Tackling Communication Between A Writer and Artist Part 1: The Problem

by Matt Russell - Posted 1 week ago

As many of my fellow Vigilantes know, as a writer working with an artist can be troublesome at times. In fact, it is one of the major issues (get it, issues) that plagues most creators.


In the high-end mainstream business world of comics, an editor is on top of everything from scheduling, working with the writer, getting feedback, thumbnails of pages, approval for everything brand related, getting the letterer and colorist, over workflow to ensure that a comic is not late.

In the end an editor is one of the most stressful jobs in comics. That’s something that no one talks about (hmm, blog post idea for a later date). These people are the unsung heroes of the industry.

Mostly we complain about how they are pushy, want countless changes, rewrites, and the overall temperament of Beelzebub himself. Truth be told, these people have saved me on many occasions. I got nothing but love for them.

Most Indy creators don’t have the opportunity to work with one. A writer might have someone read their work before they start looking for an artist, but that’s about it.

They can’t afford more staff. Most writers I have talked to need to have a second job, just to pay the rates of the artist.

My experience

Smoke coming out of a woman's ears in frustration used for editorial purposes only

Personally, I was looking for an artist and found a great one. He had been published at IDW a long time ago. This guy was amazing. We decided to work on trade. He had a story that he needed a writer, and I had a story that I needed an artist.

Seemed simple enough. I began to take notes on his concept. I have to admit; it was a strange one. He wanted a realistic feel to the story that was completely unrealistic. Challenge accepted.

I began to interview doctors, farmers, law enforcement, baristas, bartenders, hunters, and trappers. Yes, for this story to make sense, I needed all of their input. I then spent about 4 days straight on Google, gathering more information.

I was soon ready. I spend a day outlining his story. I now had a highlight reel for him. Then I called him and gave him my ideas. I told him that I wanted to give it an old Marvel “feel” where I would add * on occasion with some of the more “sciencey” stuff with an explanation on the bottom of the page.

He thought that it was a cool concept. He also grew up reading Marvel and loved it. Off I went.

Within about 1 week I had a finished script. I called him up and met with him. He didn’t like the format that it was written in. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set format for comics. I prefer to model it after a movie script.

I was set to task and re-wrote the entire script. Keep in mind this was a script for a 160-page comic. No easy task.

Soon I was done. There was one part that he didn’t care for until I thumbnailed it for him. After that, he was cool.

In all that time, he had taken my comic script that I traded him and presented me with a cover. It was exactly what I wanted. It was a wraparound cover and looked beautiful. He also had some concept art for the main characters (even though I had provided that already) and that was it.

He asked for a few other changes and told me that he would have pages 1-5 ready soon. I said ok and was able to get the changes he asked for done that night. I emailed it to him, and he said it was exactly what he imagined when he thought about his comic, his baby, his opus.

I am still waiting on pages 1-5 and that was 11 years ago. Needless to say, I’m bitter. I still have the cover hanging in my office.

My point is, I got screwed. Although he was a good artist who made a name for himself locally, I still got screwed. This also wasn’t the last time this stuff happened to me.

I still haven’t learned...

I paid another artist to do the work on the same comic. He offered to work on trade. I said no. I would pay to have this done. I got his page rates. I too am an artist so I figured that I would save him some time.

I sent over thumbnails of each of the pages (I had time to revise them by this point) and would do the inking myself. I would forgo the colorist in favor of a black and white feel to it. I would also be doing the lettering myself. He wanted to incorporate the sound effects into the initial pencils, so I said ok.

I paid for the first 10 pages upfront. When he completed that, I would send him more money. Since I had to get a second job just to pay for this, I hounded him for 3 months before I got the first 4 pages. It took another 3 months to get the rest.

After that, I have never heard from him again.

Waiting by the phone used for editorial purposes only

I will be posting part 2 very soon where we discuss the simple solutions on how to fix this issue. Stay tuned to this same Bat Channel and learn the secret to success.