Two weeks ago I was sent a pitch package for a comic series from a new creator eager to get feedback.
I generally refuse to do critiques on pitches/scripts for multiple reasons:
– I’m a creator, not an editor. I can’t get your story published.
– I don’t want to see other people’s stories, just in case I have something similar of my own in the works.
– I don’t have enough time to work on my own stuff, let alone help someone else with theirs.
– People usually don’t want critique, they want compliments and I’m a terrible liar.
Even still, this person previously met me at a convention over the summer and we had a nice chat, so they weren’t completely emailing me “cold“. They were polite, reasonable and seemed driven enough to put together a professional concept. I asked if they wanted encouragement or critique and they told me to be as honest/brutal as possible so they could improve. That took guts.
Here’s what I sent them back, with specifics removed, so other people who read my blog can benefit from it too:
Some quick thoughts on the pitch package you sent in-
• Overall the pages are professional quality. The art is clear, the storytelling is easy to follow and everything makes sense from panel to panel and page to page. Considering how hard that is for the vast majority of people I see trying to break in, it’s a very solid start. Pat yourself on the back.
• The character designs are fun and the base concept of (story specific stuff removed) has solid potential.
THE NOT SO MUCH
• I think the logo is boring. Stock fonts and a treatment that looks like an 80’s straight-to-video movie. It doesn’t create a strong impression.
• Your character designs are neat, but there’s minimal variety between body types. You draw the generic sexy girl, the medium-sized guy and the slightly bigger guy. Your bad guys fall into the exact same size/shape categories. I know some big name comic artists do that too, but I find it generic and unimpressive compared to a full range of characters with unique proportions and silhouettes, especially with character concepts this unique.
• The coloring is base-level competent but doesn’t do anything to enhance the visuals. The backgrounds are always grey/neutral/boring with large washes of the exact same color no matter what depth things are at in the panels. The character colors are vibrant, but they never seem to be affected by mood or lighting no matter what’s happening. The lighting is never dramatic and there’s never a clear sense of a light source affecting the colors around it. I’d almost prefer to see the pages just as line art.
• I’m not personally a fan of line-thin gutters between panels. It muddies the storytelling, especially with the weak coloring. Opinions vary, but that’s how I feel about it.
• The title is amusing, the concept seems fun, the characters are a zany mix, but the sample pages have zero humor/joy. The dialogue isn’t snappy, just generic, the scenario the characters get themselves into is generic and the outcome of the fight is a bullet in the head and a punch out. It’s nothing people haven’t seen a thousand times before. It falls completely flat.
What makes (comic title removed) different/better than a hundred other action-style concepts? What are you trying to say about action, about characters, about anything? What will people get in this comic that they can’t get anywhere else? Why does this comic need to exist? Solve that and you’ll be in much better shape with the pitch.
That’s my quick critique. I hope you’re not offended by the brevity of it. I’m slamming on deadlines right now so that’s all the time I’ve got. I wish you the best of luck with it.
I honestly don’t have time to give people one-on-one feedback, which is why I’m writing tutorial blogposts instead, so this is the last critique I’m going to be able to do for the foreseeable future.
The core of my criticism with the pitch wasn’t the professionalism of the sample pages, the art was actually pretty sweet, but more about standing out in a sea of similar ideas.
I see this a lot with story ideas/pitches. People want to create a book just like X (fill-in the blank). Being inspired by X is fine, but if all you’re doing is creating another X, then why wouldn’t people just go read the original X instead?
Anyways, the person in question responded very positively to the feedback, which is always a relief. The last thing I want to do is spend time putting together feedback that angers/offends someone instead of helping them. I’m confident they’ve got a solid base to build from and hope that this concept, or another one they develop, really hits the mark with a publisher.