November 5, 2011

A few weeks ago at COMIC BOOK SUNDAY, I was talking to Russell Nohelty, creator of ICHABOD JONES. He was explaining his process of finding comic book illustrators online. There are numerous websites where writers can solicit illustrators and Nohelty was mentioning that most of his illustrators come from outside of the US. The simple reason is that their page rate is cheaper. Countries that have a lower cost of living yield artists who can do the same quality and amount of work for less. This makes perfect sense, but it still opened my eyes a bit. I think this trend is bigger than I realized. Earlier this year, I picked up the giant robot graphic novel, MORAV and the back of it describes the process of selecting the Indonesian illustrator Budi Setiawan. I’m sure there are lots of others if one examines creator-owned properties over the past few years.

The process of writers hiring foreign illustrators does not come without drawbacks. Language can sometimes be an issue and illustrators outside of the country generally cannot promote the product at US comic book conventions and whatnot.

I know some people are scared by this trend. It makes landing illustrating gigs even harder and it creates a price-per-page marketplace that is even more competitive. However, I do think it would be cool to see a superstar artist be born from this system – some amazing talent plucked from obscurity in a country where it’s very difficult to scrape by. Moreover, I think this trend does underscore the advantage that writer-illustrators possess. A lot people are trying to get into the sequential-art-storytelling game to peddle their ideas. If you can take care of the drawing part yourself, it’s probably as big a plus as it has ever been.

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