Beyond the commerce and the spectacle, Comic-Cons serve as a trade show where hundreds flock to have their work reviewed and their dreams bolstered.
At last month’s New York Comic-Con I met a few aspiring comic book artists at the DC Entertainment Talent Search where a lucky few get their portfolios reviewed and others are able to pick up a few tips on how to succeed.
Rachael Anderson was one of the artists in attendance. She was eager to have her work seen and her countless efforts justified. A call-center worker from Texas, Rachael says that her and her husband Josh “pretty much scrimped and saved every last dollar to get here for a day and a half.”
Nervous, but confident in her work, Rachael showed me a bit of her portfolio as we sat in the bare panel room one floor beneath the buzz and bustle of the main show floor. It’s the kind of room where you’d expect to hear salesmen talking about the exciting evolution of vinyl siding during one of the Javitz Center’s many other trade shows, but Rachael is here because she loves Batman and she’s wanted to draw comic books since she was 12.
Her work is good, clean, and professional and as my eyes rest on two pictures in particular – a black and white drawing of a spider straddling a car and a faithful sketch of Daredevil – I can’t help but wonder how many times Rachael has put pencil to paper to reach this point of proficiency. A point where there is little daylight between her work and some of the published work that can be seen in the bins and on the tables upstairs on the show floor.
That’s the unfair part of this: it isn’t purely about talent. Right now there are plenty of artists who make a living in the industry without the level of talent that Rachael possesses. For her and some of the people in this room on this side of the table, they’re forced to wait for luck and opportunity to allow their work to get seen, but its a long hard road that can exhaust people and force them to abandon their pursuits.
After the show, I find out that I was the only one to see Rachael’s portfolio in that panel room. Her sacrifice to get to New York and her talent weren’t enough to coax that little bit of luck from it’s hiding place but she did get some encouragement from a few artists on the show floor who looked at her work.
“Mike Choi gave me advice on anatomy and storytelling and then showed me where I could improve my page composition. So mostly I was told to work on my inking, hands, and story telling and then told to “get lucky” when it comes to finding freelance work.”
She tells me that she dropped off portfolio submissions at the DC, Marvel, Image, and Valiant booths and emailed/mailed IDW, Dark Horse, and Image (again) after the show but that she hasn’t heard anything back yet.
“Even though it’s depressing to realize [that] I still have a ways to go, I still think the show was worth it. It was a step in the right direction and as long as I keep moving in the right direction and as long as I keep moving in the direction of my goals and don’t give up, it will never be a waste.” she says before telling me that her and her husband decided that they would put aside their pre-NYCC deal that said she would go back to work at the call-center if she couldn’t get a lead on a paying gig at the show.
“My husband insisted that I just continue to focus on our graphic novel project (Horror Town). It sucks feeling like I’m not contributing anything or helping in any sort of way to pay off our living expenses or bills, but I am very grateful for all of the support and patience my spouse has had thus far. We both know that the best way to get a job in comics is to just make comics.”
Rachael Anderson will be back at New York Comic-Con next year.