Thursday, February 9, 2012

WORKSHOP GUEST: Paul Tobin's Tips for Writing "All-Ages" Comic Books!

Comics writer Paul Tobin is known for his extensive work on the Marvel Adventures’ "all-ages" line, along with a wide variety of other genres and publishers.

During last month’s Comics Experience Creators Workshop, Tobin shared some tips on writing comics for all ages.

Write for Your Inner 12-Year-Old
When asked if there are any children who read Tobin’s all-ages work in advance, Tobin replied that he relies heavily on his "inner 12-year-old."

"If my inner 12-year-old is excited by a story, then I know that I’m doing okay," Tobin said. "If it’s something that I want to read, if it’s something that gets me up in the morning and really wants me to hit the computer and get the story out then I know I’m doing okay."

Make Your Story About Characters
Tobin noted that when working on all-ages material, there are often restrictions on the level of violence and the use of weapons. But, he said, this is easy to work around if you focus on character.

"I consider myself a character writer, and I was really more interested in telling the character’s story, the interweaving of what people were trying to do, rather than the gunfire aspect," Tobin said. "...In the mainstream, I see a lot of writers who just open the story with a knife and a gun fight, and it closes on page 22 and nothing much has happened. So I really think a lot of writers should try to think about the characters behind them, and that’s really what I try to do."

Write for All-Ages
It’s no secret that the "all-ages" label is often used for books aimed exclusively at children. Tobin said that by contrast, he believes all-ages books should be exactly that.

"To me, all ages means a seven-year-old should be able to pick it up, and also a 70-year-old should be able to pick it up," Tobin said. "The 70 year old might say, ‘Oh, the construction of this story and the interaction between these two characters was really cool,’ and the seven year old might say, ‘Oh, that was the mostest coolest thing ever when the Hulk knocked Thor through the wall,’ which the Hulk would do, because he’s the strongest there is."

Tobin also said that writing for all ages helps ensure that you are not writing down to children.

"I don’t think you can appeal to kids by talking down to them," Tobin said. "I know that when I was a kid, if you wrote a comic specifically for a seven-to-ten-year-old age group, then I could have been five years old and felt like I was too old for it. So I really tried to avoid that."

Those interested in learning more about Paul Tobin can visit his Web site at In addition to his all-ages work, Paul has written for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Top Shelf, among other publishers.

Creators Workshop sessions take place every month, and feature special guests giving members real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in their comics career.

Additionally, monthly Creators Workshop Book Club sessions feature guest writers and artists discussing the craft and art of comics, as well as the business side of the comics profession.

Our next live Workshop will be held Tuesday, February 28, 2012. We'll be joined by special guest Drew Gaska to discuss how he single-handedly acquired licenses to Planet of the Apes and Space 1999 from Fox.

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

-- Posted by Paul Allor

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!


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