So, you want to be a comic book writer or artist.
It's a really cool job to have (judging from all the amazing writers and artists in the world). BUT. You have no idea how to begin. It's both fortunate and unfortunate that there's not one 'right way' to become a professional. Fortunate, because that means there are lots of ways to get started! Unfortunate, because it can all be kind of confusing.
This video is a great place to start!
The two writers discuss how they got into the field, and offer some great tips for becoming a professional.
The first thing they suggest is building a portfolio and sharing your work.
This allows you to have samples handy when you meet people in the industry (more on that later). It also means you can start building a fan base. Where do you share? Tumblr, Vingle, Deviantart, and Instagram are all great places to share the work you do.
If you're an artist, you can show off by producing fanart (many artists also take commissions). Doing this demonstrates that you can imitate a particular style, which is a very useful skill in the comic book industry. If you're a writer, you can seek out artists to work with, or start sharing your writing in the same places. Write short stories. Write articles. Write a novel and share it on Amazon or Wattpad. Write often and share everything.
Know your editors.
Who are they? They're the people that will be in charge of hiring you! Above is a photo of Sana Amanat, the creator and editor of Ms. Marvel. She's amazing, and there are many more people working in comics just like her. Any time you read a comic book, the names of the editors and assistant editors will be at the front (right next to all that boring copyright info). Keep track of them! Follow them on Twitter. Find out which conventions they will be attending and try to go and meet them. Keep a spreadsheet if you have to.
And be really, really nice.
Editors are extremely busy, under a lot of pressure with deadlines and sales goals, and they need to know that the people they work with are reliable and won't add to their stress. Treat every interaction like a job interview. I don't mean walk in and act like you have the job! But be polite. Dress professionally (or show up in cosplay of their favorite character). Show them the best side of yourself.
Which brings me to...
This is like a resume, but for comic book writers and artists. Artist Christ Oatley has a few VITAL tips for anyone with a portfolio:
"Five stellar pages are better than 10 if half of them are weak. Awkward foreshortening, perspective mistakes, and inaccurate anatomy are some of the most common errors I see." "Pull out six to ten of your best pages, create a digital PDF and send me that. Or link to one of your favorite pages in your comic, then specifically ask me to read the next six pages." "I always take notice of portfolios that include the most difficult things to draw: descriptive backgrounds, varied camera angles, and accurate perspective. It is pretty easy to tell when someone fudges the perspective in their drawings. I know it’s hard work, but take out your ruler and learn how to do it right."
Take his advice. Build a portfolio that shows your range, your skills, and your style. Your portfolio will tell people why they want to work with you. Don't be afraid to show them exactly what they need to know!
Remember what I said about being polite?
You need to make your own luck.
The truth is, if this is something you want to do, you can't wait for Marvel or DC to come to you. Work on your own or with a friend to share your art. Aaron Diaz created his own webcomic, which he shared online. He worked hard, and garnered enough of a following to support himself via Kickstarter and Patreon. Projects like that are an excellent way to showcase your work AND learn. Because you're so close to your audience, you can get direct feedback about your art and storytelling that will help you improve.
I believe in you!
I hope that anyone here that wants to become a comic book writer or artist becomes one so I can see all of your awesome work!