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Writer’s Craft #117 So You Want To Write for Comics?

April 8, 2013

Donna Barr

Donna Barr

Donna Barr (born 1952) is recognized as one of the classic authors of the 1980’s black-and-whites comic books. Today she is known as well as one of the pioneers of self- and print-on-demand publishing, in the forefront of the authors assisting traditional and modern distributors in accessing the newest book-publishing methods.

For the jumping-off point to Donna’s bookstores and galleries of traditional and digital art and webcomics, start at http://www.donnabarr.com


After a long San Diego Comicon, during the Sunday wind-down, a mother with a hopeful son approached me as a comics professional:

“My son wants to get into comics,” she said. “What should I do for him?”

Pretty much wrung out after three days of marketing, I blurted, “Break his hands!’

Happily for me and her kid, they’d been around the industry long enough to recognize the reality of my comment.

Comics are hard work. They’re probably the most labor-intensive art form we can successfully finish alone. The best way to get into comics, of course, is to learn to draw and write them from start to finish; that’s what we call a comics author. These days, with print-on-demand and downloads becoming simpler, cheaper and more easily organized, many comics authors are profiting quite nicely from the entire publishing process themselves. But “don’t” might still be the best advice for naive inquiries about how to get started.

I can remember one young man who approached me at a con and offered $750 for twenty pages of art. Starting at black and white for $150.00 per page and going up – he wasn’t getting beyond a short story. I asked him who his dream artist would be, and if s/he was at the show. The man was. Then I asked the writer who he’d approach second, and then third. They were all at the show. I told the writer to wait until his first choice was on a break from lines of signings, then approach him politely, and offer the entire budget for one really fine color splash page.

The writer returned within the hour. His first choice worked at a higher usual page rate, so turned him down, but thanked him for the offer. The second had too much work on his plate. He got the third.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever given a newbie?

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