The Comics Experience Blog
Here you will find all the latest Comics Experience news and events! Check back often, or subscribe via RSS for updates!
Comics Experience instructor Phillip Sevy is taking his career to an exciting new place! His new series Triage, coming soon from Dark Horse Comics, will feature both his writing and his art. It’s his first time pulling double duty and he couldn’t be more excited!
“It’s where I’ve always wanted to go in my career, so it feels both natural and terrifying at once. Comics is such a collaborative medium. This was all understand. What I didn’t understand is how much emotional support each collaborator gives. When I’m doing nearly everything myself, I suddenly felt the lack of emotional support that you get from a team. I feel the pressure of getting the book right because if it doesn’t click with readers, that’s ALL on me,” Phillip says.
“On the upside, it’s such a naturally synergistic way to work on a book. Knowing that I’m working on nearly all aspects of the book, I’m able to visualize it from beginning to end as I’m working on any part. It’s really exciting and exhilarating. Knowing that there’s no one to save my butt ahead or behind me, I’m finding myself working even harder on this book – harder than I knew was possible. It’s a giant emotional investment.”
Triage follows the story of a nurse, Evie, who has to figure out how to save the world… despite not knowing why she’s even been summoned to do so. A superhero and a post-apocalyptic fighter come along for the ride.
Phillip says, “There’s a lot of little things that fed into Triage – but the main thing was that I wanted to do a book that was so COMIC BOOK that it couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. I grew up on ’90s X-Men – where you could do literally ANYTHING (just google Cable’s origins and you’ll understand). I wanted to work on a book that was big and crazy and imaginative and couldn’t be done in other mediums. I wanted the most comic book of comic books. I love superheroes, I love post apocalyptic stories, I love sci-fi, I love human stories, I love reality-bending stories – so I took all of that and blended it into one five issue story!”
While Phillip handles the writing, art, inking, and coloring, Frank Cvetkovic serves as his “rock and… anchor for the book” as the letterer.
“Frank lettered my horror OGN The House and did an amazing job. We’ve worked on a handful of pitches and other things and I knew I needed him for Triage. And he’s gone above and beyond my expectations. I’ve given him a lot of work on this book… He makes all the dialogue work effortlessly on the page and has become a master of sound effects. I’m blown away by his work.”
Triage releases later this year!
Comics Experiences’ Paul Allor embarks on a dream project this September when his first ongoing for G.I. Joe at IDW launches! He’ll be joined by artist Chris Evenhuis and colorist Brittany Peer.
“It feels so great. And very different. Before I was brought in for a limited purpose, a one-shot, a fill-in arc,” Paul says.
“This time I’m coming in on the ground floor to launch a new continuity and a new ongoing. That’s a first for me as a comics creator, and I’m enjoying the heck out of the ride.”
Paul’s fresh new interpretation of the G.I. Joe mythos sees a world where terrorist organization Cobra succeeds in its mission to dominate humanity, and heroes like Duke and Scarlet fight them as part of the anarchist underground.
“Cobra has toppled governments and occupied territories around the globe, and small pockets of resistance are desperate to fight back,” he says.
“One of those pockets of resistance is G.I. Joe, a program that recruits civilians living in occupied territories, to be spies, assassins and saboteurs. It’s also going to be a book that digs deep, deep, deep into the characters, providing an intimate look at the men and women who are fighting to save us all.”
The story developed alongside Hasbro and IDW, with plenty of back and forth between Paul and his collaborators. He notes that what excites him most about the new G.I. Joe is getting to share their collective hard work.
“There still aren’t nearly enough people familiar with Chris Evenhuis’ extraordinary art and design work, or Brittany Peer’s gorgeous colors. I can’t wait for everyone to see what they’re cooking up.”
Space is awesome. Cats are awesome. Cats in space? Oh, that’s a double dose of awesome right there.
Carlos Giffoni (Space Riders) teams up with artist Juan Doe and letterer Matt Krotzer for Dark Horse’s upcoming Strayed. Which is about a cat. In space.
If you appreciate cats, space, and space cats as much as you should, then pick up this tail (PUN INTENDED) of an astral projecting feline friendo and his human companion who fight against the devastation of alien species on August 14.
To tide you over, we interviewed Carlos.
Comics Experience: A space cat off having adventures is such a fun concept for an ongoing! How did you come up with the idea behind Strayed?
Carlos Giffoni: Thank you!
I was going through a tough personal time, and my cats were a big part of helping me get through things. Around the time, I was also reading about a failed program funded by the US government that ran for over fifteen years to create psychic spies. The program was attempting using a technique called remote viewing to keep tabs on enemy nations, basically a form of astral travel. I just looked at one of my two cats one day, wondered what was going through his mind, and the initial idea for Strayed was born.
The rest of the story elements came from the usual hard work of brainstorming, writing lots of ideas down, recording voice memos while driving, basically living mentally in that world and slowly discovering it and building it.
The first arc is five issues and tells a complete story, and we’d love to do more and make it more of an ongoing if it does well and Dark Horse wants to continue it. Currently, we have ideas for roughly two arcs, about ten issues, and a few one-shots.
CE: You told SYFY Wire that you hoped to explore the macro theme of colonization with the comparatively more intimate one of the relationship between pet and owner. Without spoiling anything, how do you plan to balance the two?
CG: At the center of the story are Lou and Kiara, Lou is the astral traveling cat, and Kiara is his loving owner. Kiara is also a genius scientist who created a device that reads Lou’s brain waves and translates them into recognizable speech. They are both being exploited to find these new planets that are later colonized, initially without their knowledge.
The colonizing military force is taking advantage of them, and they don’t have anyone else they can trust but each other, both of them are going to have to make tough choices and sacrifices once they start figuring out what is going on. You’ll see their relationship come to the front organically as they interact in the story. We cut a whole issue that was focused on the two of them and their origin because it didn’t do anything to move the story forward, I think that could be a fun one-shot that would come later if readers are interested in seeing it.
CE: You’re also a musician and producer of video games. How have your experiences in other creative media helped shape your views on comic book writing?
CG: My music is very abstract and defined by mood and structure rather than melody and the rules of classical scales, so in a way controlling the feel of a piece with pacing and tone is something that I have been doing for over twenty years. I am also very familiar with where I need to get mentally to get the best possible result creatively from years of making music. Finally, I’ve built good intuitional muscles to tell me when something feels right, and I should call it done.
Production and Creative Direction of video games have helped me immensely in understanding how to collaborate with others, mainly working closely with artist and understanding when it’s better to get out of the way and let them create instead of being prescriptive. I also have spent years giving art feedback and have an MFA, so I have a pretty good visual vocabulary that helps me talk more meaningfully about art than if I had been only writing all this time. My day job involves giving feedback to artists and collaborating with them every day.
CE: What is your process like with the creative team?
CG: I usually speak with Juan Doe, the artist, on the phone to discuss the upcoming story and visual elements and to sort out any details that aren’t clear. On the more visually charged pages, I leave a lot up to him. I then draft the issue’s script and send it to Chas! Pangburn, the editor, who gives me notes and suggestions and fixes any typos/grammar I missed. The script goes back and forth for a bit there, usually a few drafts. Once we feel good about it, it goes out to Juan so he can begin drawing. Juan sends back thumbnails for feedback, he is terrific, so there are rarely more than a few minor notes before he moves to something close to final art. Juan then does a final color pass after addressing any last feedback. At this moment, I do a final dialog pass to adjust for any changes or opportunities brought forth by the art. Then, everything goes out to Matt Krotzer for lettering, and we text or email if he has any questions before doing the lettering, which usually receives a round of feedback before is all done. The final step is uploading everything to the Dark Horse file servers.
The only exception to this methodology is the alt covers, which come after the issues are done and are pretty much just me talking directly over email to the artists and sending to Matt for logo design and placement.
And that’s it. I believe that when making a comic book, communication between the collaborators is an essential element to get the best out of everyone. I try to have open channels and be transparent with anything that is going up with the book and always ask for and provide feedback.
I am lucky to be working with a fantastic team that has created something wild that goes beyond all my expectations, and I hope everyone feels the same way when they read Strayed.
Make sure to pick up Strayed on August 14!
Comics Experience is pleased to announce that Greg Pak (Planet Hulk, Star Wars, Action Comics) will be teaching our next Master Seminar on July 13! For five hours, learn about “The Pak Process” of organizing your story – or an entire arc. Now’s your chance to learn straight from one of the comic book industry’s most experienced, respected, and talented creators!
We talked to Greg briefly about his plans for the course.
Comics Experience: Can you give us a brief teaser about the “Pak Process?”
Greg Pak: I think my best work comes from combining fun genre hijinks with genuine emotional storytelling and a thematic interest in underdog heroes. So a big part of my process is figuring out how all those elements work together and reinforce each other in each new story I tackle. That’s the whole thrilling and exhausting and tedious and ultimately (hopefully!) glorious work of cracking the story — figuring out just what the hell this story’s about and what these characters’ journeys are and how the whole thing clicks across its multiple levels.
And then there’s the incredibly practical process of hammering that story out into pitches and outlines and comic book script pages and then working with artists and editors to turn it into an actual comic book.
So the “Pak Process” is just the very practical steps I take while mucking my way through this whole thing. During my fifteen year comics career, I’ve written or co-written almost five hundred individual comic book scripts. In the last six months alone, I’ve turned in about forty scripts, which even I have a little trouble wrapping my head around. Every writer has a different, equally valid process. But this will be an introduction to one working comic book writer’s methods for turning hundreds of loopy ideas and dreams into actual scripts.
To get a little taste of some of the steps and themes I’ll be addressing, last year I posted a thread on Twitter about how I write comics that got viewed about half a million times — and you can check it out on my Patreon! During this course, I’ll be expanding on those steps, taking an practical look at the entire process of writing comics, from conception to outlining to scripting to revising to working with editors and artists to make it all work as a finished book.
CE: What advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your comic book writing career?
GP: After all these years of writing comics, I realized something pretty recently that could be worth sharing… If you’re lucky enough to start getting work-for-hire offers, pick your projects based on your editors as much as the characters or properties. I think a huge number of us would do just about anything to write certain characters we’ve loved since we were kids. And that’s fantastic — that kind of passion can be critical for making these projects sing. But when it comes down to the day-to-day work of making comics, a great creative working relationship with an editor is probably the number one thing that will make the experience a true joy — and a sustainable profession.
If you find editors who love what you do and ask the right questions to push you to make it better, who have a sympathetic or complementary sense of story and theme and ethics, who are good organizers and defenders and know how to get projects done the right way… grab hold of those editors and never let go!
CE: What are some of the most overlooked myths and misconceptions about comic book writing that you think need addressing?
GP: Genius is a myth. There’s no such thing as overnight success — everyone has to work hard for years and years to make their stories work. Yes, some folks have a very special touch for dialogue or puzzlebox plotting or worldbuilding or whatever… but none of us are Mozart, just out there typing up perfect scripts in one fell swoop. We’re all working on our craft every day, learning and relearning the basic principles of visual, sequential storytelling, and adding new tools to our toolbox in order to reach the next level. This can be daunting, because it implies years of work. But I think it’s enormously liberating, because it also implies that if you can scratch together the time and resources to keep going, you can get better.
CE: What’s the biggest takeaway you hope students gain from your course?
GP: I hope folks walk away with the tools and the permission to actually DO the thing. So many of us — me included! — have stories in our heads that we just can’t seem to get down on paper. Sometimes stories just need time to percolate. But very often, we don’t do the thing because we’ve built up so many expectations in our own heads that it’s too intimidating to start, because it isn’t yet perfect. Or we just don’t quite have a method for turning those ideas into an actual story and script. I think this course can help by providing one writer’s set of incredibly practical tools that can help get those first ideas onto paper, perfect or not, so that we can get that first draft into the can and turn that first draft into a second and third draft that really sing.
Maybe another way to say all of this is that storytelling isn’t magic. Yes, there’s that feel of magic when everything’s clicking. But the actual process is just that — an actual process that each of us develops to move our jumbled, imperfect first thoughts of a story into an actual script, step by step.
Don’t miss out on your chance to gain insight from an industry legend! We’ve still got some spots open for the Master Seminar on July 13, but they tend to go quickly. Make sure to sign up here as soon as you can to ensure your place!
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!
May 29, be sure to pick up your copy of DC’s Dog Days and show your support for Comics Experience alums Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Kenny Porter! The anthology stars DC Comics’ animal characters having fun in the sun with summer hijinks.
Kenny’s story centers on the rage kitten Red Lantern Dex-Starr, and he’s joined by Paul Fry on art, Mick Gray on inks, Ivan Plascencia on inks, and Andworld Design on letters.
“I’m so happy to be able to play in the Lantern sandbox with these creators,” Kenny says.
Phillip’s work on Aquaman and in the DC’s Writer’s Workshop nurtured in him a love and appreciation for the publisher’s rich history, characters, and worlds.
“When it came time to choose a character [for Dog Days], Animal Man was the obvious choice. He’s under-utilized, has a really interesting backstory, I found the Lemire run completely inspiring, and I was anxious to put my stamp on the character,” he says.
“I pitched several ideas for the book, each one more crazypants than the next. The one they went for has a horror vibe, which anyone who knows my webcomics work will know I’m SUPER stoked about.”
The Creators Workshop provided both men with the education and skill sets needed to pursue such a fun and engaging project.
“One of the greatest benefits of the Creators Workshop is that it gives you a place to work with other creators. Obviously the mechanics of writing, drawing, coloring, lettering, etc. are all hugely important, but equally important is the art of collaboration,” Phillip says.
“The abilities to take criticism well, to give productive feedback, to understand how people perceive you, to help your colleagues do their best work, to take the lesson from every collaboration… these are just as important as the skill you bring to a creative team. The Creators Workshop is a perfect lab for not only getting better at your craft, but for building your skills as a member of a team.”
Kenny adds, “Comics Experience helped me prepare way back when I took the Intro to Writing Course with Andy. The practice we had writing a 5-page comic really translates to anthology work. The smaller the page count, the more story you usually have to fit in and have it flow naturally.”
Make sure to pick up your copy of DC’s Dog Days on May 29!
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!
The Comics Experience crew is excited to support alumnus and Andy Schmidt mentee Sean McArdle on his Eisner nomination for The Führer and the Tramp!
(And he’s not the only Comics Experiencer with an Eisner nomination – lettering instructor Erica Schultz and alumnus Amy Chu both contributed to Where We Live: Las Vegas Shooting Benefit Anthology!)
Sean is joined on his tale of celebrity and WWII intrigue with Dexter Wee on art and Jon Judy as his co-writer. And we haven’t even mentioned the best part yet: Comics Experience and Source Point Press will be publishing the trade paperback this year!
Sean spoke with us about the project and the honors it earned.
Comics Experience: How did you initially conceive of the idea of The Führer and the Tramp? What was your process like for finding a team?
Sean McArdle: I originally thought up the idea for The Führer and the Tramp back in 2015 while watching The Interview. Kim Jong-un had threatened to assassinate Seth Rogen for lampooning him, and since that was 2015, and the world was more sane, that struck me as the craziest thing I had ever heard. A world leader wanted to assassinate SETH ROGEN? Now today, 4 years later, that news would be the third craziest thing that would be reported on an average Tuesday.
I couldn’t get that thought out of my head. I tried reasoning with myself thinking “Well, Hitler never threatened to assassinate Charlie Chaplin when he made The Great Dictator. Which inevitably lead to the thought “What if Hitler tried to assassinate Charlie Chaplin when he made The Great Dictator!”
At the time, my best friend and frequent collaborator, Jon Judy, was fresh off his graphic novel, Swerve, and I was wanting to collaborate with him on a project. Jon and I are both fans of Charlie Chaplin, the Golden Age of Hollywood and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, so this seemed like the perfect fit.
We had been collaborating with Dexter Wee since about 2007, and we had developed a very collaborative way of working. Dexter is a fantastic artist, and even better friend. I love working with Dexter. I was creating this book first and foremost for myself, and I wanted to enjoy the process of creating it, so Dexter was the natural choice.
CE: How did your mentorship under Andy Schmidt help you with crafting the story?
SM: Andy is a fantastic editor and mentor. He has a real knack for finding every illogical plot beat and out-of-character contrivance. Under his mentorship, I learned quite a bit about narrative structure and character development.
Andy also helped guide me through the weeds of Act 2, the middle part of the story where I would usually stumble. He helped me realize that my problem was I was barreling through the plot via a straight line to the finish instead of allowing the story to breathe, and meander a bit.
He compared it to Raiders of the Lost Ark saying that I went from Marcus Brody talking to Indy at the college about the Ark of the Covenant, to Indy getting on a plane and immediately finding the Ark in the Well of Souls. Instead I needed to send my characters on mini quests as Spielberg and Lucas did with Indy — meeting Marion in Nepal, acquiring the Staff of Ra, meeting Sallah, bad dates, Marion getting kidnapped…
That bit of insight has completely changed the way I approach storytelling.
Andy’s expertise and experience has been an invaluable resource.
CE: How did you go from Kickstarter success story to publication with Source Point?
SM: I first released The Führer and the Tramp as a webcomic in order to start building an audience and awareness, so that when I launched the Kickstarter, I was starting from a base of fans. Between that fanbase, my network of friends and family, and utilizing every marketing trick I’ve learned in the past 20 years in my day job as a graphic designer, I was able to reach 300% of my goal.
I think it was important too for me to view the Kickstarter campaign as only one component, and as a marketing and publicity piece, not as the be all end all of the comic. I never allowed the Kickstarter to determine the fate of the project. Even if I didn’t reach my goals, I was still capable of printing the book myself.
I had tons of help and advice from other comic creators that have run wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns. Ted Sikora from Hero Tomorrow Comics spent hours with me helping me refine my campaign and especially helped me avoid costly and time consuming rewards. A former student of mine, Shawn Coss from Any Means Necessary, has taught himself how to weaponize social media like no one else that I know.
Andy also was a great source of advice, and he and Source Point helped me navigate some of the legal issues regarding the property even before we had any agreement on publishing. That willingness to help without any guarantee from me about signing with them gave me all of the confidence I needed in believing that my project would be in trustworthy, capable hands. I really appreciate all of the work they put into helping get The Führer and the Tramp out to a wider audience than I could on my own. They have been fantastic, tireless advocates of us and our project.
CE: Kind of an obvious question, but what does it feel like to be an Eisner nominee?
SM: Becoming nominated for an Eisner Award was a huge shock to my system, one that I’m not sure my heart has recovered from.
I didn’t create this book and dedicate three years of my life to crafting it for any monetary gain or critical awards. Every line I wrote, every sound effect I lettered, every cover I colored and every page that I colored with grey washes, I did with an audience of only one in mind — me. My barometer for success was being able to finish it, and hold it in my hands, and look at it on my bookshelf. Anything beyond that is a totally unexpected treat.
I struggled for more than a decade, working on other people’s books, and creating a half dozen issue Number Ones and pitches with no success. Everytime I stepped into Artist’s Alley and set up my booth, I was humbled and in awe of all of the creators I perceived as being far better than myself, and started every convention — and frequently ending a convention — doubting my worth and place in this community. The Führer and the Tramp is the first comic I created, not to be published, not with an editor in mind, but I created it for me, and for the love of creating comics.
If there is anything that I have taken from the privilege of being selected as an Eisner nominee, it’s that I finally feel like I can honestly call myself a peer of all of the amazing comic creators that have inspired me my entire life. Hopefully I won’t feel so insecure the next time I set up in Artist’s Alley. It’s a fantastic piece of exterior validation coming from an illustrious committee. I hope to continue to live up to that honor.
The Eisner nomination also made me so eternally grateful to my collaborators, Jon and Dexter, as well as my mentor Andy Schmidt. These guys have been terrific, and I am always astounded that they have the patience to put up with my neocrisis and flights of fancy.
My journey is just beginning though. The Eisner nomination encourages me to continue chasing my dream of creating comics. I still have so much to learn, and hope to improve in my skills as a storyteller and continue to create even bigger and better comics.