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Betrayal team discusses Sci-Fi, Storyboarding and Action Sequences

betrayal tpbThe team behind the acclaimed mini-series Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes — writer Corinna Bechko, co-writer and artist Gabriel Hardman, and Editor Dafna Pleban — joined the Creators Workshop recently, to discuss their work on the BOOM Studios comic.

The story, set just before the original Charlton Heston film in the classic Apes continuity, is a sci-fi political thriller loaded with action and adventure.

Using Sci-Fi to Discuss Social Issues

Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes — and Bechko and Hardman’s subsequent Apes comics — have been praised for their complex themes and political undertones.

In particular, the comic breaks down the franchise’s traditionally strict lines between the personality traits of gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. In the character of General Aleron, in particular, Bechko and Hardman created a nuanced portrait of a military figure who later turns to politics.

bechko-hardmanBechko also talked about the development of The Reef, a water-locked prison complex featured in the story. She noted that the Apes government is “not particularly touchy-feely,” and a harsh, isolated prison complex seemed to fit in well with the world.

“We talked a lot about how different societies deal with the criminal element,” Bechko said. “And also we thought it would be a really cool visual, which is important in comics, of course.”

Pleban said that 20th Century Fox, the license owner, gave the creative team a great deal of freedom, allowing them to use the science-fiction genre as a way of telling relatable stories that raise questions about our own society.

“That’s always been the appeal of (sci-fi) genre, for a lot of us here,” Pleban said. “And I think we always try and give the writers as much latitude as we can.”

BPOTA-panelThe Impact of Hardman’s Storyboarding on his Comics Work

In addition to his comics work, Hardman is a successful storyboard artist, having worked on films such as Inception, Superman Returns and Spider-Man 3. Hardman said his storyboarding work has been a great help in crafting effective comic books.

“(Storyboarding and comics) are very, very different mediums,” Hardman said. “But the fact is that, as a storyboard artist, I have to think about a real space, and how things would actually get shot, and a lot of really complex technical elements that would have to go into making a big giant action sequence.”

As a result, Hardman said, “when I come into a sequence in a comic, I’m thinking about it in three-dimensional terms. I’m thinking about where is this happening, I’m thinking about is this credible, and I’m thinking about, how do I keep the action dynamic while still making it absolutely clear where everything is happening and what the stakes are at any given moment.”

BPOTA3The Advantage of Writing and Drawing an Action Series

Hardman discussed the action sequences in Betrayal, and the advantages of serving as both the artist and co-writer on a project.

“I actually feel like some of the sequences in POTA are the first time that I’ve really gotten to craft the kind of action sequences in comics that I’ve wanted to, because I’m co-writing it,” Hardman said. “So from moment one, we’re working it out in a way where I can do the kind of action that I like.”

Hardman noted that he’s greatly enjoyed many of his collaborations with other writers — and noted his collaborations with writer Jeff Parker in particular. But, he added, “nothing beats being able to say, ‘okay, how can we make this a great action sequence?’ We plan that out from the start, and I try to make it work to the best degree I can on the page.”

Other topics discussed included:
* How the book came about
* Whether the book’s conspiracy-centered plot was worked out from the beginning, or developed during scripting
* The scripting process, and the advantages and challenges of Hardman and Bechko working together as a married couple
* Making the shift to working with another artist on subsequent Apes books
* Hardman’s inking style, and how it developed
* Colorist Jordie Bellaire’s work on the book, and whether her colors were designed to evoke the feel of the movies
* The prospect of BOOM!’s Apes books becoming available on a digital platform

Corinna Bechko is a writer of both comics and prose (Heathentown, Exile on the Planet of the Apes) who can’t shake her zoology background.

Gabriel Hardman has drawn Hulk and Agents of Atlas for Marvel Comics as well as Heathentown for Image/Shadowline.

Dafna Pleban is an Editor at BOOM! Studios over the Planet of the Apes line, as well as other titles such as The Hypernaturals and Dracula: The Company of Monsters.

Bechko and Hardman are currently co-writing Planet of the Apes: Cataclysm, as well as Star Wars: Legacy for Dark Horse Comics. Legacy also features Hardman on art.

Creators Workshop Book Club sessions are held throughout the year, 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

CE alum Greg Brown’s Writing Class story to appear in Heavy Metal magazine!

heavy-metal-covers2Comics Experience alum Greg Brown, a graduate of both our Intro to Writing and Advanced Writing live, streaming comic book courses, will have one of his stories published in Heavy Metal magazine in June 2013!

The story, “To Be a Star,” was written by Greg during the Intro to Writing course, and has now been expanded and re-titled “The Nephthys Chronicles: Star Light Star Bright.”

On sharing the news with us, Greg wrote: “Andy’s Intro to Comic Book Writing class provided me a fantastic knowledge base and experience in formulating and writing a comic script. As my ‘day job’ is in an entirely different field, the feedback from Andy and fellow classmates provided me the basis to improve my storytelling and learn the method of effective comic scripts. A great experience on all levels. I would highly recommend the course without reservation!

Heavy Metal is the premier adult illustrated fantasy magazine and has been published for more than 35 years. The publication continues to explore fantastic and surrealistic worlds, past present and future.

It’s published six times per year and most issues feature one serialized graphic novel, several short stories, an artist gallery and artist studio sections.

Congratulations to Greg on the publication of his story!

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!

Workshop guests Sable & Azaceta on collaboration and more!

marksable-paulazacetaWriter Mark Sable and artist Paul Azaceta joined the Comics Experience Creators Workshop recently, to discuss their comics careers, and the process of collaboration.

Azaceta’s and Sable’s collaborations include, most recently, Graveyard of Empires from Image.

graveyardofempiresIn that book, set in Afghanistan, Marines face a never-ending onslaught of Taliban. But even hell can get worse. The dead come back to life, and only together can both sides of today’s conflict survive tomorrow’s undead assault.

The Graveyard of Empires trade paperback is available for pre-order now and will be out in May from Image Comics. In the meantime, Comixology has made the 1st issue available for free right here!

In addition to Graveyard, Azaceta and Sable have also collaborated on What If? Spider-Man from Marvel and Grounded from Image.

Topics discussed included:

How their Collaboration Evolved Over the Years

Both Sable and Azaceta noted that their collaborative style changed tremendously over the years.

On Grounded, and their Marvel work, Azaceta said, “It was just, ‘here’s the script.'”

graveyardofempires03By contrast, when Azaceta started on Graveyard, the script was not yet written, so “it was a real collaboration. Even coming up with the story, we were really able to talk about it. For me, it was much more fun, doing Graveyard. It felt like a real coming together, because we knew each other so well at that point. It was a big difference.”

Azaceta’s Inking Style

One Workshop member asked Azaceta about his inking style. He said it was deliberately developed over the years, and is focused largely on “heavy shadows and simplicity…using heavy blacks, and focusing on storytelling.” He noted that this is inspired by artists such as Mike Mignola and John Paul Leon.

“The rule I give myself is, ‘simplify, simplify, simplify,'” Azaceta said. “Don’t use too much texture. Condense the blacks, so there’s a real dynamic shape of blacks going on across the page and across the book.”

graveyardofempires02Why Hollywood Loves Comic Books

Sable, who splits his career between comics and film, said the unique format of comic books makes it very appealing.

“People out in Hollywood read scripts all the time — I read scripts all the time — and it can be a soul-sucking thing,” Sable said, “because most of them are awful.”

But a comic book, Sable said, is both a much faster read, and also lays out the visuals, making it easier to imagine how a film adaptation would look.

Other topics discussed included:

* How Sable and Azaceta solve conflicts during the creative process
* The process of pitching their books picked up at Image
* The experience (for Azaceta) of working in the Marvel bullpen
* The research involved in writing a war book.

Sable is also the writer of Batman: Two-Face: Year One, Supergirl and Teen Titans Spotlight: Cyborg for DC, and the creator-owned Unthinkable for BOOM! Studios. He is a writer for both stage and screen (big and small).

Sable currently is running a Kickstarter campaign for his new project, Dracula: Son of the Dragon, which is described as part historical fiction, part horror fantasy, chronicling Vlad the Impaler’s transformation into the vampire Dracula. You can check out and support that project on Kickstarter right here.

Azaceta is an artist who has also worked on numerous other popular properties including the Amazing Spider-Man, B.P.R.D., Daredevil, and Potter’s Field with writer Mark Waid.

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

Workshop Member Ken Porter a winner in Top Cow Talent Hunt!

top-cow-logoComics Experience Creators Workshop member Ken Porter is a winner in the Top Cow International Talent Hunt competition!

As announced on Comic Book Resources, Ken was one of only three writers selected as a winner by Top Cow’s President and Chief Operating Officer, Matt Hawkins, from more than 800 writer submissions.

As Matt explained on CBR, “[The purpose of the]…Talent Hunt is finding amateur writers and artists who’ve never been published by one of the big publishing houses and giving them a chance to be published and showcase their work to a larger audience.”

Check out the creepy story synopsis from Ken’s submission below, or read more about the announcement on CBR right here!

Ken-Porter-Top-Cow-SubmissionKen was previously an Assistant Editor for Viper Comics and recently worked as a Social Media Specialist for Visionary Comics, where he also published a one-shot called Ink Ribbon.

Congrats to Ken on his big win and we look forward to seeing his work in print at Top Cow!

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!

CE Alums in MAD magazine and Indie Comics Horror #2!

Our Comics Experience alums and Creators Workshop members have been making a lot of comics lately! Here’s a run-down of what some of our community members have been up to!

tulka_peterson_batwomanCE alum and Workshop member Carl Peterson has been regularly doing coloring for MAD magazine, and they recently tapped him to color artist Rick Tulka’s lines for the variant cover of Batwoman.

The folks at MAD Magazine are celebrating MAD‘s 60th anniversary in 2013, and as part of their celebration, the “usual gang of idiots” are having MAD artists illustrate variant covers for DC Comics.

Rick Tulka’s art is on the left, and Carl’s color version is on the right!

Look for it on the stands in April.


indie-comics-horror-2Indie Comics Horror #2 is available for pre-order in in April 2013’s Diamond Previews comic book catalog, under Aazurn Publishing!

This issue contains nine complete thrillers in 64 pages of horror, and includes work by FIVE Comics Experience alums and Workshop members — writer Joe Sergi, artist DaFu Yu, letterer E.T. Dollman, writer Dan Rivera, and writer Glenn Møane!

Indie Comics Horror #2 will be available ONLY at your local and online comic book shops, so pre-order to ensure you get your copy.


Congrats to all our alums and Workshop members, and keep making comics!

Dirk Manning Discusses Short Comics, the Horror Genre

DirkManning2Recently, comics writer Dirk Manning joined the Creators Workshop for a discussion of his career, and both the craft and business sides of making comics.

Dirk is the writer/creator of the Nightmare World trilogy published by Image Comics, Tales of Mr. Rhee, and Love Stories About Death, as well as having a story featured in the first issue of Image’s Dia de los Muertos. Dirk is also the writer of a popular Newsarama column for comic creators. The column, Write or Wrong was recently collected into book form.

For over five years, Dirk Manning’s column has provided aspiring writers with candid advice, anecdotes and inspiration about how to successfully meet artists, create comics, and get them published. Dirk has collected key columns from the series with each installment personally revisited in preparation for the book’s release.

Topics discussed during the session included…

WoW-Final-CoverThe Importance of Writing Short Comics

Manning’s Nightmare World anthology consists largely of eight-page comics. Manning said this approach helped him work on a range of stories, and collaborate with artists who may not have had time for a longer work.

“I knew eight pages would be rather easy for a lot of different artists to work on, and I knew it would give me flexibility,” Manning said. “I wanted to write all different kinds of stories, and I wanted to show editors and publishers and artists what I could do.

Nightmare World has Sherlock Holmes stories and dragon stories and Cthulhu stories, anything you could imagine.”

dia-muertesThe Flexibility of the Horror Genre

Manning is known primarily for his work in the horror genre. He noted that the genre has a tremendous amount of flexibility. At the same time, it does often result in Manning being branded, he said, as “the horror guy.”

“People say to me all the time, ‘Dirk, you’re this well-adjusted guy, you’re funny, you’re personable. Why do you like horror stories so much?'” Manning said. “And it’s because you can tell anything with horror. You can tell Irish folk tales, you can tell love stories, you can tell stick-figure Wolfman stories.

“I write horror because good horror talks about what people do in unusual or extreme circumstances. And I think you can write really good, personal, visceral, emotional stories under the umbrella of horror.”

Other topics discussed included:

  • How Manning broke in to the comics industry
  • The early days of publishing comics online
  • Finding and working with different artists
  • How Nightmare World became a Shadowline book
  • Working the con circuit
  • The importance of publishing short comics
  • Using social media to promote your work
  • Why Manning prefers creator-owned comics to work-for-hire

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