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Creating Comics: Starting From Nothing


This is how I started off from just an idea that I wanted to make a comic.

I’m no way saying that what I did was perfect, but if you’re starting out where I was, this should be able to serve as a guideline to where you want to go. When creating my first comic, ReShoot, I made a lot of good decisions, and I made some mistakes. That’s why I’m sharing this with everyone who ever thought, “I’d like to make a comic, but I don’t even know where to begin.”

First, I’m going to assume you already have your idea, otherwise you don’t have a comic. And this post isn’t about how I started getting ideas, it’s about how I created my first comic.

With your idea, you’re going to want to script it out. If it’s a one shot (aka a longer comic, that’s not periodical), you’ll want to know what happens from beginning to end. If it’s a periodical, shorter comic that will come out every so months, and is typically around 23 pages, you’ll still want to know what happens from beginning to end. Because publishers will want to know, and you should know yourself before you set out on a time consuming journey such as this.

Once you have a couple pages describing how you’d like your story to go (you don’t need to actually write a novel here), you’ll want to script out your comic. You can download the free program Celtx, which is what I use, and they even will format it according to comic spec.

Now you have your script ready. You’ll need to find an artist (assuming you aren’t an artist yourself, then things will be much different). This is one of the most challenging aspects of creating comics. Why? Because a lot of people don’t know where to even find an artist. A lot of people starting off don’t know that typically there’s multiple steps involved in creating comics.

There’s usually a penciler, who will pencil in your illustration first. After that, the lines are more finalized with the inker, who inks over the pencils. Then there’s a colorist, who will color what the inker has done. Afterwards, you’re also going to need to find a letterer who can add in all your words.

Most people don’t have a best friend who is a professional artist who can do one of these jobs, so they have to turn to the internet. Even if you do turn to Google, and type in “hire a comic artist”, it wont give you the best results. That’s because artists hang out on forums: these forums for the most part:, and Deviantart. (Deviantart will often get you tons of replies, some of which aren’t worth your time, but you’ll be surprised just how many professional artists actually do use Deviantart.)

There’s also a group of Linkedin that’s very helpful. But you’ll have to ask to be invited:

Here’s something that I really suggest doing…and that’s paying your artists. Not only do they deserve it, but you’ll want the best product you can for your writing. In order to be taken seriously, you’ll need to have a great artist on your side. No one is going to want to do great work for you for free (unless they owe you money, they’re your best friend, or you’ve already made a name for yourself.) Also, you’ll get a lot more replies to your post.

Once you’ve posted your ads on the forums, you’ll see the emails come in. This is when things really get exciting. There’s so many people out there with incredible art and incredible backgrounds. Hopefuly you’ll see all their samples pour in.

But wait, before you chose someone… Once you’ve chosen someone, you’ll most likely be locked into a relationship with that person for months. You’ll probably want to have them draw a sample for you (that you should pay for as well.) And you’ll want to make sure that this sample is very relevant to what you’re doing.

I once hired an artist, who had incredible work, and his style closely matched what I wanted to do. It seemed perfect. He was very talented, and everything was going great… Until 3 pages in, and then I realized he couldn’t draw people. All of his samples were beautiful, even the character sketch he did was, but when it came down to drawing everyday people, it just didn’t work.

Just one example of how this relationship can go wrong. You know how when you first date someone, and you don’t put everything out on the table at once? Yeah, you’re going to want to try to find out all their little secrets before you jump into anything.

After you’ve seen their work, and they’ve done a sample…write up a contract. Have them sign it. Sign it yourself. Give both parties copies, and keep it close.

 You’ll also never want to go and give up all the money for the project straight up. I’ve had people email me that said they worked on Night Wing, and tons of other DC comics, yet their Deviantart profile didn’t come close to DC standards. There’s shady people out there.

What I recommend: Have them do a cover, then five interiors. This way you can do a test run together. You’ll develop a package for the publishers, and you wont be worried they’ll run off with all your money if you pay them for a whole issue. Before you have them do anything, if you’re going to print it, they need to make it to the dimensions that you’ll be printing it. Or you’ll be screwed when the imaging is too small.

I personally print from Kablam, and their printing guidelines are easy to follow.

One of the most challenging and most rewarding part about working in comics is working with artists. Make sure you pick the right ones.

Part 2 to follow.

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Comments (2)

Thanks for this article John, it was enormously helpful to me.

Glad I could help, Seth. If you have any more questions you can send them my way on the forums:

I'll try to answer them all! I feel like I'm pretty good at creating comics the independent way.

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