Thursday, December 30, 2010
Looking forward to 2011
There's a lot to look forward to, Jonah. I think we're seeing a lot of really great things coming from the indy publishers and creators. I'm reading more non-superhero comics than ever before. It's not that the superhero stuff is bad, it's actually been quite good for the last several years. It's been enjoying a renaissance lately, and I think the other creators in the industry are responding in kind now. This is going to be a huge year for some folks. So here's my list:
More LOCKE & KEY comics! Simply the most horrifying and intelligent book on the market today (that I've read, I don't read them all, I'll admit). Writer Joe Hill seems to be the big draw to get people to pick up the book, but I'd be lying if I didn't say Gabriel Rodriguez's art isn't equally captivating. You just can't put this book down.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to the G.I. JOE event COBRA CIVIL WAR that launches with a new #0 issue in April. That's going to blow JOE fans away.
I'm very curious to see what newish writers Nick Spencer, Jim McCann, Nathan Edmondson are doing.
From Nick, more MORNING GLORIES, but I also want to see his INFINITE VACATION and I'd love to see more books like his FORGETLESS which seems a little more over-looked. Personal note, Nick is a Comics Experience alum, and we're all thrilled with his success!
Edmondson shows great promise with his diverse books like OLYMPUS, THE LIGHT, and now WHO IS JAKE ELLIS? which looks just fantastic.
I'm looking forward to more HALCYON by Marc Guggenheim. I think this is a really refreshing take on super heroes.
STUFF OF LEGEND by Mike Raicht, Brian Smith and Charles Paul Wilson III. It is kind of a TOY STORY for adults. Really great stuff.
Also, 2011 needs is going to kick some butt with top artists doing great work.
I want more KICK-ASS from Romita!
I'm really looking forward to the ICON book about Jim Lee's art of DC and WIldstorm. I think that's going to be great.
Let's not forget that we're going to get more great books from The Library of American Comics with more DICK TRACY volumes and more BLOOM COUNTY.
We need more PARKER from Darwyn Cooke, of course.
I can't wait to get my hands on BATMAN: EUROPA. I've known about this project for years. And now it's almost here!
Travis Charest's WEAPONS OF THE METABARONS book is finally coming out here in the states. That's coming outin January.
And I'm pretty stoked to read more of the talented Kirkman and Bendis dudes. Both THE WALKING DEAD and SCARLET have been excellent.
Anyway, just my two cents...
John Romita Jr. Could critique your art!
Workshop artists are going to be posting their artwork all January long with all posts due on by January 22nd to be considered to win the critique! As many of you probably know, Romita has the record for drawing the most issues of Spider-Man of anyone else in history. When it comes to making comics, there's simply no one with more work under his or her belt.
Romita has been a huge supporter of comics as a whole and of both myself and Comics Experience for years. The day I learned the most about comics storytelling in my life was the day John came into the Marvel offices to meet with me and a young artist I had just hired to work on a book. The young artist was new--still learning--clearly had the raw talent but still had some growing to do.
So I asked Romita to come in and give the young fellow some tips. Well, a couple of hours in a conference room with together (and talent manager Chris Allo) were so freaking enlightening that I walked in an assistant editor and walked out feeling like a senior editor (promotion pending, of course!). John covered all kinds of storytelling building blocks, tips, tricks, and short cuts. He talked about how he set up his art table in his studio--and it just went on and on.
His advice was so complete, so freely given, and so encouraging that I felt like I could have drawn the next big book at Marvel. (I now blame John officially for my current attempt to draw my own comic...). In short, this is a tremendous opportunity for any comic artist--new or seasoned pro--to get a quantum leap ahead.
And this isn't a one-time deal at the workshop! Every month, we've got artist challenges that we post to help build and improve artists' skills. We discuss industry topics and give out insider information to help build careers and network. And we always have a guest pro like Romita give a critique once a month!
If you're an artist and serious about improving your work quickly and having a great time doing it, I encourage you to join the Workshop and give it a go. I think you'll like what you fine. Jump in, start posting work and critiquing scripts as well as artwork, and watch how quickly your storytelling skills improve. And it's fun, too!
I can't wait to see the feedback that John gives to the winner at the end of January. And of course, members will have access to the message board where all guest critiques get posted! So hurry up and join now!
Okay, that's it from me for now. I'm too excited not to blog about this!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Comic Book Budgeting
We covered how to accurately (as much as anyone can, anyway) estimate sales of a comic throughout a series. And we calculated the profit on trade paperbacks.
And the more I talked and plugged numbers into this lovely spreadsheet, two things happened: It became increasingly obvious that making money while making comics is darn near IMPOSSIBLE. But the other thing that happened, was that every person in that workshop started to feel more driven and more empowered. And more ENCOURAGED to pursue his or her dream of making comics.
And here's why, I think. Prior to tonight's meeting (and you should join us, we meet every month online to discuss these kinds of things), the budget was a real mystery. How much do you pay Diamond to place an ad? How much of a discount do retailers actually get (meaning, how much do I actually make per unit sold)? and so on.
Simply gaining the knowledge--having the insight--you could see that the obstacles before our heroes became clear. And with that clarity, that meant they could start to plan around them. The group was able to look at the problem--seeing the problem as a bunch of solvable puzzles instead of one lump puzzle made of nonsense. It's now real to them. And in that reality, it is made up of component parts. Each part is manageable on its own. And that means that the problem as a whole--is ultimately solvable.
Okay, now I feel like I'm talking in riddles, but the gist is this. The creators in the Comics Experience Creators Workshop got one heck of an advantage now that most creators don't. They're armed to know what they're in for, and their clever enough to make it work.
And the best part is they have each other to help out--to check their calculations--to make sure their estimate of how many units they think they can sell is honest. Together, these creators are going to make great comics, and make money. I'm confident of that now.
If making comics is in your blood, I recommend you join our workshop. Signing up now will allow you to still access tonight's session as a recording and we'd love to meet you on the exclusive message boards and start reviewing your work!
Check out the Workshop and sign up today!
Monday, December 27, 2010
My Own Book: Step 2
Me? I've already started diving into Ken Bruns's BASEBALL documentaries. I'm two innings in and so far, I'm not disappointed! But really, we're just waiting for baby #2 to arrive in January. So, that's the big thing on the horizon for us.
Oh, right, and what did I do with that time off? Well, I started working on that project I mentioned a week or so ago. So, I started with the initial idea. I expanded on it by fleshing out my characters a bit. Working out their relationships and how they evolved through their lives in a way that was dramatic and made sense.
Then I plopped them into a situation that forces them to work out their differences, or at least confront them. And I'm really torn over the ending. I don't know that it would be possible to have a clearly upbeat ending, but it could have a real downer. I wrote a couple different quick takes, all of which made sense from character perspectives.
Since the work is about something thematically that I feel a strong attachment for, I decided to look at my theme more closely. I developed it a little bit and that helped me figure out how these characters would resolve the situation.
So, like I teach in my classes, I started with an idea, fleshed out the characters and the plot simultaneously and then started moving into the full on plot. Which, is where I still am tonight. It'll probably take me at least another week to get the plot into real shape so that I can start going to script.
Meanwhile, since I'm stupidly going to draw the thing myself, I've started going over different artistic approaches I might take and I think something's starting to gel in my mind. Whether or not I'll be able to even remotely be able to get what's in my head out onto paper is a whole other issue entirely).
Anyway, thought I'd give the quick update on that!
Also, I thought I'd mention that new courses are listed on the website starting up again in March! Great courses with proven track records. If you want to make comics, click on through and sign up for a class today!
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Christmas and Comics!
Monday, December 20, 2010
Working with Others
Saturday, December 18, 2010
- What pencils and brushes or pens am I comfortable using?
- What's the best kind of paper for me to use? 3 ply, 4, 2? I've got a lot of experimenting to do.
- What ink should I use? Should I experiment with a wash effect?
- I'll probably need to get an artist table to do this.
- I'll definitely need a scanner, and I will be making copies of all my pencils for when Iinevitably ruin them with my horrendous inking.
- I need to start building a color palette in Photoshop for coloring work.
- And I need to pick a font or fonts and start building caption boxes and such.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
How to budget your comic book
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
John Layman and Rob Guillory join the book club!
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Eagel Award Winner!
And I'm not knocking the award itself, but what makes me feel even better is getting notes directly from people who have read the book. Who were inspired by the book, who used the book, who learned from it. That's the really great thing. I got this note just the other day:
"I owe my entrance into Zuda to Andy's book. It was my bible when I wrote that script. It is, literally, the most complete book on the topic of making comics." That was written by Janine Frederick, who is also a Comics Experience alum. And every time I go to a convention, someone mentions this book and how it helped them in some way. That is a really amazing thing to hear, and while it's not why I teach, it's a really inspiring bit of feedback to receive.
If you're into comics and want to check the book out, you can find it here on Amazon or contact me directly, and I can autograph it and send it to you (but it's full price plus shipping if I do it...).
Thanks again to everyone who has supported me and Comics Experience and, of course, to the Eagle Awards. I'd like to think you chose wisely...
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Comics and Movies
Well, Marvel Entertainment main-stay Ben Morse, the former Wizard reporter, has written an article on just such a topic. I recommend you check it out. He says a lot of great things here at The Faster Times which boil down to, "Most folks just don't know what comics to pick up" and he suggests some good ones.
Read his article, and then circle back here for a minute for my two cents...
Beyond not knowing the specific trade paperback to read, there is also a problem of market saturation of titles--and I am far from innocent on this, myself. I publish three or four G.I. JOE titles per month. And the same for TRANSFORMERS, so when a fan of the movie, or cartoon, or toy walks into a shop and wants to see where the story lives on a month-in-and-month-out basis, how are they supposed to know which comic to pick up?
Look at WOLVERINE or even SPIDER-MAN or BATMAN, they've all got seven or more comics every month. How does a novice or new reader have any idea which one to buy? I'm starting to consider literally putting a bar across the top that reads: "New to TRANSFORMERS comics? BUY THIS ONE!" or some such thing. It's not a bad idea, honestly. It'd help retailers just as much as it would prospective fans.
Title saturation has become more talked about lately. Especially with Marvel and DC Comics announcing their drop in retail prices. We're asking a smaller and smaller audience to spend more and more money. Is it possible that the shrinking comics market is due to comics publishers pushing too hard on its most loyal customers?
Would it be better for the comics market--and most importantly to potential new readers--if there was just one Marvel continuity? If there was just one Wolverine comic, or one Batman comic? Maybe it would come out weekly or perhaps every issue would be double-sized? I don't know--anyway you slice it it means revenue goes down for the publisher, which in turn means revenue goes down for retailers... and most retailers can't afford to lose much more revenue. It's a catch-22 for sure. But anyway, at least Ben answered the awesome question, "Now that my friends have seen THE DARK KNIGHT, here's what they should read!"
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Andy Earns Haller Award at NYCC!
I'm not exactly known for my "indy" credentials widely. In fact, it's hard to get "indy cred" once you've worked for Marvel Comics and on major licensed books like X-Men and Transformers. But, since I founded Comics Experience in 2007, I've been working steadily with indy creators. To say that I was shocked to receive an award for "Outstanding Contribution to the Comics Industry" is putting it mildly.
Fortunately, Comics Experience alumnus Joe Sergi (Creator of "Sky Girl") was there to give me the award and do a presentation which you can watch here. Sadly, I wasn't able to be at the presentation as I had to get on a plane to make it back in time for another Comics Experience Class!
So, again, I'd like to thank The Comics Artist Guild, the fans, and everyone who has taken the leap into a Comics Experience course or the Creators Workshop for their time, faith, and support.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
What's Coming Up This Month!
Our first two months of Comics Experience Creators Workshop are coming to a close and we've been steadily growing, which is awesome. We've had two live sessions where scripts were critiqued by me and we've had general discussions about breaking into comics and the changes the industry is undergoing right now--from Wildstorm closing, to layoffs, to new opportunities.
But what's really exciting is that each month one writer gets his work reviewed by a working comics writer. JD Oliva was the lucky recipient of a script review from PETER DAVID (Hulk, X-Factor, Supergirl, etc.) and now Don McMillan is having his script reviewed by JASON AARON (Scalped, Wolverine, Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine). Who will be the lucky winner next month?! Could be you!
We also had both CHRISTOS GAGE and CHRIS SAMNEE join us for our book club review of AREA 10, their Vertigo Crime Noir graphic novel that was just awesome. And in just two weeks we'll be looking at and dissecting JOE HILL and GABRIEL RODRIGUEZ's LOCKE & KEY: WELCOME TO LOVE CRAFT. Great pick for Halloween month!
The book club has also started a movie night. They started last month with DAREDEVIL--a fun night of... analysis... was had by all. And just this week they reviewed MANHUNTER by MICHAEL MANN.
We're a few weeks into ROBERT ATKINS's (Amazing Spider-Man, G.I. Joe) INTRODUCTION TO COMIC BOOK ART class, which has just been phenomenal. KLAUS JANSON (Daredevil, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) will be stopping by Monday night to give portfolio reviews to the class--how cool is that?!
We began our LETTERING AND PRODUCTION class with DAVE SHARPE (Marvel, DC Comics, and every other publisher ever). And of course CHRIS SOTOMAYOR is currently wrapping up the INTRODUCTION TO COMIC BOOK COLORING class for his third time in a row!
There's a ton going on here at Comics Experience! So if you've ever thought about joining us, do it now! Get in while the getting's good! Lot's of fun! Tons to learn! And in a supportive, encouraging, and professional environment!
Monday, September 20, 2010
I thought this wouldn't be too tough to do all of this all at one time. Boy, was I wrong. And the creators workshop is in full swing as is the book club. We recently had Christos N. Gage and Chris Samnee come to the book club and talk about AREA 10, their excellent Vertigo book. And Peter David just reviewed a script for the Creators Workshop.
Pulling this all together is work, as it turns out. It's fun for me, but the idea is to make sure that anyone who joins the creators workshop, never has a reason to leave it. And that the group as a whole function to support one another.
It's been an eye-opening experience for me, so far, and an extremely rewarding one, seeing the scripts come in, seeing people tackle the artist and writers challenges and networking with one another.
Unfortunately, that means I haven't had time to blog as much lately. I'm trying to change that this week. Trying to hit three blogs this week (let's see if I can make that happen...).
But my point is, I've been really impressed and inspired by the talented people in both the classes and the workshop. And one day, if you want to make comics, I hope you'll join us.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Classes Under Way!
This is a very exciting time to be a part of Comics Experience. We've got more classes and more students (or clients, if you prefer) than ever before. I've been enjoying being a part of the classes and look forward to them immensely.
And now, with the Comics Creators Workshop now, there's a way to keep the learning going and the helpful critiques continuing indefinitely.
And some new initiatives are in the works that could be mind blowing. I think we've got a wave of great stuff happening right now with the enthusiastic and knowledgeable instructors and the new programs.
I've been reading a lot of scripts and looking at a lot of art and it's just been great. The growth and style these guys have is tremendous and only one week in I can already see the classes starting to gel. It's great.
If you've ever considered a course, obviously, I'm going to recommend them. But to my credit, I've not yet had a dissatisfied student. This is a lot of fun and very informative.
And worth just saying thank you to everyone who has supported Comics Experience so far. Thanks for everything.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
REVIEWS ARE IN AND THEY'RE GOOD!
Check out these awesome reviews to convince you...
Newsarama (scroll down a bit)
Exploring the Multiverse
And I have to say, I'm extraordinarily flattered by all of this.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Intro to Art and Intro to Coloring start next week!
INTRODUCTION TO COMIC BOOK ART is taught by myself and Robert Atkins. Robert's been teaching and drawing comics for years and he's not only a top-notch storyteller, respected professional, and popular artist, he's also one of the most generous people I know. I can't wait to start this class with him on MONDAY! Don't miss out, folks. This is a real opportunity for you to learn how to do comics for real and in just six short weeks. Totally worth it. Sign up for it now.
Also starting next week, is Chris Sotomayor's INTRODUCTION TO COMIC BOOK COLORING class which has just gotten a huge response from the people who have taken it. I was amazed that people with little to zero Photoshop skill could jump in and have good, quality, professional colored pages by the end. I mean, really, really, amazed. When he and I designed the class a year ago, I just didn't think that was likely. I didn't think it would happen. But man, he proved me wrong.
Much like Robert, Soto as he's known, is also extremely generous (with a mildly more potty-mouth, I'll admit) but a totally awesome guy and also respected within the industry. He's helped many a working colorist get their start already, and he loves to see artists succeed and do what they love. This class starts next Thursday and is totally worth it as well.
Coming soon, we've got the LETTERING AND PRODUCTION class which, as a writer, is a pays-for-itself course. Letter your own books and do the production work on them, and you will save yourself tons of cash! True for artists, obviously as well.
This one is taught by Dave Sharpe, who has lettered for every publisher under the sun. Also a great guy, hard working, honest, and genuinely happy to help and work in comics. LETTERING AND PRODUCTION starts at the end of September. And you can sign up now for it as well.
The next INTRODUCTION TO WRITING course starts the first week of November.
INTRODUCTION TO DIGITAL AND TRADITIONAL INKING also starts the first week of November. It's taught by myself and Jonathan Glapion. Jonathan, like the others on this list is honest, hard working, and is set up and ready to go. In the last few years, Jonathan has really been leading the charge legitimizing digital inking as a valid artistic expression. His digital inks are just as good as anyone's traditional inks--including his own!
This is a real bonus for artists who want to ink themselves and get that extra cash in pocket or for anyone who wants to learn to communicate with inkers in a real and engaging way. I can't stress enough how cool this class is going to be. I'm really looking forward to it myself!
So if you're looking for a place to learn the craft of making comics, Comics Experience is it. These guys are all bound by the same rules I started on myself--it has to be a class I would want to take, it has to be filled with information and technique, it has to teach a methodology to getting the work done while still allowing the students to express themselves artistically. And most of all, it has to be an honest and encouraging environment.
So jump on in to a Comics Experience course and get your comics career started today!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
5 DAYS TO DIE - Out This Week!
The first review I've seen for it is here. And it got a 5 out of 5! So that's pretty sweet.
I don't really know what to say, but I thought this might be an interesting time to talk about what this feels like. I've been working in comics as an editor since early 2002, and as a writer since 2007. 5 DAYS TO DIE is my first creator-owned comic.
And unlike anything I've worked on before, this is terrifying. For one thing, it just feels like it's you, not a piece of work, but YOU that people are reading. So when it gets read, they are reading YOU. There's no big company to hide behind. This is what I did. This is what Chee, the amazing artist and co-creator did with ME. So if people don't like it, it's going to feel like they don't like ME--me as a member of the human race or something.
Also, I've conned a publisher (IDW Publishing) into thinking this will do well for them. And I work for them. I've pitched two other comics to them before and they love me so much, they said no to both (which, to be honest, is something I really respect and am glad they wouldn't greenlight something just because I work there). But if 5 DAYS TO DIE didn't perform or is poorly received, I don't have Hasbro to hind behind. Again, this is me, so if it goes poorly, I have to answer to them--personally. I can just feel Darth Vader's force crushing my windpipe now (not that anyone at IDW is like Darth Vader, but occasionally there is mysterious heavy breathing in the office, which totally creeps me out).
But I think ultimately, I'm terrified because it's not just that it feels like it's me on the line, to some extent it is. I wrote earlier about my relationship with my son Cale and how this comic is in some way a part of that. A part of my guilt over some of those feelings during his first year with us. And I've even put some of that in issue #1 itself. And the absolute most terrifying thought to me is that 5 DAYS TO DIE means something personal to me. It's about my son and me and how we are together. And if it comes off hammy, or over-the-top, or insincere, or overly sentimental and causing groans from the readership, then it is my expression of something very personal that people are laughing at.
I think it's probably like that dream I've always heard about (but never had) where someone is being laughed at by all their classmates only to realize in the dream that the person is standing there naked. I think this is what that would feel like, only I fear that it would just be a mighty cold day, to boot.
So, that all being said, there it is. There I am, all on the line in 22 pages in your comic shop this Wednesday. And on Wednesday night, I'll announce something pretty cool here on this blog that has to do with 5 DAYS TO DIE and a special offer.
Hope you all pick up the book on Wednesday and let me know what you think. As horrified as I am at hearing or reading your thoughts, I can't resist wanting to know anyway!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Technology and comics
The truth is, technology usually does one or more of four things: it makes a current device smaller, taking up less physical space. This iPad does that quite nicely. Heck, this keyboard is smaller and even though it's driving me nuts, it's an improvement to lugging my laptop around--I think.
Secondly, new technologies will make accomplishing a goal faster or easier. That one is pretty self explanatory. If you know anything about how comics are produced, you know that something link Photoshop made coloring comics a ton faster. And a lot easier.
Third, new technology should improve accuracy. Again, Photoshop makes for a good example when applied to coloring
The last thing new tech tends to do is make something cheeper. Some form of production of the comic becomes less expensive--in some cases, simply making a process faster, makes it cheeper. We've seen this with lettering when it went digital. There are fewer letterers in the business now abut they're probably earning about what they would had digital lettering not developed. And those who didn't want to convert to digital find themselves almost completely out of work.
I'm not passing a moral judgement here. I'm just gating the facts as I see them. .
And now here I am in 2010 and buying an iPad becAuse I'm worried of getting left behind. Comics Experience depends on the best technology to keep course personal. And this month vie been working with both rob Anderson and John barber to make the technology even better
Were launching our writers workshop on August 1st and the artists workshop on September 1st. And to do that, we've create members only forums. Added a lot of stuff to do them to make the groups interactive, personal, easy to use and a lot of fun--never lose sight of the fun of comics!
And I don't love learning how to use the latest technology and I'm personally still pretty far behind the curve, but I'm determined to get there. Or else I'll be left behind as a comics professional and a teacher. So, for the betterment of my editorial duties, my business, and the comics industry, I'm embracing the changes coming to comics.
And I think in the case of Comics Experience, it's making for a better, more personal, more complete experience.
I'll probably post up about digital comics soon, but maybe after I learn how to type on this darn thing!
Check out the website for details on the ongoing writers and artists workshops. They're truly amazing.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Post Con Advice
1. Drop an email to the contacts you made. Remind them who you are and what you talked about. Put your contact information in the email.
2. Ask if you can talk with them further and if this is the best way to contact them.
3. You might also ask if there is someone else they recommend that you speak with.
4. Research the people that you met--what they work on, what their specific roll is, etc.
5. Relax. Give them time to respond. If you haven't heard back in 10 days, give another touch out.
6. Make a list of things that you did that worked at the show.
7. Make a list of things that didn't work for you at the show.
8. Make a list of what you can do next time to make more of the show while you're there.
9. Organize all of your new contacts in a place and way that you can get them easily. If using contacts on a computer, put notes in the contacts so you know who they are, when you met, and why you're entering them into your contact list--you will forget all of these things :)
10. If you're a writer who linked up with a writer or an artist, take it easy. It's exciting that you may work with someone, but it's a lot like dating. Take your time and make sure that this is the right person for your project. They'll be doing the same.
Those are my quick post-con thoughts. They're probably not much as my brain is completely fried.
Hope it helps a bit though.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Con advice from my Twitter feed
Here's some tidbits I threw together today! Please check 'em out and explore the site. Sign up for the newsletter as we're announcing a few new programs right after San Diego Comic-Con. Thanks for stopping by.
General Advice for creators:
Keep a small notebook with you. Write down what you talk about with folks so when you reach out after the con you can remind them who you are.
Know your terminology. Understand how printing works. Bleed area, trim, trapping--all that stuff.
@mercwithataco asked how to get work to editors at Marvel and DC without going to a con: Your own website is good. A blog. I don't like Deviant Art, but some people do. But really, you want to make a connection with an editor at Marvel or DC. That's really helpful there. And get some work published first elsewhere.
A comic that is NOT owned by a company but by the creators themselves. RT @mercwithataco: @ComicExperience wats a creator-owned project?
Get your editor on your side. A lot of people tend to want to fight with an editor. Don't. We're there to help you tell your story.
At shows in particular, editors can be gruff. It's not you, I promise. But even on day 1 of a show, we can get exhausted pretty quickly. If you get that vibe from one of us, don't take it personally and don't hold it against him or her. And try back later.
You can always start with comics. If you've done research, you can find out what he worked on. RT @AyeQue: @ComicExperience talk about what?
Have a business card ready. And if you've got decent conversation with an editor or publisher, ask for their contact info before you go.
If you've got evidence of a professional manner (hitting deadlines, quality work, printed material) have that ready.
And while I'm spewing all of this out: remember all these rules, but THIS ONE ABOVE ALL: Relax. We all have comics in common.
When talking with editors, try to have a normal conversation. Remember, we're there to talk with you. We want to meet new creators.
If the conversation goes off topic, LET IT. I'm going to talk comics with a million dudes, but you may be the only one I talk baseball with.
The con is not a great place to pitch a story unless you already know the editor or publisher. What you want, is a good conversation and the OK for a follow up call or email later on. So be sure to ask if that's okay and for their contact info.
Know whom you're talking with. If you're talking to Marvel, they don't want your creator-owned project. If you're talking with IDW we don't do a lot of superhero stuff. Know not just the publisher, but also the individual you're talking to.
How do I get that information on the individual? Easy! Ask them. Most folks are happy to talk about what they do. And then you'll know.
More writer advice: You don't have to be "clever" when you're talking to me. Just be clever in your writing.
If you have a written pitch, do NOT force it onto everyone. Have it ready if you get the genuine sense someone is interested. You'll know.
Do research, if you're a writer. Some writers love it, some hate it. If you hate it, doesn't mean it's not important you don't need to know every single issue of a character's long publishing history, but know the basics and know some current stuff.
If writing a pitch for your own creation, give the premise, the story, the characters in it. And by story, I mean, include an ending. The most annoying pitches I got while at Marvel were for Spider-Man Unlimited in which people would end it with "Does Spidey get out alive?" It’s like this: I'm the editor. Working for the company that owns Spider-Man. Yes, he's going to get out alive. I'm sure of it. More importantly, how can I properly evaluate your pitch without seeing how the beginning and middle wrap up? It's impossible and creates extra steps to get to "go."
Some tips for artists: your portfolio doesn't have to be huge. It can be short, in fact. One cover and three sequential pages can nail it.
If you're getting a portfolio review, be open to feedback. The days of getting jobs at the con are almost gone. Make a good impression.
If you're not an inker, don't ink your work. Good inking is hard to spot. But bad inking takes the pencils down with it. Same for color.
Don't be nervous. As an artist you have two huge advantages over writers: 1) We need more of you. and 2) I can like your work instantly.
If you have the time and the forethought, prepare different samples for different kinds of publishers.
RT @Jeff_Mccomsey: @ComicExperience what about folks who ink their own work. I'm looking to ink my own pencils. What should I know?
@Jeff_Mccomsey Have your script that you draw from with you. Keep copies of your pencils. You may not be in a position to judge your own inks. So you want to allow for the option of just penciling or just inking. Why limit yourself?
If you excel at one you'll get your chance to do the other. And I can always recommend a good penciling or inking class ;)
Depends. Colorists have to be versatile. RT @jameslfreelance: @ComicExperience how many piece should a colorist have in his/her portfolio
@jameslfreelance I'd recommend anything that looks really good and is the kind of work you like. No use getting yourself jobs you don't want.
@jameslfreelance But also remember only to show your absolute best work. Bring the inks you worked from so we can see the before & after.
@jameslfreelance I'll get a good sense of what a colorist can do in as few as three samples. I rarely reverse my opinion after three pages.
One more for colorists, feel free to show your colors on an iPad or laptop. Color projected can be much more vibrant than color reflected.
Hand lettering is all but dead now. But (didn't see the but coming, did you) the greatest letterers learned their craft by hand lettering. I'm not saying you need to know how to do it, because you don't. But you need to study it. Understand what makes good lettering.
You're in a visual medium and a lot of the "visual" on the page is made up of your work as a letterer.
You've got to know how to flow balloons properly across a page, not just for reading order (which is key) but also to lead the eye into the story properly.
You've got to understand how to work WITH the art. You're going to impact the final product in a huge way, so you've got to think about each page as a composition of art. You've also got to figure out how to change your style to fit appropriate projects.
If going to the show for lettering work, do the research. It's not going to do you a lot of good to go to a place that does lettering in house.
Also, have a packet of lettering samples showing your versatility in styles as well as demonstrating you know how lettering works as a visual component.
Editors is interesting. Few publishers go to cons looking for editors, but... RT @JoshuaLazarus: @ComicExperience Editors! :-)
Most editors are way over-worked. I'd go in looking for creative solutions. You probably won't get hired as assistant or full editor quickly. But you might start looking for ways you can help out with a publisher.
Talk to folks there and see what they really need. If you've got something you can offer that they need, that might work.
If you're in school and can do an internship in editorial, that's great. That's one way I got into editing.
That's a great one. RT (retweet) @ChicoFiesta425: @ComicExperience tips for people who wanna start their own little company one day.
@ChicoFiesta425 I'm not a publisher, but I've worked for some. And one thing IDW did that was really smart was start by doing something else first. They did creative service jobs before tackling full on publishing (which has a lot of business problems up front).
Publishers have to deal with things like setting print runs, which is really hard to do. Setting an appropriate budget for a project without prior experience is nigh impossible. So the best advice is to do tons and tons of research. Talk to different printers.
I'd look into Haven, not just immediately go with Diamond. I'd work with creators who can meet deadlines so that you can hopefully keep your cash flow coming in. SOme companies go under because they can't get their money back when freelancers take too long. There are too many potential pitfalls to count.
That all said, I can tell you that few things outside of being a husband or father are as rewarding as running your own business and Comics Experience is a small business by any standard, but it's mine. When it succeeds, I succeed (and I don't just mean financially).
Agreed. RT @JD_Oliva: Running your own bus is great. There's something rewarding about being able to pay your bills & doing it YOUR way.
Also agreed. I freelanced for a while. That's tough.RT @JD_Oliva: On the flipside, when it's your only source of income and you fail...eek!
Thanks for reading. I hope this is helpful. Swing by for one of our upcoming workshops or courses. And again, sign up for our newsletter (we don't send it often) and follow us on Twitter!
Thanks and good luck at the shows!
Friday, July 16, 2010
How to Work a Convention
As a former editor at Marvel Comics and a current editor at IDW Publishing, the question I get asked the most is how do writers and artists break into comics. Good question and the truth is there is no one right way. No one proven way to always break into comics.
But there are certainly strategies. I’ll be posting tips on the topic periodically on the blog and now seems like a good time to start. We had our last night of class for the online writing group tonight and it was awesome. We spent most of the night talking about exactly this topic. So, if you find this useful, you can thank the latest Intro to Comics Writing class for asking it.
When going to a convention to meet creators and publishers and/or have your work evaluated, do yourself a huge favor and do research before you go. Almost every convention has a map of the floor plan so you can know where the people and companies you want to meet with are located. Print it out. Mark a planned path. And mark a path for each day.
Don’t get too ambitious. You probably won’t be able to see everyone, especially at a larger convention. But mark your path. This will help you maximize your time on the floor so you’re not walking back and forward between places all day long. It also means you won’t in the thick of it all forget that there was a publisher or creator you wanted to meet and you just never saw them or him or her. It means you have a strategy.
Also review the lists of creators and publishers attending. If you’re interested in getting work at a publisher, look them up on the Internet and find out what kind of things they publish. If it looks at all interesting to you or you think what you write or illustrate might fit in their publishing plans, go get some of their books and get familiar with the work. It allows you to speak intelligently about their products so you can help ease any conversation you may have.
Conventions are a great place to network and make contacts and talk business—but little is more frustrating than meandering around aimlessly only to find out the people you really wanted to see were 10 feet away and you had no idea…
Hope this helps.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Introduction to Coloring - Enrollment open!
Chris's reputation withing the industry is unparalleled. He's helped start the careers of dozens of colorists already! The most recent additions to that list are a few Comics Experience Coloring Course alumni.
I took the course when Chris first taught it and he's amazing. Absolutely astounding. But let's hear from him. I asked him a few questions recently and here's what he had to say:
Andy Schmidt: Soto, so why come back and do the coloring class a second time?
Chris Sotomayor: There's actually a lot of different reasons for this, but I'll limit it to just a couple of the main points.
Firstly, when I was coming up in the comic business, there was no real internet, like there is now. All the internet was, was text and crappy porn. Nowadays, it's a great resource, and you can find information on anything. One of the snags though, is that most of it is peer to peer information. So the information you're getting may not totally be 100% accurate, and is at least suspect to people's opinions (meaning that some people may not think painting is important to learning photoshop, so they pass that information by). What this class allows, is for me to teach people the right way from the ground up. I'm teaching this class as an art class, that uses PhotoShop as the tool of creativity, so you get the proper foundation, and not just learn how to use the lasso tool.
Secondly, I love "cutting edge" stuff. I like to be in on things on the ground floor I love trying new things. This class is all of those things. This is different from those tutorial DVDs (or to a much lesser extent, books) which provide you with one image to color, and show you how to color that particular image. With this class, it's fully interactive, and done in real time. I teach techniques and approaches that work on everything. And best of all, you can get answers to your questions right there. Have you tried asking one of those DVDs a question? It ain't easy to get an answer.
Andy Schmidt: How were you able to deal with the different levels of familiarity with Photoshop from the original class? I mean, how were you able to catch the real beginners up without boring the folks who already had experience coloring?
Chris Sotomayor: When we designed this course, it was very important to start from the bottom, under the assumption that no one knows anything, but still make it interesting for those that may already be familiar with some of the more basic aspects. An important part of that is building in certain "wow" moments so that everyone can can something new in every class session. I think there's probably the most information (and the most important information) on the second day of class. That seems to be the one where everything starts to make sense and I hear the most "oohs" & "ahhs". That's seems to be a defining class and sets the tone of what everyone will be learning.
Andy Schmidt: Does someone have to know Photoshop to take the class?
Chris Sotomayor: Absolutely not. We really start this from the very ground up. All you have to know is how to start up PhotoShop. I'll take you through every part of the tools and what they do, and what you'd use them for right from day one. And remember, if you're still not clear on it, you can ask questions and get real answers. My goal is that at the end of each class, everyone walks away with complete understanding of what they just learned. And the home work assignments are designed to reenforce what you learn in class, so you have a working understanding of how these things are applied in the actual work. "No student left behind".
Andy Schmidt: Ultimately, is coloring about know Photoshop? What is it YOU look for first when evaluating someone's digital coloring skill?
Chris Sotomayor: Knowing PhotoShop is great (heck, knowing anything is great), but is nowhere near the beginning or end of anything. Anyone can learn PhotoShop. There's plenty of classes and books on that. What I teach is an art class. That's the real emphasis. Creating art using PhotoShop. You have to have the foundation and sensibilities to be able to apply the different principals of painting and art. Using PhotoShop as an extension of that is what separates this course from other books, DVDs, and online tutorials.
Andy Schmidt: Anything else you'd like to add about the course or about coloring in general?
Chris Sotomayor: Aside from the things that I mentioned, there's a few other really important aspects of this course. Part of taking this course, is that you will have a packet of hi resolution black & white artwork to use for the homework assignments. Artwork from all of the big publishers. Marvel, DC, Image, & IDW. All with an amazing range of material to color. All of which you will use to build your portfolio, step by step.
Also, all the classes are recorded so that the students can review them at their leisure, in case they discover there's something they didn't quite understand the first time it was discussed. So, although I teach the class once a week, you can continue taking each class as many times as you want, whenever you want (Recordings are available from a streaming website during the six weeks of the course for class members --AS).
And there's one other thing that I really enjoy, that was really something we didn't plan on. As I taught this class the first time, I noticed that there was an interesting peer tutoring dynamic that the students developed on their own during the time between classes. Everyone seemed very open to discussing ideas and approaches, and even gathering questions. This was something that I hadn't counted on, and something that I thought added a new and very interesting level to the course. I honestly don't think you can get this kind of experience from anything out there today.
Andy Schmidt: As always, thanks for joining the Comics Experience. We're glad to have you on board and look forward to seeing what your new students can do!
Check out the courses page for details on the class!
Hope to see you there!
Monday, July 12, 2010
San Diego ComicCon Panels!
Comics Experience has got FOUR great panels for people interested in working in comics. Take a look at the schedule and descriptions below. Dates, times, and room numbers all included. Don't be the late!
Thursday, July 22
5:30-6:30 -- Creating The New Mythology -- Room 30CDE
Join top comic creators Peter David (Incredible Hulk, X-Factor) and Marc Guggenheim (Wolverine, Resurrection) as they reveal the ins and outs of working within creative teams—and how those relationships lead to the creation of today’s modern myths and what it means to be working in mythology! Presented by Comics Experience’s Andy Schmidt (X-Men, Annihilation).
Friday, July 23
4:00-5:00pm -- Breaking into Comics -- Room 30CDE
A bold first step into breaking into comics starts here. Top comics creators Mike Costa (G.I. Joe: Cobra, The Authority: Jack Hawksmoor, Transformers) and Reilly Brown (Cable & Deadpool, The Incredible Hercules) discuss the ins and outs of the comic industry—specifically, what it takes to break in and how it’s done! Solid and sound advice on what it takes and how to get started! Don’t miss it! Presented by Comics Experience’s Andy Schmidt (X-Men, Annihilation, G.I. Joe).
Saturday, July 24
4:00-5:00 -- Writing for Comics -- Room 30CDE
Join top comic writers Brian Michael Bendis (New Avengers, Powers, Secret Invasion), Marc Guggenheim (Wolverine, Resurrection), and Peter David (Incredible Hulk, X-Factor) for a discussion and instructive tips on the art of writing for comics. Writers and editors speak about the process of writing and how the game is played. Want to know how stories come about and learn how to do it yourself—this is the place to start! Presented by Comics Experience’s Andy Schmidt (X-Men, Annihilation).
Saturday, July 24
5:00-6:00 -- Building your Art Portfolio -- Room 30CDE
The most useful panel you’ll ever attend as an artist. Join comics super-stars Erik Larsen (Savage Dragon, Amazing Spider-Man), CB Cebulski (Marvel Talent Scout and Manager), Scott Dunbier (Special Projects Editor for IDW Publishing), and Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Welcome to Hoxford, Choker) and let’s cut through everything else and get right to getting you work! How to prepare your portfolio: What to include, where to get good scripts to draw from, what NOT to include, a
nd how to handle a portfolio review in a professional manner (in other words, how to turn a negative into a positive!).
We're hoping you'll come out and join us for all the panels! Talk us up and have a great time--that's what San Diego ComicCon is all about. Good luck, and we hope to see you there!
5 DAYS TO DIE - How it all started... (part 2)
That's all well and good, but as I wrote the pitch for 5 DAYS, it became clear that this character, Ray, had been waiting for a while to get out.
At the end of that blog, I said that the REAL beginning of this project was in October, 2006 while my wife and I were vacationing in New Zealand. It was two days into the most awesome vacation that I have ever had, that Alix and I found out we were going to be parents. This is momentous news. It's great news.
But it's also SHOCKING news. And it was quite a shock to me. I mean, I wasn't surprised, really. I know how the science works. But I was just not sure I'd be a good father. I thought I would, but how does one KNOW it?
And, in my awesome way that I do, I internalized this fear and dwelled on it far too much. In the months to come, I was caught up in my own thoughts, kind of frozen inside. I kept waiting to feel this huge joy and love for the baby-to-come, but I struggled with it and became more and more disappointed in myself. Was something wrong with me?
Turns out, this is very common for men. That's nice to hear, but not really helpful. I did a lot of research and Cale was born and I still didn't feel that whatever the way I thought I was supposed to.
But I was determined. I quit my job at Marvel to stay at home with Cale. Just me and him. And we did a lot of things. We went for walks, drooled, pooped, all that fun stuff. And finally, one day, I realized, that I needed to stop thinking and start doing. I need to do more things with Cale. more activities in which we interacted with each other. Everything I had been doing was showing him a playground, but I wasn't really playing. I was supervising. I needed to play, too. It was my responsibility to play with him, not his to learn to talk with me.
It was in that cold park that I realized that my thinking and internalizing was my way of running from facing this momentous thing in my life. I had been running. And I had been the stay-at-home-dad to prove to myself that I was trying to connect. Agh. I hate writing this. I still feel like such a jerk.
But it has a happy ending. I realized I was running. I realized I was using excuses. And I stopped. I stopped running, and started playing. And in nearly no time at all, I was head over heels in love with this little baby who was already starting to grow up.
Ray, the main character of 5 DAYS TO DIE is in a similar situation. He's older than me, has a different job, has a vastly different relationship with his wife, but something at his core is from my core. His issue was my issue. Ray is running from his family. Unlike Cale, Ray's daughter is in her teens and he's still running. Cale was not even one year old yet when I was able to change, and thank god I did. But Ray hasn't seen it yet. And I hope he realizes he's running from his family and turns himself around and gets involved. I mean, after all, the guy only has 5 days to die...
And that's how it all REALLY began for me.