The responses I received to the last journal entry about the difficulty of breaking into the comic industry were really uplifting. It was awesome to see the next generation and my future co-workers /rivals fire!!!
Here's another article, this time on mentoring
written by Steve Lieber .
I'm proud to say that Steve actually became a mentor of mine, (one of many) when I found my way to Periscope Studio. If it weren't for him I wouldn't be a professional today. Most of the professional etiquette I know comes directly from his years of experience and hard work in the industry. And before that, he learned from his own mentors! I think its super cool to finally become a part of this chain, and I hope someday I'll have the chance to help forge the next link. When I was alone and miserable trying to find my way into this industry, into ANY creative industry, I vowed if I ever made it I would turn around make the road easier for anyone after me.
I didn't get serious about trying to become a professional and hone my skill until 2000. Around 2003 is when I can specifically recall thinking how great it would be to have a mentor because thats about the time I came to fully understand how manga was produced with assistants. I wanted to be an assistant so bad! I was certain I could learn far more working and learning with others, than I could if I continued by myself. Unfortunately it would be seven more lonely years before I would finally have this opportunity, but thats because I wasn't aware it was something you could do here in the States! Steve's recommendation of meeting potential comic mentors at conventions is the exact scenario that turned my life around!
I did a portfolio review with Steve, he liked my work and offered me an internship at Periscope. There I interned for three months, then became an assistant (mostly to David Hahn
) and stuck around for another seven months before landing a penciling job at Archie.
In that year I spent with Periscope gearing up to become a professional, I found everything I had spent the last decade searching for. Mentors, and now some of my closest friends, who've taught me what I needed to move forward, and helped me to unlearn lessons that held me back.
Ok, so here's the kicker and its a hard lesson to learn. Or at least it was for me. A mentor is great, a mentor is invaluable, but you have to ALREADY have the skill, or MOST of the skill, or it needs to be clear you WILL HAVE the skill before anyone is going to spend their very valuable time and knowledge to take you on.
I remember thinking back in 2003, "I just need someone to give me a chance!" and I imagine a lot of people think that way.
If you're like me, ask yourself "Am I worth the chance?" Are you a self-starter? Do you hold yourself responsible? Are you already drawing your own comics? Animating your own cartoons? Sculpting your own 3d models? Producing your own videogames?
Something I read years ago that has stuck with me, I don't recall the exact quote but its from Neil Gaiman, he stressed the importance of finishing something. Can you draw an entire comic? Or do you quit five pages in?
Can you write a complete short story? Or do you have a lot of unfinished ideas sitting around?
This is usually the difference between someone who will do something, and someone who wants to do something. Someone who will do something is already doing it, and that's a prime candidate for mentoring!
Now, if you're like me again, you might be horrified by the reality that you have a lot of things started and very few things finished. Terror might fill you that you are only someone who wants to do something, not the someone already doing it!
The key is, you don't have to finish everything but you have to finish something. Back in 2003, I had a lot of ideas and would start and stop all kinds of projects. I still do this. But what I also did was two completed entries to Tokyopop's 'Rising Stars of Manga Competition'. Its been ten years but I think they were 20-25 page stories that I wrote and drew myself, on deadline. Thats a huge accomplishment!
Even if you haven't finished a single project yet, now is the time to flip that around! Set something up for yourself, or return to something you already started, and see if you can finish that. Don't pick something huge like your 700 page comic's masterpiece, pick something realistic to your current skill set. Be honest with yourself and start small. Finish a project. Then repeat and keep expanding until you've grown strong enough to complete that 700 page behemoth.
All those unfinished projects aren't wasted time either. Most of my skill set was built on the many projects I started. I completed very few full stories, but I drew countless pages with all my unfinished ones. They taught me how to draw comics and solve problems. I was learning by doing!
But remember, it did take me ten years too. So don't follow my example! Finish as many things as you can!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!