31 October 2011

THE CERTAINTY OF CHANCE

A while back, I mentioned an upcoming book I was really excited about, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode. That's out there in the world now – on its second issue, in fact – and judging from the overall reaction, it's been a great success for newcomers Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore. It's kind of cool, too: Looking through my old email, I see I received Justin's initial pitch on November 12, 2010.

Just off the carefully tousled mop top of my head, Image has only given the green light to a handful of projects that came in as blind submissions. The overwhelming majority of what we publish is the product of existing relationships with creators already working in comics. Established writers or artists pitch series and graphic novels to us all the time, and once someone is working with Image, it's not too uncommon to get recommendations about other books. Sometimes we actively seek out specific creators, cozying up to them at conventions and whispering sweet nothing into their ears about how much we la-la-la-love their work and how proud we would be to publish their next magnum opus.

Blind pitches like Justin and Tradd's do find their way to the Image office on a regular basis, though, trickling in like drops of water from a leaky faucet some days and cascading down on us all waterfall-like others. The kids all dream of making, whatever that means, and since Image does have a reputation of publishing work by new creators, it's only natural that anyone with a story churning in their guts would to want to roll the bones on an unsolicited proposal. Craps probably gives you better odds, ultimately, because like I said: Not many blind pitches make pass. Unless there's something truly exceptional about your submission, the dice really isn't loaded in your favor.

I don't say that to dissuade anyone from submitting to Image. We definitely encourage proposals for new series and original graphic novels. If nothing else, the time spent assembling your pitch is its own reward: You're developing your craft, figuring our what you're capable of and what you want to say. Even if your project isn't picked up, by Image and any other publisher you approach, that's valuable experience you didn't have before.

And there's always a chance that, like Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore, you'll completely spellbind us with your submission.

The Luna Brothers did that years ago with Ultra. Jonathan Hickman did it sometime later with The Nightly News. That's not bad company for Luther Strode. And there are others, of course, but even if I ran down the complete list, Image has approved fewer than a dozen blind submissions in the past 10 years.

The thing all those submission had in common, though, was that they were as different from anything we were already publishing as a leisurely walk is to running the 50-yard dash. These were creators who weren't afraid to strut in with something genuinely all-new and all-different, never mind the trends or conventional wisdom of the day. They were peacock proud to follow their own paths and if anyone else wanted to Pied Piper up behind them, well, even better still. In each case, we knew there was something special about the creators and their pitches, and when someone with something unique shows up at your door, regardless how experienced, it would be an act of sheer foolishness not to invite him or her in.

That goes for everyone with something new to impart on the all-too-often conservative world of comics. There is always room at Image – in this industry – for fearless thinkers. So many of the submissions we receive are merely a writer's take on a pre-existing concept (and if I see one more pitch for any kind of zombie comic, holy barf, there is going to be a mess on my office floor) or an artist aping someone else's style. In situations like that, there's no element of chance at all. It's not on, it's just not happening. But I assure you that, sure as my fingers are rap-a-tap-tapping on this keyboard, someone is going to read what I've just said about the guys who did make it off blind pitches and get the 25-watt idea that sending in something similar to one of those projects will increase his or her chances of getting some time in the spotlight. We've already got The Nightly News, though, and we've already done Ultra. You can run out and buy The Strange Talent of Luther Strode right now. We don't need to dress them up in new clothes and parade them around the like the latest fall fashions.

What we do need is different, honest and daring. That's we respond to, and that's what increases your chances. And "chance" really is the operative word here. There's no guarantee we're going to fall in love with your pitch, even if it is different to all the other books on the market. (Things can be too different, after all, and sadly sometimes different = bad.) Submitting something you genuinely believe in, that's well put together and offers something we haven't seen before (or at least not in a very long time...) makes it less of a guessing game for everyone involved, though, increases your odds exponentially and makes the whole submission process a chance worth taking.

You can be certain of that.

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And on a related note, what got me thinking about all this was a new series we'll be launching in early 2012: Hell Yeah. It wasn't a blind pitch – it's actually written by an old Image staffer, Joe Keatinge – but with the initial arc telling the story of a man trying to figure out why alternate versions of himself are being murdered, it definitely qualifies as different, and thanks to the artwork by the up-and-coming Andre Szymanowicz, it looks awesome. The first issue is done, and I think we've got it penciled in for March right now, so if you find yourself hankering for something new come springtime, you can start salivating over Hell Yeah now.