With a few exceptions, the general rule of thumb is that comic books take a team to create. Artists, writers, inkers, colorists… the list goes on. Finding the right combination of talents can take your title from mediocre to meteoric. One has to look no further than Frank Miller & John Romita Jr.’s Daredevil mini-series The Man Without Fear to see this principle in action.
Crafting Comics is alive purely because of collaboration. Without Mike Elrod’s partnership this site would never have got off the ground. We also work on each other’s comics, lending a fresh pair of eyes when one’s too close to the material. Having that kind of interaction improves our work in ways that running solo couldn’t achieve.
Here are some tips for collaborating with others that I’ve used throughout my creative career.
Find your Crew
The Internet is a cornucopia of communities filled with creatives looking to flex their muscles. Finding an artist is much easier than it used to be. With sites like DeviantART you have entire artist portfolios accessible through an indexed search engine. Facebook Groups are another good area to check out and give you a more personal connection with potential artists. There’s also the old fashioned recommendation. Being active in the comics community will slowly build you a network of connections and you never know when you’ll be introduced to the next talented member of your team.
Writers are a little trickier to find. You need to see examples of their work, but portfolio sites really don’t exist for them. Blogs tend to be the best way to see their skills yet take more research and effort to find. I first came across Mike’s work on a now defunct television review site then followed his digital trail through Multi-Hyphenate, twitter and finally his own blog. This Internet stalking let me see how his writing adapted from subject to subject and that I shared many of his viewpoints. One Facebook friend request later followed by a dash of status comments and we became writing partners.
Keep a Schedule
This little nugget has done more for my creative output than anything else. Keeping a regularly scheduled meet time with fellow collaborators not only guarantees you’ll be devoting time to the project, but also keeps the momentum going while acting as an unofficial deadline (gotta get this done before the next meeting). Instant messaging, VoIP and video conferencing are useful tools to help you work together especially when people are in different time zones and/or countries.
When Mike and I started working together this was the first thing we setup. A weekly call for at least an hour gave us a dedicated time and space to forget everything else that was going on in our lives and get truly creative. My comic idea Power Lines came out of one of those sessions. So did Crafting Comics. If it weren’t for our phone calls none of these projects would have seen the light of day. Also, think about it, if you can’t make a regularly scheduled call with your team then you probably won’t be able to make a comic either.
Respect each Other
The only way you can ever become a professional is by behaving like one. Time and time again I’ve seen projects with serious potential implode because of petty infighting and childish antics. Talent doesn’t always come wrapped in a winning personality. You’ll find yourself working with people that don’t rub you the right way. I know this is easier said than done for some folks, but you need to remove the ego from the work. Having a strong opinion is one thing and being an arrogant prick is another.
Your reputation is built on interactions like these. Don’t pick up the label “difficult to work with” because that will limit your career faster than anything else and is the hardest stigma to overcome. Treating the folks you work with in a respectful manner will increase your chances of being invited back for future projects. It will also build your reputation in a positive light which will open doors for you down the road. Word of mouth is an incredibly powerful tool.