passed over due to various factors, but word of mouth is a BIG one. I probably lose some work because I have a big mouth and am highly opinionated, and a lot of creators can't take that. However, there are a few that like what I have to offer, and come to me looking for it. Hell, I've just picked up a great, HUGE gig because of it. It all depends on the creators.

    But you have to show discipline in order to get good word of mouth. You have to DO THE WORK. You have no room to complain about not getting any gigs if you haven't been doing the work, if you haven't been preparing yourself to take advantage of the opportunities as they arise. Do you have your scripts in order? Your pitches? Do you have a body of published work that you can point to and say "I've done this already," or point to a company to say you have something upcoming with them?

    Another writer I've worked with is more than likely going to get a deal with Markosia, and is telling me to get on the wagon. I know the project I want to do (Calvin just ripped the old script a new one, but the new script? Ah-HA!), but I need to make sure the script is up to snuff, then get a creative team together, and get it moving.

    But the point is, word of mouth works, and the best way you can help yourself is to do the work and be prepared for the opportunities. I've talked about this before. See how it ALL ties together?

    Also, as Tyler says, you need to reach out to other creators: be accessible, be supportive (both emotionally and financially by buying their products or giving them paying work), and watch what happens when your turn comes around. This is a slow process, and you have to do it with real feeling and without a thought of one hand washes the other. Be sincere, folks. That will get you a HELL of a lot further than most other things.



  5. gwilliams Guest

    How is Josh Hoopes not in jail yet?????



  6. tiggerpete Guest

    magic?



  7. MartinBrandt Guest

    Here is where I get nipped on the back side every time.

    I am not a people person. I suck at talking to people I don't know. At the conventions I am trying to work on this, but I just clam right up.

    oh, Seb you crack me up. (Defunct was such a nice word.)



  8. Sliverbane Guest

    I wonder...

    The title of this weeks column struck me as....um...uncomfortable. But after reading I seem what you mean... Get connected.

    Would I call it 'Good ol'Boys Network'? Nope. Maybe that's what it is. A bunch of 'old boys' calling the shots. Looks bleak for a female. Especially a black female. Is there a column in the future talking about females in the comics industry. Or are they so few and far in between that we're not worth a mention? I know PFB features female artists, etc. But it doesn't come up much in the columns discussion. I've only met ONE female comic artist [She penciled and inked] in my life. And I don't even know if she's still doing it anymore.



  9. StevenForbes Guest

    I know exactly what you mean, Silverbane. Exactly what you mean.

    As a black male, growing up in the 80's, in the suburbs, I didn't really get to see a lot of the Network until I went into the Marine Corps. I'd heard about it, but I didn't really understand it until I got in. Then, after a while, I realized that few things get done expeditiously without it.

    Same thing in comics.

    For whatever reason, there are not a lot of women within our medium. Not as creators. Not that are making names for themselves. However, there are more women in comics, I think, than black men--or, at least, black men that have made a name for themselves.

    Is there racism in comics? Sexism? Sure is. If you listen to some female creators tell it, the hallowed halls of Marvel are really nothing but one big boy's club. Are time changing? I dunno. The Editor in Chief of Marvel is of Latin descent, and the new head person of DC is a woman. (Yes, she reports to a man, but the buck generally stops with her.)

    Tom Brevoort, longtime Marvel editor, recently caused a small kerfluffle by stating a truism: in American comics, you stand a better chance of success if your lead is a white male.

    I am not politically correct. As a matter of fact, to me, trying to be PC does more harm than good. I call 'em like I see 'em, and I'm steady. This means that, for the people who know me, they know that what they see is what they get. For those that don't, they can look to see if I equivocate, and if I don't, if I'm worth getting to know.

    I understand that the title is somewhat provocative. It also happens to be true, and as such, I make no apologies for it. If you don't like the terminology, put in the work for a few generations to change it. I wish you luck with it.

    And Were-Lock: I'm no much of a people person, either. VERY shy. Until, that is, I get on footing that I'm comfortable on. Get me on a roll, and it's hard to shut me up. Let's call it passion. But I'm right there with you.

    And if she's pretty...? Fuggedaboutit!! I'm just happy I'm married!



  10. tylerjames Guest

    Silverbane, you might be interested to check out Kat Rocha's "The F Word" column over at Comic Related. An interesting perspective from a woman tryin' to make it in the industry.



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