I'm asking this of a few different artists to gather some opinions, so here goes. I'm an aspiring comic book writer, and I'd like to pay a published comic book artist to draw an 8-page comic that I could use as part of my portfolio. First off, is this a professional faux pas — meaning, is it offensive to ask that of an artist? Second, with most monthly professionals, is this even possible on a time and/or financial basis? Thanks, love your work.
Hmm, this is a tough one and one that I think will elicit different answers from different folks.
My take, though, starts with your second question. Most professional comic artists working on monthly books simply won’t have the time to do the work you’re describing. Many artists carve out time in their schedule for a few private commissions, but these are usually not huge time commitments. 8 pages of work would be at least a week’s worth of work (if you’re talking about someone just doing pencils, and still really f’ing fast). But more realistically, up to two weeks, especially if the art is being inked as well. Two weeks is a huge chunk to take out of an already incredibly busy work schedule.
Now, is this a faux pas? I don’t think so - it’s a novel and ambitious strategy, and smart in that you’re removing the risk that a less experienced artist would add their own flaws to a script that, due to inexperience, may have flaws of its own. At least this way you’re (most likely) limiting the risk of criticism to what’s in your script, not what’s in the art. I think it makes sense. BUT yes, depending on who the artist you’re approaching is, the offer is quite likely to be disregarded. It could be that the rate is too low. But even if the rate is fine, there’s still the question of exposure: many professionals want to have their work displayed as prominently as possible. If it’s a toss up between doing work that will be published vs. doing the art for your samples, I’m sorry to say that’s a pretty easy decision.
But don’t get disheartened. Even though I suspect you’ll get a lot of “no”s, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking, and you may run across an artist who will read the script, like what’s there, and have the time to do it for a fair rate. But honestly, I’d recommend something different: Don’t approach artists getting lots of work from Marvel, DC, Image, etc. Look for artists who are either trying to break in or just breaking in. People who, frankly, have as much to gain from this as you do. And yes, offering to pay them is still a GOOD IDEA. There are many very talented artists at that point in their career aren’t getting regular work and would not only possibly have the time, but also would be looking for other opportunities to get exposure for their work.
One last thought - your best “portfolio” is published work. Even independently published. So, for an 8-pager (which is totally appropriate, length-wise) have it lettered and put it together with a cover as an ashcan comic, or see if there are any anthologies looking for submissions. Or use it as a pitch for a project at publishers like Image, Boom!, Darkhorse, etc. Take a look at what samhumphries and stevensanders did with Our Love is Real. Perhaps this is already what you’re thinking, but it’s worth mentioning.