Getting your foot in the door to work for a major comic publishing house is a grueling task, relying on luck, talent, and a little e bit of fate to make it happen. For artists they have to show both potential and talent in sequential pages that tell a story with style without sacrificing readability. For writers, the doors to submitting to write for the major publishing houses is pretty much closed, with writers instead doing creator-owned work online or in print and hoping your work is seen by an editor looking to bring in some new blood. But now, California-based publishing house is opening the doors wide for the next generation of writers and artists in the Top Cow Talent Hunt.
Announced earlier this year, the Top Cow Talent Hunt is an open call for writers and artists to submit for a chance for four paid assignments working in the Top Cow universe. Top Cow has ushered quite a number of top-tier comics talent from newcomer to superstar over the years, from the likes of David Finch to Francis Manapul, Kenneth Rocafort and even Michael Turner. They even published a young Jason Aaron and Jonathan Hickman, years before they became the key writers for Marvel Comics. And now, their next big comics star could be you.
The deadline for the Top Cow Talent Hunt is December 31st with the complete rules and requirements on their website. To learn more, Newsarama spoke with Matt Hawkins, Top Cow’s President, Chief Operating Officer and writer of both Cyber Force and Think Tank. Hawkins talks about the talent he’s helped usher into stardom at Top Cow, and also the biggest pitfalls to avoid if you’re thinking about submitting into Top Cow Talent Hunt.
Newsarama: This isn’t the first time Top Cow’s held a talent search, but I believe it’s the first time you’re letting writers submit and the first time you’re promoting this so heavily. What brought on this initiative to find new talent?Matt Hawkins: We started this originally as a pure art talent hunt like we've done so many times before. In the process of putting that together we decided to add a couple possible writing slots to it. Part of that was a realization that there isn't really a good way for outside unknown writers to break in. Submitting blindly to editors does not work well and it's difficult to show your work at conventions as a writer. So we looked at this as an opportunity for some new writers to showcase their talent and abilities. Hopefully we can help find the next Jonathan Hickman or Matt Fraction!
Nrama: People may not realize this, but Top Cow has fostered the early careers of a number of comics creators, particularly artists like David Finch, Michael Turner, Kenneth Rocafort and others. Through your in-house studio the Pit and working with people who work from home, what’s it like working with creators new to comics and helping them learn the craft and the business aspect of it?
Hawkins: It's either amazingly fun or frustrating as hell...depending on the person! The biggest problem we have with new people is they are all very easily distracted. Hanging out with people you used to idolize might seem like an amazing thing, but it can distract you from why you're there in the first place. When it works it's pretty cool. I've seen a lot of bodies come and go, but only a select few achieve what Dave Finch, Joe Benitez or Michael Turner did.
Nrama: In the times I’ve talked with you on the record and off the record about Top Cow, I’ve known you to be an immaculate planner. Thinking ahead, do you already have a rough idea of what you’d like the eventually winners of this Top Cow Talent Search to do for Top Cow?Hawkins: Yeah we are looking for either 2 one shots or 2 two-three issue mini-series of the Artifact bearer characters that we don't use much. If you look at the list of characters I used for the document they are all the artifact bearers that don't appear often in The Darkness or Witchblade. Ron Marz has greater freedom to use some of these characters in the Artifacts book but he is only using some of them. So the writers submitting for the Talent Hunt have a lot of freedom given our Rebirth initiative.
Nrama:In the instructions you say you’re looking solely for unpublished authors; with print-on-demand and webcomics giving creators unprecedented first chances to get their work out there, are anyone whose done comics through those routes automatically disqualified from submitting?
Hawkins: No most of those people can still submit. We're looking to exclude anyone who has written for either Marvel or DC or any of the mid sized comic book publishers.
Nrama: You announced this back in July --- can you give us an estimation of the volume of submissions you’ve received thus far?
Hawkins: We've received about 100 of them but I don't know what the break down is from writer or artist. My plan all along was to look at these the first week of January. The contest runs from 9-1 to 12-31 so people still have a lot of time to enter.
Nrama: If you could pinpoint two things that is the most overlooked but important parts of submitting to this, what would it be?
Hawkins: Keep it simple and keep it character based. Focus on one Artifact bearer and tell a personal story about that person. Don't try to do epic, cosmic shit we have enough of that. We want good character driven pieces for this minis. And less is more. A lot of people think we want to read their 10,000 page manifesto. In many cases too much detail is a negative. People who review submissions are frequently looking for a reason to say no, don't give them one.