Saturday, March 21, 2009

Quick Tips for Breaking In Abroad

A lot of Filipinos are finding the opportunity to work in comics abroad. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you get there.

*DC hasn't accepted submissions in the mail for a long time. And now, according to CB Cebulski, Marvel's talent liason, Marvel will stop doing so as well. That leaves fewer options for Philippine based talent to find work abroad. But it's still possible.

*You can go to an agent, like David Campiti, to represent you. You can find out about this here:

*If you don't want to go to an agent, you can try doing it yourself, which is difficult, but not impossible.

*Follow Marvel's talent liason CB Cebulski at Twitter. He has lots of tips for people wanting to break in. Click here.

*Set up a blog or a site which makes it easy for editors to look at your work. CB Ceblulski has said that he would much rather look at artwork in blogs. So set up a web presence. But DON'T make a site where you would require visitors to click several times just to see your art. Take note that he has also expressed hesitation to browse Deviant Art sites. So don't send him links to that.

*Show at least 4-5 pages of storytelling, not pinups. Editors need to see that you can tell a story with your drawings.

*Background is important. Don't think of it as drawing "people". Think of it as drawing "environments". Make it believable that these people fit perfectly in the environment they are standing in.

*Try to avoid wanting to break in directly at Marvel at DC your first time at the bat. Your first professional work is bound to be amateurish and clumsy. Do you want to expose that to the audience of two of the biggest comics companies in the world? Start small. Submit to smaller companies. Learn the ropes. Sharpen your skills and develop your professionalism with these companies first. And if you are good, Marvel or DC would be bound to notice you and grab you. By then, you would be good enough, and professional enough, and your art would have developed well enough for the big time.

I've seen talented artists crash and burn when they got to work at Marvel for the first time. They had difficulty handling the deadlines and the work. And they soon fell out of favor. Some of them are no longer working now. But some started again with smaller companies and are slowly carving good reputations for themselves as good artists.

*Contribute for comics anthologies. There's plenty of open calls for submissions out there. Contribute even if it doesn't pay. A lot of these anthologies don't pay anyway. I've worked on many anthologies and yet I've never been paid for a single one. It's all about exposure. Your published work will act as your submission. It's the best kind of submission you can have.

*While it's all right to do pro bono work for anthologies, try not to do it for full issues or entire series. Check up on your collaborators online to see if they're reputable, if they have a history of either bad or respectable behavior. If these people don't have a credit to their name or if they say "we're going to use this to pitch", then be careful. Most of those don't end well.

*Make it easy for editors to get in touch with you. Check email often so you'll know right away if an editor is trying to get in touch. We're in the Philippines. They're going to be concerned that it would be tough to reach you and not hire you. Make it seem like you're only next door by responding right away.

*Don't leave your editor hanging. If you're having problems dealing with a deadline, TELL THEM, and not disappear and ignore messages. It's hard, but just swallow it and do it. Don't give any stupid excuses.

*If you can, self publish a comic book and send copies to editors. Once again, a published comic book is one of the best submissions you can have.

*Be self reliant. Solve your problems and not bother your editor with things you can solve on your own.

*Don't be an ass. Be friendly.

*Don't be a pest. Be patient. Swallow your pride. Don't argue.

*Do your best fucking work every time. The submission process never truly ends, even if you're already working. You have to prove yourself every time.


  1. Gerry,
    Excellent tips. You're always good at these.

    BTW, years ago, in the 60s, there was a cafe on Mabini in Malate that I used to hang out at, called Indios Bravos. Indios Bravos was the most popular place to go, artists like Bencab, art critics and the literati met there to chat, drink beer, play chess, or just socialize. Here's an excerpt I found in the internet about the cafe. The words are not mine, I don't know who wrote it, but it's nostalgic (what a joy to drink beer, play chess under those Tiffany lamps) and pretty much accurate, the people mentioned were all there.
    In the late 60's, there was a cafe in Malate named Indios Bravos. The choice of such a name was deliberate.

    The café was named after an organization of expatriate Filipino artists, writers and nationalists based in Paris and Madrid in the late 1880’s. Rizal had created this nationalist movement with the purpose of fighting the oppressive Spanish colonial government for tax, education and civil rights reforms on behalf of the indigenous Philippine population. He had taken the name “Los Indios Bravos” after attending the American stage show, “Buffalo Bill”, in Paris. As the curtain came down Rizal couldn’t fail to notice how the French audience immediately rose to their feet as one and loudly applauded the American Indians for their courage and bravery, shouting, “Les Indes courageux, comme ils sont braves, les Indes courageux!” Since the Spaniards in Manila referred derogatorily to the local population as “Indios”, Rizal wisely thought, that by calling his nascent nationalist movement, “Los Indios Bravos” he would turn their insult into a title of pride, respect and honour.

    I was priveleged to have spent many a night at Indios Bravos, in the company of a theater group, and a university writers' organization, both of which I was a member of. At that time, the cafe was a mecca for artists, writers, poets, journalists, photographers, dancers, actors, musicians and sculptors - there they met, to discuss their work, plan their next shows and catch up on all the latest literary, political and social gossip. Then there was also the odd sprinkling of foreign embassy personnel hoping to be part of the “action”, overseas tourists looking to experience some “local colour” and presidential aides and politicians either wanting to be considered “hip” or, more often than not, spying for the government.

    In Indios Bravos, East truly met West. On any given night, in the salon-like atmosphere, you could sit down under the tiffany lamp at the long main table that sprawled across the centre of the room and join in an animated discussion about contemporary literature with the U.S. Cultural Attache, Jack Crockett, award-winning novelist and short story writer, Nick Joaquin and the Philippines’ high priestess of poetry, Virginia Moreno. Or, alternatively, you could find yourself in one of the café’s dimly-lit corners with the British Ambassador, Sir John Addis, local archeologist Robert Fox and anthropologist Dave Baradas, totally absorbed by their talk of the latest pre-historic discoveries unearthed in the Tabon Caves, off Palawan.
    (Italics from the internet memoirs of Caroline B. Kennedy - no, not the one you're thinking of.)

    On some nights, there was poetry reading. On others, art classes. You get the picture - it was an artsy-fartsy gathering, and the wide-eyed eighteener that I was then took it all in: the company, the ambiance, and yes, even the smoke (which didn't come only from cigarettes Wink)

    That original Indios Bravos was closed down when martial law was declared. Many of its habituees were detained for a while, in fact. With the imposition of a curfew, the night life as I knew it then came to an end.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful insight Gerry!
    Salamat! ;)