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The Comics Experience Blog

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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

CE Alums in Dark Horse Presents, Ghost Town, and The Gathering!

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!


DHPWriter Shaun Manning had a story in Dark Horse Presents #21, alongside folks like Neil Gaiman and Paul Chadwick!

“Cat’s in the Cradle” is a one-page story by Shaun with art by Andrew Drilon that’s an interesting look at the song of the same name by Harry Chaplin and the meaning of the song’s lyrics.

The book hit stands on February 20th, so check it out!


ghost-townComics Experience coloring alum Brian Dyck just had his first pro work solicited in this month’s Diamond Previews in the new title Ghost Town, published by Action Lab Entertainment as part of their new Danger Zone imprint.

Written by Dave Dwonch and penciled by Justin Greenwood, Brian said, “the first issue was a ton of fun to work on and the course I recently took with Soto was an immense help.”

You can check out the Ghost Town preview posted on CBR right here!


Gathering-Ghost-StoriesWriter James Murray just had a four-page story, “Hands,” published in the anthology The Gathering: Ghost Stories earlier this year.

The Gathering Anthologies are published by Gray Haven Comics, and Ghost Stories features over a dozen tales in 40 pages of supernatural terror.

James has also been hitting the con circuit recently, promoting his creator-owned title Classic Horror Comics: Bride of Prometheon. He’ll soon be releasing the follow-up, Classic Horror Comics: Curse of the Mummy’s Stone. You can check out more info on his website


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

New Website, New Courses, New Mentorships & More!

A message from Andy Schmidt, founder of Comics Experience…

We have officially launched a brand new Comics Experience website — check it out by clicking on the image below!


And with the new website, we’ve expanded our course offerings (including some exciting new advanced courses), our mentorship program, and more! Check out the new website, or read through the highlights below:

Our popular Advanced Writing course that was previously one class has now been split into TWO five-week classes. Click on the individual course listings to read more about Advanced Comic Book Writing: Building Your Series and Advanced Comic Book Writing: Scripting Your First Issue.

Likewise, we’ve split the Advanced Comic Art course into two courses as well: Advanced Comic Book Art: Professional Penciling Techniques and Advanced Comic Book Art: Storytelling Master Class.


For both sets of courses, we have bundle deals if you want to take the two courses and still save some cash.

And, due to the popularity of our Introduction to Figure Drawing & Construction course, we’ve now added a new Advanced Figure Drawing & Construction class!

Plus, Advanced Comic Book Coloring and Comic Book Editing and Project Management have returned, along with a full slate of Intro courses.

ALL are open for enrollment RIGHT NOW. Check out the individual course listings of all TWELVE classes at the links above for more info!

mentoringWhat’s mentoring? It’s individualized learning with me (Andy Schmidt, former Marvel and IDW Editor), Nicole Boose (former Marvel Editor), or Mike Siglain (former DC Comics Editor). It’s perfect for creative development, career planning, or getting the insider view into the industry that you need.

In these one-on-one, conference phone call sessions, you’ll meet with your professional mentor and plan out a path to success to achieve your individual and specific goals.

Is mentoring right for you? Read all about it right here.

Are you a comic art fan? Then this is very awesome: check out all the great new banners on our website with incredible art from pro artists like Chris Bachalo, Paolo Rivera, Marco Chechetto, Andrea Di Vito, and Chris Eliopoulos, plus banners from CE Creators Workshop members, staff, and alumni like Robert Atkins, Gannon Beck, and Carl Peterson! We’re displaying some really fun art on the site now! Just browse through the pages, and the banners will shift/refresh as you go…

(And check out a preview of a couple of the banners by our Art Instructor, Robert Atkins, with colors by Simon Gough, below…)

550_Atkins-Gough-Web panels Mecha Battle coloured550-Atkins-GoughWeb panels Sci-Fi coloured

And, if you want to know more about our courses and our Creators Workshop community, we now have a video where I explain what it’s all about — and many of our alumni and Workshop members talk about their own experiences! Thanks to CE alum and Workshop member, Joey Groah, for his hard work in putting this together for us!

Thanks, everyone, for all your continued support, and I hope you’re even half as excited about the new site and new offerings as I am!

Andy Schmidt

Chris Roberson on how he develops ideas, and the role of world building

Writer Chris Roberson joined the Comics Experience Creators Workshop Book Club recently, to talk about Memorial, his fantasy comic with artist Rich Ellis, and about Monkeybrain Comics, the digital comics imprint he runs with Allison Baker, his business partner and spouse.

Memorial, published by IDW, is the story of Em, a young woman who arrives at a hospital with no memory of her past. A year later, she has rebuilt her life, only to find her existence is thrown into turmoil after she inherits a magical shop and is drawn into a supernatural conflict.

During the session, Roberson talked about the origin of Memorial, and about how he develops ideas in general. Roberson said he first came up with the idea for Memorial about seven years ago. His original idea was to write a story about a magical shop tethered to other worlds, and about a young, female protagonist with a middle-aged companion.

“I spent about six or seven years figuring out who that girl was,” Roberson said. “What is this story, and what are they doing? I tried a bunch of different things, crammed a bunch of different stories in there, and every time I would throw everything away.”

Roberson said this is a normal evolution for his larger projects. He outlined the steps, saying, “You have a central idea that you’re obsessed with; you spend a lot of time building a conceptual framework around it; you decide that you hate that framework and throw it all away; you let it sit fallow for a couple of months; and then you go back to it, pick over the bones of what you did before, and figure out what pieces worked.”

Then, you do it again and again. Roberson said he repeated this process about seven or eight times over the course of several years.

“What Memorial turned into was this survival of the fittest model of all of the earlier bits of what had come before,” Roberson said.

Roberson also talked about the impact that role-playing games have had on his process, and his world-building in particular.

“I spent a large amount of time in my younger days playing role-playing games, and even after I stopped playing role-playing games religiously, I would continue to buy manuals and read them,” Roberson said. “I like looking at the way other people have built worlds. I like maps and charts and schemes and timelines and things like that.”

As a result, before starting any project, Roberson spends a lot of time establishing the “rules” of the world, and the personalities of the characters.

“And then, in much the same way you would do in a role-playing session, you set everything in motion and see what happens,” Roberson said. “You have your rules, you know what can and can’t be done, you have your characters and then you bounce them off each other and see what kind of interesting things happen.”

Other topics discussed during the live, online session included:

  • How Roberson got started in comics
  • Roberson’s thoughts on the Mythic Fiction genre
  • How different types of narration can affect comics storytelling
  • Striking a balance between preserving the mystery of a story while also preserving reader interest
  • The challenge of writing a talking cat
  • Panel count in Memorial, and using more panels for the action scenes
  • The pitch process for Memorial
  • The difference between writing for print versus digital
  • And many more.

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

Faith Erin Hicks joins Creators Workshop 3/12/13

On Tuesday March 12, 2013 at 8pm Eastern Time, we’ll be discussing Friends with Boys with writer/artist Faith Erin Hicks during a Creators Workshop live, online Book Club session.

Friends with Boys is a coming-of-age tale with a spooky twist, about Maggie McKay, who, after an idyllic childhood of homeschooling with her mother and rough-housing with her older brothers, must face the outside world all on her own.

But that means facing high school first. And it also means solving the mystery of the melancholy ghost who has silently followed Maggie throughout her entire life.

Friends With Boys is a 211-page graphic novel published by First Second Books.

A free 20-page preview is available right here.

Faith Erin Hicks is a writer and artist in Halifax, Canada. Her first two graphic novels, Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere, were published by SLG Publishing. Most recently, she illustrated First Second’s Brain Camp. Hicks has three brothers and was homeschooled until high school, but has never seen a ghost.

Hicks began drawing comics and putting them on the internet in 1999. Since that time, she’s drawn more than 1600 pages of comics including her first online comic, Demonology 101, The Adventures of Superhero Girl, and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong.

We’re looking forward to a great discussion!

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 or draw 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 Paul Allor’s “Strange Nation” to be published by Action Lab Entertainment!

SN-CoverComics Experience alum and staff member Paul Allor recently announced his first creator-owned mini-series, with artist Juan Romera.

Strange Nation, a four-issue mini-series, will launch later this year through Action Lab Entertainment.

But before that, an advance copy of issue #1 will be available from Paul at Emerald City Comic Con and Fabletown and Beyond.

According to Action Lab, Strange Nation is a madcap tale of tabloid myths. The story stars Norma Park, a reporter who discovers a bizarre conspiracy, tying together aliens, Sasquatch and mad scientists.

The book is already receiving great advance reviews, including this one from Multiversity Comics! You can also read an interview with Paul and see more pages over on CBR’s Robot 6.


Paul is a graduate of the Comics Experience writing, lettering and editing classes, and is a longtime member of the Creators Workshop.

His previous works include Clockwork, Vol. 1, a collection of five-page comics, many of them workshopped through Comics Experience; Orc Girl, a one-shot with artist Thomas Boatwright; and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fugitoid, a one-shot for IDW Publishing.

Congrats to Paul and Juan on this upcoming mini-series!

If you want to make comics, write or draw 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!