Phil’s Digital Inking and Finishing course covers how to polish off your pages to make sure everything looks professional and ready to print. It will also go over the best tools to use and how to create an efficient workflow.
James’ Master Seminar is a one-day-only event for comic creators of all levels who want to try their hands at ensemble books. Learn how to balance character arcs without sacrificing pacing or plot.
This is your last opportunity to learn from comic book professionals who have left their mark on such icons as Batman and Robin, Lara Croft, Magdalena, and more. Our courses and master seminars tend to fill up pretty quickly.
Sign up for Introduction to Digital Inking and Finishing here.
Sign up for the Master Seminar in Writing Team or Ensemble Cast Comics 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!
Paul Allor, Comics Experience’s own Content and Operations Manager as well as an instructor of writing, will be lending his talents to the upcoming Samurai Jack: Lost Worlds! Joined by Adam Bryce Thomas, Paul’s series of four one-shot adventures starring everyone’s favorite time-displaced samurai launches on April 22 from IDW.
We knew he couldn’t spoil much of the story – Jack’s better experienced as, well, an experience – but we did ask him a couple of questions about the book.
Comics Experience: How has your work with licensed properties helped prepare you to work on Samurai Jack? What makes Samurai Jack a unique property?
Paul Allor: I think the challenge of licensed properties is striking a balance between making it feel like what it is, while also making it your own. If you look back at the work I’ve done, it’s my hope that TMNT feels like TMNT, GI Joe feels like GI Joe, Clue feels like Clue, et cetera, but that they all, also, feel like Paul Allor books.
And Samurai Jack, even more than most, is a universe that has a very unique and particular feel to it. It’s marked by a sense of melancholy joy. At first blush it’s fun, it’s joyful, it’s a pleasure to behold. But then it digs in deep. They best Samurai Jack stories leave you with a sense of disquiet and cause you to ruminate on them long after the story ends.
And that last paragraph is more or less how I opened my initial pitch. Somehow, I still got the job!
CE: The world of Samurai Jack is one of the most rich and imaginative fictions to explore, considering how he gets pulled through so many different times and spaces. What’s it like to play in that sandbox? Without spoiling, how do you plan to expand it?
PA: It was tremendous fun, playing in this huge, wild, off-beat universe. This mini-series is structured as four one-shots, all of which find Jack at transitional moments — sometimes emotionally, often literally. I actually wrote the initial pitch while sitting next to my father’s deathbed, a few days before he passed, and as a result all of the stories deal, in various ways, with issues of faith, of identity, of navigating liminal spaces.
But, you know… also funny!
CE: What’s your working relationship like with Adam Bryce Thomas?
PA: Adam is so great! As a licensed property, most everything pretty much goes through David Mariotte, our fantastic editor, so my working relationship with Adam mainly consists of looking things over and going, “Yup, yup, looks great, yup!”
Creator’s Workshop member Jeff Morris recently released his evocative one-shot comic Paper Champion online for all audiences to read. Available for free on his website, he is joined by Jorge Santiago, Jr. on pencils and inks, Emily Elmer Walker on colors, and Micah Myers on letters.
Paper Champion examines the relationship between grief and goals, reflecting on the bittersweet moments that come when a lost loved one can’t watch you achieve your dreams. We spoke with Jeff about his evocative story.
Comics Experience: “Stories can give shape to our questions and help us heal from trauma,” you said on your website. Paper Champion is such a personal story for you. How did putting it together help with the healing process? How can creativity in general comfort the grieving?
Jeff Morris: Seeing my father die in front of me was a traumatic experience, but I didn’t realize how deep the roots of trauma grew until I saw Jorge Santiago Jr’s art in Paper Champion. At first, I wept at the depictions of my father’s death, but, after a moment, I refused to–no, I couldn’t–look at the images. I was overcome with guilt and anger, and, for the first time, I realized that I blamed myself for my father’s death.
Logically, I know I’m not responsible for my dad’s death, but trauma isn’t logical. It took Jorge’s art to help me see why I wrote that scene in Paper Champion. As I reflected on the images again, I discovered that I’d written this scene to tell myself–and the world–that, “It’s okay: you did everything you could to keep him alive. It’s not your fault.”
Through the care of Jorge Santiago Jr., Emily Elmer Walker, and Micah Myers, I was able to see my father’s death with new eyes. For so long, I’d kept my grief locked away inside me, yet now it was an experience I’d invited others to share with me. True, meaningful connection takes place when we’re willing to be vulnerable and show each other our scars. By sharing my story of loss, I hope to form a connection with readers that helps us heal and re-define our trauma in a new light.
CE: How has being a wrestler and an actor helped with your storytelling in comics? What parallels between these three media have you noticed, and how can they influence one another
JM: As The Professor Murdock, I learned to do whatever it took to get a real reaction from the crowd. Call a fan a “swamp donkey” and hope they spit at you? Check! Tell a kid that Santa Claus isn’t real? You betcha! No matter what, I was willing to do anything for the sake of getting “heat,” i.e. hatred, from a crowd. All that mattered was that it felt real.
Ultimately, the question comes down to what feels real. If a pro-wrestler, such as The Rock or Stone Cold Steve Austin, can convince you that they believe they’re the best wrestler in the world, does it really matter if it’s true or not?
I’ve always been a big fan of the acting coach, Sanford Meisner, who said, “Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” With Paper Champion, I drew from my real-life experience of watching my father die in front of me, searching for his face in the crowd, and winning my first wrestling champion to create a story that felt true and alive. Good actors do this on stage with every performance. As an audience, we know they’re playing a role, but effective actors will take us out of the illusion of watching a play and transport us into the reality of a character’s world.
In collaboration with Jorge, we made decisions to help readers feel and experience the narrative as if it were happening to them. We wanted readers to feel loss just like Jacky felt loss, and we wanted readers to experience the bitter-sweet moments of victory just like The Professor does by the story’s end.
CE: What lessons did you take away from Comics Experience to help you shape Paper Champion?
JM: Through practical, honest advice, the Comics Experience community helped me shape, revise, and publish a story that could reach a wide audience and leave them with a sense of joy. Every critique told me what worked and what didn’t. For example, there was an early scene where The Professor dabbled with steroids, and everyone on the workshop was like, “No! No! No!” Additionally, Marc Sumerak, a former editor from Marvel, encouraged me to tap into my real-life desire to make my father proud. In response, I rewrote the father to be a source of inspiration for Jacky’s victory, instead of a catalyst for his guilt and all-consuming loss.
Storytelling thrives in the context of community, and I needed a community of honest, passionate, and experienced creators to help Paper Champion reach its full potential. Without the wealth of critiques from the CE community, as well as the encouragement of several artists, editors, and writers through the project thread, I could not have published Paper Champion. I needed a safe community where I could fail, experiment and grow as a storyteller, and Comics Experience provided just that!
Last week, we announced that the Master Seminar on writing ensemble and team comics with Justice League and Detective Comics writer James Tynion IV was now accepting enrollees. Now, read our brief interview with him about some of the points covered in the class.
Comics Experience: What are some challenges to writing team/ensemble books that writers might not know about? What are some of the ways you overcame those challenges?
James Tynion IV: I think a lot of times, particularly when you’re on a work-for-hire book that’s part of a shared universe, there’s an impulse to just throw in all your favorite characters and see what happens. The trouble is, in a lot of cases, your favorites have a lot of traits in common (those being the traits that MAKE them your favorites), and you can end up with a team where figures have duplicative personalities and functions. You can overcome that if you lean in, for instance if you take two characters that SHOULD be similar and put them on ideological divide that sends them down different paths…
But if you don’t make an active choice it can make it difficult to write, because multiple characters are capable of performing the same actions and are likely to have the same response to that action. The key to working around that is just putting thought into the line-up from the beginning. Make sure you have the team you want and need, where everyone’s abilities and personalities are distinct.
CE: What makes writing a team book fun? Why should comic book writers tackle ensemble casts?
JTIV: Honestly, the biggest and best reason to write team or ensemble books is pacing. It’s easier to keep dramatic tension up when you’re intercutting between multiple plot threads. It also allows you to skip some of the more boring connective tissue like people en route to places. You can just cut away, and when you cut back, they’re already there! Like magic! Also: In more general terms, I think that characters reveal more of who they are through how they interact with people around them than they do in their own minds. We all know that the internal monologue can be misleading. Actions and relationships define people, and a superhero team book, is by nature, all action and relationships.
CE: What is the “Sad Monster?”
JTIV: I mean, the best example in all of comics is The ever-lovin’ Thing from the Fantastic Four. But honestly, I think every team book or ensemble needs a good sad monster. Sad monsters want to embody everything the team stands for, but there is something innate in them that holds that back. Normally, they think it’s the fact that they’re these hideous monsters, but usually it’s something much deeper. Sad monsters help define the thesis of a series by showing their struggle to fight for that core ideal. Even in the most mundane ensemble book, in a world without literal monsters, you want a sad monster character to help you and the readers define the conflict that defines the book.
Slots in our master seminars fill up fast! If you’re wanting to learn James’ lessons on balancing ensemble casts, sign up here.
Every comics reader has a favorite ensemble cast (or two), whether it be a superhero squad like The Avengers or The Justice League or the slice-of-life stories found in books like Strangers in Paradise. And everything in between, of course.
For writers, learning to balance so many characters with their own unique arcs and motivations can seem like a Sisyphean task. James Tynion IV (Justice League, Detective Comics) wants to help you with crafting compelling stories where everyone you write has a chance to shine.
On Saturday, April 20, he’ll be teaching a master class on writing team and ensemble comics! Topics covered include creating your cast, deciding on a leader, enemies, pacing, and more. There will be a Q&A so you finish the day out with everything you’ll need to know to get started on your ensemble book. You don’t want to miss out on such a great opportunity to learn from an industry leader!
You can sign up for the master seminar here. Remember, our slots tend to fill up quickly and space is limited!
Whether you’re telling a two-book tale or a sprawling epic that would
impress even Eiichiro Oda, you’re going to need to know how to draw up the
blueprints for a story arc. Fred Van Lente‘s (The
Astonishing Spider-Man, Marvel Zombies) upcoming Story Arcs and the Art of Serialized Storytelling course,
beginning April 9 and running every Wednesday until May 15, teaches you how to
become the architect of your own rich worlds.
We spoke with Fred briefly about his intentions for the class, and what
students can expect to learn from his expertise!
Comics Experience: What are your goals for the story arc class? What
do you hope your students get out of the experience?
Fred Van Lente: So much of comics storytelling is about
pacing — on the page between panels, and between pages within a story unit. What
I want students to learn is how to pace an entire story “arc,”
whether that’s a multi-issue story within an on-going series, or a completely
self-contained graphic novel, and how to use pacing to for effective reveals,
enhance individual character arcs, and maximize reader interest, to keep them
coming back for more and giving you the commitment to see your story through to
CE: What are some of the unique challenges to writing out serialized
arcs vs. more episodic or procedural stories?
FVL: Planning is the main thing, and it’s those kind of
plotting skills we want to teach in this course. We get very wrapped up in
scene-to-scene storytelling, and you need that too, but we want to tackle the
next level, which is looking at the whole piece from a high altitude and
figuring out the best way to order those scenes. Is this a monthly comics
series with 20-pages issues, or a weekly web comic with 20 panels per chapter?
The skills you need to tackle both are basically the same (it’s the decisions
that are different), and that’s those skills that we want students to come away
CE: What are some of the most common misconceptions about writing
FVL: “Decompression” is a term that has been
bandied about a lot since I’ve been in a comics, usually as a derogatory term,
but some of the most popular comics of the last twenty years have been
“decompressed.” What’s important is to pick a pace that’s right not
just for your own story, but how best expresses your own voice and style.
CE: What are some of the most common mistakes writers make when
writing and mapping serialized stories? How will your course address them?
FVL: I’m going to try and take people from a completely
blank slate, so hopefully we’ll “unlearn” bad practices during that
process, but I think more than anything else new folks focus too much time and
effort on Chapter One, or Episode One, to the neglect of the remainder of the
piece. From the jump we’re going to get people to spread that love around their
entire story, not just the beginning.
You can sign up for Fred’s Story Arcs and the Art of Serialized
Storytelling course here. Remember, our slots fill up fast, so make sure to
secure your spot as soon as you’re able!
“Andy is a phenomenal editor. He’s got a wealth of experience and ideas, and has the ability to inspire others to amazing results with their own abilities. Networking is one of his many strong suits, as is his level head, consistency and focus on producing the best product possible. Working with Andy has been one of the most positive experiences of my career.”
Tom Smith Color Artist, JLA / Avengers, Brave and the Bold