Creating a noir comic book – part 5

Read parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Last time we looked at writing the script and the first step of finding an artist, by placing an ad.

The ad for Spiral was placed on Digital Webbing, PencilJack and on At the same time I went to Twitter and Facebook to push the link to the ad. The ad read like this:


I’m looking for an artist for a contemporary crime/noir 4-issue mini-series set in London.

Specifically looking for:
– something that can work as B/W but also with some stylistic and minimalistic colours.
– someone who’s been published, or have good references.
– knows London and its suburbs/architecture, or someone willing to dig into visual research.

I will:
– offer a page rate for the pitch pages + character studies. ($70 per page, more for added colour. Negotiable, of course, so let’s talk about it.)
– pay less than 3 days after completion and delivery of high res files (tiffs or psds). Paypal or direct bank transfer. Willing to discuss some payment up-front.
– split I.P. with artist (and colourist if we need one)
– let all revenue from the 1st issue go straight to artist/colourist.
– split revenue equally on the 3 remaining issues, AFTER set page rate has been recouped by artist/colourist.
– aim this at a specific publisher. (But I also have back-up plans.)

So this is kind of a mix between a back-end collaboration and paid work.

The story is called SPIRAL and feels like Scalped, Daredevil and BBC mixed in a blender. In London. On my blog you can read a few pages of the script.

If you think this might be something for you, hit me up with page samples, your preferred page rate and some info about yourself at templadiaboli (A)



Let’s just analyze it quickly.

I write down only the necessary information. I’m upfront about everything and, I think, clear about everything. I say I have a plan (which I did, and people seem to like creatives with plans), and I show off some pages of my writing, so they can see for themselves if the quality is there. Important points, but the most important ones are: 1) I offer a page rate for the pitch pages, and 2) I offer shared ownership. Money and shared ownership.

Money, because artists deserve to get paid for their services, like any other professional in the world. And it’ll get a lot more artist eyes on the ad if there’s a decent page rate. ($70 per page isn’t high, but it’s not insulting either, I think.) Shared ownership because that can (and probably will) lead to an emotional bond with the project. The feeling of being included, of having a say, of not just working on the project, but creating the project.

I don’t say much about the project/story, but I brag about how it could feel. Like Scalped. Like Daredevil. With a BBC touch. Big words, you might say. Yes. It is aiming for the skies. But that’s the ambition level I have, and what I want the artist to have. It’s the level I want to reach, it’s the level I must reach. And it’s the level we can reach.

This is a sales document and there’s no time for modesty. That said, the line between confidence and arrogance is a thin one. Did I overstep it? I don’t think so, but everyone else is the judge of that.

At the end I also show them who I am by linking to both this here blog and my comics on Comixology. That way I at least have a little clout. I show I’m not fresh out of the gates. I’ve reached the trenches. Been shot at.

So, the question last time was if I’d get any response on the ad. And yes. I sure did. Over 120 artists got in touch with me. A few didn’t have any sequential pages to show me. Say 10%. A chunk weren’t ready for a comic book with this ambition level. Say 50%. But about 40% were really good. I was blow away with the skill, quality and talent that many of the artists.

(Most came from DigitalWebbing, with a decent amount from PencilJack, and a small group from ConceptArt.)

I try to pay attention to everything that moves in the up-and-coming artist world, and I know there’s a lot of barely proven and unproven talent out there. But still, I was surprised at the number that replied to the Spiral ad.

Which presented me with a very nice problem. How to pick the right artist?

Slight digression: I’m friends with quite a few really talented artists that I could have contacted directly. So why didn’t I? A lot of them are busy of course, but maybe a few of them would have had time to commit to Spiral. The reason I placed an ad was to “see the talent pool” out there, establish new connections, and because I always find it exhilarating to work with fresh blood.

After a week, and e-mails kept ticking in, I started to sort the best from the good ones in my inbox. (As I look in that “best” folder now, I have 57 artists there.) Once I had done that I just had to use the elimination method. Things that counted in favour of artists were:
– sequential samples from several projects (not just superhero scripts)
– style that worked nicely as just pencils (which meant the mood was there)
– those that wrote in decent English (that I could say would have no problem interpreting the script*)
– those that sounded genuinely eager to partake in the project
– those that had a webcomic or short story or book published (even if by small press publishers, of course.)

Not to mention the obvious ones like a style that would suit the noir story, and strong storytelling skills on the pages, panel to panel flow, etc. etc.

*There are a brilliant amount of fantastic artists from non-English-speaking countries of course, and one day I will learn Spanish and French and whatnot so that I can confidently work with them as well. Unless they beat me to it with decent English. Fact is, interpreting a script, with the nuances of the written language, can be quite difficult if you don’t know the language. Pretty obvious, really. But that’s the way it is, and if we can remove barriers between us then the collaborative aspect runs much smoother.

So, hours of elimination later, I ended up with a top 5 list of the artists I really felt could work with the story. They were Graeme Howard, Robert Carey, Ariel Zuckerbrull, Emerson Dimaya and Joshua Horn. All of them with their distinct style, brilliant talent and all of them about to be discovered by the big players, I’m sure**.

It wasn’t easy to choose, which I told all of them, and I sure hope to work with all of them someday. But after a weekend of back-and-forth my choice landed on Emerson. A Filipino artist that simply ticked all the boxes (see list above).


Emerson Dimaya


Emerson Dimaya

Letting the others go was hard, but I felt going with Emerson was the right call. But with new, unknown blood there’s also a risk of ending up with the wrong person (for a number of reasons), and wasting both your own time and the artist’s time.

How it went, I’ll let you in on soon, in part 6.

**Publishers/Editors/Writers – hire these good folks before it’s too late!


  1. Pingback: Creating a noir comic book – part 10 – MAGNUS ASPLI
  2. Pingback: Creating a noir comic book – part 9 – MAGNUS ASPLI
  3. ClathratePaul · March 28, 2014

    I love the wealth of detail you are including about your collective processes in the creation of this comic.
    I am replying to this individual step in the process (rather than later, which I’ve also read and found very useful), because it is relevant to this step.
    My question comes from my lack of experience within the comic industry. I know that I can write, and have done successfully in other fields. I am also a massive comicophile, and have been teaching myself and practising enough to know that I can write comics (and desperately want to, I have the hunger) too.
    So my question is how do you get an artist and pitch together Without money? I simply don’t have any to pay anyone in advance.

    • Magnus Aspli · March 29, 2014

      If you’ve never had any of your comic scripts illustrated before, I strongly suggest you start with a short story. No more than 8 pages.

      That’ll make it easier to find an artist to commit so you can both come out with a final product. And it can be pitched to several indie anthologies.

      Byt realise that you’ll most likely end up with an artist on your own level, someone who’s starting out. So don’t expect Fiona Staples quality, you know.

  4. Pingback: Creating a noir comic book – part 8 – MAGNUS ASPLI
  5. Pingback: Creating a noir comic book – part 7 – MAGNUS ASPLI
  6. Pingback: Creating a noir comic book – part 6 – MAGNUS ASPLI
  7. PB DeBerry · January 28, 2014

    Great looking art. Digital Webbing is really an amazing place to find talented creators. PencilJack is a hot bed of talent but they don’t have the same traffic as DW

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