Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Introduction to Inking - Enrollment Open!

For many comic fans, inking is the most nebulous, hard to define job in the creative process. And Comics Experience's first ever inking course is going to explain it all! But here's a quick couple of tid-bits for you:

Inking was not originally considered part of the creative process. Neither was lettering or coloring, by the way. Inking was considered "prepping the artwork for print." That means that only the penciling was considered art, not the inking or anything else that came after it.

In the early days of American comics, the printing press was, shall we say, imprecise. And much of the quality of penciler's work would get blurred or lost completely in the printing process. The inking made it possible to get more accurate reproduction on the printed page. That was inking's humble beginning.

But as technology marched on and the printing press became a much more reliable and precise tool, two things happened. First, pencilers started to notice that they recognized their own work on the printed page and that they could do more detailed work. And the second was the realization that some pages looked better than others. And that's what led pencilers to seek out inkers who followed their lines most precisely.

This is probably where the long-standing misunderstanding of an inker as a tracer comes from. And at this point, that is much of what inking meant. But several inkers began to add onto the pencils, refine the intent of the penciler. They began to add shading, varying line weights, foreshortening, and zip-a-tone and so on. It became clear that not all inkers were created equally.

Some inkers, could take good pencils and make them great. Some inkers could take great pencils, and make them beauty itself. And some inkers had the unenviable job of taking crappy pencils and making them look good. Inkers began to get respect and began to take on more of the art chores.

Speaking of inkers who routinely raise the quality of the overall project, Comics Experience has reached out to fan-favorite inker Jonathan Glapion. Not only is he a fan-favorite, but he's sought after by many pencilers. Once they work with Jonthan, they don't want anyone else. I'll be posting up some of Jonathan's pages in the weeks to come for you to see.

Jonathan got his start inking with Todd McFarlane. You may have heard of him. Since those early days he's spent most of his time inking for DC Comics and some of their top pencilers.

If you've ever wondered what an inker does and how he does it, this is your best opportunity to get those answers. If you've ever wanted to learn how to ink your work or that of others, there's no better opportunity than this one.

Welcome, Jonathan, to the Comics Experience team! We're glad to have you.

Get details about "introduction to Inking" on our COURSES page.

And check out Jonathan's own blog here!


Monday, June 28, 2010

Lettering and Production Class -- Enrollment is open!

Many folks have asked me why I haven't expanded the Comics Experience courses beyond writing and penciling. I've held to my firm belief that if it wasn't a class I myself would take by an instructor I'd want to take it from, then I wasn't going to do it.

Comics Experience is my baby and my reputation in large part hangs on how good these courses are. It's hard for me to hand over even partial control. Last year, I tested that with Chris Sotomayor in our first coloring course. It was a HUGE success. We immediately created an Advanced Coloring Course for those students and several of them are working professionally now, just a few months later.

And then I spoke with another old friend named Dave Sharpe. He's been lettering comics since before I started working in comics myself. We met at Marvel when I was an assistant editor and despite his biker-gang appearance, he's one of the most friendly and happy individuals I know.

Sure, you're friends, but is he talented and can he teach?! Heck, yeah, he can! He was the man tapped to head up Marvel's in-house lettering department that lasted for two years before it was decided that it was more cost effective to out-source the lettering. Dave is still lettering for Marvel as well as a myriad of small publishers.

And he can teach. I've seen him do it as he taught me much while I worked at Marvel. In ten minutes, he taught me enough about lettering that I could talk reasonably intelligently about it with the seasoned Marvel staff--thank you for that, Dave.

And when talking with many of my students who go on to create their own books or work in the industry, the harsh realities of the costs associated with producing a comic book have been quite a hurdle.

Lettering your own comic, and doing so professionally will save a creator hundreds of dollars per issue. And this class also prepares its students for the production work, placing logos and UPCs and all of that non-sense and putting the color art with the lettering art. It's all covered here, and that saves you even more money.

But here's the best reason to learn how to letter--it's FUN! And as a comic fan or creator, you'll learn a lot about art and writing when you have to deal with all those pesky balloons!

So, without further ado, it's my pleasure to welcome Dave Sharpe to the Comics Experience family! And I hope you'll join Dave and me for the first ever Comics Experience Lettering and Production Course. Click on over to the courses page for the full details!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Announcing 5 DAYS TO DIE!

This is a big deal for me. My first ever creator-owned comic book. I'm thrilled to have the immensely talented artist and story-teller Chee Yang Ong, who goes simply by Chee, as my partner in crime. He's doing full art chores all the way to color.

It's on sale in September--all five issues of it, actually. I'm posting the cover to issue #1 here just to show it off. It's by the amazing David Finch and colored by Comics Experience coloring instructor Chris Sotomayor. Four other super-star artists are contributing covers to the other four issues.

In the weeks to come, I'll be talking quite a bit about 5 DAYS TO DIE, but here on this blog, I'll keep it in the spirit of Comics Experience and talk about a lot of what I learned going through the whole process, development, finding Chee, working on a book that I'm not getting paid for up front, all of it.

Send your questions about any of how this all works to me on Twitter where I'm @comicexperience or simply by email to

In the meantime, I'm just going to look at this cover for a while longer...


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Guest Blog: How Andy Schmidt Turned Me into a Supervillain

By Joe Sergi, author of Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy

I first met Andy Schmidt and was introduced to Comics Experience at the New York ComicCon in 2007. Comics Experience offers beginner and advanced courses in comics writing, coloring and illustration and provides creators with an entry point into the world of comics and provides the tools needed to succeed in the competitive world of comics publishing.

I was just starting out as a writer and only had a few short stories published, was just starting to write what would eventually become Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, and desperately wanted to learn to write comics. Unfortunately, the classes were held in New York and I live outside of Washington, DC.

However, during one of Andy’s panel presentations, he mentioned he was considering offering an online writing class. I rushed up at the end of the panel and asked, nay insisted, that he do them. For the next three years, I sent Andy fairly regular emails begging for the online beginner writing class, which I took last year. (The fruits of that endeavor can be found in Elevator Pitch Press’s new book Tales from the Comics Experience, currently on sale at HERE with a special promotion at HERE)

I am currently in Andy’s advanced writing class where I am plotting a four issue mini-series about supervillains and learning more about comics than I ever thought could be possible. I also take part in the monthly Comics Experience Book Club (which I highly recommend for both fans and creators as it gives a back stage pass to some of comics greatest stories.) I expect to take even more courses in the future since I still have a lot to learn (i.e., lettering, coloring, etc.).

I often joke that if I give Andy Schmidt more money, I will have to declare him as a dependent on my tax return. In short, Andy is a great teacher and has a profound effect on both my writing and how I pursue my writing career (I hope he takes that last part as a compliment). But, I was quite surprised to find that Andy had unknowingly influenced the development of my first novel, Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, which is available from iEnovel (and also has a special promotion at HERE).

Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy tells the story of DeDe Christopher, an ordinary teen with an extraordinary destiny. She discovers that she is developing powers that are similar to a fictional superhero named SkyBoy. Luckily, her best friend Jason is a self-proclaimed comic geek. Together, they try to learn what is happening to DeDe and must confront the all too real enemies and allies of SkyBoy. In the story, DeDe is an only child who lives with her widowed mother, Dianne. But, this wasn’t always the case.

In the first outline of the story, DeDe’s mother remarried and had another child, who would have been around 8 years old (the character’s name was Andy, based on my middle name and not on Andy Schmidt.) I planned for Andy to be DeDe’s pesky little brother, who would serve as mostly comic relief (especially after he learns DeDe’s secret and tries to blackmail her). DeDe’s stepfather, James Peck (Jimmy Stewart+Gregory Peck), was going to be perfect in every way. This would have infuriated DeDe since he had essentially replaced her father. At some point very early on, it became apparent that these extra characters only complicated the plot and didn’t add anything to the main story. So, they were cut from the novel. Imagine my surprise when I found out what inspired the decision to eliminate Andy and James.

I am a packrat and keep pretty much everything I have ever written. So, I went back and pulled out a folder with some of my old Comics Experience class notes to try to come up with a topic for this post. Instead, I found a yellow post-it note from that first Comics Experience panel where I jotted down:

“Andy Shmit--Comics Exp.--cut down to essential characters--DeDe’s brother?”

It turns out that the Comics Experience panel was the catalyst for the removal of Andy and James. Andy Schmidt was influencing my writing long before I had ever enrolled in one of his classes (or could spell his name). More to the point, Andy, whether he knew it or not, had inspired me to do something that the worst villain would never consider--I single-handedly wiped out the family of a superheroine. I had done more to Sky Girl than SkyBoy’s entire Retallion Battalion put together. Personally, I believe the book was much better after this change. But, that doesn’t change the fact that these characters are forever gone and will never become part of Sky Girl’s world.

Thanks to Andy Schmidt and Comics Experience, not only had I become a better writer, but I also had become a supervillain.

Joe Sergi is an author that lives outside of Washington, DC with his wife, Yee, and daughter, Elizabeth. He has published short prose stories and articles in the horror, science fiction, and super hero genres. Joe has also written for comics in the romance, horror, science fiction, and super hero genres. Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy is his first novel. In 2008, Joe was selected as a semi-finalist in the Who Wants to Create a Superheroine contest sponsored by the Shadowline Imprint of Image Comics. When not writing, Joe works for an unnamed government agency.

Joe’s publications can be found at For more about Sky Girl and the Superheroic Legacy, visit the book’s website at

Friday, June 18, 2010

Guest Blog: Comics Experience alum ROB ANDERSON debuts at Heroes Con!

In October of 2009, if you had told me I'd be selling -- and signing -- my own comic book at Heroes Con nine months later, I would have thought you were crazy. But that's exactly what I was doing a week ago.

Sure, I'd had an idea for a comic book for ten years -- ever since the year 2000, when a "performance artist" and a French geneticist teamed up to create a rabbit/jellyfish trangenic animal that glowed in the dark.

As they say, "you can't make this stuff up."

With my rabid love of comics and animals, from that point on, I had this story stuck in my head about Animal Control Officers in the near future. And I made multiple attempts to successfully put it to paper over the years, but was never satisfied with the result. I needed something more.

When I heard about Andy Schmidt's comic book writing class, I felt like it was just what I needed. But I had a life (and a day job) in Virginia, and the classes were Wednesday nights in New York City.

I was so desperate to take the class that I seriously contemplated six consecutive weeks of mid-week vacation days, frequent flyer mile plane flights, and bus trips, but it just wasn't financially realistic. I was stuck.

(As a side note, I did not consider Nick Spencer's approach of quitting my job and moving to New York to take the class. He wins the crazy contest for that plan. And I respect that. Especially when you consider his results: multiple titles with Shadowline/Image, and a new movie deal with Paramount for Existence 2.0. Well played, Nick. May we all be so "crazy.")

Lucky for me, the heavens parted -- to the soundtrack of Beethoven's Ode to Joy (that part may have been in my head) -- and Andy announced the first *online* Intro to Comic Book Writing class in October of 2009. Can you guess how fast I signed up?

I knew I would learn a ton about scripting, pacing, story structure, and other elements of comic book writing.

What I hadn't anticipated was how much I'd learn about the business of comics like:
  • networking at conventions (that's how I met my inker, Steve Bird);

  • finding collaborators via the Internet (that's how I found artist Leandro Panganiban and letterer/designer E.T. Dollman);

  • the economics of self-publishing;

  • the value of "workshopping" your stories;

  • the strategies of pitching;
....and more.

The momentum from the class led my classmates and me to publish the Tales from the Comics Experience Anthology. And a few months later, I self-published the Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit Preview, which debuted at Heroes Con about a week ago.

Wow. Ten years of chasing my tail versus nine months of focused activity. Who would have thought one class could make such a difference? I don't think I need to explain why I signed up for the Advanced Writing class recently. Or why the class sold out in about three days.

All of which led to me sitting there at the Panda Dog Press table, signing copies of my own comic book. It's only a little black and white 20-page preview, and I'm still an "unknown," but at least I can say I'm an unknown comic book *writer*, and not just someone who thought about it and never followed through.

What's it like doing your first convention with a table? Exciting. And fun. And a little scary. (Don't expect to sleep much the night before.) And totally worth it.

Showing my first comic book to people, seeing them check it out, having people react positively to it, and even buy it (!) -- what a rush!

I've apparently been bitten by the radioactive spider that infects you with the compulsion to create comics. So, if you'll be at the Baltimore Comic-Con at the end of August -- Panda Dog Press's next stop -- please stop by my table and say "hi." I'll be the one with the radioactive glow (or should I say "transgenic" glow?) -- and a smile on my face that says "I make comics."

Thank you, Andy Schmidt!

-- Rob Anderson, writer/publisher of Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit

You can check out Rob's full Heroes Con report here.