Hug An Artist / Bug An Artist

Recently, a reader contacted me with a question other than “Who did you service to get a column, you feeble hack?”

“Jimski,” said the reader, “I am hoping to get a sketch from [renowned comic book artist] in a few weeks when I go to [upcoming convention]. I thought it would be a smart time saver if I commissioned the sketch in advance and just sort of picked it up at the con rather than making him draw it for me right then and there. Anyway, I asked him about it on Twitter, and he never got back to me. Should I try tweeting him again? If I do that, will I start to come across as the De Niro character in The King of Comedy, or the De Niro character in The Fan, or really any non-Raging Bull De Niro character? Do you think he ignored my tweet, or just didn’t see it? Do you think he gets a lot of tweets? Have you gotten more comfortable being an adult male who regularly talks about ‘tweeting,’ and if so is that a good thing or a sign of the End Times? If he responds to my second tweet, does that mean he likes me likes me, or does he just want to be BFFs? What is the proper etiquette for interacting with a creator in this circumstance?”

Unfortunately for the considerate, well-mannered reader, out of all the available people who have ever worked on this site up to and including the guy who designed that Fandango ad over there, I was the almost comically worst person to ask that question. On a site full of people who have contacted, interviewed, partied and imbibed with literally hundreds of comic book professionals, this poor benighted soul had come to the one staffer whose entire interaction with the pros consisted of that time in San Diego when I went to tell Roger Langridge I liked his Muppet Show comic and started uncontrollably gushing like this book I’d read three issues of had inspired me to drop out of grad school and devote my life to painting. I think I offered to be his next child’s godfather. Christ help me if I ever met Daniel Way or somebody; I’d end up lettering Deadpool for free and cleaning out his rain gutters.

Wait! That wasn’t my only creator interaction. I also spent an entire video show intently staring at the back of Jason Aaron’s head like he had shaved in a secret message back there only I could see.

I’m really quite bad at all this. The reader might as well have asked, “I want to build a working, jet-propelled battleship out of empty milk containers. Which are more buoyant, the 2% or the chocolate? And what about jug vs. carton aerodynamics? Or would it be hydrodynamics?”

When it comes to talking to creators, my attitude has always been, “Who the hell am I?” I have no business bothering these people with my idiot ramblings. Even when they want to talk to someone, I dodge it. Someone will offer us an interview, and one of the Founders Three will ask, “Anybody want to take this one?” and I’ll point and say “Oh my God what is that behind you” and dive out the nearest window. Which is counterintuitive, because they typically ask by e-mail, but my methods are my own.

The thing is, in the last couple of years it has become easier than ever to talk to people who were once literally and figuratively remote, and I’m still a little cowed by it. I wish more people were cowed by it, frankly, and not just because it is delightful to use “cow” as a verb. Celebrities and public figures are just putting themselves right out there on Twitter; all you have to do is type “@alfranken,” and you are actually talking to Al Franken(‘s intern). As I’ve mentioned before, the only thing that blows my mind more than the fact that I could actually go ask Rob Liefeld a question right this second is the fact that so many other people with that same ability are using it to say, “Hey @robliefeld u suck at ur life’s work LOL.” I see something like that on Twitter almost every day: “You really just said that. You were talking about how much you don’t like a man’s work, an actual person with kids and bills and feelings, and you went out of your way to add the little @ and make sure he’d see it. Never met the guy. Just wanted to put a little cherry on top of his day.”Dark Avengers was good, yo!

With all that flotsam in the Twittersphere, even asking an innocent question seemed too presumptuous to me for the longest time, despite the fact that these writers and artists did open the Twitter accounts themselves and therefore presumably want to use them. With all of that in mind, and inspired by that reader's question, I’ve been trying to use my powers for good lately. Last week, I read the final chapter of Dark Avengers and liked it so much that I wrote the author a note just to say how much I liked it. Apparently, a lot of people did the same thing, because he wrote later that he’d gotten a lot of those notes and that it really made his day. Hearing that made my day so much that I went ahead and posted a question for the upcoming Bendis Tapes, and that made me feel even better. Tomorrow, I will arrive at his home in the afternoon with a bouquet of Gerber daisies and a taser.

I understand why that reader asked his question; it still feels a little stalkery when you try to approach people you admire, even when the approach is virtual. Still, my challenge to you this week is this: it has become an almost mathematical certainty that the creators of the books you’ll buy this week are on Twitter. When you read one you really like, take a couple of seconds to tell them. You will release good karma into the universe at a time when the universe badly needs it.

 


Jim Mroczkowski never stalked anyone on Twitter as hard as he stalked the guy who beat him to the handle @Jimski. He emerged triumphant. The original @Jimski’s whereabouts are unknown.
 

Comments

  1. I have arranged multiple commissions via Twitter, but it always started with the artist saying something like, "who wants to buy a commission from me?"  I’d think if the only way you can find to contact someone is twitter, and they don’t answer their twitter, they are probably not using it to pick up business.  Also, honestly, buying a sketch at the con may require more running around, but I think it’s more fun to sit there and watch them draw!  That’s why you traveled to the con!  Your mileage may vary, though.

    About the larger question of communicating with creators, when I first got on Twitter, I was AMAZED people would @ people they didn’t know.  More recently I @ ed a prestigious creator (who I don’t even follow) because I wanted him to clarify a retweet I’d seen that seemed to be critical of the lyrics to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Blinded by the Light’, said lyrics of which may actually be the cosmic code to my SOUL.  (He clarified that he really liked the song, he was just saying it didn’t make any sense, which I can’t argue with and is probably also true of my soul).  On the scale of stalking, though, I find this relatively minor, possibly because my brother once texted me from a Springsteen show to inform me that Stevie Van Zandt had sweated on him.  It’s all relative.

     

  2. I’m right there with you on the being cowed and the being disgusted at how so many others choose to use their tiny bit of access to belittle giants.  (I have no problem typing a comment on iFanboy about how Larry Stroman ruined a run of X-Factor, but if he were sitting at a con table I walked past, I would *walk past* rather than stopping to tell him in person.)

    I think I come off as kind of a doofus when I do approach someone I admire, because I want to make it clear that I admire them and then be ready to back the hell off.  If I ask for something like a sketch, I am the most grateful sketch-buying goofball on the planet.  And the couple of times a creator I admire actually engaged me in conversation I have been conscious not to overstay the moment.  I’m there to build positive memories, and I certainly don’t want to be a negative memory to others, particularly the very people I came to see.  But so many seem to want to stand out and can’t think of a decent way to do it, so they settle for being the jerk who buys an artist a copy of "How to Draw."

  3. I’ve done the positive note on twitter thing a few times in the past (James Robinson really seems depressed from time to time).  I occasionally get a response.  I certainly don’t think of that as awkward or stalkery.  I’d love to get a piece of mail or a tweet simply stating "Hey Chris, I really enjoyed that Econ class you taught on Thursday. Keep up the good work!"  Who doesn’t enjoy that?

  4. how bout the old fashioned way…write them an honest, concise and polite email? =)

    I’ve engaged in some really awesome conversations with creators via email. Twitter is too public a forum to conduct specific business like that. Its like shouting at someone across a crowded bar and hoping they’re paying attention. 

  5. And oh, obviously, yes on the positive mentions.   Who doesn’t like that?

  6. It may be a little early to call such things, but MadMarvelgirl’s  first comment up there is an excellent canidate for Comment of the week.

  7. @DaveCarr  This is just because you know my feelings on Springsteen.

  8. I made a joke and got an LOL from Terry Moore. Now I have nothing to look forward to the rest of my life. So thanks, Twitter!

    I would think email would be the preferred method for asking a serious question of a creator, though. Twitter seems to…ephemeral for that sort of thing.

  9. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Probably the best Twitter/creator interaction I ever had was with Geoff Johns. After watching a bit of ROBOT CHICKEN season 4, I tweeted how surprised and delighted I was to find his name in the credits as having written for the show for several episodes. He RTed me and joked about how he was ‘slumming it’ when he wrote for them. I knew he was joking because he added a smiley face and because I don’t think the man would actually burn bridges via Twitter. That completely made my day.

  10. I’m going to my first comics convention with Heroes, so the whole fan-creator interaction thing is something I’m interested in and worried about. I’m a chatterbox on the Internet, but I tend to be quiet in person. I have no idea which extreme will show up at Heroes, hopefully just that fan that has read and enjoyed comics for so long. Hopefully.

    I love sending replies to creators on twitter just to let them know I’ve enjoyed a particular issue or some art they’ve shared. They work long hours, they need all the encouragement they can get, even the "stars". I usually don’t expect a response honestly.

    That said for something like a convention sketch/commission, I’d probably email them or wait until their actual announcement goes up. 

  11. @widowmaker  Heroes is a great "first con" for that kind of thing.  Everybody is really accessible and relaxed. 

  12. Hmm, I’ve got no problem with contacting creators but usually my interaction will just be to tell them I loved their work.

    When I’ve wanted a commission I’ve went to their website for an email address. If their email isn’t there then chances are they don’t want to be contacted.  

  13. I made Jamie McKelvie groan on twitter. He posted a link to an article about magnetic fields compromising moral judgement. I replied that the article finally explains all of the crazy shit I’ve done listening to the album 69 Love Songs. He said that he actually groaned out loud and dubbed it a GOL. That has been my life’s achievement to this day.

    I also love ‘making a creator’s day’ when I tweet about comics I love. They deserve all the karma they can get because they sure as hell aren’t getting paid enough for what they do.

  14. I am not a stalker.

    I am not a stalker.

    I am not a stalker.

    Eh, not helping. I still feel weird talking to creators at cons. I feel a little better writing to them. Maybe that’s because when you do that, you give them the chance to not reply? 

  15. Fortunately, local coimc creators from the Philippines love to talk on twitter, Very approachable.

    I’ve talked to sme international creators, and I only got a reply from @Mckelvie

  16. Erik Larsen responds.

  17. Ed Brubaker has responded back to me several times. Thus confirming again and again why he might be my favorite writer.