Comic Books 101: The Finale

My Comic Books 101 series, which detailed all the wisdom I learned from my comic book writing class this past semester, sort of faded away without much explanation. Long story short: I graduated.

Happily, I finished the class with a professional portfolio that contained the entire script for my graphic novel Fusion (which, admittedly, I also wrote as my senior thesis in English), the first six pages penciled and inked by an artist, a springboard, and other goodies (like character profiles, visual references, etc.). So while I’m certainly no expert at the comic creating process, I’m at least considerably more experienced than I was four months ago.

So here’s my plan. This post will act as my transition from the Comic Books 101 series to my new series, I Can Write a Comic Book and So Can You! (which will detail the adventure of creating my first ever graphic novel).

And to pretend like this post contains serious content, here’s a list of what you’ve learned in Comic Books 101:

Resources for Comic Creators

Writer-Artist Collaboration

Selling Your Comic

Breaking Into the Comic Book Industry

Writer Rights

The Elements of an Effective Comic

Pearls of Wisdom

Comics Are…

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Interview with Comic Writer Kara Barrett

It’s not every day that I stumble upon a comic that 1. has a strong female lead 2. has awesome art 3. involves fighting, superpowers, and other such kick-ass elements. Kara Barrett’s The End Is Totally Nigh gets a little checkmark for each of my qualifications for a throughly enjoyable comic book read. And there’s a lot to learn from Ms. Barrett, who made her dream comic happen through the help of Kickstarter, hired artists, and a ton of hard work. In this interview, she shares her experiences and advice for those looking to get their comics out into the world. (Oh, and check out a preview of the comic here.)

Convince us, in one sentence, that your comics are awesome.

The End Is Totally Nigh is one BIG burrito-wrapped apocalypse of awesome filled with hellfire, horseheads, heroes and demons! How’s that?

What is your favorite comic or graphic novel?

My favorite comics right now are Rachel Rising and Saga. But I’m always looking for new titles. You have any recommendations for me? I’ve also backed a few on Kickstarter that I can’t wait to read.

What (or who) inspired you to begin creating comics? Why did you begin writing and creating comics?

I read comics when I was a kid and then stopped. When Buffy went to comics, I picked up a few copies and fell back in love with them. A few years ago I started writing this story in a loose format. I looked at different mediums for my story, and ultimately decided that comics were the way to go. I think they are a great way to put your story into people’s hands.

Tell me about  The End Is Totally Nigh.

The End Is Totally Nigh is a story about a girl with mysterious abilities who is trying to stop the impending apocalypse. She suddenly has the ability to exorcise demons, but it isn’t sure how or why she is able to do this. All she does know is that the demon army is about to rise and Lucifer is going to walk the Earth. It’s up to her and a group of ragtag demon hunters to try make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s a supernatural story filled demon bad guys and plenty of apocalyptic drama. I think readers will really enjoy it.

If your comics had a soundtrack, what songs/artists would it include?

The End Is Totally Nigh playlist? Yes, I’ve got to create that!  I think there’s some country music on that playlist. T-R-O-U-B-L-E and Amarillo by Morning for the main character Jane. And Thunderstruck. That’s a must. I’ll have to ponder on the rest.

Why did you decide to write a comic with a strong female lead? When I began work on my own graphic novel, Fusion, I purposely wanted to break gender stereotypes so prevalent in superhero comics. Were you motivated at all by a similar “feminist” objective?

I definitely wanted strong women in this comic. The End Is Totally Nigh is filled with great female characters who take charge. They are also drawn in a more realistic manner than a lot of what you see in today’s comics. I hope that is a refreshing change for some readers.

You used Kickstarter to fund The End Is Totally Nigh. Would you use Kickstarter again to fund another project? Why did you choose to use Kickstarter in the first place?

I heard about Kickstarter and decided to try it as a last attempt to make this series happen. It was a lot of work but totally worth the effort. I think crowdsourced funding is helping a lot of indie writers get their stories to public. I think that means we can expect a lot more variety in comics and graphic novels. I would definitely try it again and may do so very soon. The End Is Totally Nigh is funded from my own pocket, so I will be in need of an influx of cash soon to keep the series going. 

What was most intimidating about breaking into comics, and what tips would you give others who are hoping to break in as well?

I think I read something recently where someone said, there is no such thing as ‘breaking’ into comics anymore because of sites like Kickstarter. If you have the gumption, you can just go out there and MAKE a comic. I think that’s true. Write a story you believe in, find an artist and get your funding. Anything is possible!

What advice would you give other aspiring comic artists and writers in regards to getting their stuff published? What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?

Self publishing is a lot of work, especially if you are new to the business and no one has ever heard of you. But the upside is that if you self-publish you can keep all of the profit. If you have the time and money to devote to self-publishing, then go for it. Personally, I am juggling full time work, freelance work and writing and promoting this series. My plate is pretty full. I have recently found a small indie publisher willing to help distribute the title. I hope to be able to announce who that is very soon. Once I have more experience I may pitch a new book to a big publisher and see if gets picked up. Ultimately, I think it’s really just a matter of what you have the time and money to accomplish.

How do you think the experience of comic creating and publishing differs for men and women (if it does at all)?

I really don’t know. This does seem to be a male dominated industry, but that is changing. Kickstarter and sites like that are giving a lot of female writers a chance to create and publish their own projects. That is really exciting. I’m glad to be a part of that.

What is your next project?

I have two in the pipeline. One is a mini series and the other is a one issue horror story. I hope to get the funds to do one or both of them later this year. Right now I’m devoting my energy to getting my series off of the ground and hopefully hitting some cons this year.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

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Review & Rating of Jack Hammer, Issue #1

Book One: Political Science, Part One

By Barrows and Ionic

Publisher: Action Lab Comics

Jack Hammer is a crime noir style comic book with a unique superhero twist, reminding me a little bit of both Watchmen and X-Men as well as the new series Fatale. The crime noir style comes out most evidently in the storyline, which centers around a self-employed detective, Jack Hammer, who—and here is were things get unique—has a superhuman activities license. The dramatic silhouettes, the clothing style of the characters, and even the dialog nod to crime noir. And while I’m a fan of crime noir, even as it is attempted today in comics like Fatale, I’m not completely sure if Jack Hammer makes it work. The first issue does little to define itself as a unique noir comic, one that borrows the elements of traditional crime noir and shapes them into a unique story. The concept of people with superpowers kicking butt in this noir world, however, does intrigue me, and I’m hoping that Jack Hammer’s world continues to develop in a unique way with issues following

The art is perhaps more compelling than the storyline.  Reds are a prominent color throughout, while sepia-toned flashbacks make for a dynamic read. I’m most compelled by the “sketchiness” of the lines, something I haven’t seen before in a superhero comic. The artwork infuses into the story a tone and attitude (fast-paced, urban, rough) that is trying desperately to match a storyline that still hasn’t come into its own.

Ultimately, I have high hopes for the future of Jack Hammer, as the story—hopefully—begins to define itself as a unique twist on the noir style.  If you are a crime noir fan who also enjoys the superhero genre, it’s worth a read no doubt. You can pre-order a copy here:

% Panels Devoted to Women

23%

Women in Action

★ ★ Women occasionally participate in plot-moving action.

We’ve got a couple of apparently important women in the story, but it remains to be seen if they truly are big players.

Women as Leaders

★ ★ Women depicted occasionally as leaders.

Women as Sex Objects

★★★Women are depicted as sexy (or their sex is not emphasized at all), but their allure does not define their purpose as a prominent, plot-moving character in the comic.

I’m happy to give Jack Hammer three stars for this point. There are only a couple of important female characters thus far, and while they are certainly attractive, their sex isn’t overemphasized.

Men Deviating from Male Stereotypes

★ Men never express their emotions; they engage is mostly physical action. They are depicted as logical and apathetic. 

It’s a crime noir comic that mostly sticks to the stereotypical rough and gruff detective character.

How to Dress Like a (Female) Superhero: Rogue

I found it pretty challenging to put together a look based on Rogue. In both the movies and comics her outfits are more “superhero-y” than some of the other female heroes I’ve featured. I focused on creating an edgy look with pops of Rogue’s usual yellows and greens.

Lambskin Cycle Jacket, $124.94

Even her name is badass, so Rogue would definitely done this super cool leather jacket.

http://www.overstock.com/Clothing-Shoes/IZOD-Womens-Lambskin-Cycle-Jacket/4122858/product.html

Fingerless Motorcycle Gloves, $17.99

These gloves are actually practical (if you have a motorcycle), but for those of us who don’t, I suggest pairing them with a simpler outfit, to avoid looking too tacky.

http://www.overstock.com/Sports-Toys/Fingerless-Motorcycle-Leather-Gloves/3082634/product.html?cid=123620

Classic Trench in Black, $198

What a classy piece! It is certainly the easiest Rogue-inspired item to add to your wardrobe. It’s a simple way to add a touch of Rogue’s comic book look ( recall her telltale long, black jacket)

http://bananarepublic.gap.com/browse/product.do?pid=656191002&tid=braff2178999&ap=2&siteID=brafcid105

Ruched Knee High Boot in Black, $33.50

I don’t really suspect that Rogue would wear heels when she’s crime fighting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

http://urbanog.com/Qupid-Puffe-47-Ruched-Knee-High-Boot_109_14774.html

Jenna Jeans in Black, $23.60

These jeans are perfectly edgy without going over the top. I think how they are styled here, with neutral heels and classic skirt, really does them justice.

http://www.urbanog.com/Jenna-Jeans_133_18501.html

Double Face Eyelash Fringe Scarf in Green, $88

I’ve added this scarf in an effort to bring in some of Rogue’s bright green tones.

http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/nordstrom-double-face-eyelash-fringe-wrap/3197146?siteid=J84DHJLQkR4-swt2OQz0W2Rwhvr_awHK5Q&url=http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/nordstrom-double-face-eyelash-fringe-wrap/3197146?origin=category&cm_ven=Linkshare&cm_cat=partner&cm_pla=10&cm_ite=1

Justin Rock n’ Roller Belt in Brown, $34

I love how versatile this belt is.  It looks great on Rogue when she’s wearing her green and yellow body suit, but I think it’d look just as good with a button down and jeans.

http://www.zappos.com/justin-rock-n-roller-brown?utm_source=shopstyle

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG Isadora silk-blend lamé gown, $487.50

If Rogue were ever convinced to go to a fancy gala, I suspect she’d chose this golden gown. The piece is gorgeous thanks to the shimmery fabric and dones a very understated, but classy silhouette.

http://www.theoutnet.com/product/110404?cm_mmc=LinkshareUS-_-Custom-_-Link-_-Builder&siteID=J84DHJLQkR4-EYnZgXZ2T7MbDRN2IJNe_g

Full Finish Lipstick in “No Competition” Color, $18

I don’t envision Rogue with bright red lips or over the top makeup. I think she’d appreciate this sophisticated pink.

http://www.ulta.com/ulta/browse/productDetail.jsp?skuId=2166096&productId=xlsImpprod820390&navAction=push&navCount=1&subdoc=1040shollywoodglamour2011&categoryId=cat80058

By Sarah Spoto, Contributing Writer.

 Sarah is an art and business student who enjoys the occasional graphic novel and the more than occasional Marvel hero movie. She is pursuing a career in the fashion and apparel industry.

Comic Books 101–Part Seven

Collaborating with Artists

The panel of five comic creators I mentioned in the previous Comic Books 101 had much to say on the topic of collaboration.  I say this often, but one of the major reasons why I love comics is because it’s a naturally collaborative medium. Only in rare cases is a person able to write, draw, print, promote, and sell her comics all on her own. Unlike traditional writing, which is a generally solitary endeavor, comic creating is a dynamic, collaborative process. I love it (and, yes, it kinda weirds me out at the same time) that what I write isn’t actually what my readers see when they read my comic. Rather, my readers see how my artist interpreted my script. Comics are collaboration at its finest!

Here are some gems of wisdom regarding collaboration from some seasoned comic professionals:

“It’s always easier to start a fight than end one.”

Find an artist who balances you out. If you’re shy, find someone who’s more talkative. If you’re immersed in the fantasy genre, find some with experience writing noir crime.

Don’t confuse collaboration with friendship. Your friend might not be an ideal collaborator. An idea collaborator might not end up being your friend.

Listen to your collaborator. Respect can go a long way.

Have a contract ready before you show your artist anything. More on contracts here.

And my advice (I’m currently working with student artists willing to draw the first six pages of my graphic novel in exchange for collaboration and an addition to their portfolio.):

Find an artist you can trust. DO judge them by how promptly they reply to emails or if they often skip out on meetings.

DON’T just judge an artist by her art. A novice artist who is willing to work her butt off for your project is better than a brilliant seasoned artist who can’t meet deadlines.

DO cast your net wide. Tell everyone you’re looking for an artist. Put up posters. Advertise on Craigslist. Find artists on deviant art. There are artists willing to work at any price point, so don’t be discouraged (although, DO consider the trade offs).

Look out for next week’s Comic Books 101 about online resources for comic writers!

Comic Books 101–Part Six

Selling Your Comic

Instead of a typical class, this Friday we got to listen to five comic creators talk comics, self-publishing, dealing with feedback, and collaboration among a whole slew of other topics. Honestly, I can’t recall the names of all the creators present, but notably among them was Garrett Anderson of Newton’s Law, Dan Dougherty of Beardo, and Onrie Kompan of Yi Soon Shin. Two main topics discussed during this panel I found most significant: how to sell you comic and how to effectively collaborate with an artist. I’ve broken up these two topics into two Comic Books 101 posts. This post, Part Six, will discus selling your comic. Look out for Part Seven for tips on collaboration.

Okay, you’ve written a comic. You found an artist (or several), spent hours getting the thing formatted and printed, and got yourself a booth at a comic convention. If you think all the hard work is behind you, think again. As a self-published comic writer, you gotta learn how to sell.  Self-publishing comes with an often-times hefty price tag, which you’re hoping to pay off through sales of your comic. Not to mention, you’d like people to actually read the thing you’ve slaved over for the past couple of years.

The comics panel had some valuable insight into the process of selling one’s comic. Kompan suggested finding yourself a gimmick, something you can do that nobody else can. Search for alternative revenue streams (consider advertising on your website, striking a deal with an airline to put complementary copies of your comic in the back seat pockets, write articles based off your research and submit to magazines and newspapers). Don’t just rely on comic conventions to make your sales.

Consider skipping the middleman and sell directly to retailers. Always carry a copy of your comic with you. Pass out bookmarks or postcards wherever you go. Most people don’t turn down free stuff. Dress professionally because it’ll give your comic greater credibility.

The thought of selling freaks many people out. They think they’re going to have to push hard for sales or, like a sleazy car salesmen, cheat customers. If you think of selling in this negative light, you’ll make few sales. Rather, think of selling as sharing an opportunity. You like your comic, right? In fact, you love it and ought to want to share it with the world. With this mindset, as Kompan said, selling something you like, isn’t selling. If you’ve got enthusiasm for your comic, it’ll almost sell itself.

Got any selling tips you’d like to share? Post them as a comment and share the wealth!

Review of Superman on the Couch


By Amanda Trainor, Contributing Writer

“Look! Up in the sky! It’s…YOU!”

–Danny Fingeroth

When I decided to study the comic book “culture” for a government class term paper, I took the ever-controversial Ruth Benedict approach: I researched and studied a topic that was completely foreign to me. My extent of comic book reading went so far as the love-triangle among Betty, Veronica, and Archie (I know, pathetic). I decided to begin my journey with a few easy reads, one of them being Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us about Ourselves and Our Society by Danny Fingeroth. I wanted to know why we need superheroes in the first place and how much they reflect our own ideas of good vs. evil; this book definitely surpassed my expectations.

So what stands out about Superman on the Couch?

  • The author, Danny Fingeroth has over two decades of experience working with Marvel Comics and his book even includes a forward by Stan Lee.  If that’s not credibility, I don’t know what is!
  • I had never thought about it, but as a society we need and yearn for superheroes and their achievements.
  • Fingeroth covers a wide range of topics such as the dual-identity we all posses, family structure, females in comic books (including a section about Gloria Steinem!), and why we need super villains.
  • It’s always a breath of fresh air to learn about society and the human psyche in a non-academic context, so why not by way of comic books?
  • Whether you are new to the comic book world as I am, or you have been enjoying them for years, this is a worthwhile read.

Most importantly, Superman on the Couch forces us to question why we idolize certain figures.  Do you look up to someone because they have so much more potential than the common individual? Or maybe you believe that while you and your favorite superhero may have the same potential, they do a much better job of reaching it? It could also be, (and this will really make you think) we subconsciously choose heroes based on the theory that a hero embodies what we believe is best in ourselves” (Fingeroth). Classic American superheroes such as Superman and Captain America clearly embody the values our society holds in high esteem: do your heroes do the same for you?

Amanda is an international relations and Spanish major who is interested in the non-profit field, specifically in sexual education and awareness.  She enjoys analyzing the role comic-books play in Japan and the United States.