The Comics Experience Blog

Rich Douek Emerges from the Smoke & Mirrors

It’s almost time! Rich Douek, a course alumnus and Creators Workshop member, releases the sequel to his hit Gutter Magic on April 25! On Gutter Magic: Smoke and Mirrors, he is joined by Fei Chen on art and Sean Rinehart on letters.

Picking up six months after the original series, the new story sees protagonist Cinder continuing to explore his improved magical prowess, and an antagonist(?) facing down the legacy of The Morgue.

We spoke with Rich about what we can expect from Smoke & Mirrors. No spoilers, of course.

Comics Experience: No spoilers, naturally, but what can you tell us about what’s happened to Cinder and his team since the end of the original Gutter Magic?

Rich Douek: Well, at the end of Gutter Magic, Cinder was in jail. By the start of Smoke and Mirrors, he’s out, and trying hard to integrate his new magical powers into his life – but he realizes that studying something and actually doing it are two very different things.

One other character that is also imprisoned is The Morgue – but she’s still inside, and without her leadership, her gang, the Ghost Knives, has lost their dominance over the streets – ceding more and more territory to upstart gangs. Her daughter, Shiver, could take over – but for the first time in her life she’s out from under her mother’s shadow – so who’s to say she even wants to?

CE: So we’re going to get a good Shiver story out of this, eh? What do you enjoy most about writing her?

RD: Shiver has become one of my favorite characters to write. She’s immensely powerful, utterly fearless, and playful in a way that just makes it super enjoyable to get into her head. Having died several times before means that what seems all important to us feels almost trivial to her – what does she have to fear, after all? And as a consequence of that, she’s never afraid to be exactly who she is – though even now, she’s still learning about herself, and exactly who she wants to be.

CE: How does Tales from the Gutter fit into the Smoke and Mirrors world and timeline?

RD: Tales from the Gutter is a mix of tales from all over – there’s one that takes place during the first series, one that takes place during Blacktooth’s childhood, and many that don’t even feature characters that we see in the main series… but, they’re all out there in the world, and Might cross paths with Cinder down the road sometime – you never know!

CE: Are you teasing us, Rich?

RD: Always! I don’t know what the future holds, exactly, but every character I’ve introduced has a part to play in the world I’ve been building with Gutter Magic. Hopefully we’ll all see how one day!

CE:As a piece of historical fiction, what does your research process look like? How do you decide what to include and what to fictionalize?

RD: Well, the great thing about using magic is that it’s impossible to call me out on any historical inaccuracies – a wizard did it!

Seriously though, I do try to do a good amount of research to make sure that everything makes sense – that’s the most important thing to me. The history can be whatever I want it to be, but it needs to have all have a sort of internal logic that makes it all fit together.

CE: Were there any little bits of history that you hated to leave on the cutting room floor?

RD: Well, Robert Oppenheimer factored into the first series in a big way. He was a fascinating person in real life, and if I had been able to, I would have liked to delve a little bit more into his history, his life, and what made him special. As it was, I think we alluded to a lot of it, but we didn’t really have the space to go too deep. But hopefully seeing his name inspired some people to look him up and learn about him!

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Gutter Magic: Smoke & Mirrors #1 via mail or curbside delivery from your favorite local comic book store on April 25!

Michael Roslen Turns His Sights to Mars with Remnant!

Out later this month: Another amazing comic from the Source Point Press-Comics Experience publishing partnership! Michael Roslen and his team – Karly Engracia on pencils, Davi Comodo on colors, and Comics Experience course alumnus Sean Rinehart on letters and logo design – welcome the landing of Remnant on April 29!

Remnant is a sci-fi story told over 3 generations of a single family as they struggle to colonize Mars after the Earth has become inhospitable. The story has a lot of influences, but I was primarily inspired by stories of people chasing dreams of a better life in a new world,” says Michael.

“Historically, we are familiar with those tales of the Europeans who sailed into the unknown to find the new world. In more modern times, we often hear about immigrants and refugees looking for a better way of life. Often those stories involve many ups and downs and those tales are passed down through the generations in the form of oral histories. I wanted to capture that spirit but with a futuristic, sci-fi flavor.”

For Michael, the Source Point-Comics Experience publishing program made for a helpful introduction to learning the ins and outs of the industry.

He says, “The experience has been great so far. Everyone has been very clear and upfront during the whole process. Everyone has been supportive and open to any questions I’ve had. This is my first time being published, so I’ve been learning a lot about everything that goes into the process.”

But the Source Point and Comics Experience partnership wasn’t his first experience working with us. Our community in the Creators Workshop helped him germinate Remnant from a concept to a published script.

“I workshopped the script in the CE forums as I was developing it. I got a lot of feedback and reviews from members and pros. I realized some elements the story weren’t working the way I was intending. Also, some parts of the story needed to be expanded, while others needed to be tightened,” Michael says.

“Getting a variety of differing opinions made me realize how subjective storytelling can be. But it also allowed me to identify the things that came up repeatedly, good or bad, and adjust accordingly. I was recently on the CE podcast talking in depth on this same subject. So if anyone wants to hear more about that, check out the podcast!”

Remnant‘s success story didn’t begin and end in the Workshop. Michael’s team took his script and turned it into a vivid science-fiction epic.

“I had a great team to help bring the book to life. Karly Engracia pencilled the book. He did a phenomenal job bringing the sci-fi elements to life while creating the lush, vibrant landscape of a terraformed Mars. Davi Comodo was our colorist. He brought a bold, unique vision to the art team,” He says.

“Finally, CE member Sean Rinehart lettered the book and designed the logo. He was able to connect some of Karly’s design elements into the lettering and give the book a really nice cohesiveness”

You can pick up your copy of Remnant #1 via mail or curbside delivery from your favorite local comic book store beginning April 29!

Case Study: Kenny Porter

This past C2E2, our own Creators Workshop Director Bon Alimagno interviewed Workshop member and course alumnus Kenny Porter about his success with Kickstarter project Barnstormers and more. The interview, now up on our Case Studies page, delves deep into how our community and classes helped with building his career.

Here, we’ve got a few highlights from Bon’s interview with Kenny. Make sure to check out the whole video for the most comprehensive story and advice.

On taking Intro to Writing Comics:

There might be writing groups in my city, but no one in them who wrote comics or anything close to that. Intro to Writing Comics was a great opportunity to talk to other people who were interested in what I was doing, familiar with the medium and wanted to get better.

On the Creators Workshop:

First thing I asked when I’d post it: were you excited to read it? People who reviewed it would tell me this is where it trailed off for me; this is where it doesn’t bring the same heat or energy; or it doesn’t tonally fit, or someone’s dialogue didn’t sound consistent. It’s great to have people as a sounding board who have experience in the same medium as you.

On having a graphic novel published in today’s market:

You have to ask yourself, where does it actually fit? Instead of trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. The story you want to tell: who is the audience who wants to read it? Just because someone wants to do comics doesn’t mean they want to do superhero comics, or slice of life, or vice versa. There’s way more options now. It’s a big thing to learn now that the market is more open.

We know you want to know more. Make sure to head over to our Publishing Case Studies page!

Rich Douek Resummons the Gutter Magic!

Cinder Byrnes returns!

Wednesday warriors, this week Workshop member and course alumnus Rich Douek‘s Gutter Magic hit the shelves (whether physical or digital, depending on your location) once more courtesy of our partners at Source Point Press. Rich, artist Brett Barkley, and colorist (and fellow Comics Experience alumnus) Nic Shaw are now joined by our own coloring instructor Chris Sotomayor for recolors!

The trade paperback collects the original four issues of the steampunk fantasy series, set in an alternative New York City where war is waged with wizards instead of Panzers, sorcerers instead of shock troops. Protagonist Cinder Byrnes unlocks a spell that will advance his career in magic… the problem is, he’s actually pretty terrible at magic.


“This collected edition will be the first time Source Point Press fans can read the entire original series in one place! With a stunning new cover by Ugis Berzins, it’s great for anyone looking to catch up on the story before we launch the next volume in April,” Rich says.

“That one’s going to be called Gutter Magic: Smoke and Mirrors, and will pick up with our gang about 6 months after this story concludes.”

Smoke and Mirrors will join Kickstarter success story and anthology Gutter Magic: Tales from the Gutter as a deeper exploration of the thoughtful, textured world Rich and his team created.

Rich says, “Gutter Magic was the first comic I made, and I spent years and years thinking about the world and developing it. If I had the means, I could tell stories in that world for years to come. I hope people like Smoke and Mirrors, because if they do, I’m fully prepared to keep going with more of Cinder’s story. I’d also love to do more shorts in the vein of Tales from the Gutter, either on my own or by opening the setting up to different creators, like we did with a couple of stories in that collection. We’ll see!”

Our publishing partners and friends at Source Point Press have given Rich and his collaborators plenty of reasons to be excited. This trade paperback rerelease will no doubt generate enthusiasm among established fans and new friends of Cinder’s alike, getting them ready for the new adventures ahead.

“Working with Source Point Press has been great. They’ve gotten the book into comic shops, and are selling it at way more conventions than I could ever make it to on my own. If I ever have any questions, Travis, the publisher, is just an email away. I think it’s great that they’re working with Comics Experience books, because I know from experience getting that first book out there is extremely hard,” says Rich.

“It’s nice to know that, while there are no guarantees they will accept your pitch, they’re definitely going to give it attention, and are open to publishing work from new creators who don’t already have work out in the marketplace.”

The Gutter Magic trade paperback from Source Point Press is available as of March 25! Order online through your local comic book store today, or get curbside service if your area allows for it right now!

Erica Schultz on Her Upcoming Lettering Course

Comic book lettering occupies its own unique and wonderful space in the world of typographical art. It requires a number of deeply thoughtful decisions to make your favorite stories move.

Our Erica Schultz (Vampirella, Dejah Thoris, Red Sonja) wants to teach you how to make the magic happen with her upcoming Introduction to Lettering Comics course!

“Lettering really is more than just placing word balloons on a page. Depending on the story, the letterer is the one who helps guide the eye from panel to panel, especially if the layout is a bit confusing,” she says.

“Letterers also add sound effects to pages to make the visuals more dynamic.”

The class begins Monday, May 11 and runs six weeks in the evenings. This is Erica’s second time teaching the well-received class, which will require students to letter their own eight-page comic! Among other valuable lessons, of course. You’re going to get plenty of practice, and with the one-on-one attention from an experienced, respected industry professional!

She says, “For those that are already familiar with Adobe Illustrator, some of the information I’m teaching will already be known, but it’s necessary for those who haven’t had a background in Illustrator.

I’ll teach the class how to resize pages properly for production, letter, and how to output a print ready PDF file for most online printers (obviously, use the specifications from your particular printer, but these lessons are pretty universal).”

We deliberately keep the size of our classes small in order to ensure you receive the most personalized feedback necessary to grow your abilities and your career. Classes fill up fast because of this. Make sure you sign up today to clinch your spot!

“I enjoy showing them that lettering is not only a skill, but an art form,” Erica says. “Good lettering can elevate a mediocre book, and bad lettering can sink it. The world is better with good comics out there!”

Supporting Creators After ECCC’s Postponement

Emerald City Comic-Con’s postponement to an unknown date later this summer was the right choice from a public health perspective, but it understandably led to many (if not most) scheduled comic book creators worrying about their bills. Such a large convention can make or break their year. Fortunately, the comics community has rallied around one another to have fun and make some sales! For anyone hoping to show some solidarity with creators, whether they be old favorites or new can’t-do-withouts, we encourage you to take advantage of as many of the listed opportunities as your time and budget allows. No working creator should ever have to choose between their passion and their basic necessities.

Supporting Us

Originally, we were supposed to attend ECCC with our partners and friends at Source Point Press.

Source Point Press books (many of which have been published in conjunction with Comics Experience) can be purchased online, via comiXology, and at your local comic book store. Which, it should be noted, might be struggling with bringing in customers as worries about coronavirus continue. We encourage you to make the right choice for your needs, but please keep the brick-and-mortars in mind when you do.

They also have some stylish gear in their shop where you can share your fandom through fashion!

In addition, we have many of our well-received comics creation courses coming up, as well as our master seminar with Jonathan Hickman, all open for enrollment. As we’ve mentioned before, spots tend to get snapped up relatively fast, and we keep class sizes small so students get the most personalized feedback possible. We’d appreciate it if you considered looking at our schedule and signing up!

Supporting The Community

When the news that ECCC would be cancelled this weekend, an impressive number of creators banded together to have each others’ backs. While the news certainly didn’t bring us joy, we are so pleased to see how many options there are for comics fans to help our creative community.

First up, if you have the time, both PajamaCon (presented by C. Spike Trotman and Iron Circus Comics) and the Very Very Shopping Network (presented by Jen Vaughn and the crew of Very Very Spaceship) plan to livestream events throughout what would have been the convention weekend.

From March 13-15, PajamaCon will feature Twitch streams of panels and interviews with creators like Chris Roberson, Steve Lieber, Genue Revuelta and more! They will also feature “commercials” with information on creators with open shops, as well as smaller panel sessions. The final schedule has yet to be posted at the time of this writing, so make sure to check the website for the most up-to-date information!

Very Very Shopping Network will also run on Twitch beginning March 12th and ending on the 14th. Hosted by Jen herself, Jazzlyn Stone, and Aaron Oak, it adapts the QVC shopping format to showcase comics creators and publishers through interviews, panels, sales, and special giveaways from Very Very Spaceship, Oni Press, Dark Horse Comics, Random House, and Skybound.

The schedule’s been posted, so start planning your weekend now! You don’t want to miss out on this or PajamaCon!

If you can’t log in to Twitch at all, still make time to browse the #ECCCOnline to see what individual creators are selling in their online shops! Many plan to offer special deals and exclusives this weekend, too. We hope you’ll find some wonderful new-to-you talent to visit at future conventions! If you’re a fan of Oni Press publications or creators, they’ve already set up their own online shop.

In addition, the 2020 ECCC Artist Alley tumblr, Kimchi Kawaii Artist Alley, and Stephanie Cooke‘s Unofficial Emerald City Comic Con page are all keeping track of what’s happening at the various events and/or compiling updated lists of individual creator shops. Definitely make a point to give them regular visits throughout the weekend so you don’t miss your perfect comics or merch find!

Did we forget an online event or hashtag? Let us know and we’ll update this space!