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.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Advanced Writing Class Was Awesome!
I honestly can see these books in my head as I'm reading the scripts. They've all managed to tell compelling and engaging stories with enough of a unique twist that I'm visualizing them as I read them. That doesn't always happen when I'm reading scripts that I'm paying for at work!
A very impressive crop of talented people and awesome stories. But better than that (for me) is how engaged they were in the class. A group of writers like this one pushes me to get better and inspires me to write more of my own work.
They constantly were posting ideas, feedback, tips, articles they found, and just talking smack (in a good way) all week long on the members only forum. It was fantastic watching them grow as creators and as friends.
To that end, I feel like I've made a few friends here of my own. I'm thrilled that I get to see many of them in CEX Book Club every month and I'll miss the few who haven't joined in yet. Regardless, I hope all of them will keep in touch.
As for their names, I don't think you'll have to wait long before you see their comics on the convention circuit. And I think you'll remember their comics, if not their names.
I'm already missing the class and it hasn't even been a full week yet.
Thanks to all of you guys, if you're reading this. I had a blast.
Monday, July 5, 2010
5 DAYS TO DIE - How it all started...
At first, it was just the title, but I knew what the basics of the premise were. I just needed to find the character and the story he had to tell.
A few days later, I was talking with Chee over email. We had worked together for the first time at Boom! Studios on a mini-series no one ever read called CHALLENGER DEEP. This series was important to me for three big reasons:
1) It was my first limited series to be published. It ran four issues, and while I think they're still good, no one noticed. I actually re-read it a few months ago and I expected to not like it at all since I've learned so much since then, but I was honestly pleased with it. I'd forgotten enough of it that it really surprised me. I'm more proud of it now than I was at the time it was published, I think.
2) My editor was the amazing Mark Waid. Mark and I had worked together when I was editing at Marvel and he was writing the FANTASTIC FOUR. I loved working with Mark and reading his scripts. The only thing better than being an editor working with Mark is being a writer working with Mark. He taught me VOLUMES while I worked on that mini. Thanks for that, Mark.
3) And Mark introduced me to Chee. Chee had illustrated a couple of Mark's stories and he really enjoyed Chee's work. And Mark knew that CHALLENGER DEEP needed a heck of a story-teller to pull it off, and he did.
I was so impressed with Chee's work, the realistic characters, the focus on the story and what the characters are thinking and feeling, that when I took my current senior editor position at IDW, I opted to work with him again.
Chee and I did a three-issue STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN movie adaptation. Yes, it was 25 years after the movie came out. Again, I learned a ton doing an adaptation of a movie that I loved. Again, Chee made me look better than I am!
I then hired Chee to do a TRANSFORMERS mini-series that I edited. But by then, I'd already "popped the question" on him. "Do you want to do a creator-owned book with me, Chee?" I felt like a friggin' idiot asking that. But he said yes. Which, frankly, surprised me. And then the realization that I had to give him a story sank in.
I dug out that notebook and found the then two-week old note that read "Five Days to Die." And that's what I served up. He thought it sounded good and I set to writing a pitch.
That's the down-to-Earth way that 5 DAYS TO DIE came about. But the real seeds were planted in New Zealand in 2006...
To be continued...
P.S. If you pull down the David Finch B&W image, I made it to fit a desktop computer as a new wallpaper. Have fun with it!