Class Meets Wednesday Nights at 630pm in the Emerson Online Classroom

Designed to introduce you to a thorough understanding and appreciation of comic book art from the Golden Age up until today's best work. We will examine a wide variety of works by the founding artists of the medium and explore the techniques used and developed to successfully tell a story in comic book form.

This blog will be the source of our online classroom discussions. We will meet for an online "Live" classroom section on Wednesday nights from 630 - 730pm BOSTON TIME. Check your time or use World Clock to ensure you are on time. Please click the link in the column to the right to get there.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Class #10 In Summary

We've reached the end of the trail.
Through this course you've seen the evolution of the comic book into the more sophisticated "graphic novel".

Comics started out birthed from the pulp magazines.

Early comic art was crude and mimicked the stiffness of the daily comic strip adventure comics as creators in this new art form were struggling to find their way.

Artists you should note from the period; Joe Shuster, Jerry Robinson, Lou Fine, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Jack Cole among others we discussed.

These were the innovators of the entire genre.

As World War II wound down, comics were at an interesting point-- sales had peaked just a year or so earlier with virtually EVERYONE reading comics-- and especially soldiers deployed overseas who found it cheap entertainment for down time.

But the public was growing tired of Superheroes.  Maybe it was because soldiers had become our "real" supermen, or because we'd just collectively beaten the evil powers of the Axis.

Maybe it was because comics had seemingly gotten goofier, especially with superheroes who were trying to mimic the success Captain Marvel was having by combining action and comedy.

For whatever reason, the heroes were on the decline, and HORROR comics began to rise in popularity.

Horror comics seemed to find the right formula of comedy and serious stories, many of them with Twilight Zone type twists.

It's interesting to note that shows like Twilight Zone, writers like Stephen King and Clive Barker all point to horror comics as what inspired them.

 But did they go too far?

Many people thought so, and soon there was a witch hunt on which banned horror comics, supernatural elements, images of violence or crime and just about anything else that gave comics it's "edge" during the period with the implementation of the COMICS CODE.

The code was instrumental in dumbing down comics and creating work that was suitable mostly for children, essentially eliminating the adult audience for comic books.

Artists of note in this era; Wally Wood, Graham Ingles, Joe Orlando,  Jack Davis, Shelly Moldoff, Curt Swan, Jim Mooney

We stopped to take a look at the work of Will Eisner-- who was a pioneer in the industry and the man many people credit with bringing respect to comics as an artform.

Eisner introduced the concept of lighting and extreme angles inspired by german expressionist films like CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI and NOSFERATU as well as things like Citizen Kane to his work which added an air of sophistication and drama.

Eisner recognized that comics and film were closely related and his work post WWII on THE SPIRIT reflected the new film genre referred to as FILM NOIR.

If you want to study Film Noir some titles I'd suggest include; THE KILLERS, KILLERS KISS, KISS ME DEADLY, OUT OF THE PAST, THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, LAURA, KISS OF DEATH, MURDER MY SWEET.   I'd also look at the four DICK TRACY films made by RKO in 1945-1947 as they are accurate representations of the Tracy comics of the time and filmed with rich black shadows and atmosphere mixed with humor.

From there we jumped into the SILVER age

We saw how Stan Lee used the success of DC Comics JLA to come up with his own superhero book, THE FANTASTIC FOUR which lead to the birth of the entire line of Marvel Comics, all of which were written with an older audience in mind and became a huge success.

Notable artists of the period; Jack Kirby (again), Steve Ditko, Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert, John Buscema, Jim Steranko

The Bronze Age Followed-- and comics grew up as creators who had been comic book fans now took over the books.

Comics began to face social issues like drug abuse, and the Comics Code was put to the test, and failed, losing much of it's teeth when first Marvel and then DC introduced stories about the negative effects of drug use in their titles.

With the code relaxed, Horror Comics returned and soon the racks were filled with titles featuring Vampires, Werewolves and Ghosts.

Notable Artists of the period: Neal Adams,  John Byrne, Bernie Wrightson, Mike Kaluta, Jeff Jones, John Romita, Jim Aparo, Don Newton, Irv Novick, Bob Brown.

 Modern Comics showed us that comics had finally earned some respect and proved that they weren't just for kids anymore.

Creators like Mike Mignola and Dan Clowes worked on characters that they owned, controlling their own destiny.

Working for big comic companies was no longer proof that you had "made it" as many creators worked for smaller companies with better percentage splits and royalties.

From there we took a closer look at Jack Kirby's work-- which was as important as the contributions Will Eisner had made in shaping the art form.

Kirby's work may appear dated today, but his influence continues to impact the industry.

We touched on Manga and the comics of Europe to see what the rest of the world was doing with the comics art form.  Both Asia and Europe were aiming their comics towards both children and adults, offering better quality printing and higher end books.

America would notice and soon they would emulate the formats and offer high end reprints of comics as well as new materials in the form of graphic novels.

With Graphic Novels comics now had no limits to what genres or storylines they could explore, and creators had more opportunities than ever to offer creative output.

COMIXOLOGY is a tremendous resource, offering digital comics and they have become increasingly popular as the new generation of readers have taken to reading comics and graphic novels on phones and tablets.

Some questions came in--

A- Yes to both.
Creators get paid a page rate and then have a royalty incentive based on the number of books sold.

It's different for every publisher but if we take the average mainstream publisher most creators are paid along the lines of...

$90 a page for writing

$250/page for pencils

$150/page for inks

$25/page for lettering
$80/page for coloring

None of these figures are set in stone, they are based on my own personal experiences.

A- I'm selective about doing shows, because they are a lot of work.  But HEROES CON in Charlotte North Carolina is one I don't miss, because there are no TV stars as guests-- it's a "real" comic convention.

You certainly don't have to do any shows-- but the biggest benefit to doing them is the stuff that goes on behind the scenes.

You meet with other creators, editors, publishers, etc and you work out deals.

You get assignments.

There is nothing to say you have to do any sketches at all and some creators don't.  They spend as little time at their table as possible and sell only prints or books of their own work.

As for the drawing in front of people, put in some earphones and listen to some music, try to zone out and forget anyone is watching.

We cover more of this type of stuff in the Portfolio class offered in the summer.

Q- I've enjoyed the class, and I understand why it's done as a chat room style-- can we get an idea of what you look like so I can put a face to your name?

That's me on the left, slouching down a bit so I don't make William Shatner feel bad for being so short and my wife Veronica on the right.

If you are ever at a show I'm doing please stop by and introduce yourself.

Absolutely not.

If you work regularly you'll make a comfortable living.
The key to working regularly is to be on time with your deadlines, which is impossible to do if you have a day job.

Most creators start out part time to hold on to the stability of a "real" job.  But for everyone I know whose work was professional level, they made a lot more money when they jumped to full time.

I think the best way to see if you can actually do this  is when you're ready, when you've got a script and thumbnails and are ready to actually create a comic-- take a vacation from that real job and treat the comics job as the real one.

No beach visit, just work eight hours a day and see if at the end of the week see if you have a page a day done.  Completely done.  Because a page a day would mean you'd be able to make about $250-$300 a day which would equate to a healthy full time job and give you enough to live on and be able to pay self employment taxes, etc.

If you find that being on your own you only get two or three pages done in a week then you're not ready yet.

I try to work my schedule so that I finish all big projects by the end of the summer.  My workload is a bit different because I do mostly graphic novels-- which equate to more time working on them.

Unfortunately right now while I'm working on several projects I can't talk about any of them right now.  You can keep up with my current work on Instagram and Twitter (AndyTFish).

I turn down more assignments than I accept-- probably 30/70%.

If I turn something down I try really hard not to think about it ever again, so there's no room for regret.
I also recognize that it's a different creature if someone else works on it, so I can't regret something I didn't help create.

Being stuck on a project you don't think is right is worse.  I seldom agree to more than one book with someone I don't know, because I can do 20 pages and move on if it's not a good fit, and if it is a good fit we can agree to do more.

Two related questions;

You sure can, especially now with Kickstarter.

You can also do everything wrong and make no money, but there are a lot of steps to successfully self publish.

I'd suggest Dave Sim's book on SELF PUBLISHING-- and there are a few others, I may even write one to go with my other How To Books if I can get the publisher interested and I can find the time.

We cover a great deal of Self Publishing in the Producing the Graphic Novel Class.

I don't think it's a bad plan-- you've got to get your work out there in order to be seen.  You can of course put together a portfolio and shop it around with samples, but a finished book can open a lot of doors.

Especially now where they expense of it is NOWHERE near what it used to be.

You used to have to pay for 3000-5000 copies UP FRONT-- meaning you dropped $1800+ on a book and now you had 12 boxes of books to store somewhere while you try to sell them.

Today there are resources out there that let you print ONE copy of a book if you'd like.  You won't make any money on short runs like this but it'll allow you to save money and get a book out there to be seen.

Go for it!

Great questions!

1- Pitching-- I hate to fall back on the "we cover that in such and such a class..." but we do delve into pitching in the Producing class.

Basically you have two ways you can pitch a project;
A. Cold Call-- you write up a proposal, it looks something like a school book report with some illustrations in it and you send it in to an editor.

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS to a named editor, someone who's work you're familiar with.

Now it goes without saying that you don't pitch an Iron Man story to DC Comics or a Superman story to Marvel-- so know the properties your publisher works with.

If it's your own characters you'll want to go to the publishers who will look at creator owned properties like Slave Labor, Image and Top Shelf to name three.

You send in the pitch business formal with a cover letter, and introduction as to who you are and a brief overview of the entire project-- i.e. is it a mini series, a one shot, an ongoing series?

You keep everything brief and to the point.

Cold calls can be mailed in to an editor (include a self addressed stamped envelope if you want your pitch packet returned to you -- I'd suggest you don't) or it can be dropped off in person at a convention they're doing.

Most of the companies have a form you have to download and sign in order to present an unsolicited pitch to protect them legally.  Many of them have a clear policy against submissions except at conventions, check the companies website first.

Cold Call is possible, but you have almost a better chance putting your pitch in a bottle and tossing it out into the ocean.

B. Thru Networking.
What does this mean?

It means you build up a relationship with an editor-- start by finding one who edits books you like, then write thoughtful letters or comments on the companies website.  Use your real name in your posts.

Find a convention this editor is attending and go and introduce yourself, tell them you have an idea for a project and would they like to look it over?

There is a fine line between Networking and Stalking-- don't ever cross it.

2. Editing and Critique/Opinions on my own work.
I have 2-3 friends whose opinions I value, anyone else I really don't care.  I do the work for myself and for those 2-3 friends, if we like it I'm going in the right direction.

I don't believe in creating a project using a focus group, because then it changes from your project to a group project.   Seldom does this type of collaboration produce any worthwhile results.

If I'm working for someone however, the editor is the critique giver.  They'll tell you if something works or if something doesn't.

2B. How do I know when a project is done?
When the deadline arrives.

I have to give myself deadlines otherwise I'll "George Lucas" a project to death, constantly tweaking and re-working until it's a complete mess.

Deadlines prevent this, because with deadlines you have to wrap it up.

I set the deadlines realistically, and I chart my progress as I go. 

For Example, if I have a 92 page book due in 4 months that means I have to produce 1.5 pages a day working 5 days a week.

That would be a tight deadline, but workable.  I'd likely start the first month working 6 days a week so that I could get ahead.

There will be some days I can do four pages and some days I struggle to do one.

Three times a week for the span of the deadline I'll check in on my progress.  So I know one month in I need to have 22 pages done.

If at the end of month one I'm on deadline I'll keep working at this pace or possibly increase it a little.  I like to build in some lead time so that if I get sick or an emergency comes up I can tend to that.

If at the end of month one I've got 30 pages done I can either cut back my work schedule a little, or I can drop it down to the suggested 1.5 pages a day.

That will allow me to meet the deadline and still have a few days left to edit.

If at the end of the month I'm short pages, that means all weekends are cancelled and I'll be working 7 days a week until I'm back on course.

Deadlines are the keys to everything for me.

That's all- hope to see you all in Illustrating I which starts in January.