Breaking Into The Comics Industry: A “Friendly” Guide

On any average day, one can find me perusing my Twitter feed, seeing if the multitude of geeky folks I follow have anything interesting to say. More often than not I find myself staring at links for, a web service that has taken most of the internet by storm. If you’ve been living under a rock, is a way to anonymously ask people questions. Many celebrities have picked up on this service and some of the questions and subsequent answers are a real laugh. Comic professionals are not excluded by a long shot, and it is on a frequent basis that I encounter a common trend in questions. Things like “I am an artist and want to do comics, how do I get my big break?” or “I am a writer and have many great ideas but I have no idea what to do… so tell me what I need to do!”

Oftentimes the answers to these questions are canned. “Hard work”, “perseverance”, “talent”, blah, blah, blah. But as a writer and someone who has been deeply involved in the comics industry for the last couple of years, quietly taking field notes on my observations, I’d like to offer some advice from a more “neutral” party.

The truth is, the key to working in the comics industry is basically the same as it is for MOST branches of entertainment: networking. The majority of people who work in the industry do not have rags to riches stories; instead they went to conventions and hawked their portfolio, sent out samples, and made friends with people who were already involved in comics. If people like you, they are going to want to work with you. I can not stress this enough. Being a likeable and memorable person goes a long, long way.

Most of my dearest friends are incredibly talented artists, a skill I sadly lack in all capacities. Instead I am a wordsmith. For the most part, the moment you utter the words “I’m a writer” to a professional artist, they are instantly at arms. Usually it means you want something from them: whether it's shoving a script under their nose or pitching some truly ridiculous stories to them. But if you have had a good conversation beforehand, chances are their red flags aren’t going to go up. Chances are, if they like the way you talk and socialize, they are going to be a lot more keen on the idea of working with you.

New York Comic Con is coming up tomorrow. It is a rather large convention, but it still is small enough that you have a chance to get face time with creators. If you are an artist, take a small portfolio with you to the convention. Strike up conversations with other artists, and then ask them if they would crtique your portfolio. The majority of artists are more than happy to give you a few minutes of their time, and I guarantee you that if you are engaging and talkative they are going to be close to THRILLED to take a look at your work.

Obviously, as a writer it is much harder to “break in” to the comics industry, as we don’t really HAVE portfolios to show. One of the most important things to being a good professional in comics is laying the groundwork for solid relationships, both working and otherwise. Attend afterparties, guaranteeing the social lubricant of alcohol and a mass of relaxed professionals who are not necessarily in “work mode”. Sell YOURSELF, and selling your work will come naturally afterwards.

I know that approaching people can be daunting. A dear friend of mine is incredibly socially awkward and terrified of rejection, but she is an absolutely exceptional artist. Despite her near terror of approaching near strangers and asking them for their opinions on her work, she was so passionate and invested in the possibility of working in the comics industry that she swallowed that fear and put together a portfolio. She flew to a convention in a city unknown to her, with no friends or people she knew, and she took that portfolio to every table. I met her at this particular convention as I was working a table for a friend, and her hands were literally shaking when she handed the portfolio across. But it was so apparent that she was a genuine person who was trying her hardest to be involved in comics that everyone she talked to instantly liked her, and by that night she had been put at ease and introduced to many hot shots within the industry. Now I watch her stride to tables with complete confidence, engaging and professional as she continues to ask how she can improve her work. It takes this kind of dedication, courage, and absolute love for what you want to do to really make an impression in ANY industry.

So, artists, polish up your art portfolio with some splash pages and sequentials. Work on making eye contact and swallow the fear you have of rejection. Sell yourself.

Writers, bulk up your vocabulary. Buy some artists some beer. Be likeable. If you speak the way you write, people are going to take notice of you. Hand out business cards like candy.

Above all, believe in yourself. If you exude confidence for what you want to achieve, people are going to be naturally attracted to that. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Working in this industry isn’t easy, but it sure as hell is rewarding.


Molly McIsaac is currently in New York City for Comic Con spending too much time in pubs with comics professionals. You can follow her misadventures on Twitter.


  1. Enlightening advice. This has given me something to think about.

  2. If I learned anything in screenwriting class, it’s that writers like to drink and talk. Luckily, I’m a fan of both.

  3. Hmmmm I have been writing comics in my Head for 30 years. Now if only I could give up my day job!!!! Damn- I forgot I’m not likeable…… Ah well back down the mine I go…..

  4. Fantastic advice and something I need to keep reminding myself as I build up my creative writing skills.  Building up your vocabulary and coherent sentences are essential, but definitely networking is a key to really any industry if you want to get your foot in the door.

    By the way, if there are any aspiring comic writers that want to write the comic way, I HIGHLY recommend Peter David’s "Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels".  He shares a lot of anecdotes and insights on all aspects of writing.  Even has exercises too:

  5. I feel like as an artist its great to talk to other artists to get their feedback but its difficult to often talk to someone who can actually hire you. I’d love to work for DC but if you arent selected from their talent search its impossible to even get a critique about what they did/didnt like about your submission. And really thats all I wanted at SDCC, so that I could know where to polish my work.

  6. @Shallam – I like you.

  7. Being likeable? thats harsher than the Work hard stuff. You’ve killed my dream.

  8. Too bad I can’t write or draw, otherwise this would be a very helpful article.