Todd Nauck currently has over 91,000 followers on Instagram. The Nightcrawler and Deadpool: Too Soon artist also has over 21,000 fans on Facebook, over 15,000 followers on Twitter and over 19,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel. I had the opportunity at NYCC’16 to sit down with Todd at his table in Artist Alley and talk about his use of social media in his career.
If you follow Todd Nauck on Twitter, you know about his sketch retweet contest. When Todd attends a convention, he will post the convention sketches he draws to Twitter. At the end of the convention, he’ll pick a fan at random who retweeted his sketch tweets and award that fan with a sketch of their own. I asked Todd how the sketch retweet contest came about. Todd said, “I started that in 2012 at C2E2. I had my Twitter account, but I didn’t really have anything clever to say, so I was pretty much using Twitter as Instagram. I knew I’d be posting my convention sketches for the weekend, and I thought “What can I can do to make it fun for my followers and how can I expand my reach?” That’s how I came up with the retweet contest. I figured if I get those people to retweet my sketches, hopefully their friends will see and hopefully I’ll get some new followers.” The effect was immediate. Todd went on to explain, “It paid off at the first con. I got about maybe a hundred new followers that weekend. And started getting people to discover my work. At the next signing I did, I think it was Guarding the Globe when that launched, someone came up to me and said, “I discovered you on the sketch retweet contest and I’m a fan of your work now.” I thought, this is awesome. I’ll keep doing it. I’ve been doing it every since.”
The sketch retweet contest has definitely grown over the years. Todd explained, “The first time I did the contest, I had 50-100 retweets per sketch. Now I’m up to over 300 retweets per commission that I post.”
About three years ago, Todd started his Instagram account. In those three years, Todd’s account has attracted over 91,000 followers. Instagram has had a definite impact on Todd’s fanbase. He explained, “I find that a lot of people who come to my table at conventions, the first things they say are “I follow you on Instagram” or “I follow you on YouTube.” That’s where they’re discovering my work. And now they’re coming to get a commission, a print or a sketchbook. And now they’re starting to read my comics. I’m finding a lot of people who weren’t reading my books before are reading Nightcrawler or looking forward to my Deadpool miniseries. I’m finding my fan base is growing thanks to those two platforms, especially among younger people. I’ll have junior high, early teens, though teenage fans that follow me on YouTube and Instagram. It’s great reaching a new generation of fans because hopefully they’ll grow up being a fan of my work, or at the very least, a fan of comic books.”
What other avenues of social media does Todd Nauck use? “Periscope and Facebook Live videos have been great as well,” the artist said. Todd added, “I think I’m almost at 19,000 Periscope subscribers and doing the Facebook Live, that’s been really jumping my followers on Facebook. My fan page jumped 2,000 or 3,000 just thanks to these broadcasts. What I like about the broadcasts is that I can reach people in real time and then the way the apps work, saving the broadcasts to my phone, I can upload it as content to my YouTube channel. Those that miss the broadcast can still watch it on YouTube. It’s been a great way to build up content so I don’t have to edit or record commentaries for, because there’s now an hour long video already ready to go. A couple of quick edits for YouTube and I upload it. The broadcasts have been great, because I can interact with people in real time and answer people’s questions right then while I’m drawing. They can go through the art process with me. I think a lot of young artists as well as people who just enjoy art itself have found these types of broadcasts fun and informative. I know a number of artists do these type of broadcasts, like Ryan Stegman, Mike McCone, Will Robinson, Mahmud Asrar. There’s a lot of great artists broadcasting on a fairly regular basis.”
It was the morning of Thursday, day one at NYCC, when I interviewed Todd. It’s the lightest day here. His sketch list for the day filled up literally a minute after the convention opened. I asked Todd if that has become the norm for you at conventions. He replied, “It’s kind of getting to be that way. Conventions are so busy for me now. I feel that I can only get four (sketches) done, at least commit to. I’ll take a couple of overflow in case I get those four I’ve committed to done. Four spots can go in a flash. Now that I’m reaching more and more people online, there are more people trying to get to my table, making those spots more covetous. They can go super duper fast. I wish I could accommodate more people. Conventions have just gotten so busy. There’s interacting with people, talking to people, the occasional portfolio review, people who want to do interviews and learn more about me and my process and learn what I’m doing. Oh my goodness!”
Todd usually does about 10 conventions per year, but this year, he is appearing at 13. NYCC was #12 of 13. Todd went on, “I’m finishing my convention circuit this year in India next month. ReedPop is partnering up with some international conventions and my friend at ReedPop said, “Hey do you want to go to Bangalore, India? They have a convention; they’d like to bring you and your wife out.” That sounded like an interesting experience at the very least, so we committed to that.”
I asked Mr. Nauck how he balances his comics work with his convention travel. Todd explained, “I have found that I’m working extra hours and weekends to get work done to do these conventions. It’s worth it. It’s important to do as many conventions as possible to stay connected to the public. They’re a lot of fun for me. Conventions are my only social aspect of my job. I like doing the actual comic book work by myself in my studio, no distractions. That’s the way I work best. I don’t like to share studio space with people. I used to share some studio space with a buddy of mine. One’s a photographer, one’s a musician. We rented out a studio and I found I was too distracted. This was back in 2004, 2005. People wanted to hang out and talk. But I’m a workaholic. I like to focus in, laser focus on the job. When our lease was done, I said, “Sorry guys, I’m moving back into the home studio.” It’s the way I work best. I like to come to conventions to meet fans, see friends, meet with my employers, chat, talk comics, geek out. It helps balance the introversion of studio time with the extroversion of convention time. It does require a lot of balancing my work schedule at home. Back in June and July, because I knew I had to take three weeks off for San Diego and London, back to back conventions, I worked 7 days a week, 12 hours a day for 4 weeks to get on top of my schedule to allow for three weeks off, away from my studio. That was the hardest I’ve ever pushed myself to stay on top of my deadlines. But it was worth it, so I didn’t have to have a fill-in artist help me out on the Deadpool miniseries.”
Has social media impacted his relationship with publishers? Todd wasn’t sure. “I don’t know if social media has translated with publishers directly,” he said. “I know they’re aware of my social media presence. I know one of the editors of Marvel will check out my live videos and YouTube. He invited me to be on his Breaking Into Comics panel because he appreciated what I shared in those videos. But as far as getting a comic book assignment, no editor has said, “We saw what you posted on Instagram or YouTube or Twitter and we want you to draw this project. No one has brought it up specifically,” Todd explained further. “I don’t know if it’s had an impact with editors or publishers , but it has had an impact with doing commission work. People have said, “I love your stuff on Instagram and Twitter and I have to get a commission from you.” That has translated in the money making part of my career. Either at conventions, or people emailing me to get on my studio commission waitlist. Social media has definitely been a huge part of that part of my income.”
What’s Todd working on right now? Deadpool: Too Soon for Marvel comics. Todd was very enthusiastic when describing the series. He said, “It’s a crazy, wild murder mystery. It’s a miniseries guest starring Squirrel Girl, Ant-Man, Punisher, Spider-Ham, Rocket and Groot, and that’s just all in chapter 1.” Deadpool: Too Soon is a digital first mini that has already debuted on comiXology. Each issue of the print version collects two digital chapters. The first issue of the print version starts this month. It will run as a 4 issue mini.
Todd has also made a name for himself over recent years as a variant cover artist. I asked him which he liked more, drawing covers for various titles or monthly series work. Todd answered, “After doing Nightcrawler for a year, I spent the past year just strictly doing variant covers for Marvel in 2015. I like doing both. I probably am more of a storyteller, so I like doing sequential art. I like moving a character through a story and really investing in a character in that way. The covers are fun to do, but doing a monthly comic is where I get to really invest in the character. Sequential Art is where my passion is. I like to juggle both. I like to draw covers whenever I can, but if I could only choose one, I’d rather do sequential art, because then I can draw more.”
If you follow Todd on Twitter, then you know that he is a HUGE 1980s X-Men fan. I asked him what it was like being partnered up with Chris Claremont for the Nightcrawler series. Todd said, “I flipped out when I found out I would be working with Chris Claremont on Nightcrawler. Getting to do a X-Men comic with Chris Claremont was a career highlight. He was the first writer I read regularly as a 13-year old on Uncanny X-Men. That was the first comic series I read on a monthly basis. Him writing Nightcrawler in Uncanny X-Men and Excalibur made Nightcrawler one of my all-time favorite X-Men. It was geek trifecta all at once. One my favorite X-Men, one of my favorite X-Men writers, and we got to create two new mutants together. Getting to create two new mutants with him was really a thrill. And now he’s a pal. He’s a friend of mine. We get dinner. I’m friends with Chris Claremont. The first six months of the year on Nightcrawler, I had to pinch myself. I had to do reality checks. I kept thinking, “I’m doing a X-Men book with Chris Claremont. This is nuts.” When the editor called me to ask if I wanted to do Nightcrawler, I said yes before he finished the name Nightcrawler. He said, “Do you want to draw Nightcraw…” and I said, “Yes! I’m in!”
Billy Henehan writes for The Beat. In his free time, he likes to hunt down foreign language reprints of Todd McFarlane Spider-Man comics.