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Questing for the Right Artist

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In my last column I wrote about how, at this meeting with Martijn Aslander, he showed me a picture on his laptop and gave me the email address of the artist. I remember being absolutely filled with energy when cycling back to the office. Yeah, I am Dutch. We cycle a lot over here. However, I didn’t want to be to optimistic: it wouldn't be the first time an artist wouldn’t or couldn’t work with me.

Back at the office, I continued to organize the meeting and do all of the other things that needed to be done. But now there was also this piece of paper lying on my desk that didn’t have anything to do with my job. A piece of paper with an email address and a name on it, both written in my scratchy handwriting. I decided to Google the name of the artist. The first thing I found was that he had won the first prize in a paint brush contest. Well, at the very least, I wasn’t the only one who liked his work.

I couldn’t wait any longer and decided to send him an email. And because I wanted to make a good first impression, I chose my words very carefully. I wanted to tell him about my idea and what I wanted to do. However, I didn’t want to come on too strong and scare him away, or sound like an idiot.

I wrote to him about being a fan of comics, which comics I read and what kind of stories I really liked. I explained to him that I was writing a story and would like to collaborate with him to make this story into an actual comic book. In the last sentence I put down the number of my mobile phone. I re-read the email about four times. I didn’t want to mess this up, and as a dyslectic, it isn’t that hard to mess up carefully thought-out sentences. I gave myself a few seconds to think about what I was doing, and then clicked the "send" button. The only thing I could do then was wait. And waiting lasted half an hour. That’s how long it took before my phone rang.

It was a number I didn’t recognize. With a great deal of excitement I finally answered the phone. On the other side of the line was none other than the man I just sent an email to: Ranjit Dommisse.

It was a pleasant and fun conversation. We talked about comics: which comics Ranjit read, the kind of comics he liked and what kind of stories he preferred. (I haven’t seen a bigger Danger Girl fan than Ranjit.) I also explained what kind of comics I liked. And I thought we really connected. We talked briefly about the idea for my story. He sounded exited and I promised him I would send him the script of issue one later that evening.

The next day I found an email in my inbox from Ranjit. He told me that he liked what he had read. In the days that followed we talked more about the story on the phone. He also sent me some of his work and I in turn really liked what I saw. I also thought it was a good sign that our conversations were always enjoyable, and that Ranjit was already talking about the things he would like to draw in the comic.

I had also made something that I would later learn is called a character bible. Ranjit asked if he could read it so he could make a first sketch. I was really, really honored. Here was this guy I never even met in real life (in my humble opinion he is a damn good artist), and he would make time to draw something I thought up.

So I sent Ranjit my character bible. In those days, Ranjit was starting up his own business. And as with many startups, Ranjit had to have a job on the side. So between his job and working for his own company, Ranjit had to find time in order to draw a group of my characters. He told me he would do the drawings in the evening and send it to me the moment it was finished.

That was the moment a strange addiction started. It’s something that I still do to this day. Every morning, one of the first things I do is to check my email hoping for comic goodies. And after three days of slight disappointments, there it was in my mailbox: the first drawing of a group of characters that later would be known as ACE.

Next: How do we proceed?

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Gert-Jan van Oosten, co-founder of Dutch  comic book publisher, Drop Comics, talks about his efforts to find his place on the American/English comics market from across the pond.

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