By Matt O’Keefe
The multi-talented JM Ringuet first arrived on the North American comic scene in 2008 as the artist of Transhuman, one of Jonathan Hickman’s early series for Image Comics. Since then Ringuet has had steady work in the industry, drawing comics such as Image’s Hoax Hunters on a freelance basis. In January 2013 Image debuted Repossessed, a four part creator-owned miniseries from JM about an agency of demon hunters. I spoke with him about what the market’s like for creators without the benefit of name recognition from high profile Big Two work.
Where did you get your art and design training?
Self taught. I briefly went to an art school where I did not learn much because they were not teaching any basics. So self taught.
You can do every step of the process yourself (writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, designing.) Has the ability to make comics independently served you well?
Yes, totally. At least I think. It’s a bit of a dream for a creator to be able to control every aspect from the initial idea to actually delivering a product in the hands of the readers. That’s something very new in this industry. Imagine what somebody like Jack Kirby could have done. Technology is great.
Did working with Jonathan Hickman on Transhuman open doors for you in the industry?
I really can’t say. But a few people know me from Transhuman so it’s possible it has played a role. I don’t have a lot of contacts with industry people so it’s difficult for me to assess.
It must be difficult to connect with people in the industry living so far away [JM lives in China]. What effects do you think your distance from the American comic scene has on your career?
I can’t really get ‘opportunity’ jobs, the kind of work I imagine artists get at cons from talking to editors. I don’t know the industry well enough to be sure, but sometimes have the feeling that the industry is a small tight-knit group but I really don’t know. It’s really hard to know.
Do you follow comics industry news?
Here and there. Most websites seem to only talk about Marvel and DC. I’m not that interested in who’s going to do the third alternate cover for some obscure Marvel title. I try to find the more relevant stuff when I can. I used to read a lot more comics news but now I prefer to focus my time on my work.
You drew Hoax Hunters when it was a back-up in Hack/Slash. Why did you decide to leave the book when it became an ongoing monthly?
After I started working on Hoax Hunters Image agreed to publish Repossessed (which I had submitted to them a few months prior). Since my time for personal projects is limited I could only do one at a time. It was a matter of choice, and I chose the project that I wanted to write and draw.
What was the submission process like at Image?
I sent my submission by email, five pages of art and an outline. After awhile Eric Stephenson asked me if the project was still available for publishing, and that was that. I should add that I sent quite a few submissions to Image over the years; Repossessed was the first one they picked up.
So you followed the same submission process that Image outlines on their website?
Exactly. I didn’t have an inside or anything. I just followed the basic process.
Did you consider other publishers?
Yes I did. The usual suspects IDW, Vertigo… I can’t remember every one but I think I submitted to all the publishers who do creator-owned material.
Why did you choose Image?
They were always my first choice. It’s just about what they publish and the freedom they give to creators. There are no other publishers that work like Image.
Did the risk that came with no upfront payment for your work dissuade you at all?
No. My goal is to publish my own stuff. That’s why I do all my other jobs. I have no desire to have a work-for-hire career. I want to sell what I create. That risk is an investment.
Online, message boards, twitter, FB, a dedicated website and blog, some interviews for comic sites and podcasts. I tried to reach out to comic book stores but that didn’t work. I know I didn’t advertise enough but I really didn’t know how to do it. I also tried to get some help from within the industry but I think everybody was too busy with other things.
How were sales of the single issues?
Low, as I think most indie creator-owned books sales are. It’s very hard to sell anything with the current market structure and almost impossible to make money off of it (except for the printer, distributor and sometimes the comic shop.) It’s a not a market designed for independent comic books.
Did you expect that going in?
More or less. It was more brutal than I thought.
Repossessed is very action-driven; it reminded me a lot of 90s era Image. Do you think that’s a tough sell in today’s environment?
I would have thought the opposite. I think action is easy to sell. I could be absolutely wrong, though. Knowing the market seems like an impossible task.
Why do you think comics in particular are so appealing to creators even with a difficult market?
You get to make what you want and get it out there. To me that’s the appeal. If you want to tell a story in a visual way comics are the easiest method. Telling visual stories is really what I like to do.
You haven’t released a trade. Do you think the bookstores would be receptive to a story like Repossessed?
Yes, I think so. I think trades or collected editions are the natural form for comics. 24 pages is too little for the writer and for the reader. I also think Repossessed is very mainstream in its appeal so it should do well in bookstores. I hope there will be a trade collecting the four issues in the near future.
How big a factor is digital in sales?
I don’t have any numbers on digital sales at the moment so I can’t answer. Some creators told me they factored in a lot for them but that’s just anecdotal.
Are you entirely freelance?
Yes, fulltime freelance. I make a living completely from doing art.
What do you work on other than comics?
A lot of different things: concept art for games and movies, illustration, advertisement, in-game art for videogames, some storyboards and quite a few album covers for Metal bands.
Any comics work in the pipeline?
Yes. I’m working on work for hire projects called Remnants and The Inside. On the creator-owned side I pitched two new ideas to Image for sci-fi thriller miniseries. A lot of people have asked for a Repossessed sequel. I’ve outlined another four issues but I have to see if there’s a real demand for it before jumping in.
Can someone hire you to draw/color/letter/design their comic?
Yes. I always consider offers and I try to manage my schedule smartly.