Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pro Artist Sean Chen Offers Critiques on Creators Workshop!

We're pleased to announce that comic book artist Sean Chen has joined the Creators Workshop, providing art critiques to members. Sean will be checking in on a regular basis, and has already provided detailed, helpful critiques to two members he selected.

Sean is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where he received a bachelor's degree in industrial design. He was discovered by Barry Windsor-Smith, and began his career at Valiant Comics, penciling their flagship title, X-O Manowar and others.

After Valiant, Sean worked with Marvel Comics where he penciled Iron Man for over three years and Wolverine for nearly as long. Sean wrapped up the 18-issue saga X-Men: The End before moving to DC Comics, home to such icons as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.

More recently, he returned to Marvel, penciling popular projects such as Dark Reign: Fantastic Four and Avengers Academy. Chen's penciling propelled Wolverine to the top of the sales charts and earned him a seat on Wizard's Top Ten Artists list.

The Creators Workshop is an on-going community of writers, artists, colorists, and letterers all dedicated to getting published and improving their craft. It's a community focused on making comics!

Our members post their work, critique each other, and discuss all aspects of creating comics in our members-only forums. But in addition to all that, members are eligible each month for critique by our instructors and special guests!

Sean Chen has now joined our regular line-up that includes working comic book editors, writers, artists, colorists and more.

Welcome to the Workshop, Sean!

If you want to make comics, write or draw comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook

Monday, November 28, 2011

WORKSHOP GUESTS: Jim Zub's Tips on Creating Great Fight Scenes

Skullkickers, an ongoing title from Image Comics, is known for its fast-paced action and wild fight scenes.

In the last Creators Workshop Book Club session, Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich talked about the book’s development, and gave some advice on writing effective fight scenes.

Zubkavich noted that Skullkickers moves along at a quick clip, as his main characters move from one violent situation to another.

“I love writing action scenes,” he said. “That’s the fun part.”

But Zubkavich also noted that many people struggle with fight scenes, and offered some advice for making them work.

1. Use the environment to provide interesting details

Zubkavich said he tries to write fight scenes that rise above “punch a guy, kick a guy,” by using objects and details from the environment to create interesting fights, whether they’re killing a werewolf with a silver spoon, or knocking a pot off a goblin’s head.

“It’s all about using the environment, and using the opponents, in interesting ways,” Zubkavich said. “How can these characters interact?”

2. Build toward something on every page

Zubkavich said that he’s fairly methodical about the pacing of Skullkickers fight scenes, and tries to have something important happening on every page of action, providing a good payoff for the readers.

As times this is a huge moment, a splash page or even a double-page splash. But, he said, it could also be a character getting knocked out, or a “big ridiculous moment.” The point, he said, is to keep the audience attached to the big visual moments, and give them something to remember beyond just “and then he punches a guy, and we’re off to the next scene.”

3. Think visually, but recognize that comics are a partnership

Zubkavich noted that due to his background in art and animation, he visualizes the fight scenes as he is writing, staging them in his mind. In the scripts, he tries to give artist Edwin Huang all the information he needs, while still giving him room to build upon the script if he so desires.

At the same time, comics are generally a collaborative medium, with the exception of creators who perform every job. And so, Zubkavich said that “once you get the artwork, you adjust your expectation, usually in a good way.”

Fight scenes were just one topic discussed by Jim Zub in the two-hour question-and-answer session. A recording of the full session will be available to workshop members for the next few weeks.

And you can read more about Skullkickers or order your copy at

For our next live Workshop session on Tuesday, November 29, 2011, special guest Mark Waid will be on hand to discuss his thoughts on the "digital revolution" in comics, as it relates to people creating new works today.

Then, on Tuesday, December 6, 2011, writer/artist Terry Moore, will be joining us for a Creators Workshop Book Club discussion of Echo, The Complete Edition. Terry Moore is a legendary creator who writes, draws and publishes comic books through his own imprint, Abstract Studio.

Creators Workshop Book Club sessions take place every month, featuring guest writers and artists discussing the craft and art of comics, as well as the business side of things. Additional live Workshop sessions take place every month, giving members real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in their comics career.

There’s still plenty of time to sign up before the next session. We hope to see you there.

-- Posted by Paul Allor

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Enrollment Open! -- Advanced Art -- Intro to Coloring -- Intro to Writing Courses!

In January, Comics Experience has three courses lined up that will help you build your skills and reach your comic book goals, whether that's breaking in or doing creator-owned work.

The three classes -- described below -- are open for enrollment right now and will likely sell out, so don't delay.

Make 2012 your year for pursuing your comics career!


Advanced Comic Book Art will be taught by Robert Atkins, a professional comic book artist who has worked on G.I. Joe, Snake Eyes, Amazing Spider-Man, Heroes for Hire, Ultimatum Fantastic Four: Requiem and many others.

If you have already taken the Intro to Comic Book Art class (a prerequisite to enrolling for the Advanced class), then this is your next step toward a career in comics!

In this seven-week intensive course, you'll expand on the skills you've already developed with extended workshopping of your storytelling pages, and discussion of networking within the industry, finding good scripts to work from, how to pencil for inking and for coloring, and rendering textures and objects -- all with a focus on achieving a professional level of finishing and getting published!

You can read what one of Robert's former students had to say about his teaching skills right here. Or check out Robert's art and get a sense of his teaching philosophy in this Guest Blog about the Intro class from August of this year.

Advanced Comic Book Art with Robert Atkins
Begins January 12, 2012!

Intro to Comic Book Coloring will be taught by Chris Sotomayor (aka Soto), professional colorist on countless Marvel titles (Spider-Man, X-Men, The Avengers, etc.).

In this six-week intensive class for colorists, you'll learn all the necessary tools and tricks for not only coloring with Photoshop, but also how to tell great stories through color. You’ll get access to all the tools of the trade, tips on how to break in, and you’ll be working with Chris on the pages you color for the class.
Plus, the class will have a session with special guest Rob Schwager, whose coloring credits include the current Ghost Rider, as well as Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and Superman.

You can read Soto's own thoughts on the class right here...OR read why the class is even better than marriage right here!

Intro to Comic Book Coloring with Soto
Begins January 9, 2012!


Intro to Comic Book Writing will be taught by former Marvel and IDW Editor and writer, Andy Schmidt.

During his time at Marvel, Andy worked on nearly every major character in the Marvel canon, and edited hit titles such as X-Factor, the Annihilation saga, Alias, and more.

At IDW, he managed major franchises like GI Joe and Transformers. He is also the author of the Eagle Award-winning book, The Insider's Guide to Creating Comics and Graphic Novels, published by Impact Books.

In this six-week course, not only will you learn comic book writing from a pro, but the course will be packed with practical, real-world advice on the industry and "breaking in" to help you pursue your career in comics!

That's why Comics Experience alum, Nick Spencer, tweeted:
"For all aspiring comic pros asking for advice on craft/breaking in, I once again highly recommend Andy Schmidt's @ComicExperience courses."
A few years ago, Nick had to move to New York City to take Comics Experience classes (check out his guest blog here to read that tale). But you don't have to move, now that the courses are online. This one will sell out fast!

Introduction to Comic Book Writing with Andy Schmidt
Begins January 16, 2012!


Our courses are now offered LIVE, online, and you can attend from wherever you live. You'll be able to see your instructor and his desktop, interact with your classmates, and discuss your classwork in real time. And you'll be able to communicate with your classmates all week long in a special, dedicated online forum for just you and your class.

We hope to see you in our courses or as part of our Creators Workshop community. Sign up now!

If you want to make comics, write or draw comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

COMMUNITY NEWS: Rich Douek Discusses Page Counts

Rich Douek, Comics Experience Writing alum and Creators Workshop member, and writer/creator of the comic book Gutter Magic, recently penned a column for ComixTribe on the topic of page counts.

In the article, Rich focuses on "what and why the 'standard' page count" is 32 interior pages in a comic, with 22 pages of story, and "what that means to an indie creator."

Rich provides a nice explanation of how the offset printing process drives page counts being divisible by "4" because during the process the pages are printed on large, double-sided sheets of paper and then cut.

For 32 page comics, this works out to 8 large sheets, folded and cut down. If the comic has 22 pages of story, the rest of the book is often filled with advertising.

Since advertising is not necessarily a significant revenue source for indie creators, Rich offers some other ideas. Read the full article, and check out what Rich has to say right here.

You should also check out Rich's urban fantasy comic book, Gutter Magic or read more about the project at his website We've really enjoyed seeing some of these stories come together during Comics Experience courses and on the Creators Workshop. Keep them coming, Rich!

If you want to make comics, write or draw comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook

Monday, November 21, 2011

WORKSHOP GUESTS: Mark Waid & Terry Moore Coming Soon!

We have two comic book giants joining us LIVE at the Comics Experience Creators Workshop soon, and there's still time for you to join us at these online sessions!

For our next live Workshop session on Tuesday, November 29, 2011, we'll be joined by special guest Mark Waid!

With over twenty years of experience in his field, Mark Waid has written a wider variety of well-known characters than any other American comics author, from Superman to the Justice League to Spider-Man to Archie and hundreds of others.

We'll be discussing a wide range of comics-related topics with Mark, but in particular we'll be discussing his thoughts on the "digital revolution" in comics, as it relates to people creating new works today. Mark has been vocal (and fascinating) on this topic at this year's ICv2 Conference and at SDCC. He pulls no punches, so it should be quite a conversation! (Photo of Mark Waid by Luigi Novi.)

And, we're pleased to announce that on Tuesday, December 6, 2011, writer/artist Terry Moore, will be joining us for a Creators Workshop Book Club discussion of Echo, The Complete Edition!

Terry Moore writes, draws and publishes comic books through his own imprint, Abstract Studio.

Terry has also worked for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image and others. His work has won many awards, including the Will Eisner and Harvey Awards.

His first series, Strangers In Paradise, was a 107-issue epic that ran from 1993-2007. His current project is the on-going horror series, Rachel Rising, about a woman who wakes up in a shallow grave in the woods and discovers the murdered body in the dirt is her own.

Beginning in 2008, Terry launched Echo, a sci-fi series about atomic power and two women who share the same body. We'll be discussing this amazing series with Terry, in total, at the next Book Club session!

Join us at the Creators Workshop to take part in these sure-to-be great discussions with Mark and Terry!

If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook

Thursday, November 17, 2011

10,000 Posts on the Creators Workshop Forums!

We just passed a major milestone on the Creators Workshop forum community -- 10,000 posts focused on writing, drawing, lettering, marketing, budgeting.... MAKING comics!

The Creators Workshop is an on-going community of writers, artists, colorists, and letterers all dedicated to getting published and improving their craft. Our members post their work, critique each other, and discuss all aspects of creating comics in our members-only forums. It's a community focused on making comics!

So, we thought what better way to celebrate our community than to share our members' thoughts on our Workshop and our Courses?

Let's let our community speak for itself!...

Comics Experience was the first step on a long road that ultimately led to a rewarding career in the industry. I learned a lot in the classes I took, met some great people, and had tons of fun. I continue to be a part of the forums because I think it is a truly unique and amazing resource--a fantastic place to hone your skills in any part of comics creation, as well as gain insight from professionals on how the industry really works. Truly a place where the more effort you put in, the more you get out of it.

Congrats on 10K posts!

Bobby Curnow
Associate Editor
IDW Publishing

Between the Intro to Writing class and the Creator's Workshop, my confidence as a writer has been bolstered exponentially. Before all of this, I knew that I could write, but what I was doing was more along the lines of writing scripts just to please myself, because who else would want to read this?

Since then, through the feedback I get on the Challenge scripts, through the discussions I've had with CE members (here and in [gasp!] real life), and through the live workshop sessions, I've realized what my strengths and weaknesses are as a writer, how to build on those strengths (while hopefully minimizing those weaknesses at the same time), and that people will want to read my work. And that's made me actively go out there and find people who can help me get these stories completed and published.

To echo Bobby above, this has been a fantastic experience for me, and something I'm going to continue enjoying.

Kevin Byrne

Comics Experience ruined my life. I used to have a normal family, friends, and a semblance of a career. Now I mull over scripts while grocery shopping and drag my kids to comic-cons all over the country. It's been a downward spiral since I took Intro to Writing with Andy, and even worse with Soto's Coloring class. Fortunately there is a great support group of dedicated teachers and other fellow crackheads (I mean, creators) here that help manage this addiction in a positive way. With everyone's encouragement in the forums and after four classes in six months I've gone from knowing nothing to producing a full color comic book. How cool is that?

Amy Chu

Comics Experience changed my life. I'd been struggling as a writer for years, with pages and pages of unfinished prose and boxes and boxes of comics that I loved to read, but was too afraid to take the plunge and write. The Intro to writing class gave me the confidence in my writing abilities to finish a script, and leave the class believing that I could make a comic. Then, that's exactly what I did.

The workshop has been a continuing source of support and good times. I've made a lot of friends here that are all working towards the same goal, and I'm amazed at the amount of great feedback I get every time I post one of my projects. One thing about comics is that it's not an easy business, at any level. I'm not 100% sure I'd be able to stick it out without the support and help of my fellow workshoppers.

And yes, making comics is like crack.

Rich Douek

I have been a comic book fan for most of my life, but never even considered the possibility of actually writing my own comic until I heard Andy on an iFanboy podcast discussing Comics Experience. The classes and forums taught me that writing comics (and lettering and coloring for that matter) does not belong to an exclusive club of creators located in the Land of Oz. Rather, he taught me that anyone with enough talent, the drive to learn and improve, and with just the right amount of luck can break in--if breaking in is even the goal.

Working with such incredible, comic-loving people in the forums, all of whom are willing to point out and help me through rough areas of my scripts, is priceless, and on those occassions when I make someone laugh or hear that they enjoyed what I had written makes my day, month and year all at the same time.

Don McMillan

Every time I think of all the Comics Experience community has done for me, it starts to feel a little overwhelming. Where do I even start?

So, I’ll start here:

Before I found Comics Experience, I knew I wanted to be a comic book writer, but I had no idea how to make it happen. No idea what editors were looking for, no idea how the industry worked, no idea how to market myself, no idea how to format a comic script.

Comics Experience gave me all these skills. It also gave me an incredible group of men and women who are all working towards the same goal. The Creators Workshop members are a tremendous resource, for support, for guidance and for advice.

This isn’t to say that “breaking in” will be easy. It still takes talent, and determination, and more than a little luck. But with Comic Experience’s help, it’s gone from feeling like a pipe dream to feeling like a realistic, attainable goal. I am so happy to be on this journey, and so proud to be a part of the Comics Experience community.

Paul Allor

After years of struggling to get feedback for my stories, Comics Experience was a dream come true. The instant critiques on the forums are absolutely worth the price of admission. The CE community is one large family, sharing a common goal: making comics. There's nothing better than that.

And Andy Schmidt is a kind and handsome man.

Bret Bernal

Comic Experience definitely changed the way I've viewed our industry as a whole. In my comic book career, I've made many friends along the way but I've always heard of working in the comic industry as a competition. You have to beat this guy to that job, or while you're not writing, she is writing, etc. Looking at the opportunities, job offers, contest notifications, support, helpful and constructive critiques and publishing opportunities that the people on this forum have shared with each other has definitely shown me how strong the comic community can be if we stay that - a COMMUNITY.

Shaun Noel

Writers, and artists, and editors... oh my. Writers, and artists, and editors... oh my.

What I love about Creator's Workshop is that it's this wonderfully demilitarized zone where creator's of all hats can come together, take those hats off, and just appreciate the medium. You find writers loving art, artists praising scripts, and editors letting people have opinions different from their own. Yep, it's Bizzaro World, but in a great way. It's the most perfectly safe environment for a creator to get out of their comfort zone, experiment, and grow.

Jason Cutcher

For the past few years I have been posting scripts for review on several of the major sites that do that sort of thing. On those sites I would rarely get any worthwhile result. If I got positive feedback it would be "Wow! Great! Nice work!" And if it was negative feedback it would be the kind of bizarrely nit-picky stuff that hints at some other psychological issue. There is no serious consideration of WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO MAKE THIS BETTER?

That is what I found in the CE workshops.

The people here are serious about actually getting comics made. When someone here offers a criticism, I know that it is something I should consider. When they offer praise, I know they mean it.

I feel like I can offer whatever honest criticism I feel a fellow creator needs and I know that I don't have to couch it in all kinds of "Well, just my opinion but....". Not because folks here have thicker skin, but because they are not here for little ego strokes. They are here to make comics and make comics better.

And so am I.

And as a result, I've learned a lot.
Without a doubt, my writing has gotten better.

Thanks, everybody.

Joshua Dahl

I've officially been a member of the Comics Experience Workshop for a year now -- the best investment I've made in a long time. In that time, I've seen it grow exponentially, filling itself with talented, warm, and exceptionally respectable people. We all have a common goal; to make it in comics. Now, some would think that we'd all be really competitive and a little aggressive toward one another, but in fact we are the complete opposite.

The Workshop is a community, like a family spread out across the globe, related by one unique bond. We go above and beyond the normal 'membership requirements', often creating lasting friendships and successful creative teams.

But, it's not just the community aspect of the Workshop that makes it great. The honesty and integrity of its members provide a level of professional feedback and peer learning that you can count on. We might not all make our comic dreams come true to their fullest, but as a group we make every effort to help each other reach those goals.

In short, the Workshop's greatness is not solely in its value, but in its people, its accurate guidance, its integrity, and its potential.

Janine Frederick

Comics Experience has been a great community for testing out scripts and ideas, as well as pushing myself to try new things through the monthly challenges. Giving and receiving critiques is a great way to learn about the storytelling process, and find out the sorts of things that readers really respond to and the devices that just don't work. CE members are also incredibly supportive, and a fairly lively group. It's been tremendous fun.

Shaun Manning

I am a charter member of this forum (if there is such a thing). I thoroughly enjoy the workshops and the forum. On the one hand, the forum acts as learning tool. The monthly challenges keep me writing, and the helpful and constructive criticism is hopefully making each script stronger. Similarly, through critiquing others, not only do we get to read some amazing stories in a variety of genres, but we also get to see what works (and more importantly what doesn't work) in the scripts.

On the other hand, this forum is a place for creators to provide support for each other. There are a lot of different paths and goals, but ultimately we want to succeed in comics. So whether it is looking to write a licensed property at one of the Big Two or creating the next Indie blockbuster (or anything in between), the forum provides a sense of camaraderie. And that is because of the great people on this forum. You review my scripts and pitches to make sure they are perfect. You join me in my righteous anger when things are unfair. You celebrate my victories and you help console me when things don't go well. Most importantly, you all inspire me to keep writing with your successes and top notch scripts. After all, it's all about coattails.

Joe Sergi

I didn't know what a comic script looked like until joining Comics Experience workshop. Dreams of becoming a writer would never have amounted to anything without the basics on script writing that I learned in Intro to Comic Book Writing. Now I try to create ten short stories a year and having the support of this community is essential. I'm still intimidated by the amount of talent here, but it's a welcoming place for people of all experience levels.

Elizabeth-Amber Love

Andy's Comics Experience writing class helped me finally draft something without feeling like I was being simultaneously tortured! Through the Creators Workshop and the Book Club, I've found out about comics I might want to check out, which has really broadened my reading. Most importantly, Comics Experience is a way of getting valuable, constructive feedback on ideas and scripts, watching a lot of creative ideas get developed, exchanging information about various aspects of producing comics, and interacting with artists and writers from many different backgrounds. How wonderful that these opportunities are offered to people who live outside of New York and Los Angeles.

Marta Tanrikulu

Living overseas, I always felt that I was one step removed from the comics community I wanted to be a part of. Until I found Comics Experience, that is. The Creators Workshop has given me the opportunity to get feedback on all my comic-related questions and interact with some wonderful people, regardless of where we live. Now if we could just figure out this time-zone thing, so I don't have to show up on the live sessions as a pajama-wearing zombie.

Chris Lewis

Being an Australian hasn't put me in the middle of the world of comics, but Comics Experience has made that possible. The Comics Experience Workshop is a creative community unlike any other. Build your skill as an author or artist, critique each other in a friendly, encouraging but open and honest manner, and learn all about the business of making comics.

Wherever you are, joining Comics Experience will enable you to harness your talent and connect with people doing the same thing! We all bring something different, yet through our creativity, we all have the same goal - making (great) comics!

Luke Barnett

Neil Gaiman once said in an interview that writing for different mediums - comics, film, prose, etc. - takes different "writing muscles." That is something that has stayed with me for a long time, but not until I came to be a part of the Comics Experience workshop did I truly understand what that meant. Through the critiques from fellow members, and the need to work harder on my scripts thanks to those critiques, I've been able to better define that difference between writing for comics and writing for prose. I can't say I fully understand it yet, but it's this blossoming understanding that is, I believe, helping me become a better writer. I have Comics Experience to thank for that.

Christopher Beckett

Comics Experience was a much needed first step on the road to creating comics. Not only is the class a great experience, but you walk away from that class with a newfound understanding in not only the creation process, but the production process as well. As for the Workshop, it's an invaluable resource if you're serious about dipping your toe into the world of comics. The support and encouragement you get from your colleagues is great, and it's always nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of. I'm truly grateful for the friends I've made and the help I've received along the way.

Josh Osborne

I've only been a member for a very short time, since starting the Intro to Comic Book Writing class, but I already feel that my craft has advanced tremendously in these 6 weeks. I also learned that no writer is an island: it's not a matter of taking your raw, rough idea and running it into the ground. The course taught me the importance of having an editor to work with, to help make my work look professional. I can say with a great level of confidence that this class made me think "yes, this is what I want to do for a living".

Ivan Antonio

I first came across Comics Experience in an Internet-frenzied search for some comic writing courses. I had already been reading the books and attempting my own stories but something felt missing that I couldn't put my finger on. I came across the huge banner, and Comics Experience felt like a neon sign on a dusty road in the middle of the night. Granted I considered it could be a vampire bar--or a place for people like me looking for direction, guidance and what I soon found to be the missing ingredient I was intuitively searching out - COMMUNITY!

Having already signed up for the writing course I didn't know what to do with my time and came across the workshop. Wow, like a kid walking into a toy store for the first time, I dove in head first and barely came up for air in time. Between reading others scripts and working on my own, the critiques, the jarring suggestions that gave me and my writing more room and more space to play in. I went from such a tiny world of only what I knew to a wealth of knowledge and experience that was inspiring me every day. I was able to get to work in a way that I could not do on my own.

I found that critiquing is not just helpful for the other writer but has made me a better writer myself. The workshop and the courses are really a two-way street and fun beyond anything I could have at first imagined. Starting out in comics is a wild scary ride and Comics Experience is the road to a destination that on my own I would not have found. I'm not even close to being the caliber of writer I yearn to be, but the journey there through Comics Experience is more fun and challenging every day.

Gerald von Stoddard

The idea of making comics can be an intimidating experience. What the forums, and Comics Experience, does really well is bring you behind the curtain and give you the support to pursue the comics dream.

George O'Connor

If you're still reading, then I bet you're making comics -- or want to make them. In that case, what are you waiting for?

You can read what I wrote about Comics Experience back in mid-2010 right here --this was long before I joined the staff as General Manager.

Or, if you need a star writer to tell you, then check out what Nick Spencer, a Comics Experience alum, wrote back in January of 2010. (Read Nick's Guest Blog right here. Luckily, courses are now online, so YOU won't have to quit your job and move to New York City just to take a class like Nick did!)

It's not an understatement to say Comics Experience has utterly changed my life for the better. We hope you'll join us and see what everyone's talking about!

Posted by Rob Anderson
General Manager, Comics Experience
Twitter / Facebook

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Comics Experience at Coast City Comicon 2011!

On November 12 & 13th, the 1st Annual Coast City Comicon took place in Portland, Maine, and Comics Experience was there!

One highlight of the convention, at least for those interested in making comics, was the Breaking Into Comics panel, which included former Marvel and IDW Editor and Comics Experience founder Andy Schmidt as well as panelists Renae de Liz (creator of Womanthology ), her artist-in-arms husband Ray Dillon, former Marvel editor and editor in chief at Cracked magazine, Mort Todd, and Top Cow artist Chris Dibari.

The panel was moderated by Gerald von Stoddard, the co-founder of the comics shop running the convention, and a Comics Experience alum and Creator’s Workshop member.

According to Gerald, many topics were covered at the panel, including how each panelist broke into comics and their early work. The panelists also discussed what exactly an editor is, and the pros and cons of their job from both artist's and writer's points of view.

Andy also shared details about the internship he had at Marvel at the beginning of his career, and some tips on how writers could break in. Ray Dillon shared the same advice from an artist's point of view. The panelists finished up with the always helpful question: "If I knew then, what I know now," sharing the most valuable thing they have learned related to breaking in.

In addition, many Comics Experience alums and Workshop members were exhibiting or in attendance at the show, including: Gerald von Stoddard (Deadboy), Amy Chu (Meridien City), George O'Connor (Healed), Janine Frederick (Awaken), and Ken Frederick (AM.NESIAC).

Thanks to Coast City Comics for a great show!

If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook

Monday, November 14, 2011

WORKSHOP GUESTS: Lemire & Fialkov Discuss Early Works, Lessons Learned

In the last two Creators Workshop Book Club sessions, special guests Jeff Lemire (writer/artist on Sweet Tooth) and Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer on Echoes) discussed their early days self-publishing, and the lessons they learned before breaking in to the comics industry.

Jeff Lemire noted that before he began publishing, he spent seven years drawing comics on a daily basis. Lemire said this work will “never see the light of day,” but it taught him a great deal about the craft, and allowed him to become a more confident, self-assured artist.

“It was just me finding my voice and learning my craft,” Lemire said. I think I’m kind of my worst critic, so until I felt I had something that was good enough to be published and put out there, I just waited, and waited.”

Eventually, Lemire released Lost Dogs, with the help of a Xeric grant. With that book, he said, he had a storytelling breakthrough, and began to develop a consistent voice and visual style.

As a result of this long wait, Lemire said, when he did start to release work, it was noticed more quickly, and people took him more seriously. Now, several years later, he is the writer/artist of Sweet Tooth, and the writer of DC titles Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE. His heavily-anticipated graphic novel The Underwater Welder is set to come out next year from Top Shelf.

Despite his successful path, Lemire said he would not necessarily advise other artists and writers to wait as long as he did.

“You can kind of psych yourself out of ever putting anything out, if you just keep waiting for something to be good enough,” Lemire said. “So, maybe somewhere in between. I would definitely advise people to make use of the Internet. Even when I was doing it ten years ago, it wasn’t as accessible as it is now.”

Another recent book club guest, Joshua Hale Fialkov, made effective use of the Internet in his early days as a comics writer. Fialkov said that he initially had trouble finding an artist, so he started a webcomic called Poorly Drawn Animals, which he wrote and drew himself.

Poorly Drawn Animals was a gag strip, with three panels, often using a static image with only the dialogue and captions changed.

“I would say that 80 percent of what I’ve learned about comics I learned from doing a three-panel gag strip,” Fialkov said. “You learn how to tell stories in the most basic way, which is, set-up, a complication and then a payoff. At the end of the day, that’s what stories are. Doing that for long enough really drilled into my head how to tell a story.”

Fialkov also recommended that writers and artists should work to get their comics made.

“The only way to get better is making comics,” Fialkov said. “And making comics is not writing comics.”

Rather, he said, once you see the physical product, you start to learn what works and what doesn’t, and how to move forward with your craft.

Since his Poorly Drawn Animals days, Fialkov has gone on to write Elk’s Run, Tumor and Echoes, and is currently writing I, Vampire for DC Comics, along with Last of the Greats, a creator-owned ongoing from Image Comics. In January, he begins a run on Doctor Who for IDW Publishing.

The next book club, on Tuesday, November 15, will feature writer Jim Zubkavich discussing Volume 1 of his Image title, Skullkickers (read more about that upcoming session right here.)

Creators Workshop Book Club sessions take place every month, featuring guest writers and artists discussing the craft and art of comics, as well as the business side of things. Additional live Workshop sessions take place every month, giving members real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in their comics career.

There’s still plenty of time to sign up before next month’s sessions. We hope to see you there.

-- Posted by Paul Allor

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Comic Book Editing Class SOLD OUT!

Our very first Comic Book Editing and Project Management course has sold out!

We had to keep the size of this class even smaller than usual, due to the unique nature of this offering. As instructor Andy Schmidt explained recently, he wanted to keep the class size fairly intimate because the course will be providing "a real 'behind the scenes' thing that I've never done before," informed by his time as an editor at both Marvel and IDW.

We're sorry we couldn't fit in everyone who wanted to join us this time around -- and we're equally sorry that we're uncertain when we will be able to offer it again.

In the meantime, any writers or artists wishing to work on their craft are welcome to join our on-going Comic Creators Workshop! You can read more about that right here.

In terms of courses, next up, we have an Introduction to Comic Book Coloring class, taught by professional colorist Christopher Sotomayor (aka "Soto"), starting on January 9, 2012, and an Introduction to Comic Book Writing class, taught by Andy Schmidt, starting on January 17, 2012. Sign up now before these sell out as well!

We hope to see you soon -- in our courses or in the Creators Workshop!

If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WORKSHOP GUESTS: Comics Retailers Give Advice to New Creators

On October 25, 2011, two comic shop retailers joined the live, online Creators Workshop to discuss all aspects of the comic business with our community members.

Our guests were Patrick Brower of Challengers Comics in Chicago, Illinois and Shawn Hilton of Comics Cubed in Kokomo, Indiana.

Workshop members enjoyed a wide-ranging discussion, covering everything from the performance and impact of DC's "New 52" initiative to how the shops determine order quantities each month.

One very interesting aspect of the conversation was their advice for new creators trying to encourage ordering of creator-owned and/or self-published titles by comic shops.

Here's a few key tips that Patrick and Shawn offered at the live Workshop:
1. Description: Make your description in Diamond Previews clear and make it descriptive! This is your chance to convince the person ordering for the shop that your book is something they, and by extension, their customers, will want to read. But don't overwhelm them with text in an advertisement, for example. They have a lot of material to go through in Previews each month, so keep it concise!

2. Artwork: Show a cover that represents what's inside the book, or else show an interior page. If the cover is by someone who had nothing to do with the interior, the shop won't know what's inside, and may have to pass.

3. Direct Contact: A personal touch never hurts, such as a quick, concise email from the creator with links to a website or a preview of the book. If you make it easy on the shop owner, they may decide to order if they like what they see.

4. Loglines: A catchy phrase that sums up the book may help the comic shop tell which, if any, of their customers might be interested in your story. Pretend it's a movie pitch and your words have to "sell" the book in seconds.

5. Previews Code: Put your Previews order code on everything -- your website, Facebook, your postcards. Make it easy for your potential customers and the retailers to pre-order your book.
This is just a sampling of the tips provided by Shawn and Patrick. A recording of the entire discussion will be available to Workshop members for a few weeks. In fact, one Workshop member, while viewing the session, commented on the forums, "Watching the recording now. It's like gold. Thanks for bringing these guys!" So it's not too late for you to check out the full session, too!

The next two live sessions will feature a discussion of Skullkickers, Volume 1 with writer Jim Zubkavich (aka Jim Zub) on November 15, and a meeting with Mark Waid on comics and the "digital revolution" on November 29. (Read more about those upcoming session right here.)

Creators Workshop live sessions take place every month, giving members real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in their comics career. There’s still time to sign up before November’s session. We hope to see you there.

If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook

Monday, November 7, 2011

GUEST BLOG: J.D. Oliva on his New Project "Deluge"

In this guest blog, writer J.D. Oliva, Comics Experience alum and Creator’s Workshop member, talks about his new project, "Deluge," his related Kickstarter campaign, and how Comics Experience helped get the whole project underway.

Growing up the only things I had ever dreamed of were making movies and writing comics.

Like most teenagers in the mid-90's, I fell out of love with comics, but came back in the mid-2000's. Soon after that, my love for writing comics returned and I immediately started pitching ideas to any and every company I could. And I failed with each and everyone.

It soon became apparent to me that I wasn't doing things the "right way." What I mean by that is I wanted to be a comic writer but I had no clue how to get my start. As I learned, most comic companies don't take blind submissions, nor will they take a risk on an unproven writer. They wouldn't talk to you unless you'd been published, but how could I get published? I was confused and frustrated.

I joined Twitter in 2009 and started following some of my favorite creators and editors. I started to get a greater understanding of the business.

Then came the day that changed my life. I saw that Andy Schmidt was taking his Comics Experience courses and bringing them online. This was the perfect opportunity.

In Andy's six week Into to Comic Book Writing course, I learned more about the comic industry and the craft of writing than I could possibly have imagined. It was easily the best $500 I had ever spent. By the end of the class, not only had I completed a 5-page script, but I actually published that story in my class's Tales From The Comics Experience anthology. But the biggest impact was that I now had fourteen new friends and collaborators who shared my goals.

When the opportunity arose to join the Comics Experience Advanced Writing course, it was a no brainer. As part of the advanced class, we were tasked with creating a full 22-page script. During that first advanced class, I was struck by an idea that had been banging around in the back of my head for a couple years.

In the summer of 2008, I spent a month in New Orleans working on a short film. I was amazed at the level of devastation that was still present so many years after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf region. One night, while out in the French Quarter, I saw a police officer smash his nightstick against a drunk man's jaw. I had never seen such use of excessive force, especially so out in the open. I was even more floored by the way the people of New Orleans didn't seem to care. It was almost as if this kind of thing happens all the time. (Turns out it does).

Later that night, my director of photography told me a story that he had heard. After the storm, apparently a group of disgruntled cops took to the flooded streets in motor boats and were actually gunning down the criminals that were stranded on their rooftops. "That would make a great story," was my first thought, and for a couple years after, I would kick the idea around for a bit but couldn't find the right hook to make the idea work. While I was horrified by how excessive those police were, I feared that there wouldn't be enough sympathy for these criminals. Then it hit me, "what if the main character is an undercover FBI agent stranded in New Orleans?"

With that revelation, the characters began to take on life and with the support of Andy and my classmates, I created the first issue of what I envisioned as a three-issue miniseries. I was surprised at how well my classmates and Andy himself responded to the material. I even received a pretty favorable script review from Peter David as part of the new Comics Experience Workshop. Encouraged by this, I decided to make the story, entitled Deluge, a priority.

My first act was teaming up with Richard P. Clark, a fellow classmate who happened to be a professional artist. Rich's realistic style was a perfect fit for my story and I decided to make a pretty solid investment and hired Rich to design a pitch package.

When Rich delivered the pitch package, I was blown away by his work. I thought it was only a matter of time before I had my first miniseries in comic shops across the country. Of course, reality slapped down my idealism. (Or naiveté?) Our pitch was turned down by just about everybody and, of course, I just figured it was because I sucked. I knew it wasn't Rich's art, so it had to be me. But I kept on and eventually I found a brand new publisher who was willing to take a chance. So that was it, I am in the door, right? Not quite.

Andy had dropped the bombshell on us several months earlier, so I knew that if Deluge was ever picked up as a creator-owned title, I was going to have to pay for the book to be produced. Knowing what this was going to cost, I always figured it was a problem for "Future J.D." and he would figure something out. I don't think people realize that Creator-Owned Comics are Creator-Funded comics. Even if Image had picked us up, I would still be in the same predicament.

Well, here I am, with the opportunity I've dreamed about for years and the only thing slowing me down is money. But isn't that what's stopping just about everybody?

So, what Rich and I have done is launched a Kickstarter campaign to try and fund half of the book's budget of $6,000. Coincidentally, according to the Kickstarter panel at New York Comic Con, that is also the average amount raised for comics on Kickstarter. Naturally, I figured it was finally the time when being “average” would be just fine. And again, reality steps on my head.

Here we are with just over one month to go on our Kickstarter and we're not quite 25% of the way funded. Which is frustrating because if we can't reach our goal, we don't receive any of that pledge money. Needless to say, I'm a little nervous as we're drawing toward the close.

As gut-wrenching as the waiting has become, I can't help but feel happy and proud at how far I've come in such a short time and how much I really owe to Andy Schmidt and Comic Experience. It literally changed my life.

J.D. Oliva
Writer, Deluge
Comic Experience Alum and Workshop member

To check out the Kickstarter campaign for Deluge, click here!

If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Only 3 Seats Left in our Inaugural Comic Book Editing Class!

Our very first Comic Book Editing and Project Management course starts in about one week -- we're down to our last three open slots!

If you were thinking about joining this session, beginning November 10, 2011, don't delay!

The new course will be taught by former Marvel and IDW editor, Andy Schmidt.

Andy's techniques and editorial approach have helped craft some of Marvel's biggest events in the last 10 years (Civil War, Annihilation, X-Men: Messiah Complex) as well as brought licensed franchises to new creative heights while at IDW (G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Dungeons & Dragons).

If you want to create great comics, whether self-publishing or working for a comics publisher, this is the course for you!

In this four-week intensive class, you’ll learn how to:
  • find collaborators;
  • manage a budget and time table;
  • bring the best out of your writers and artists;
  • problem solve; and
  • make a professional-looking project that will connect with readers and retailers!
We're keeping class size small on this course, to ensure a conversational approach that will allow for individualization for every student. Andy will be sharing a career's worth of experience in a way that will be useful, organized, concise, and fun!

The class will meet one night a week, starting Thursday, November 10th, 2011, between 9:00 and 11:00 pm EST, for four weeks (11/10, 11/17, 12/1, and 12/8--skipping the week of Thanksgiving).

This is the first time this long requested course has been offered, and we're uncertain when it will be offered again. Spots will go fast, so don't delay if you'd like to enroll!

Enroll Now using PayPal

If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you'll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Rob Anderson
Twitter / Facebook