Josh Tierney And Kyla Vanderklugt Drop By To Talk The Wonderful World Of ‘Spera’

Spera is one of the most innovative comic projects out right now. This combined effort of multi-artist storytelling continually, in the best possible way, astounds both comic readers and the media as well. Last year, Publishers Weekly had this to say about Volume One of Spera: “With beauty as its tool and mischief in mind, this book is a winner all the way.”

It’s truly no surprise critics and readers are flipping their proverbial lids of this series as it’s unique blend of vignette-style storytelling is like nothing you’ve ever read. Instead of telling a straightforward narrative, writer Josh Tierney with the help of dozens of artists, has crafted three volumes of Spera like a photo album full of snapshots detailing his characters’ journey.

This series isn’t always on track (the key storyline involves two rogue princesses searching for adventure), however, Spera shines for its flights of fancy with brilliant writing and an extremely rich sense of the world it inhabits. I can’t praise this series enough.

Luckily, Tierney and a key Spera artist Kyla Vanderklugt took some time out of their naturally busy schedule to catch up and chat with Panel Bound about Spera, webcomics and everything inbetween.

Spera-v2-HC-Cover

Spera is one of the more innovative comics to come out in the past few years. How did this project get started?

Josh Tierney: I had written a novella of the original story in 2009 and wondered what it might look like as a comic. Before Spera I worked on various online projects that combined prose and illustration, where different artists would illustrate different chapters of novellas that I wrote. Comics seemed like the most natural extension of this format, and so I brought in many of the collaborators from the previous projects to help adapt the novella into comic form. Since then I’ve focused my writing efforts almost entirely on comic scripts.

Each volume of Spera features a wide range of artists. How has this changed the way this comic is written, if at all?

Josh: If the artists are set beforehand, I’ll write each chapter to what I believe are the artists’ strengths, or at least what I like most about the artists’ works. If the scripts are written beforehand, I try to give each chapter a different feel, so that I can then seek out the most suitable artist for them from there.

Kyla, as an artist on Spera how do you maintain the continuity and tone of this story while working with several other artists.

Kyla Vanderklugt: A lot of the credit for this has to go to Afu Chan. His distinctive character designs are easy to recognise throughout all the shifts in technique and style, and that really helps to tie the chapters together. As for the environments, the designs are often established by the first artist to tackle a particular section. When I drew my pages for the second chapter of Vol. II, I used Giannis’s interpretation of Kotequog as reference, since he’d already finished the first chapter.

The lore and world of Spera is so expansive and detailed, it almost reminds me of a fantasy-driven Prophet, where is inspiration coming from for this book on both the written and art departments?

Josh: Old school console RPGs on the writing side. Spera is a chance for me to indulge in everything I like about RPGs, such as town exploration, treasure hunting and random monster battles. The characters are basically leveling up with each book. I’m also a fan of Studio Ghibli films, and their sense of magic and mystery, along with their amazing female protagonists, have been an inspiration for sure.

Kyla: One of the great things about this project is that all the artists come from completely different backgrounds, so what inspires and informs Spera’s art style changes with every chapter. A common thread, though, is that we all love fantasy in some form or other.
It’s also getting to the point where I can refer back to Spera’s lore itself for inspiration. Some background characters in my Vol. III comic are decorating a cake with bugs – Pira and Lono ate enough bugs in earlier chapters that I figure bugs-as-food counts as Spera canon, now.

b95d61e4b15db056e017a6b43f177115

Josh, why work so many different artists on this book? Wouldn’t it in some ways be easier to work with just one artist?

Josh: Having multiple artists means less pages for each artist, which means each artist can put the maximum amount of effort into their chapters. There are also a great many artists I’d like to work with, but it would be impossible to work with them all on individual projects. On Spera, I can work with everyone all at once, and do it on a project I’m very passionate about.

I also personally find it fascinating to see the same characters rendered by different artists within the same story. Everyone sees the world differently, and I feel like Spera’s structure is a kind of visual approximation of this.

Volume three of Spera is now being collected on comiXology, how has the process of putting together this comic evolved since Volume one?

Josh: The more I work with artists, the more I learn what to put into scripts, including what not to put into them. The Vol. 3 scripts are probably the most detailed so far, leading to comic pages that are more in line with what I was thinking when I wrote them.

As both a writer (Josh) and an artist (Kyla), do you recommend aspiring creators start on the Web? What benefits does web publishing offer?

Josh: Publishing on the web is the best way to get your work to as many people as possible. Most of the published artists I know today were first discovered on the web. Webcomics are being treated as seriously as print projects by every editor I’ve spoken to, and are often the first place independent comics publishers will look to for new projects to pick up or creators to hire.

Kyla: There are probably as many different ways to start a career in comics as there are comic creators, but sharing your work on the web definitely does give you a big advantage. Aside from the exposure, it puts you on common ground with other comic artists, art directors, and editors. Everyone browses the web, after all.

jV8Wx

Any advice for aspiring comic creators?

Josh: Don’t give up. It could take years before you have a successful project, but during those years you’ll constantly be improving. Post your works on whatever social networks are available to you — this is the best way to gain support for what you’re doing.

Kyla: Take inspiration from everywhere. I mean, from other comic artists, obviously, but don’t stop there. Don’t be insular.

If people haven’t checked out Spera yet, why do you think they should, and where can they pick up a copy?

Josh: If you like the sound of princesses going on dangerous adventures with a giant flaming dog and super tough warrior cat, all of it illustrated by some of the coolest artists on the planet, then Spera is the series for you. It can be found wherever comics and books are sold, including online retailers such as Amazon and the Archaia store.

Kyla: There really isn’t anything else quite like Spera on the market. And aside from the novelty aspect… there’s a fussy middle-aged man who turns into, yeah, a giant flaming dog. Something for everyone!

‘Comeback’ Writer Ed Brisson On His 19-Year Career And The Upcoming ‘Sheltered’

Ed Brisson recently hit mainstream comic audiences like a kick to the jaw (metaphorically in most cases) with his recent five-issue run on the Image title Comeback. While his name may be new to some, Brisson has been working in comics since the 90s as a letterer, writer, artist and publisher.

If all of that still isn’t impressing you, Brisson has new title with Image dropping in July 10, 2013 titled Sheltered. It’s shaping up to be one of the most innovative books of the year, especially as Brisson has an incredible sense for dramatic tension, which more often than not, is built at the end of a loaded gun.

I caught up with the comic maven recently to talk Sheltered and the mysterious (or not so) circumstances that lead to getting a book picked up by Image Comics.

Sheltered01

Okay boring question first, how did you first get into writing comics?

Not boring at all!

I’ve been making comics for about 19 years. Back in the 90s, I used to make mini comics that I’d photocopy and sell through record shops and out of my backpack. Initially, I wanted to be an artist and only wrote comics so that I’d have something to draw.

From there, I just kept on. I did mini-comics, zines, comics for college papers, webcomics, you name it.

At some point around 2007ish, I started to cut back on illustrating comics and focused on writing. I didn’t have time for both and, by then, was more interested in the writing side of things than I was illustrating.

You started a small press, New Reliable Press, in 2005. Why dive into publishing?

Looking back, I’m not sure. I guess I was fresh out of school, where I’d gone to learn publishing (from technical to promo) and thought that I’d try publishing other people’s work for a bit.

However, it was tough going and I folded it a few years later because it was hard to get retailers interested in a newer publisher and because I wanted to focus on my writing.

Murder Book is an extremely interesting project. How did that first get started?

I’d done a few pitches that hadn’t made it through with any publishers and was frustrated with the process. With pitching, I was expending a lot of energy on something that only a few editors would see and ultimately pass on. I didn’t want to keep doing that.

So, one year (on my birthday), I decided that I was going to stop pitching and just start writing. I’ve always loved crime as a genre (books, comics, film, everything), so decided that I’d try my hand at writing it. I sat down that day and wrote most of the first draft of Catching Up. From there, I just kept going.

The important thing, for me, was that I was just doing what I wanted to do. Writing stories that I’d want to read. I think that showed through because it wasn’t until I started doing Murder Book that I started to get attention from publishers.

Was Murder Book in any way a successful means to get your work out there?

In a lot of ways, posting short stories was almost like having a writing portfolio. If you want to be a comic writer, you need to have something to show and you’re not going to get very far by just posting your scripts. Having completed comics helps get the word out there. As mentioned above, it’s MURDER BOOK that seemed to have put me on the radar of publishers and editors.

MB

You write the stories for Murder Book and other artists illustrate them. As a writer, how do you typically approach an artist to work on your scripts?

I don’t think that there’s been a “typical” approach, to be honest. I knew Simon Roy from my New Reliable days and approached him about working on the first couple stories. Vic Malhotra and I met through a book he’d illustrated and I’d lettered. Michael Walsh had initially hired me to letter something of his. I really liked his work and we got to talking and really hit it off. Jason Copland is a local artist who I’ve known for years and we were basically just looking for an excuse to work together. Similar with Johnnie Christmas.

You just finished a five-issue run on Comeback with Image. How did that project get picked up by Image?

I wish there were a sexier story beyond “I pitched it to them and they picked it up”, but there isn’t, really. I just followed the pitching guidelines for Image/Shadowline.

Michael and I had been grinding out some pitches. Comeback just happens to be the one that happened to catch Jim Valentino’s attention.

comeback-ed-brisson

You have a new book coming out, Sheltered, the premise seems extremely innovative and a step away from the true crime genre you primarily worked in. Can you tell us anything about it?

It’s a book about survival and living with consequences of your actions. SHELTERED follows the children of an off-the-grid survivalist community. Their entire life has been about training to survive any sort of apocalyptic scenario – from nukes to societal breakdown. I wanted to put them in a situation where they’re faced with a potential threat that they’ve prepared for, but then realize that they’re not as ready as they thought. They won’t all survive and they have to make some choices, quickly, about who will and why.

I don’t want to give away too much right now, for fear of spoiling the first issue.

You’ve lettered several issues of Prophet. Do you ever read the scripts for that insanely good space opera and think “what the hell is going on here?”

Haha. Nope! I know Simon and Brandon, so usually know what’s coming up well ahead of time. I really love working on that book.

prophet21

Any last minute advice for aspiring comic creators?

Worry less about getting a publishing deal and more about making comics. Get your work out to as many people as possible. Don’t pander. Put your work online for free. When you’re starting out, there’s no money to be made anyway. Do it for the love of creating.

Where can people catch up with you and your work?

My website is www.edbrisson.com. People can find me on twitter as well: @edbrisson. Obviously, be sure to pick up SHELTERED at your L.C.S. on July 10th!

Pitch Packets And Werewolves With The “Feeding Ground” Gang

And we’re back. It has been a while, but Panel Bound is back…back with a vengeance. Luckily in our vengeance-seeking, we were able to set up some time to talk with the astonishingly talented team behind the Archaia graphic novel Feeding Ground.

The creative trio of Jonathan “Swifty” Lang, Michael Lapinski (great comic advice blog here), and Christopher Mangun, as I’ve heard at several “how to pitch a comic” panels, put together one of the best comic pitches the gang at Archaia had ever seen. We figured if you’re coming to Panel Bound to read about how to pitch your book, why not learn from the best there is? So, we asked team Feeding Ground about it and they were kind enough to oblige.

After checking out this pitch, you’ll agree that this is how it should be done. If you’re looking for a template, a gold standard in pitching then read on, this is the interview for you. Also, check out Feeding Ground, it’s about werewolves, which in my book is always a Michael Jordan circa 1986 backboard-breaking slam dunk.

Feeding-Ground-001-Press-Proof-1

It’s been said that the Feeding Ground pitch is one of the best the team at Archaia has ever seen. Did you guys go into pitching the comic with any previous pitching knowledge, with comics or otherwise?

Michael – I come from a background working as an artist on children’s television shows like “Blue’s Clues” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” when it was on Fox. There was a while when, besides my day job, I was constantly pitching new show ideas. Some made it through early stages of development, and one aired as a pilot, but “pitch book designer” became a craft unto itself. Chris was the man responsible for making our finished book look and feel as swanky as it did.

Chris – At the end of 2008, Feeding Ground evolved from concept into a full plotted story with characters and specific design. We knew we had something worth showing to publishers and the opportunity presented itself in NY Comic Con of February 2009. A month before the con we decided we would leverage Michael’s art, Swifty’s storytelling and my production skills to create the pitch book. For years I’ve worked in the advertising world which demands a its own level of presentation craft and for years it was my job in small studio to create compelling well packaged pitches for companies like Pfizer and Bayer. Marrying these skills of print production with some heavy stock-full color paper and a Look-book style (common in the film industry with scripts being viewed quickly by producers and media companies) seemed like something that would best showcase our story series quickly to an editor (which Mike did an amazing job of using to engage Archaia at NYCC).

Swifty – My background in visual storytelling is rooted in film (I studied film studies at the University of Amsterdam). I had been writing since I was a kid, but hadn’t really tackled comics before. As far as comic reading, I truly grew up reading Mad Magazine. Sergio Argones and Jack Davis were some of my favorites. My pitching experience, and this is the chief responsibility of a writer, is to get other talented people hooked on a concept. I had to do this working with directors in theater and simply trying to convince friends to read my work. Translating this into a visual package was unchartered territory. While I had a very strong sense of what I imagined the packet might look like, I lacked the experience and technical knowledge to manifest this. Chris and Mike are magicians.

The Feeding Ground pitch features an incredible amount of detail and planning not often seen in comic pitching. Why go about it this way? Did any past experiences foster this pitch’s detail?

Michael – I’d say past experience informed the intention to make the book a whole, complete, package but it was Robert Kirkman’s guidelines in a reprint of Walking Dead #1 that laid out what we should include.

Chris – After 2 weeks of work, our pitch book was finished with roughly 40 pages of content: a synopsis, a series beat breakdown, a map of our story setting, character designs, sample art, cover art and a sample our first script.

Swifty – Something we believe as a team very strongly in is the concept of “curb appeal” that one experiences in real estate. From the moment one pulls up to the house, the buyer should have a strong, visceral reaction. When someone picked up our book, it was important not only that Feeding Ground conveyed our narrative, but we knew our world so thoroughly we could drop a reader into it. The more firmly that the aesthetic demonstrates the act of conscious decision making, the more trust a publisher will have in a creator. You saw our cover and you knew right away the landscape you would be traversing.

In your opinion, what is the best thing a comic team can do to get their pitch looked at, let alone picked up?

Michael – As best as you can, know who you are talking to. Before the show, I researched what different publishers were printing and who I’d ideally talk to. You save yourself a lot of time and fuss just by having some sense if your material is right for someone and what their pitching requirements are, often posted on their website.

Swifty – Be assertive. The odds that someone will stumble on your work amidst all the amazing content being made is unlikely. Be a champion of your ideas and confident . I can’t tell you how many people I see sitting in artist’s alley waiting to be discovered. It may happen that way, but there is something about reaching across the table that is powerful. Practice your elevator pitch on friends. If you can tell someone in a sentence what makes your story unique it increases the likelihood that you can do that for an editor.

Feeding-Ground-003-Preview_PG71

Originally, it has been said that Feeding Ground was planned for a movie. How has transferring it into the comic medium been different with both mediums being so visual?

Swifty – After a couple of sessions with Chris and I attempting to tackle this as a screenplay, it became clear that film was not the ideal medium to tell this story. It was simply too vast and the absolute freedom that comics allows was magnetic. Mike and I had a very specific set of visual concerns and an understanding of how this story could be best represented. I think what comics allowed us to do was be very specific about our graphic references (in this case EC Comics meets Mexican Day of the Dead iconography). Whenever a story is created, I really think it’s important to consider not only the what, but the why. Why should something exist as a book, as a physical object, versus a novel, or a screenplay. For us, we wanted Feeding Ground to appear as an old object that conveyed a mythology, almost as if someone stumbled upon it within a barren landscape.

Michael – I’ve been a comic fan since pre-school and I had done comic strips in college but got excited to do my own comic when I saw a number of friends self-publishing their books. I’m also a horror fan and the story for Feeding Ground immediately appealed to me as staking out new territory. Swift and I are both into EC Comics and the woodcut prints of Jose Posada and wanted to illustrate a print object that was a marriage of the two. Presentation is everything and, like Swift said, we created a visual style that was as sun-baked and broken as the story.

As successful creators, how much do you believe a team should have completed in their pitch packet before actually handing it to editors? (art, script, plot, etc)

Michael – When you look at the list of what we included, it’s really about including as much as you need to take what’s in your head and present it on paper without actually showing up with a fully completed book. Especially with including the cover designs, the goal is to place something in a publisher’s hands that conjures what will be on the stands. By printing and binding the book as a traditional comic, I think it made it even easier to visualize. All said, you leave enough evidence that you could get the job done.

Chris – Getting story right from the start is important. Tell people about your story, they will let you know what’s working or not. Since there’s not a ton of time invested at this stage with production, which can eat up a year plus, it’s easy to move ideas around, cut and slice or invent characters. Having that conversation with a small audience and sharing with peers early on is key to knowing if your “elevator pitch,” a two sentence synopsis, the story and overall materials are working for or against you or simply require just a little more editing. We actually practiced and targeted our elevator pitch prior to Michael going to NYCC to ensure we all were on the same creative page, but also to see how our concept held up in other peoples’ minds on the fly.

Swifty– Even though your script will be revised (both internally and by an editor) I think it’s incredibly important to demonstrate that a writer knows how to complete a story. A complete script showcasing an ability to tell a story both panel-to-panel and with a narrative arc is essential. Mastery of all of the elements of storytelling (dialogue, panel description, establishing character moments) are necessary ingredients to gaining the confidence of an editor. An understanding of the larger beats and how they fit into the complete story is equally important. You are taking the reader on a ride and you must know where the exit is.

Reading the Feeding Ground pitch story, it would be easy to say you were very lucky. However, in reality, it seems that it was a combination of extremely hard work and a little luck. Do you believe that a team needs luck? Or can they thrive on virtue of their hard work alone?

Michael – What’s the quote, something like “Fate is when timing meets preparation.” The fortunate timing in our history came when I was taking a break from talking with publishers on the Comic Con floor and inadvertently found myself talking with Stephen Christy, the editor-in-chief at Archaia, while I was just browsing their table. I thought I was just having a passionate conversation about comics with a salesperson. Even with my handy list of publishers, Archaia wasn’t on my radar at the time and soon I found myself handing over the pitch book and I was all set to talk about it as it made it’s way up their chain of command. To this day, they’re still great about making time to meet with aspiring creators at conventions in their swanky library of a booth.

Swifty – I agree to a certain extent that one makes their own luck. If you don’t do the work, nothing will happen. A strange thing occurs when one keeps pushing ahead, and I don’t mean to sound too mystical, but the effort attracts opportunity if the intention is pure. We truly did this for the love and that came through with all of our interactions. We stayed humble, and we stayed open to possibility. The right people emerged. My luck began when Mike and Chris wanted to partner with me. From there, as a united front, all things became possible. If there were a recipe to guarantee the opportunity to get work out there, I certainly do not know it. I do know that you are only as good as your team and being someone people want to work with greatly increases your chance for success.

Feeding-Ground-004-Eng-Preview_PG3

If people haven’t read Feeding Ground yet, why should they now?

SwiftyFeeding Ground rose from a conversation between myself and a good friend of mine, Thomas Peyton, who is a documentary filmmaker. He had been working for the past couple of years on a documentary about border crossing. What struck me as remarkable about his story was his desire to put a face to the numbing statistics we hear about people crossing the desert. Even a second-hand account proved far more harrowing than anything I could concoct.

We also tossed around ideas about the most underutilized mythology during the horror renaissance. He believed it was the werewolf. I couldn’t argue. The silly talismans and mythology hungered for a reexamination. The legend of the werewolf coupled with the horrors of a man crossing the Mexican border proved revelatory; there was a genuine “a-ha” moment that I think translates into a modern myth of transformation.

Feeding Ground is vital in that it examines one of the most important issues that define our country; the role of immigration and what it means to sacrifice for opportunity. This is the story of America. Yet, this is also a story that resonates on a universal level. It asks the question, what would you do to save your family. The stories I most admire are both uniquely linked to their current historical circumstances and ask questions that are timeless. Mike likes to say that some of my best ideas are “myths of the moment”. I agree, but the reason that we still watch shows like the “Twilight Zone” is that anxiety and fear of the unknown have no expiration date. I hope readers recognize this in the work.

Any last minute advice for aspiring comic creators?

Michael – If you don’t know it already, comics are an extremely time consuming artform. Your work will most likely be a labor of love so make sure you believe in it before sitting down at your drafting table. But, the sooner you get something on paper, the sooner it becomes a reality. Beyond that, the comic community is relatively small. You’ll learn a lot just by being nice and engaged with other creators of every level of experience.

Swifty – Your energy and enthusiasm for your project must be boundless. If you can’t communicate the urgency of your need to tell your story, you will not find the artists who will best bring it to life, you will not find the publisher who will shepherd it into the world. Be kind to everyone you encounter, creator and fan alike. Their support is essential to completing your work. You may meet someone who can offer a piece of advice that will propel your project forward or make an introduction. Accidental mentors are there. Don’t be a jerk.

Pitch Packets And Werewolves With The “Feeding Ground” Gang

And we’re back. It has been a while, but Panel Bound is back…back with a vengeance. Luckily in our vengeance-seeking, we were able to set up some time to talk with the astonishingly talented team behind the Archaia graphic novel Feeding Ground.

The creative trio of Jonathan “Swifty” Lang, Michael Lapinski (great comic advice blog here), and Christopher Mangun, as I’ve heard at several “how to pitch a comic” panels, put together one of the best comic pitches the gang at Archaia had ever seen. We figured if you’re coming to Panel Bound to read about how to pitch your book, why not learn from the best there is? So, we asked team Feeding Groundabout it and they were kind enough to oblige.

After checking out this pitch, you’ll agree that this is how it should be done. If you’re looking for a template, a gold standard in pitching then read on, this is the interview for you. Also, check out Feeding Ground, it’s about werewolves, which in my book is always a Michael Jordan circa 1986 backboard-breaking slam dunk.

Feeding-Ground-001-Press-Proof-1

It’s been said that the Feeding Ground pitch is one of the best the team at Archaia has ever seen. Did you guys go into pitching the comic with any previous pitching knowledge, with comics or otherwise?

Michael – I come from a background working as an artist on children’s television shows like “Blue’s Clues” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” when it was on Fox. There was a while when, besides my day job, I was constantly pitching new show ideas. Some made it through early stages of development, and one aired as a pilot, but “pitch book designer” became a craft unto itself. Chris was the man responsible for making our finished book look and feel as swanky as it did.

Chris – At the end of 2008, Feeding Ground evolved from concept into a full plotted story with characters and specific design. We knew we had something worth showing to publishers and the opportunity presented itself in NY Comic Con of February 2009. A month before the con we decided we would leverage Michael’s art, Swifty’s storytelling and my production skills to create the pitch book. For years I’ve worked in the advertising world which demands a its own level of presentation craft and for years it was my job in small studio to create compelling well packaged pitches for companies like Pfizer and Bayer. Marrying these skills of print production with some heavy stock-full color paper and a Look-book style (common in the film industry with scripts being viewed quickly by producers and media companies) seemed like something that would best showcase our story series quickly to an editor (which Mike did an amazing job of using to engage Archaia at NYCC).

Swifty – My background in visual storytelling is rooted in film (I studied film studies at the University of Amsterdam). I had been writing since I was a kid, but hadn’t really tackled comics before. As far as comic reading, I truly grew up reading Mad Magazine. Sergio Argones and Jack Davis were some of my favorites. My pitching experience, and this is the chief responsibility of a writer, is to get other talented people hooked on a concept. I had to do this working with directors in theater and simply trying to convince friends to read my work. Translating this into a visual package was unchartered territory. While I had a very strong sense of what I imagined the packet might look like, I lacked the experience and technical knowledge to manifest this. Chris and Mike are magicians.

The Feeding Ground pitch features an incredible amount of detail and planning not often seen in comic pitching. Why go about it this way? Did any past experiences foster this pitch’s detail?

Michael – I’d say past experience informed the intention to make the book a whole, complete, package but it was Robert Kirkman’s guidelines in a reprint of Walking Dead #1 that laid out what we should include.

Chris – After 2 weeks of work, our pitch book was finished with roughly 40 pages of content: a synopsis, a series beat breakdown, a map of our story setting, character designs, sample art, cover art and a sample our first script.

Swifty – Something we believe as a team very strongly in is the concept of “curb appeal” that one experiences in real estate. From the moment one pulls up to the house, the buyer should have a strong, visceral reaction. When someone picked up our book, it was important not only that Feeding Ground conveyed our narrative, but we knew our world so thoroughly we could drop a reader into it. The more firmly that the aesthetic demonstrates the act of conscious decision making, the more trust a publisher will have in a creator. You saw our cover and you knew right away the landscape you would be traversing.

In your opinion, what is the best thing a comic team can do to get their pitch looked at, let alone picked up?

Michael – As best as you can, know who you are talking to. Before the show, I researched what different publishers were printing and who I’d ideally talk to. You save yourself a lot of time and fuss just by having some sense if your material is right for someone and what their pitching requirements are, often posted on their website.

Swifty – Be assertive. The odds that someone will stumble on your work amidst all the amazing content being made is unlikely. Be a champion of your ideas and confident . I can’t tell you how many people I see sitting in artist’s alley waiting to be discovered. It may happen that way, but there is something about reaching across the table that is powerful. Practice your elevator pitch on friends. If you can tell someone in a sentence what makes your story unique it increases the likelihood that you can do that for an editor.

Feeding-Ground-003-Preview_PG71

Originally, it has been said that Feeding Ground was planned for a movie. How has transferring it into the comic medium been different with both mediums being so visual?

Swifty – After a couple of sessions with Chris and I attempting to tackle this as a screenplay, it became clear that film was not the ideal medium to tell this story. It was simply too vast and the absolute freedom that comics allows was magnetic. Mike and I had a very specific set of visual concerns and an understanding of how this story could be best represented. I think what comics allowed us to do was be very specific about our graphic references (in this case EC Comics meets Mexican Day of the Dead iconography). Whenever a story is created, I really think it’s important to consider not only the what, but the why. Why should something exist as a book, as a physical object, versus a novel, or a screenplay. For us, we wanted Feeding Ground to appear as an old object that conveyed a mythology, almost as if someone stumbled upon it within a barren landscape.

Michael – I’ve been a comic fan since pre-school and I had done comic strips in college but got excited to do my own comic when I saw a number of friends self-publishing their books. I’m also a horror fan and the story for Feeding Ground immediately appealed to me as staking out new territory. Swift and I are both into EC Comics and the woodcut prints of Jose Posada and wanted to illustrate a print object that was a marriage of the two. Presentation is everything and, like Swift said, we created a visual style that was as sun-baked and broken as the story.

As successful creators, how much do you believe a team should have completed in their pitch packet before actually handing it to editors? (art, script, plot, etc)

Michael – When you look at the list of what we included, it’s really about including as much as you need to take what’s in your head and present it on paper without actually showing up with a fully completed book. Especially with including the cover designs, the goal is to place something in a publisher’s hands that conjures what will be on the stands. By printing and binding the book as a traditional comic, I think it made it even easier to visualize. All said, you leave enough evidence that you could get the job done.

Chris – Getting story right from the start is important. Tell people about your story, they will let you know what’s working or not. Since there’s not a ton of time invested at this stage with production, which can eat up a year plus, it’s easy to move ideas around, cut and slice or invent characters. Having that conversation with a small audience and sharing with peers early on is key to knowing if your “elevator pitch,” a two sentence synopsis, the story and overall materials are working for or against you or simply require just a little more editing. We actually practiced and targeted our elevator pitch prior to Michael going to NYCC to ensure we all were on the same creative page, but also to see how our concept held up in other peoples’ minds on the fly.

Swifty– Even though your script will be revised (both internally and by an editor) I think it’s incredibly important to demonstrate that a writer knows how to complete a story. A complete script showcasing an ability to tell a story both panel-to-panel and with a narrative arc is essential. Mastery of all of the elements of storytelling (dialogue, panel description, establishing character moments) are necessary ingredients to gaining the confidence of an editor. An understanding of the larger beats and how they fit into the complete story is equally important. You are taking the reader on a ride and you must know where the exit is.

Reading the Feeding Ground pitch story, it would be easy to say you were very lucky. However, in reality, it seems that it was a combination of extremely hard work and a little luck. Do you believe that a team needs luck? Or can they thrive on virtue of their hard work alone?

Michael – What’s the quote, something like “Fate is when timing meets preparation.” The fortunate timing in our history came when I was taking a break from talking with publishers on the Comic Con floor and inadvertently found myself talking with Stephen Christy, the editor-in-chief at Archaia, while I was just browsing their table. I thought I was just having a passionate conversation about comics with a salesperson. Even with my handy list of publishers, Archaia wasn’t on my radar at the time and soon I found myself handing over the pitch book and I was all set to talk about it as it made it’s way up their chain of command. To this day, they’re still great about making time to meet with aspiring creators at conventions in their swanky library of a booth.

Swifty – I agree to a certain extent that one makes their own luck. If you don’t do the work, nothing will happen. A strange thing occurs when one keeps pushing ahead, and I don’t mean to sound too mystical, but the effort attracts opportunity if the intention is pure. We truly did this for the love and that came through with all of our interactions. We stayed humble, and we stayed open to possibility. The right people emerged. My luck began when Mike and Chris wanted to partner with me. From there, as a united front, all things became possible. If there were a recipe to guarantee the opportunity to get work out there, I certainly do not know it. I do know that you are only as good as your team and being someone people want to work with greatly increases your chance for success.

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If people haven’t read Feeding Ground yet, why should they now?

SwiftyFeeding Ground rose from a conversation between myself and a good friend of mine, Thomas Peyton, who is a documentary filmmaker. He had been working for the past couple of years on a documentary about border crossing. What struck me as remarkable about his story was his desire to put a face to the numbing statistics we hear about people crossing the desert. Even a second-hand account proved far more harrowing than anything I could concoct.

We also tossed around ideas about the most underutilized mythology during the horror renaissance. He believed it was the werewolf. I couldn’t argue. The silly talismans and mythology hungered for a reexamination. The legend of the werewolf coupled with the horrors of a man crossing the Mexican border proved revelatory; there was a genuine “a-ha” moment that I think translates into a modern myth of transformation.

Feeding Ground is vital in that it examines one of the most important issues that define our country; the role of immigration and what it means to sacrifice for opportunity. This is the story of America. Yet, this is also a story that resonates on a universal level. It asks the question, what would you do to save your family. The stories I most admire are both uniquely linked to their current historical circumstances and ask questions that are timeless. Mike likes to say that some of my best ideas are “myths of the moment”. I agree, but the reason that we still watch shows like the “Twilight Zone” is that anxiety and fear of the unknown have no expiration date. I hope readers recognize this in the work.

Any last minute advice for aspiring comic creators?

Michael – If you don’t know it already, comics are an extremely time consuming artform. Your work will most likely be a labor of love so make sure you believe in it before sitting down at your drafting table. But, the sooner you get something on paper, the sooner it becomes a reality. Beyond that, the comic community is relatively small. You’ll learn a lot just by being nice and engaged with other creators of every level of experience.

Swifty – Your energy and enthusiasm for your project must be boundless. If you can’t communicate the urgency of your need to tell your story, you will not find the artists who will best bring it to life, you will not find the publisher who will shepherd it into the world. Be kind to everyone you encounter, creator and fan alike. Their support is essential to completing your work. You may meet someone who can offer a piece of advice that will propel your project forward or make an introduction. Accidental mentors are there. Don’t be a jerk.

You can check out the Feeding Ground pitch packet here courtesy of the team.

Panel Bound Indie Spotlight: Dark Ink Pictures

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah Hoppes, the executive producer of Dark Ink Pictures and the wife part of a husband/wife team.  Dark Ink currently has several comics that are out for download and your reading pleasure, and you can find them here.  This is excellent information for those of you who are looking to pitch your comic in the near future.

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What was the inspiration behind Dark Ink Pictures?

Dark Ink Pictures is the brainchild of myself and Chris Rizzo, who is a writer, editor, and now the Creative Director at Dark Ink. Chris and I both spent many years working in the advertising, film, and editorial worlds, and are grateful to have had the opportunity to hone our skills there. We eventually found ourselves growing unsatisfied with bringing other people’s visions to life, when we knew we had ideas of our own to share. We wanted a creative outlet, where we could put our efforts into telling our own stories, making our own art, and building something we could be proud to leave behind. In the fall of 2011, we launched Dark Ink Pictures to do just that. Dark Ink Pictures is a multimedia production company, and our goal is to tell stories, without limitations on the medium.

You go beyond just comics, what else do you do?

Currently, our biggest focus is on comic books.  We’ve released the initial issues in two ongoing series, Planet of Women, and Cursed Mountain, along with two one-shot comic books, The Patient and Hunters since our launch in October 2011, and we have several more comics in various stages of production.

In addition to comics, we work in photography and film, and we have plans to expand to music and podcasting in the future.  We did a spec commercial, Justify My Burger, which applies a high fashion sensibility to the concept of fast food advertising, in 2012, and we have a short film in the works to be released in 2014.  We also did a photo shoot to promote our comic Cursed Mountain, where we brought characters from that world to life. We photographed three models as the members of “Debbie Does Deathmetal,” an all-girl zombie thrash metal band, and we have plans to do photo shoots with more characters from Cursed Mountain,  as well as the characters from Planet of Women.  We also have plans to release a sci-fi podcast drama with a comic tie-in.

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What does one need to do to be published with you guys?We are very open to collaboration, and we consider it to be a valuable part of our business model.  Our goal is for the artists who work with us to succeed as we succeed.  When we sign on an artist, we always add a link to their work on our site, and we include that link when we mention the project anywhere on our site, and we make every attempt to mention the artists in any press we get about the project.Currently, we are only publishing comics based on our original concepts and characters, all written by Chris.  We are always on the lookout for new concept artists, pencilers, inkers, and colorists, because we are constantly adding new scripts to the lineup.

For artists interested in collaboration, we ask for an email explaining their experience in illustration, particularly in comics, and examples of their work in visual storytelling and sequential artwork.  Then, we set up an interview to discuss the project/s further.  If the artist seems like they’d be a good fit for a comic, we send out a contract for the project, with a detailed schedule, and we start the process with concept art.  Often, we sign on people to do concept art and a promotional poster at first, to make sure everyone is happy with the workflow and that it’s a good fit, and then the comic illustration is a separate project.

Explain the process of getting Planet of Women out there.The first two issues of Planet of Women are available for digital download at amusedom.com now. This is a six-part series, and when it’s complete, it will be available in print and digital formats as a stand-alone graphic novel, and will be around 350 pages.  As you might imagine, the process of illustrating 350 pages is a long time commitment.  Chris wrote the script in the fall of 2011, and we first started working with the illustrator, Dan Wolff, in the winter of 2012. The full series is slated to wrap by early 2014.

Chris’ script and Dan’s artwork are so engaging, we didn’t want to wait over a year to start promoting them, so we’ve been releasing chapters of the book as individual issues.  We also created a trailer to promote the first issue, and we released promotional illustrations for the series.

The biggest thing we’ve done to promote the series is to put the books and promos in front of fans as we visit comic conventions across the country.  Last year, we went to New York, Ohio, West Virginia, and Tennessee.  This year, we’ll be in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Texas. You can view our full convention schedule on our news page. At our convention in Texas (Wizard World Austin), Dan will be joining us and drawing pin ups from the series.

The Creators Of Battle Creek, NE Talk Space Solos And Comics On The Web

In the spirit of honesty, I have to say that webcomics typically don’t really do it for me. Being a lifelong lover of comics, the introduction of self-published, Manga Studio-centric webcomics made me uneasy to say the very least. It’s the ol’ double-edged sword: on one hand, the web made publishing comics accessible to everyone. On the other hand however, the web made publishing comics accessible to everyone, literally everyone, or at least what feels like everyone.

 Everyone I know is working on a web comic (myself included). The market is oversaturated and more often than not, the comics aren’t totally awesome. It’s for these reasons and more that Battle Creek, NE was such a pleasure for me to read.

Created by writer Mike Steele (great name) and artist Julia Philip (less great, but only because you can’t trust someone with two first names), Battle Creek, NE is young but promising regularly updated web comic. I won’t give too much away because you can head over to BattleCreekNEComic.com right now and check it out for yourself, but I can tell you that an intergalactic battle of the bands may be involved.

It’s great stuff (this Geeks of Doom review written by a staggeringly handsome young journalist says as much), which is why speaking with the comic’s creators was such a blast. I caught up with Steele and Philip to speak about the finer points of web comics and getting noticed in the brutal world of digital publishing.

bcne_cp1_page1

Why did you decide to put out Battle Creek, NE as a web comic instead of pitching it to publishers?

Julia: I personally read more online comics than I read comics I buy. I also think that doing it as an online comic we can more easily build a fanbase, and maybe then consider selling it, knowing we’ll have people buying it.

Mike: The idea of pitching the idea to a publisher never even crossed my mind. Maybe it’s just me not knowing how I could even start a process like that, but in my head, this was always gonna be a web comic, down to the way we structure the pages and everything. (if you were to put all the pages in a regular 24 page comic type format, I would imagine people would notice the gaps in time that sometimes pop up between pages).

How did you and Julia start working together on this comic?

Mike: Julia was dating someone that was a regular listener of my weekly podcast (jim and them) and so she started listening to it as well. We eventually became friends on Facebook and I had complimented her on her art in the past, even asking her to do some art for the show a few times. She eventually asked me if I’d ever be interested in doing a comic with her at all. I was thrilled when she asked because I’ve always enjoyed writing, comics, and web comics but never had the art chops to do anything about it. I pitched her the idea I’d had for a while that became Battle Creek, NE (at the time I just called it The Battle of the Bands) and it kind of went from there.

Because there are so many web comics online, it is often hard for creators to get noticed. How are you making sure that Battle Creek, NE gets out there and gets noticed?

Julia: I mostly make posts about it on my Deviantart and Tumblr etc. and hope that people will notice it.

Mike: It helps that we both had existing audiences from the get go because of her presence on Deviantart and the existing listeners of my weekly podcast. Having had a bit of a built in audience from the get-go made spreading it around social networks like Facebook and Twitter a lot easier. I’ve also made sure to get us on a few of the more popular web comic portal websites (Comic fury and Smack Jeeves), which has done a good job of giving complete strangers a place to find our comic who would be unlikely to stumble across our website. Everything else I’m sort of just winging it on: Requesting reviews online, befriending other artists online and most importantly continuing to update the comic on a regular basis.

Mike, you’ve focused heavily on character development in this comic. Why is this so important to you, especially in the medium of web comics, where characters are often neglected?

Mike: Well, you pretty much said it yourself right there. I think there is a bit of a web comic renaissance going on these days, where you can find professional quality stories and art in web comics, and I wanted to be a part of that. You can close your eyes and randomly type a word into google and find a 3-4 panel gaming comic, and don’t get me started on how annoyed I am the amounts of garbage rage comics there are flooding the web, but you have to try a heck of a lot harder to find someone telling a good story. On top of that though, it’s just always been the way I wanted to write. Whether it’s short stories, message board RP’s, D&D or whatever, I’ve always enjoyed the character creation and interaction part of writing. Since I have no formal training in writing, outside of what I learned in high school, I don’t think I’m great at it just yet, but it’s nice to know a LITTLE bit of what I’m trying to do with these characters is coming through.

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Julia, how did you come up with the designs for the various alien species in this comic?

Julia: I try to just do whatever comes to my mind. I know that Mike and I both kinda agreed on that we didn’t wanna go too crazy with the alien designs, keep them mostly humanoid. Mike wanted to have the characters of them shine through rather than just having them be interesting because of how they looked. I like keeping the designs pretty simple. Just including features to a basic humanoid idea or a funky skin-colour is usually enough. I know Mike’s only concern was that we make sure they don’t stray too far into the realm of “Fantasy” looking characters, but I think we’ve done good at avoiding that so far.

How do you guys work as a team? Julia, do you prefer Mike write out direction in detail or leave room for you to stretch artistically?

Julia: I like it when he describes the things with a lot of detail, as much as he can give me. I hate making mistakes because I might have misunderstood something. Usually I handle more of the environment based direction myself though, since as a writer there is really only so much you can say to convey the blocking of how a page is set up. I know Mike always says he feels like I can read his mind though, because so far he says stuff tends to look exactly how he pictured it. I also love pages that have very little dialogue, it leaves more room for me to do more fun things with the characters.

Mike: For the most part we use Skype, Livestream and Facebook. I won’t lie and say its exactly like being in the same room, but as far as the fact that I live in Las Vegas, NV and she lives in Sweden, I feel like we have a nice utility belt of tools that that allow us to work on stuff together in a way that definitely doesn’t feel like were on opposite sides of the planet. When we can hop on Skype and she can stream her Photoshop on Livestream for me in real time, it becomes pretty easy to work on laying out pages and designing characters together with nothing lost in our distance from each other.

Mike, how do you usually write your scripts? Similar to the way traditional comics are written or different for Web?

Mike: I basically write them like a mix between a short story outline and a screenplay. I break out out dialogue and directions of characters, facial expressions, their more subtle feelings, and position of the characters when its important. When I feel like that stuff should be more organic though, I’ve found that Julia is very good at taking a little bit and filling in the holes the way she see’s fit in a way that I’m always okay with. Julia is excellent with body blocking, facial expressions and expressing emotion in the ways she draws our characters, so sometimes it can be a strength to let me leave that stuff to her.

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Any advice for aspiring comic creators?

Julia: Try and keep moving on. Your first comic pages will always look terrible, so don’t go backwards and try drawing the first ten pages over and over, you won’t get anywhere. Try and push yourself to do things you’ve never done before, and don’t avoid drawing the backgrounds (people always ignore backgrounds!) Your readers can easily lose track of where the characters are.

Mike: Don’t kill yourself over the small stuff. Take your idea, break it down into a few broad pieces and just go with it. You’re always gonna end up wishing you did something different (I can’t count the amount of things I think are awful in some of our early pages that I’m sure no one EVER noticed) but the more you put put there, the more you’re gonna just naturally get better and feel more comfortable doing. Also, don’t be afraid to try something different. There is no better feeling of satisfaction, than to be told that you’re doing something creative and unique.

Interview With Paul Tobin The Manic Mind Behind The Horror Comic ‘Colder’

It has been a minute since we last posted an interview here at PanelBound, and if I’m being honest, I have no one to blame but myself. But hey, that’s all in the past. We’ve got some really great interviews lined up here for the future, and we are starting with none other than the marvelously talented Paul Tobin.

Paul may have creeped you out recently. You just didn’t know it. The cover for the first issue of his brand new comic Colder was brutal to say the least.

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Like I said, brutal.

Paul has been working in comics for years as a writer for houses like Marvel, DC and now the home of Colder, Dark Horse. As an industry veteran, this writer had an incredible amount of knowledge to pass along regarding working in comics and creating truly terrifying horror.

You have had a very successful career as a comic writer, how did you first get started in comics?

A couple of chance meetings, really. I went to college with Phil Hester, and he’d been doing comics, which was honestly the first time that I realized it was POSSIBLE to just… make comics. I thought creators needed special badges or something, I guess. We started to do work together, and I had fun, but can’t say how serious I was about it. I stepped out of the industry for a long time, basically until my wife, Colleen Coover wanted to make comics. I taught her how to do things, and then momentum kept me going. Then Jeff Parker asked if he should send in my name to Marvel Comics. I said, “Sure.” He did. Then, Marvel said, “Write for us.” I did. Lately I’ve been more focused on creator-owned material, but I still love Marvel / DC, and so many of the characters out there.

You’ve worked on hero comics, indie comics and adventure comics. Your latest book Colder is a horror book, why horror now?

I kind of roll with my desires, really. I wrote so many All Ages books that I was starting to become known as an All Ages writer. Always a danger to be typecast. So I began to purposefully spread out, work in some of the other genres that interest me. I’ve always had a strong interest in horror, so when Scott Allie at Dark Horse asked if I’d like to do some horror comics, I was all over it. I love writing creeping, unrelenting unease.

The first cover for Colder was brutal and really chilling, how did you and artist Juan Ferreyra decide on that design?

That one’s ALL on Juan. When the horror line was getting underway at Dark Horse, theme was “Dark Horse horror… it gets under your skin.” So Juan thought about that can came back with a really chilling raw version of what ended up as the cover. He sent it to Scott first, and his wife couldn’t even be in the same room with the image. I thought that was funny until I found out that Colleen wouldn’t be in the same room with it, either. So, we knew we had a winner, and also I made it my screen saver for a few months just to be mean to Colleen.

As a comic writer, what have you found is the hardest part about breaking in and staying in the comic industry?

The unrelenting pace. There’s never a good time to rest. You aren’t always writing or setting up new writing. There’s no “or” to it. You will ALWAYS be writing AND setting up the next project. And you’ll be cleaning up the old ones. Just because a writer finishes a script doesn’t mean she’s done with it; she’ll have to herd it through rewrites, layouts, pencils, lettering, coloring, etc. Meanwhile, it’s writing new material, setting up new jobs, doing promotion, etc. It’s a hectic pace. Burn out is a real problem. That’s one of the main reasons I like to work in several different genres, because it keeps me fresh.

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What is the key to writing a great horror comic like Colder?

I’m a huge fan of letting the audience help with the tension, building the horror in tandem. I grew up on “scare tactic” horror movies… axes to the head and killers leaping from closets, that sort of thing. But that’s cheap. It’s easy. And it doesn’t last. It wasn’t until I started watching Japanese and Korean horror films (Ichi the Killer, Audition, etc) that I really began to understand how I felt about horror. I like the slow tapping… the torture of having no control, of the world shifting beneath the character’s feet in slooooooow fashion. The moment the killer jumps through the window, the tension is broken. I don’t like the tension to be broken. NOW the characters can fight back. I like tension to build… and build… and build… and leave everyone helpless.

Declan is such an interesting and manic character. Where did the idea for Colder originate from?

The title came before anything else. I like the blunt aspect. And it comes with a question… WHAT is colder? Colder than WHAT? So it was effective that way. Afterwards… hmm… there wasn’t much process. Sometimes there are just things in my head and I don’t know where they came from. I hope that they come from a good place, but if not, well… I still love them.

Any advice for aspiring comic creators?

Just don’t quit. And don’t stop growing. When people say you aren’t good enough, don’t believe them, but get better anyway. Why not?

If someone isn’t reading Colder, why should they be?

Even if you don’t like horror, I think Juan Ferreyra’s imagery sells the book on its own. He’s led us into some really dark areas by creating some really wonderful art. And if you DO love horror, well… then you can share that love with a couple of creators who love it just as much as you do, and that love shows through by how many people have asked us, “Are you guys… really and honestly crazy?”

The Creators Of Battle Creek, NE Talk Space Solos And Comics On The Web

In the spirit of honesty, I have to say that webcomics typically don’t really do it for me. Being a lifelong lover of comics, the introduction of self-published, Manga Studio-centric webcomics made me uneasy to say the very least. It’s the ol’ double-edged sword: on one hand, the web made publishing comics accessible to everyone. On the other hand however, the web made publishing comics accessible to everyone, literally everyone, or at least what feels like everyone.

 Everyone I know is working on a web comic (myself included). The market is oversaturated and more often than not, the comics aren’t totally awesome. It’s for these reasons and more that Battle Creek, NEwas such a pleasure for me to read.

Created by writer Mike Steele (great name) and artist Julia Philip (less great, but only because you can’t trust someone with two first names), Battle Creek, NE is young but promising regularly updated web comic. I won’t give too much away because you can head over to BattleCreekNEComic.com right now and check it out for yourself, but I can tell you that an intergalactic battle of the bands may be involved.

It’s great stuff (this Geeks of Doom review written by a staggeringly handsome young journalist says as much), which is why speaking with the comic’s creators was such a blast. I caught up with Steele and Philip to speak about the finer points of web comics and getting noticed in the brutal world of digital publishing.

bcne_cp1_page1

Why did you decide to put out Battle Creek, NE as a web comic instead of pitching it to publishers?

Julia: I personally read more online comics than I read comics I buy. I also think that doing it as an online comic we can more easily build a fanbase, and maybe then consider selling it, knowing we’ll have people buying it.

Mike: The idea of pitching the idea to a publisher never even crossed my mind. Maybe it’s just me not knowing how I could even start a process like that, but in my head, this was always gonna be a web comic, down to the way we structure the pages and everything. (if you were to put all the pages in a regular 24 page comic type format, I would imagine people would notice the gaps in time that sometimes pop up between pages).

How did you and Julia start working together on this comic?

Mike: Julia was dating someone that was a regular listener of my weekly podcast (jim and them) and so she started listening to it as well. We eventually became friends on Facebook and I had complimented her on her art in the past, even asking her to do some art for the show a few times. She eventually asked me if I’d ever be interested in doing a comic with her at all. I was thrilled when she asked because I’ve always enjoyed writing, comics, and web comics but never had the art chops to do anything about it. I pitched her the idea I’d had for a while that became Battle Creek, NE (at the time I just called it The Battle of the Bands) and it kind of went from there.

Because there are so many web comics online, it is often hard for creators to get noticed. How are you making sure that Battle Creek, NE gets out there and gets noticed?

Julia: I mostly make posts about it on my Deviantart and Tumblr etc. and hope that people will notice it.

Mike: It helps that we both had existing audiences from the get go because of her presence on Deviantart and the existing listeners of my weekly podcast. Having had a bit of a built in audience from the get-go made spreading it around social networks like Facebook and Twitter a lot easier. I’ve also made sure to get us on a few of the more popular web comic portal websites (Comic fury and Smack Jeeves), which has done a good job of giving complete strangers a place to find our comic who would be unlikely to stumble across our website. Everything else I’m sort of just winging it on: Requesting reviews online, befriending other artists online and most importantly continuing to update the comic on a regular basis.

Mike, you’ve focused heavily on character development in this comic. Why is this so important to you, especially in the medium of web comics, where characters are often neglected?

Mike: Well, you pretty much said it yourself right there. I think there is a bit of a web comic renaissance going on these days, where you can find professional quality stories and art in web comics, and I wanted to be a part of that. You can close your eyes and randomly type a word into google and find a 3-4 panel gaming comic, and don’t get me started on how annoyed I am the amounts of garbage rage comics there are flooding the web, but you have to try a heck of a lot harder to find someone telling a good story. On top of that though, it’s just always been the way I wanted to write. Whether it’s short stories, message board RP’s, D&D or whatever, I’ve always enjoyed the character creation and interaction part of writing. Since I have no formal training in writing, outside of what I learned in high school, I don’t think I’m great at it just yet, but it’s nice to know a LITTLE bit of what I’m trying to do with these characters is coming through.

bcne_cp1_page2

Julia, how did you come up with the designs for the various alien species in this comic?

Julia: I try to just do whatever comes to my mind. I know that Mike and I both kinda agreed on that we didn’t wanna go too crazy with the alien designs, keep them mostly humanoid. Mike wanted to have the characters of them shine through rather than just having them be interesting because of how they looked. I like keeping the designs pretty simple. Just including features to a basic humanoid idea or a funky skin-colour is usually enough. I know Mike’s only concern was that we make sure they don’t stray too far into the realm of “Fantasy” looking characters, but I think we’ve done good at avoiding that so far.

How do you guys work as a team? Julia, do you prefer Mike write out direction in detail or leave room for you to stretch artistically?

Julia: I like it when he describes the things with a lot of detail, as much as he can give me. I hate making mistakes because I might have misunderstood something. Usually I handle more of the environment based direction myself though, since as a writer there is really only so much you can say to convey the blocking of how a page is set up. I know Mike always says he feels like I can read his mind though, because so far he says stuff tends to look exactly how he pictured it. I also love pages that have very little dialogue, it leaves more room for me to do more fun things with the characters.

Mike: For the most part we use Skype, Livestream and Facebook. I won’t lie and say its exactly like being in the same room, but as far as the fact that I live in Las Vegas, NV and she lives in Sweden, I feel like we have a nice utility belt of tools that that allow us to work on stuff together in a way that definitely doesn’t feel like were on opposite sides of the planet. When we can hop on Skype and she can stream her Photoshop on Livestream for me in real time, it becomes pretty easy to work on laying out pages and designing characters together with nothing lost in our distance from each other.

Mike, how do you usually write your scripts? Similar to the way traditional comics are written or different for Web?

Mike: I basically write them like a mix between a short story outline and a screenplay. I break out out dialogue and directions of characters, facial expressions, their more subtle feelings, and position of the characters when its important. When I feel like that stuff should be more organic though, I’ve found that Julia is very good at taking a little bit and filling in the holes the way she see’s fit in a way that I’m always okay with. Julia is excellent with body blocking, facial expressions and expressing emotion in the ways she draws our characters, so sometimes it can be a strength to let me leave that stuff to her.

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Any advice for aspiring comic creators?

Julia: Try and keep moving on. Your first comic pages will always look terrible, so don’t go backwards and try drawing the first ten pages over and over, you won’t get anywhere. Try and push yourself to do things you’ve never done before, and don’t avoid drawing the backgrounds (people always ignore backgrounds!) Your readers can easily lose track of where the characters are.

Mike: Don’t kill yourself over the small stuff. Take your idea, break it down into a few broad pieces and just go with it. You’re always gonna end up wishing you did something different (I can’t count the amount of things I think are awful in some of our early pages that I’m sure no one EVER noticed) but the more you put put there, the more you’re gonna just naturally get better and feel more comfortable doing. Also, don’t be afraid to try something different. There is no better feeling of satisfaction, than to be told that you’re doing something creative and unique.

Nonstop Punching: An Interview With ‘The Legend of Luther Strode’s’ Tradd Moore

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Sometimes when the written word just isn’t enough to capture the sheer awesomeness of an interview, we turn to a more liberating medium. In this case, an interview with Tradd Moore the artist behind The Legend of Luther Strode, we decided to do things via the wonders of podcasting.

Panel Bound’s Eastyn caught up Moore recently to discuss the joys of working from home, and having significant others who feel the need to make sure they see daylight.  They also talk about comics and stuff.  Matthew was unfortunately unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts of needing to save the world.

Listen To The Interview Here

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James Asmus & Jim Festante On Hell, Heaven And ‘The End Times Of Bram & Ben’

Sometimes, being a weekly comic reader can get a little heavy. Currently, with the exception of books like Skullkickers and The Goon (which in itself has gotten pretty dark), the best comics on shelves right now are extraordinarily dark or offer some type metaphysical commentary on the human condition that leave us, the readers, feeling very Kafkaesque. That is to say, most comics right now are kind of a bummer.

The End Times of Bram & Ben might just be what is needed to help shake off our collective 2013 existential comic crisis. Created by veteran comic writer James Asmus and actor/writer Jim Festante, The End Times… is a breath of light-weight comedic fresh air that couldn’t come soon enough.

The Rapture has come, and 20 somethings Bram and Ben were not among the lucky few to ascend to heaven. This of course, has left them dealing with life after the end times, which sometimes is a drag, but most of the time its business as usual. The mini series’ third issue drops on March 13, 2013 and will mark the second to last issue in this four part series.

Jim and James are two writers with an infinite love of comics. I caught up with the duo, who shared some insight into exploring uncomfortable territory like religion and working together as a comedic writing team.

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First off, how did you guys end up working with each other and eventually Image Comics?

JIM: James and I met through a mutual friend in comedy while doing improv in Las Vegas and LA. We discovered a shared love of End Times stories and began collaborating on a web series that eventually became END TIMES. We originally sought to publish the first book ourselves, using Kickstarter to raise funds for an artist and printing, but were extremely fortunate to have interest in the book from Image.

Jim, you have a long resume as a host, actor and writer for television and the stage. Why comics?

JIM: I’ve written a lot of scripts for TV and web projects, but was always interested in comic books. Ultimately, the freedom to do whatever you want is a huge draw — an angel/demon fight that ends in an apartment building collapsing like something out of Rampage would require a budget. A very large budget. Also, it’s such a collaborative endeavor, since you have an artist interpreting your script to realize your world. My comedy training is based in improv so I’ve always believed that a give-and-take between several creative people can lead to something really amazing and unique — Rem Broo’s art for END TIMES, I think, proves that.

James, you’ve written on Dark X-Men and Gambit, how did you first get started in comics?

JAMES: I had been working as a playwright in Chicago, and once we took a crazy little show I wrote to the New York Fringe Theatre festival. I knew a few folks working at Marvel and invited them to see the show, just hoping I could geek out with them. Soon after, though, they offered me the chance to write a short comic for an X-Men anthology book. I guess they were happy with the results, and continued hiring me from there! I know it’s not the most helpful breaking-in story on the surface, but I think it still highlights what you need – the dedication to actually create work, initiative, and your own voice.

The End Times of Bram & Ben is written in such a way where religion, specifically, isn’t mocked for no reason. Why was it important to write this comic without falling into easy territory of poking fun at something that is arguably easy to poke fun at?

JAMES: To me, the whole benefit of exploring uncomfortable questions through a fictional narrative is that they (can) become wrapped in a coating that makes them easier and more appealing to engage in. The truth is, I want as many people to engage in this story, and the ideas lurking within it, as possible. The hope is, our different characters reflect different ideas – and the conflicts between them raise the questions that we find most compelling. Every character is going to have their blind-spots and foibles called out, but that (in my opinion) is when satire is at its best. If your lead character is just a cipher for your opinion, and he’s always right, then you’re just a bully. And not only is that not funny, but if you really did want get someone to consider a new idea – too bad, they stopped listening to you the minute you were kicking sand in their face. Besides, our beliefs in the unknowable Truth of Existence are so personal, that if I made a story about what I actually believed, very few people would agree with it. Instead, we can poke at the kinds of questions we think are important (and too often not asked), and it engages and has value to many, many more people. The sex jokes help with that, too.

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Jim, as a newer comic writer, what things surprised or were tough for you when it came to writing a script?

JIM: The pauses! I love pauses, beats and silent reactions between characters, but you’ve just given up a panel of limited space to do so, so it better count. Also, learning how to structure your book properly, like setting up a page turn or landing on a good cliffhanger to keep the readers’ interest piqued. The arc of a mini-series is different than the arc of a TV show, so learning how to adjust your storytelling can be frustrating learning experience. Fortunately, I had James’ expertise to lean on and learn from. If you’re not reading his other books, you’re missing out — the guy is a fantastic storyteller!

James, both you and Jim are comedians, how did you get jokes into The End Times… that you were both happy with, but spoke uniquely to your own voices?

JAMES: I actually think there’s a very big overlap in our senses of humor. And the nature of improv is that you work to find the combination of your brains — not just trade off from one POV to the other. In the end, we both just kept flinging jokes until something genuinely made us both laugh.

JIM: We have a similar sense of humor, which lead to us wanting to work together. Writing the book was a blast — basically, whatever made the other person crack up was a good indication we were going in the right direction. It’s like getting an instant second- or third-pass on your writing, a constant punch-up for your jokes so they land strongly and clearly.

Any advice for aspiring comic creators who would like to put our their own creator-owned work?

JAMES: Especially when you’re starting out — make the thing you love, not the thing that you think will ‘sell.’ The truth is, your passion and idiosyncratic choices will be far more compelling to people than your thinly veiled Batman fan fiction. And by creating something no one would have, you define yourself so much more clearly. Especially early on, you’re better served by a smaller passionate audience than a larger, ambivalent one. Also — don’t underestimate putting your work online. Web comics, PDF sales on your site, or digital comics vendors are all great ways to get your work out and in many cases those get bigger audiences than a lot of stuff published and solicited to shops.

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If someone hasn’t read The End Times… why should they start reading it now?

JIM: It’s a unique book and I’m so grateful that there was a publisher out there like Image willing to take a chance on it. I think it’s the kind of book you can read a second or even third time and get more from beyond your initial reading. So… you get your money’s worth? That’s a very grown-up reason! You can feel good knowing you’ve helped support independent comics and your parents can feel good knowing they raised a conscientiousness consumer.