Comic-Con may not look much like a job fair, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming an essential stop for opportunity-minded creatives.
While comicbook publishers have long used confabs to scout prospective artists, many of whom have no other access to the industry, interest from companies such as Nickelodeon, Lucas Licensing and Disney Publishing Worldwide is a relatively new development.
“I go there in hopes of finding artists that have a new way of doing things that will make what we do here fresh,” says Troy Alders, art director for Lucas Licensing. “I really couldn’t find them anywhere else.”
For McFarlane Toys, portfolio reviews at Comic-Con are the most efficient way to find the sculptors, 3-D artists and concept artists the company needs, says Melanie Simmons, McFarlane’s exec director of human resources.
“My main job is to work the show the entire time I’m out there, talk to people, shake hands and remind them that I exist,” says Andrew Pepoy, a comics artist who hosts a networking seminar at Comic-Con every year.
According to Illuminati Entertainment president Ford Gilmore, who represents a stable of established artists, artists should try to present themselves well because they never know what’s going to attract the attention of a producer or art director.
“I know of at least one paying gig that has come out of that show every year from someone no one knew who just happened to walk by a booth and see something that caught their eye.” Such deals have ranged from design gigs for low-budget animation projects to high-paying videogame jobs.
Eric Coleman, VP for animated development at Nick, tries to focus on the convention floor, a gathering place for a wide variety of talented individuals. “They’re not even pitching a TV show, they’re just putting their creativity out there,” says Coleman. For him, the trip is less about signing deals than meeting talent such as “Catscratch” creator Doug TenNapel, whose work Nick execs first saw at Comic-Con.
Competition can be fierce, and standing out from the crowd has become increasingly difficult, but as Comic-Con grows, so does the number of companies who come looking to discover fresh talent.
Disney Press exec editor Rich Thomas attends Comic-Con as a way of reminding people that Disney is open to working with comics talent, making it a point to scout the event for potential discoveries.
“There’s tons of really creative stuff there you wouldn’t see if you didn’t go to a show like Comic-Con,” he says.