Creators Workshop member and Comics Experience course alumnus Carlos Giffoni is writing Space Riders for Black Mask Studios! Joined by Alexis Ziritt on art and Ryan Ferrier on letters, the new volume hits shops on June 26. Taking place 20 years after the previous Space Riders tales, the titular team must band together again – this time with a little help from cybernetics – and save reality.
And that other reality.
And another reality over there.
We talked to Carlos briefly about his upcoming project.
Comics Experience: This volume of Space Riders takes place a full two decades after the previous. What strategies should writers take into consideration when working on such a large jump? What are some of the challenges you’re facing?
Carlos Giffoni: Because of that large gap, I had some freedom to evolve the characters and imagine the kind of life they had each experienced since the years after those initial stories. That was an enjoyable part of the process, as it helped me make them my own a little bit since I wasn’t the original writer for the series.
On the other hand, they are still the same characters, so a big challenge became to distill their essence down to find the recognizable and important elements within each of them that I needed to keep untouched. They still needed to feel like the characters the readers of previous volumes of Space Riders know and love.
Once I broke each character down to the essence of who they are, it was a matter of applying some emotional filters to their lives to bring them forward 20 years. Failure, obsession, love to name a few. I had to put myself on the shoes of each character and imagine how their decisions changed them, and think about what they still want at this point in their lives, what their motivations are.
It was vital for me to start the process of writing this story with evolving each of the characters first, and only after I felt I had them right, begin crafting what the actual story was. Thankfully I have been in this earth quite longer than 20 years, so I did have a personal experience of what aging 20 years feels like to use as a starting point.
I also listened to a lot of heavy music. Starting with King Crimson, and moving on to the Melvins, Darkthrone, Neurosis to name a few. Music was an essential inspiration to get my mind in tune with the vibe of this series.
CE: How did your time with Comics Experience and the Creator’s Workshop help with putting together Space Riders?
CG: The most significant help from the workshop has been to have a community of other creators available to have discussions with, analyze the latest developments in comics and related fields, and having access to a group of people pursuing the same goal: Making comics.
I went to a lot of conferences this past year and a half as I had a few projects I was pitching around. Being a new writer in comics, I wanted to meet as many creators as possible and get their opinions on what I was putting together and get any advice I could use. The workshop made it so that there already was a handful of people I knew going into these conferences, a starting point. Usually, there are meetups at each big conference from the workshop self-organized by members or Andy, which become opportunities to network and share experiences with other like-minded creators. Breaking in is very difficult, and there can be a lot of disappointment, so it has been beneficial to be able to have an avenue to communicate with others dealing with similar challenges.
I have also taken a few of the master classes, and those have been great. Having a long and intense session of learning from someone that has already been there and done it is really valuable. [Editor’s Note: Carlos will also be attending our upcoming Master Seminar on writing team books with James Tynion IV!]
CE: What is your working relationship like with the rest of the team?
CG: Alexis, who is the artist and original creator, has become a good friend. I met him first at C2E2 last year and then kept running into him at conferences, and since we are both Venezuelan, we had a lot in common to talk and joke about there. I was already a big fan of his art and notably the Space Riders series when we met. I shared one of the other series I am working on (which has a publisher now who will be officially announcing it in May) with him and kept in touch through social media, and we discovered we had shared tastes in comics, food, and music. One day he called me out of the blue and offered me the opportunity to write the new volume of Space Riders, and here we are. I was thrilled.
It’s been particularly interesting because Alexis is leading the creation of this book, so I haven’t worked closely with Ryan Ferrier (who is doing the lettering) or the people at Black Mask.
Alexis called me early on to discuss where we should take the story; He had a few elements he already wanted us to explore, like the time jump and the idea that this was a different type of mission for the Riders. I took a few different explorations on my side before we had an idea for it and an outline for the series that we both were jazzed to execute. I think we found a twist to the Space Riders universe that is both exciting and culturally meaningful to both of us, and more importantly, it is metal and bloody as hell. I hope fans of the series and new readers get their minds melted along the way!
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!
“Andy Schmidt is one of the best editors I’ve ever worked with. His editorial suggestions are always on the mark and very stimulating. After talking with him, I’m filled with new ideas and excited to get back to my writing. He understands what makes a story work, and that’s a rare gift.”
David Morrell New York Times best-selling author and creator of Rambo