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Hicks Discusses Emotion and Action in “Friends With Boys”

friends-with-boys-coverRecently, comics writer/artist Faith Erin Hicks joined the Creators Workshop Book Club to discuss Friends With Boys, her original graphic novel from First Second Books.

Based in Halifax, Canada, Hicks’ work includes Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere for SLG Publishing, The Adventures of Superhero Girl for Dark Horse Comics, and the forthcoming Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong for First Second Books, which is serializing now online.

Topics discussed during the session included…

Conveying Emotion Visually

Hicks said that in her comics work, it’s very important for the emotional core of the story to be conveyed through characters’ actions, body language and facial expression, rather than through words.

“I always want the reader to be feeling what the character is feeling.”

If characters simply say how they’re feeling, Hicks said, “I feel like that’s not utilizing the comics format. But if you can draw a picture and convey what that person is feeling through their body language, through their facial expressions, through their emotion, I feel like that’s what’s awesome about comics.”

Manga Influence on Hicks’ Layouts

When asked about the Manga influence on her work, Hicks noted that she started to read manga late in her career, after her visual vocabulary was largely developed. But, she said, the influence does often come out “in the paneling, and in the way I compose my stories.”

She noted that Boys’ Manga is often very action-oriented in its layouts, and “composed to drive the story forward. That’s something I’m very attracted to.”

She noted that mainstream superhero comics can often be extremely detailed, and a bit overwhelming.

“I admire the work that goes into it, but sometimes I literally don’t know how to read it,” Hicks said.

By contrast, Manga can often be a little simpler, using a variety of techniques such as bleeds, square panels and tilted panels, all designed to create clarity and keep the story moving.

friends-with-boys-pageCapturing Facial Expressions

Hicks has been praised for her excellent use of emotion and facial expressions, and she provided some tips on how to achieve this.

“It’s really important to be able to observe people, and observe how they convey their emotions,” Hicks said. “Everyone conveys emotions differently. Some people are very repressed and quash their emotions and push them deep inside, and other people are very open with their emotions. I think if you observe people and understand how they emote, then it’s a lot easier to put that down on the page.”

Hicks also shared which facial feature she often turns to when crafting a character’s expression.

“My really stupid tip is: eyebrows,” Hicks said. “I’m constantly thinking about eyebrows — and eyes as well — when I’m trying to convey a certain emotion on the page. I will literally spend like half an hour just drawing a character’s eyebrows, to get that slight tilt, ever so perfect. I feel like that can really put an exclamation point on the emotion that you’re trying to convey.”

Hicks also discussed:

* How she broke into comics;
* The development and pitch process for Friends With Boys;
* The experience of serializing Friends With Boys, and how it helped Hicks’ career;
* Hicks’ scripting process;
* Working on stories that are partially autobiographical;
* Advice for creating young adult comics;
* Incorporating sound effects into comics art;
* Breaking a story around the emotional beats;

Creators Workshop sessions take place every month, streaming live online, giving members real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in their comics career.

– Posted by Paul Allor

DeConnick, Amanat Discuss Building Relationships on the Page

deconnick-amanatRecently, comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and editor Sana Amanat joined the Creators Workshop Book Club to discuss Captain Marvel, a monthly ongoing from Marvel Comics.

Captain Marvel tells the story of Carol Danvers, ace pilot and legendary avenger. One of the book’s greatest strengths is a rich supporting cast, and Carol’s complex and often endearing relationships with the people around her. During the session, DeConnick talked about how she develops these relationships, and the organic nature of her writing process.

captain-marvel-tpb“I don’t plan as much out beforehand as I should or as I would like to,” DeConnick said. “A lot of it tends to come up in the writing.”

She added that one of the few planned relationships in the book is possible love interest Frank Gianelli. But even there, DeConnick said, their relationship is developing on the page, as she writes.

“I wanted to bring Gianelli back because I loved him in the original series,” DeConnick said. She noted that he represents a certain kind of “70’s dude,” similar to Wonder Woman’s Steve Trevor, who was “so much a part of my growing up and my experience with comics.”

“So I dressed him up and put some cologne on him and put him out there,” DeConnick said. “And I don’t know if there’s any chemistry between them. It’s like an arranged marriage. I keep waiting to see if sparks are gonna fly. They’re taking their time.”

“It’s a very natural way of telling a story,” Amanat noted. “I think that’s why it works so well. Obviously there’s a lot of planning, but sometimes you don’t figure out the subtlety of certain characters and certain relationships until it’s on the page.”

captain-marvel-09DeConnick said she’s especially glad that the book is able to showcase a number of Carol’s female relationships, often with friends and mentors a generation or two older than her.

“I think both in Hollywood and in publishing, and just culturally, we have a tendency to make women over sixty disappear,” DeConnick said. “So I wanted them to be present.

Many of Carol’s relationships are showcased in issue #9 of the series, which Amanat described as “sort of hitting the reset button, to bring in more readers and introduce readers to the daily life of Carol. We wanted to show everyone the world that she lives in, and the relationships around her and her character.”

Amanat said that this issue was also a good example of Marvel’s overall desire to show the human side of superheroes.

“We want to know what they like for breakfast, and if they drink their coffee black,” Amanat said. “They’ll be punching a dinosaur a few pages later, and we need to know if they’ve had their caffeine.”

Other topics discussed included:

  • How Amanat and DeConnick got into comics;
  • The development process for Captain Marvel;
  • Crafting the first arc of Captain Marvel;
  • Balancing multiple artists on the title;
  • The challenge of keeping Danvers’ character consistent with other titles.

DeConnick has worked in the comic book industry for the last decade, writing comics for Marvel such as Osborn: Evil Incarcerated, Rescue, and Sif, as well as Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm, with co-writer Brian Michael Bendis, for Marvel & ABC.  She also has adapted many manga titles into English, including the English scripts for Kare First Love, Black Cat, Sexy Voice and Robo, and Blue Spring. She lives in Portland with her husband, writer Matt Fraction, and their kids.

Amanat was an editor at Virgin Comics, before joining Marvel Comics to edit their “Ultimates” line in 2009.

Recently, she has edited Marvel titles such as Hawkeye, Castle, Dark Tower, Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, Ultimate Comics Iron Man, and Ultimate Comics Ultimates as well as Captain Marvel. She was educated at Columbia University and resides in New York City.

Creators 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

Eisner Award winner Paolo Rivera teaches one-day Master Seminar — Enrollment open!

Paolo-RiveraOn Saturday, May 18, 2013, Eisner Award-winning artist, Paolo Rivera will teach a one-day, live streaming course on The Art of Design and Comic Book Storytelling.

The course will be held from 10:00am until approximately 4:00pm Eastern Time, with a one-hour break for lunch.

This is a one-time only opportunity to learn from a modern master of the comic art form! Paolo will be teaching you how to use design techniques–from script to finished page–to create more intense, dynamic, and thrilling comics.

Daredevil-10Rivera’s work is influencing an entire generation of comic creators right now as more creators focus on page design and panel composition as storytelling components, a trail blazed by Rivera.

“This seminar is about the true heart of comics: creating a narrative through visual means,” Paolo said.

“The fundamental ideas can be understood by anyone who can see.

“In fact, the universality of vision is what allows our readers to make such fantastic leaps of logic, turning static images into lives lived.”

While graphic design will be the primary focus, Paolo adds that, in this context, this doesn’t mean typefaces and serifs, but rather “how people see.”

“Once we have a working knowledge of the visual process,” Paolo said, “we can use it to direct and foster attention.

Paolo Rivera Daredevil

“Contrast is key, and I hope to show how its many dimensions can be utilized to convey meaning efficiently – and tell a great story.”

In addition to artists, this day-long seminar is open to all comics creators and fans, from writers who want to consider design at the script stage to color artists, letterers, and more.

All are welcome for this live, online streaming session, and there are no pre-requisite courses.

Along with Rivera, former Marvel and IDW Editor Andy Schmidt will co-host the day’s event, and the course will include a Q&A from the audience.

Rivera has graced the pages of dozens of Marvel Comics over the years and has constantly been evolving his art–starting as a painter, doing painted comics, and evolving into a line art style that recently earned him an Eisner Award along with Mark Waid for Daredevil #7.

Rivera’s laid-back manner, and deep knowledge of comics storytelling as well as graphic design and color theory make him the ideal creator for teaching this Master Seminar.

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!

Comics Experience panels at C2E2 2013!

If you’re going to the C2E2 Convention in Chicago c2e2on April 26-28, 2013, don’t miss our panels hosted by Comics Experience founder, and former Marvel and IDW Editor, Andy Schmidt along with artist and CE art instructor Robert Atkins, writer and CE Book Club Manager Paul Allor, and other top comic talents like artist Chris Burnham, writer Joshua Fialkov, and artist Ryan Browne!

Here’s all the details!


Comic Art – How to Make a Living Doing It!
Sunday, April 28
3:15 pm – 4:15 pm in room W470b
Speakers: Andy Schmidt, Chris Burnham, Robert Atkins, Ryan Browne

Join artists Robert Atkins (“Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow,” “Castle”), Chris Burnham (“Batman Incorporated”), and Ryan Browne (“Smoke and Mirrors,” “The Manhattan Projects”) for a discussion with former Marvel and IDW comics editor Andy Schmidt on how to make a living as an artist. From how to get work, how to interview and network, all the way up to how to just draw some kick-ass material that will get you noticed! Presented by Comics Experience.


Writing for Comics
Sunday, April 28
12:45 pm – 1:45 pm in room W470b
Speakers: Andy Schmidt, Josh Fialkov, Paul Allor

Join top comic writers Josh Fialkov (“I, Vampire,” “Echoes”) and Paul Allor (“TMNT: Fugitoid,” “Orc Girl”) and former Marvel and IDW comics editor Andy Schmidt 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.

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!

In April – Comixology joins Creators Workshop; Andy Schmidt discusses financials of collaboration

In April, we’ll have two great live, online sessions at the Creators Workshop: a discussion with comiXology on their new “comiXology Submit” program…

AND a Workshop session with former Marvel and IDW Editor Andy Schmidt discussing “The Financials of Collaboration.”


comiXology_Submit_LogoOn Tuesday, April 16, 2013, our special guests on the live, online Creators Workshop will be John Roberts, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of comiXology, and VP, Marketing, Chip Mosher for a discussion of comiXology Submit.

Over the last five years, comiXology has created the industry leading platform for digital comics. ComiXology regularly ranks as the top grossing iPad app in the entire iTunes App Store.

The new comiXology Submit program aims to help comic book creators worldwide monetize their self-published works through comiXology’s digital comics platform available across iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows 8 and the Web.

All submissions for comiXology Submit go through an approval process and when approved comiXology transforms the uploaded work with their Guided View technology — for free. Then the work goes on sale worldwide with the creator and comiXology sharing the profits.

We look forward to a great discussion with John and Chip about the Submit program and digital comics in general.


Then, on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at 9pm Eastern Time, we’ll have a nuts and bolts “make comics” discussion with Andy Schmidt!

Andy will be covering the brass tacks of collaboration. How do you structure your deal with your collaborators? Who gets paid what, when, and how much? What are creative approaches to making things work for everyone? And he’ll be taking questions from our Workshop community as well!

This will be a “must see” session for writers, artists, or anyone interested in doing creator-owned or self-published comic books!

Andy is a former Senior Editor at IDW Publishing, a former Editor at Marvel Comics, and writer of such comics as 5 Days to Die and Challenger Deep.

Andy worked with nearly every major character in the Marvel pantheon during his time there, and edited titles such as X-Men, X-Factor, Alias, Secret War, and the Annihilation saga. At IDW, Andy oversaw both the Transformers and GI Joe franchises.

Andy is also the founder of Comics Experience, which he launched to help educate people who want to make comics, work in the comics industry, or just want to know more about the fantastic medium of comics.


We’re looking forward to two great discussions!

There’s still time to join us at the Creators Workshop before these live sessions. 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!

Advanced Coloring and Art courses available — but half of 2013 Advanced Courses already sold out!

ComicsExperience-LOGO1This year, we’ve greatly expanded our Advanced comic book courses — from three courses to six, with even more in-depth coverage of writing, art, and coloring — and half of them are already sold out!

Classes with slots still available — although with as few as two slots in some cases — are:

* Advanced Comic Book Coloring (begins 6/3/2013)
* Advanced Comic Book Art: Storytelling Master Class (begins 6/20/2013)
* Advanced Figure Drawing & Construction (begins 11/14/2013)

All of these courses require completion of the related Intro level course. But note that there’s still time to sign up for our popular Introduction to Figure Drawing & Construction course (which begins 9/19/2013) before the Advanced section. New students may sign up for both sections simultaneously, if they wish to ensure their slot in an Advanced course.

For those who have not yet taken our Intro courses, we are offering a special ONE-DAY, ONE-TIME-ONLY course taught by the Eisner Award-winning artist, Paolo Rivera, that has NO prerequisites. Writers, artists, and all creators are welcome! Check out all the details at the link below….

* Master Seminar with Paolo Rivera: The Art of Design & Comic Book Storytelling (5/18/2013 only)

And, for those who are interested, here’s the list of our already sold out courses. We plan to offer them again in 2014, so jump into the Intro courses soon, if you’d like to be ready!

soldout* Advanced Comic Book Writing: Building Your Series
* Advanced Comic Book Art: Professional Penciling Techniques
* Advanced Comic Book Writing: Scripting Your First Issue

In the meantime, any writers, artists, colorists or letterers wishing to work on their craft are welcome to join our on-going Comic Creators Workshop! You can read more about that right here. Many folks find our Workshop community to be a great, affordable way to first try out Comics Experience.

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.