Pitch Feedback

As Skullkickers has slowly increased in awareness, I’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from people wanting to know how to pitch their ideas or who to talk to at Image about getting their comic published. I appreciate that people want to have that break through (there are many days where I distinctly feel like I’m still trying to figure out how to break through, believe me) and I really do want to be encouraging and honest.

I’ve sent messages to Editors, Art Directors, you name it, and had that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach waiting and wondering why they haven’t responded. I try very hard to respond to e-mails I receive in a timely fashion.

I’m already hitting a point where I can’t reply to portfolio critiques with anything beyond a link to previous journal posts and most writing feedback requests get a form letter back explaining that I can’t read their ideas for legal reasons and that I’m too busy juggling my own projects.

But, you know, when someone is intensely polite, communicative and patient I do try my best to be accommodating. I’ve been e-mailing back and forth a bit with a fan of SK and he seemed very in tune with the right attitude and hard work needed to do comic work. He sent his comic series pitch a couple days ago and I sent him this today. As with other messages of this nature, I figured I’d post it here with key names removed so other people could possibly benefit from the feedback too:

Hi (Name),

It’s always incredibly difficult giving critique because I know what it’s like to try and get momentum with an idea.

First off, it’s obvious that you guys have worked really hard. There’s a slew of material there and it’s clear a lot of time has been put into it. That kind of effort and dedication is important, believe me. It’s entirely possible to work your tail off and not get momentum, so being dedicated and willing to work like hell without any guarantee of a reward is a good sign.

The downside, unfortunately, is that the pitch in its current form is not professional quality, in my opinion.

As good as it is that you have that much material, it’s way too long for most publishers to evaluate. It’s intimidatingly long for a pitch. The 1 page overview should go first, then some character sketches, then a rundown of the main story in terms of plot points and possible character briefs, then the first complete issue, if you have that ready to go. The Editor/Publisher will know within the first few pages whether or not they want to pursue it. If you mention that you have more that’s good, but you don’t need to hammer them with the whole thing.

I know this will be incredibly hard to hear, but I want to be totally honest:

Any kind of art evaluation has a certain amount of opinion involved but, as far as I’m concerned, the artwork is by far the weakest part of the pitch. Yes, there’s absolutely room in the industry for stylized art; guys like Skottie Young, Scott Wegener and Rob Guillory have surprised and impressed with their cartoony/simplistic approaches to mainstream comics, but the work you’re showing in (pitch title) doesn’t evoke feelings of that confident stylized approach. It looks sloppy and poorly designed.

Many of the human characters are hard to distinguish between, the storytelling is extremely unclear (especially during action scenes) and the backgrounds are not built with any consistency or proper perspective in mind. The ultra thin panel gutters add to the confusion, making it hard to discern panel breaks in some spots. The line quality of the drawings are all the same, except when the artist has chosen a strangely ultra-thick line around characters… but even that’s not consistently used for depth or effect.

In short, the basics of storytelling and form are not showing through the style. There are some underground/indy publishers who may find it amusing but I highly doubt Image or another mid-size publisher will be able to get past the art. They’ll take one look at the pages and the pitch will get deep-sixed.

The lettering is unprofessional and sloppy too. The word balloon construction is not natural looking and doesn’t enhance the read-ability of the comic. The positioning of quite a few balloons lead the reader to read sequences in the wrong order. The balloon tails don’t always point properly towards the speaker, which can lead to further confusion.

Story-wise, there’s a “wacky” premise at the core of your idea but beyond that there isn’t much humor or charisma there. The reader is supposed to be amused that (religious figure), (celebrity), (historical figure) and (mutant animal) are running around fighting and not acting as we’d expect them to, but in a media culture where things are being remixed like crazy right now (Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, George Washington Vampire Hunter, Dr. McNinja, etc.) that kind of thing may feel tired/played out and not be enough of a hook to grab people.

That’s my feedback. You’ve been communicative and mature throughout our e-mail conversation so I wanted to make sure you received a professional critique of the work. I do wish you and the creative team all the best with your creative projects and pitches. It’s a tough market out there and we’re all working hard.


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