The comic book industry can absolutely be a difficult one to break into, but at least one company is trying to make it a lot easier for aspiring professionals. Negative Space Comics was created by writer and photographer Nahuel Fanjul-Arguijo and his partner Alex Dvorak during last year’s pandemic shutdown in an effort to support aspiring comic book writers. The company just crowned their first winner, who will receive mentoring sessions with comic book professionals and have their work featured on Negative Space’s website, for their Fall 2021 campaign. However, they’re just getting started, with a Women’s Comic Book Writing competition currently in progress for Winter 2022 and another focusing on aspiring student writers.
Fanjul-Arguijo and Dvorak, both entertainment industry writers, were no strangers to the screenwriting competition world, but they quickly noticed that there was a very obvious void in the comic book industry for such crucial endeavors. I spoke with Fanjul-Arguijo about how the concept of Negative Space came to be, how he convinced some of the industry’s top talent to lend a hand, and the almost crippling lack of behind-the-scenes diversity in today’s comic book landscape.
“I realized there wasn’t anything like this in the comic book world, and I started connecting the dots. I realized that even for myself as a comic book writer, it was starting to get hard to get connections, meet people, get my new work out there, etc. Luckily i’m good at talking to people and networking, so I realized that Negative Space would be a great blend of things that were currently working for me. We took what we knew about screenwriting competitions and molded it for the comic book world, but with the biggest change being that you don’t just either get a badge or not. The most important part is that we wanted to do something bigger than that, we really wanted to focus on mentorship,” Fanjul-Arguijo said.
And focus on mentorship they did, by enlisting the help of some of the most revered professionals in the industry, like After Shock Comics editor Teodoro Leo and female icon of the comic book industry, Heather Antos. Antos, a former Marvel editor who set trolls and bigoted fanboys asunder with her “Marvel Milkshake” selfie, has become of the industry’s female rock stars and is currently an editor at IDW. Fanjul-Arguijo credits an unlikely social media source for helping him land such industry greats.
“LinkedIn has been super helpful. After initially setting up my profile after college, I eventually realized that there was a huge community of creators who are there to support each other. I just wrote the right sentences and the people who are connected to these competitions actually care about helping other creators. When I reached out to Heather, I believe it was originally on Twitter, but she was just excited that something like this was happening. She was excited about it and wanted to help out in any way that she could. A lot of these professionals had just been waiting for some way to help out more, ” he stated.
The comic book industry, specifically the “Big Two” companies DC and Marvel, has never been particularly good about hiring and promoting female talent. In fact, while female readership has been increasing exponentially over the past couple of decades, the increase for women who work in the comic book industry was just 7%, with a vast majority of these not being “power positions” within the company (such as lead editors/artists). The statistics on POC and LGBTQ individuals are even worse. This sad dose of reality wasn’t lost on Negative Space when they were formulating their competitions.
“Some numbers that hit me that were really impactful. Comic book statistics state that 80% of comics were written by mostly white creators. A really jarring number is that between 2008-2018, only 17% of credits were given to women, which is such as small number. As an immigrant and a writer, I know that we’re all just trying to hit these small numbers that they allow to the industry. We want our competitions to also be focused on underrepresented communities, like POC and any writers who identity as women; whatever helps to change what the room looks like,” Fanjul-Arguijo noted.
Complete details on the guidelines for Negative Space’s Women’s Comic Book Writing competition, and all of their competitions, can be found on their website, where you can also sign up for their newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest news and events. Look for them at your next comic-con, as the company has plans to start attending cons throughout 2022.