An editor once told me an extended metaphor about how working as a comic book writer or artist is like being in a perpetual dating cycle. This wasn't really a sexist metaphor, as most mainstream comic book creators tend to be male. But if you're a dude in the industry and reading this, you might want to invest in a whimsical-yet-sexy hat, or at least remember to only answer phone calls on the third ring or more as to not seem desperate.
In Comics, you're either Hot or Not.
Young and Sexy Rule
This editor told me that the big publishers are literally looking for new talent who are "young and sexy." What it's all about is Image (yes, and the pun is appropriate). It's more than just publishers wanting to rebrand Comics as a hip, "youth-oriented" industry; they want to have cool dudes at the cons and industry parties representing them...not "schlubs." (Quote: "schlubs")
And that's not really very shocking, when you consider that though sometimes they don't act it, Comics are Big Entertainment—and the entertainment industry as a whole has an obsession with youth and looks. Do you think a major entertainment outlet is going to want to focus on "the old guys" from a particular publisher's stable of talent? Hand-to-God, I can assure you they don't; instead, wishing to focus on the "hipster" and the "heavy-metal looking guy."
But, as I've mentioned earlier, if you don't feel you fit in the "young and sexy" category, you can always...
And you know, this isn't so much to ask, is it? I mean, if you're British you've won half the battle right there! Or go for the aforementioned whimsical hat. Find a HOOK!
Maybe you collect antique gynecological equipment, or have a master's degree in advanced Voodoo Studies; don't be shy about those things, wear them on your sleeve and maintain a successful blog on the subject of your expertise.
I mean, heck: maybe you're a female. That's pretty interesting. Work it, Girl!
Guys Want What They Can't Have
If you want to make it big in the comic book industry, you're going to have to play hard to get. According to my contact, publishers are most interested in hiring people who not only are working for the competition, but (even better!) are currently "going steady" (read: have an Exclusive).
See, if you're already "dating" somebody that automatically makes you more appealing to others, who want to assert their manhood by "stealing" you away from your current relationship. Some may call it "cheating," but it's simply just the law of attraction.
But what if you aren't dating anybody at the moment. Uh-oh. Better not look...
Are you sending too much emails to the publisher? Do you call them the very moment you step off the plane from SDCC? Is your motto "I'll do ANYTHING for you"? Are you considered "easy"?
Guys are really turned off by desperation. If you seem like a pushover, you're just going to be taken advantage of.
Now, there are several ways you can be taken advantage of in the world of
This is when you suddenly inherit a comic from a creator or team that have suddenly left the book. Perhaps the creator in question has been in the advertising materials for months, and the book has even been solicited with his (or her) (but let's face it, most likely his) credits on it. But said creator is nowhere to be found (though Twitter is a pretty good place to start), and somebody's gotta get this book out the door!
Enter: YOU! You, who was such a big splash on the indie scene and now is writing the second-to-last issue of "Vibe." This is your big chance! I'm sure the comic reading public isn't going to blame you for a whole host of problems that are beyond your control (probably starting with the fact that you only have a week to get this script done), prompting old-school fans of your work to say: "DAMN! What happened to (blank)."
Related to "Sloppy Seconds" is...
The Booty Call
In Comics, the Booty Call is when you only get called in for work when the publisher needs somebody to do a quick "fill in" for a person who just shit the bed. Largely a phenomenon with comic book artists, you will be sweet-talked into dropping everything (read: your work for Dynamite) in order to turn around this comic almost overnight.
Problem with the Booty Call is that it can lull you into a false sense of hope, setting off a flurry of calls to the publisher after the work is done looking for perhaps a regular series.
But you're not going to get that regular series. Because you are just a Booty Call.
The Angry Ex
After going through Sloppy Seconds and/or the Booty Call, you may get bitter and become an Angry Ex. This is what Twitter and Rich Johnston are for. You will rail against the industry and its asshattedness, how unfairly Kirby (read: YOU) was treated. "Creator's Rights!" you'll say with an upraised fist. "Occupy Comics!" "Viva the Revolution!" "Bite me, Dan DiDio!"
And then, quite inexplicably, you get the Call. The same publisher you have been hating on has just offered you a sweet gig. Oh well: Guys Want What They Can't Have.
And maybe it's just Sloppy Seconds or a Booty Call–but you are too dazzled by the prospect of BEING IN COMICS! again to look a gift horse in the mouth. Congratulations: you have just now entered...
An Abusive Relationship
Have you been screwed over by working in Comics dozens of ways, yet for some thoroughly masochistic reason keep coming back? You are now a Battered Creator. You equate pain with love. You keep kidding yourself it's going to get better—but it doesn't. But that's okay. One day you'll change him.
So let's go over the checklist as to how you are going to be successful in the comic book industry:
1. Be young and sexy (consider "manscaping")
2. Be interesting (antique gynecological equipment)
3. Play hard to get (answer phone on third ring; or better yet, watch it go to voice mail)
4. Don't act desperate (you got tons of publishers all wanting a piece of "this")
5. Beware of Sloppy Seconds (new writer on "Vibe")
6. Beware of Booty Calls (fill-in inker on "Vibe")
7. It's OK to be an Angry Ex...
8. ...but be careful that you don't fall into an Abusive Relationship with Comics
BONUS: What type of Comic Creator Are You?
A) Chloe Moretz
Young, hot and dangerous. You have a hit book from Image about Russian marine biologists on LSD.
B) Katherine Heigl
You're sexy and all that, but everybody just seems to be really annoyed by you. You get a lot of the second-tier DC titles that are critically acclaimed yet nobody buys.
C) Tara Reid
Kinda a hot mess, but great on the SDCC hotel bar circuit. You're up for anything.
Extremely high-maintenance, but you have a solid fan base and sell books. You also get a lot of younger editors fired, but screw the little people.
E) Amanda Bynes
You're why nobody can go up to the Offices anymore without an appointment.
F) Kim Kardashian
Nobody knows what the hell you do or where you came from, but you're freakin' EVERYWHERE! New writer on "Vibe".
G) Lena Dunham
Well, you're kind of adorable...but NO MATT FRACTION!
H) Helen Mirren
You created Kitty Pryde, and that's damn sexy.