Sunday Mailbag

July 26th, 2009 | Posted in Mailbag

This is a question from a while back that I thought was timely to repost today:

Q: It’s obvious that networking is a very valuable practice in the cartooning and illustration world, but are situations such as a comic-con or other gatherings of that nature an appropriate venue to try and foster such contacts? Those with booths and tables are likely there primarily to sell their own work, so would they view that sort of thing as an annoyance or an opportunity?

A: Comic cons are weird animals, to be certain. I actually haven’t been to that many cons, but I think I know what you are driving at. You want to know if it’s worth attending a comic con as a way to network in the pursuit of bigger and better things.

The short answer is that it depends what you want to get out of it. If your goal is to directly find and pursue work, then you will likely be disappointed. If your goal is to get people in the industry to know who you are and to in turn get to know people, then comic cons are a great place to be.

Like any large gathering of people from a single industry, there are a wide variety of types of individual in attendance at a comic con. As you observe, a lot of artists are at these conventions to make a buck selling their latest self published comic or book or what have you. In fact, the majority of those in attendance are selling something. A few are there to promote their latest project they have produced themselves or for a publisher. Some just go to meet their fans and to socialize. A small few are editors or art directors and of them almost none are interested in seriously considering an artist’s portfolio, although some may look to be polite. There is almost zero direct contact for work going on at a comic con.

That’s not to say it’s not worth attending one. As you observe, networking itself is valuable. It’s smart to get out of your cave and meet other people in the industry. Not everything has to be about getting jobs… just getting to know people and have them know of you and your work is a good thing. In that context, comic cons are great. They are highly social, and you can burn through a good stack of business cards over a weekend.

Comic cons used to be places where aspiring artists brought their porfolios to show editors of comic book publishers. There would be set times for portfolio reviews, and long lines of eager artists with bad Batman drawings under their arms. Not so anymore. While people do bring their portfolios around to cons it is more about asking for opinions on the work than the pursuit of work. Editors don’t go there looking for talent.

If you are looking to do some networking, go to one of the smaller cons as opposed to the big one in San Diego. It’s easier to meet people at the smaller shows. Have a promo piece/postcard made up to give away. Introduce yourself about. If you keep your eyes and ears open you can learn a lot about the type of projects and work going on, and that might apply to some ideas of your own.

Actually I have to revise my thoughts on this a bit after attending the San Diego Comic-Con this year. This show in particular has a great deal of panels and seminars on getting into the business, what you need to have and show in your portfolio and instructional seminars on a variety of subjects and techniques. There are also a few structured portfolio “talent search” sessions by companies like DC which are obviously good places for feedback. I still stand by my opinion that very few publishers come to something like Comic-Con LOOKING for new talent, however.

Thanks to Patrick LaMontagne for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!

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