Published: 30 March 2015

“There is definitely a formula for success,” says comic book artist John Higgins

School of The Arts students, Olivia Szczeblewska-Moore, reports from a lecture with comic book artist and writer, John Higgins:

John Higgins, established comic book artist and writer, has delivered a lecture to third year English about his craft and his extensive career within the creative field.

Born in Walton, Liverpool, John (pictured below) left school when he was 15 and returned to Liverpool some years later to resume his studies at Wallasey College of Art where he qualified in technical illustration, gaining a job as a medical illustrator at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

After getting his first comic book art published in 1975, he then drew the cover for 2000 AD No. 43 and decided to go freelance in 1978, with a view to becoming a comic artist. He has worked alongside writers such as Alan Moore on comics such as Watchmen, as well as doing covers for Marvel UK.

John said: “I would say there is definitely a formula for a successful comic strip. Three words: timing, opportunity and ability.”

John higgins (2)Although students may not necessarily be thinking about starting a career within the comic book industry, Higgins’ words are extremely relevant to those students considering a job within the creative sector.

“Your time and your opportunity are not in your control, you are only in control of your talent or ability. Exercise your creative muscle nonstop. You are fortunate as a writer to have the opportunity to entertain.” John said. “If you have a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Starting a career today’s job market is very different to how Higgins remembers it. The introduction of the digital age and fast paced turnaround within the creative industry is something which John has had to adjust to throughout his career.

He said: “One of the problems that I think students will have to face now is making a vital first impression with employers. To do this on the internet and through email simply does not have the same effect as walking into a publisher with a raw copy in your hand.

“It really is a double edged sword. The problem with the internet is no matter how good you are, it is very easy to quickly get lost. For example, if Watchmen was to begin on the internet today, there is a high chance nobody would take any notice.

“It is only when the good work is found and noticed it can be made into hardcopy and the only way to make money from the internet is to get your work into hardcopy. The question is; how do you make your craft financially viable without any prior reputation?”

Students were invited to ask John questions about the industry and tips on how to get starting in the competitive world of publishing.

John said: “One of the big problems in the creative field is getting that first big break, and learning how to crossover from being someone who has been asked to do things without being paid, to your work being valued and paid for.

“As soon as you are trying to find an audience for your work they will happily give you the work, but they won’t pay you. The biggest struggle is getting that first paid commission, but persistence is everything – just keep going.”

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