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ComiXology’s John D. Roberts Offers Tips for Digital-Friendly Comics

JohnRobertsSuitComiXology co-founder John D. Roberts joined the Comics Experience Creators Workshop earlier this year, to discuss ComiXology Submit, and the rise of digital comics.

During the session, Roberts discussed techniques for writing comics that are designed with the tablet reader in mind.

Roberts noted that when ComiXology started, their catalog consisted almost entirely of print books being converted to digital readership.

Now, he said, “we’re starting to see people who are using digital as their first distribution method, or they’re making their comics exclusively for digital. But they’re still thinking about it in print terms. They’re still thinking about how it needs to look great in print.”

But Roberts said that for many of these comics, their initial readers will be viewing the comic on a tablet, not in print. And the creators need to think about these “iPad people,” and start making creative decisions based on their reading experience.

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For example, Roberts said that even on his iPad mini, he can read most digital comics in full-page format, without resorting to panel view. The only time this becomes difficult, he said, is when the font is not designed for digital viewing.

Roberts said creators should consider using an all-caps font style, to avoid lower-case letters.

“Also, think about the font size,” he said. “Maybe bump it up a point or two, so there’s really no problem reading it on a tablet.”

DOUBLE-PAGE SPREADS

Roberts also recommended that comics creators stick to single pages in their layouts.

“People aren’t going to like to hear this, but double-page spreads really don’t work well on a tablet,” he said. “When you move from portrait view to landscape view, it can be a little jarring.”

Roberts predicted that as digital comics become more popular, “we’re going start seeing the double-page spread go away.”

comiXology storePRICE POINT

Many digital creators make their books available for 99 cents — the lowest price-point allowed on ComiXology. But Roberts said he advises against this.

If a comic is 99 cents, he said, the price can never be reduced, and there is no incentive for a consumer to buy, unless they are ready to read the book at that exact moment.

By contrast, he said, a $1.99 comic can be put on sale for 99 cents, drawing attention to it and goosing sales before the price returns to $1.99.

THE “FIRST VERSION”

“A lot of creators think that the print version is the first experience and the digital version is going to be the second,” Roberts said. “And that’s going to change.”

Comics Experience founder Andy Schmidt said he thinks that another way to put it is that people think of print as “permanent” and digital as “temporary,” when the opposite may be true.

“You think, (if) it’s printed, it’s permanent, it isn’t going to go away,” Schmidt said. “And you think of digital as temporary. The code lasts a little while, and then it goes away.”

But now, Schmidt said, more people are thinking of digital as a more permanent version, always present and always available.

“That’s a huge foundational shift,” Schmidt said.

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.

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


Andy Schmidt to deconstruct successful pitches — What really works?

andy-bioOn Tuesday night, June 25, 2013 at 9pm Eastern Time, we’ll have a nuts and bolts comics industry discussion with Andy Schmidt on pitching!

Andy will be deconstructing examples of comic book project pitches that were greenlit and went on to become successful series. What made them work as pitches? And what should you be including in your own pitch documents to have your project picked up? Andy will also be taking questions from the audience on pitch-related topics.

This will be a live, online streaming discussion held as part of our Creators Workshop community.

Andy is a former Marvel and IDW editor and the founder of Comics Experience. He has seen countless pitches over the years, both from established creators and from the blind “slush” pile. He’s even had the experience of writing and pitching his own creator-owned series 5 Days to Die, so he knows what works and what doesn’t from both sides of the table.

workshop screenshotDuring his time in editorial, Andy worked with nearly every major character in the Marvel pantheon 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.

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

There’s still time to sign up before the next session.

We hope to see you there.

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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!

Posted by Rob Anderson
rob@ComicsExperience.com
Twitter / Facebook


CE alum Kevin Volo launches “Max & Thorne” Kickstarter

max-thorne_largeComics Experience coloring alum Kevin Volo has launched a Kickstarter campaign, and it also features art by another CE alum, artist DaFu Yu!

Max and Thorne tells the tale of a young boy searching for his kidnapped father. In the depths of his despair, he meets a powerful ally — a dragon! The all-ages tale is co-written by Kevin and his son.

“One day, my eight-year-old son and I were talking in the car during a long drive, just laughing and making up stories,” Kevin said.

“We were coming up with funny, crazy stuff that really delighted me, both as a storyteller and a dad. So I thought, hey, why not work on a comic with my son? And from that simple, loving seed of an idea, Max and Thorne was born.”

The Kickstarter will allow the team to complete the first story, and with enough funding, will allow them to continue it as an on-going series. As the pages are completed, they will be posted on Kevin’s webcomic site, Pixelstrips.com.

“For us, it’s all about the story and sharing it,” Kevin said.

Sponsors can receive a PDF of the 8-page story, a “coloring book” version of the story, an 8.5 x 11 full-color print, an 11×17 character study poster, and even the ability to name some characters in the story.

You can even receive specially commissioned art pencilled by series artist DaFu!

The Kickstarter has just begun, so there’s still time to jump on board right here, or check out the project video below!

Best of luck to Kevin and his son, and DaFu!

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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 alum Gannon Beck parodies Star Wars…

On our Comics Experience Creators Workshop community, our writer and artist members are constantly sharing and critiquing each other’s work. CE alum and Workshop Art Moderator Gannon Beck recently posted a fun Star Wars parody which he illustrated, and was co-written with Troy McDevitt.

Here’s the first three pages of “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” The full story is available on Gannon’s Space Corps Facebook page.

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Check out the rest of the story right here!

Gannon is also involved in making comics with his creator-owned title, Space Corps, while Troy is an artist and amazing sculptor as well!

If you’re interested in learning more about the Creators Workshop, read all about our community on the Comics Experience website right here.

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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!


Writer Ed Brisson on Captions, Lettering, and Placing Restraints on Storytelling

brissonWriter and letterer Ed Brisson joined the Comics Experience Creators Workshop earlier this year, to discuss his career writing, lettering and publishing comics, including the self-published Murder Book (with various artists) and the recent Image mini-series Comeback, with artist Michael Walsh, as well as the upcoming Image mini-series Sheltered, with artist Johnnie Christmas.

Topics discussed included:

(NOT) USING CAPTIONS

Narrative and thought captions are common in modern-day comics, but Brisson’s work has been largely free of them. He noted that this was intentional, and that from a storytelling perspective, it helps him to preserve some mystery in the story.

“One of the things I worry about — and probably why I don’t use captions — is telling too much of the story,” Brisson said. “I like pulling back, and trying to give readers enough information to get them going, but just enough information to keep them guessing.”

He said ideally, he would like his readers to “spend some time trying to figure out what’s going on.”

ComebackNO1_nycc_sm1THE VALUE OF SELF-LETTERING

Brisson is known for lettering his own work. He said he likes the hands-on approach that it provides, and he appreciates being the last person to handle the book before it goes to press. He noted that it also allows him to tweak the dialogue — or do more than tweak it.

“A lot of times I’ll completely remove huge chunks of dialogue, because the artist is getting the same thing across,” he said. “If you can get it across without needing the exposition or without needing the extra dialogue that’s a really good thing to do. I like it when I’m looking at something where the art speaks for itself.”

PLACING RESTRAINTS ON STORYTELLING

Brisson said that when developing a new story, he likes to build in “restraints,” as a way of guiding and developing the storytelling. This was especially true in Comeback, his time-travel mini-series from Image Comics.

“I like time travel as a concept. I hate time travel stories,” Brisson said. “They’re too expansive.”

Sheltered_1_cvr_550So he developed the idea of a world where time travel existed, but could only take you 67 days into the past — making it “incredibly limiting, and in some ways underwhelming.”

“I started thinking about what restraints would be on it, the regulations around its use, who could use it and who couldn’t, how it could be exploited,” he said. “And the story started spinning out of there.”

Brisson said that when pitching the project, several people asked about the technology — how it works and why it’s so limited. But he said that as a storyteller, these questions didn’t interest him, and that he preferred to focus on the characters and the core storytelling.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You go into a big machine, zip zap, you’re in the past. When we started being able to fly, we couldn’t fly 20,000 feet into the sky. We took baby steps. This is the early days of time travel.”

Other topics discussed during the live online session included:

  •  How Brisson broke in
  • How he went from lettering his own work to becoming a professional letterer
  • The pre-press aspect of lettering work
  • Lettering mistakes Brisson sees repeated often
  • The pitch process for Comeback
  • Why Brisson suggests not pitching to editors at conventions
  • The experience of running New Reliable Press, Brisson’s former publishing imprint
  • Getting a book into Diamond as a small publisher
  • Brisson’s comic Murder Book, and the value of putting full stories online, versus the “one page” model
  • The value of social media, and how it’s helped Brisson’s career
  • Early influences, in both writing and art

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


“Great Zombies” from McFarland features 12 CE alums!

Great-Zombies-in-History-McFarland-PressGreat Zombies in History, the new trade paperback from McFarland & Company, includes work by TWELVE Comics Experience alums and Creators Workshop members!

GZiH was originally released in 2011 as three stand-alone issues by Elevator Pitch Press, a collective of writers who all took the inaugural online version of Andy Schmidt’s Introduction to Comic Book Writing course in October of 2009.

The title has since been picked up and collected by McFarland, a leading independent publisher of pop culture-related nonfiction books who is now bringing its 34 years of publishing experience to the graphic novel format.

In the book, readers discover the secret history of the undead, with stories on samurai, vikings, spartans and even Teddy Roosevelt.

Included are also tales of the Zombie War of 1812, the lost colony of Roanoke Island, the real reason Russia lost the space race, and more.

spartans-great-zombies-in-history-01GZiH features writing by CE alums Rob Anderson, Eric Drumm, Neil Fisher, Frederick Kim, Kevin D. Lintz, George O’Connor, Joshua Osborne, Dan Rivera, and Joe Sergi. Joe also acted as editor of the collected edition, along with assistant editors Frederick Kim and George O’Connor.

The collection also includes art by CE alums DaFu Yu (who also provided the samurai zombie cover), Richard P. Clark, and lettering/design by CE Workshop member E.T. Dollman.

GZiH is a 116-page, black and white softcover, now available from McFarland, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all major book distributors, as well as in several e-book formats.

Congrats to all the CE folks involved in this project!

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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!