Thanks for the follow-up question!
There’s no such thing as “discovered” in the comics industry (Spike wrote about this more eloquently here.) but I can talk about my history in comics and how I finally starting getting regular freelance work on licensed properties.
I’ve been drawing comics and posting them online regularly since September of 2001. There was this wonderful handful of years in the late nineties and early aughts where just about everyone you now that’s working on your favourite cartoon properties (Natasha Allegri, Ryan Pequin, Madeleine Flores, Meredith Gran, Lucy Knisley, Becky Dreistadt, KC Green, etc.) was growing up together, posting comics on Livejournal or Keenspace (an offshoot of Keenspot).
Working alongside these talented folks to inspire me, and learning the ropes of comics creation as I went, I formed my own self-publishing imprint (Poseur Ink) in 2003.
For ten years, I ran the small press mini comics and distribution company: selling my own work and work by other indie cartoonists (like Megan Rose Gedris, Colleen Frakes, Box Brown, Josh PM Frees, and Ed Brisson). I regularly updated my journal comic (Intentionally Left Blank) and curated and published the anthologies Side A: The Music Lover’s Graphic Novel (2007) and Side B: The Music Lovers Comic Anthology (2009).
The anthologies helped me meet a lot of wonderful artists who I had never known online before. (Annie Mok, Jon Chad, and Noah Van Sciver to name just a few.)
In addition to creating my own comics and anthologies, I also regularly submitted to anthologies put together by other creators. (The Big Ol’ Book of BIZMAR, I Saw You…Missed Connection Comics, Big Sexy, etc.)
I tabled at as many conventions as I could: Comic Con International, Alternative Press Expo, Wondercon, Emerald City Comicon, Portland Zine Symposium, TCAF, MoCCA, small local shows, craft fairs, zine/record swaps… in order to sell as many comics as I could and meet other creators. (This gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of my online peers in real life for the first time and strengthen our friendships.)
Even though I was creating new work regularly, creating comics never self-sustained itself financially. So in addition to all the comics work I was also co-running Mod Buttons (a custom button/lapel-pin company) with my partner Mike (who also worked with Poseur Ink), and taking illustration commissions from Cartoon Commune (under the care of Ryan Estrada). [In addition to helping me afford to print and publish comics, the former also put me in touch with even more independent artists and cartoonists. (Michelle Romo, Jason Ponggasam, Carol Burrell, etc.)]
So, I have a long history of working within the indie comics community. I never really broke in, I never really blew up, but I’ve been around, creating for a long, long time.
All the puzzle pieces finally began to fall into place during the last two years while I was at The Center for Cartoon Studies.
I helped work the BOOM Studios table during MoCCA 2012 in order to fulfill some of my CCS internship hours. There, I met BOOM editor Adam Staffaroni, who happens to be good friends with my pal Jon Chad (who happened to be one of my instructors while I was at CCS). There, Adam and I became friends. (Simultaneously, of my CCS classmates, Carol Thompson, had just recently begun working at BOOM as a graphic designer.)
Later that same year, Carol and I ran into each other at a convention and she told me she had decided to leave BOOM. My partner Mike, whose undergraduate was graphic design, applied to take her position. Adam was able to get Mike in as an intern for the position and they later hired him on full time. He started there in September 2012.
While Mike was working at BOOM, we became friends with Shannon Watters and Dafna Pleban. (And learned that Shannon was the very first person to buy Poseur Ink’s shark shirt design back when it first came out.)
In December 2012, Shannon was looking for variant cover artists for Adventure Time with Fionna and Cake and my name came up in the studio. She emailed and asked if I would be interested. (Of course I said yes!)
Having done that cover (and having a portfolio full of Frankie comics) lead to my drawing the Garfield back-up story (edited by Chris Rosa) that will be on shelves this March. (Keep an eye out for that!)
Dafna is to thank for my pairing with Gabby Silang, which is how I ended up in the upcoming Beyond anthology. I have upcoming licensed work thanks to Adam… I have another upcoming independent project thanks to Carol Burrell…
It all comes down to community. Work hard, make friends, create opportunities for yourself and your friends, take opportunities when they’re offered to you (even if you don’t think you have the time)… be kind. Success is contagious and a rising tide lifts boats. For all my years drawing comics, I would not be as accomplished as I am today without the help of my friends.
And that, Chris, is how I got to draw for Adventure Time. :)