Mark Andrew Smith is an Eisner and Harvey award winning author who has has worked with Image Comics for several years. His work in comics includes The New Brighton Archeological Society, Sullivan’s Sluggers, The Amazing Joy Buzzards, Popgun, and the wonderful Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors.We are all huge fans of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors here at Panel Bound and it was a pleasure to talk to Mark about his work in comics. We spoke about the comics that inspired him and his process of creating Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors.
How did you first get started as a graphic novel and comic writer?
I went to UCSB and studied film. When I was there my faculty adviser recommended ‘Understanding Comics’ to me. I read it and a light clicked. I’d always been a comic reader but fell out of it. I went to the comic shop and caught up on everything I’d missed. From there I started writing.
As a creative writer was it always your intention to write for comics?
It’s always been my intention to write for comics.
How did you first develop the concept for Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors?
Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors started with the title. From there I brainstormed 20 characters, and then took that list down to the main 6. When Armand came on board and did the concepts for them, they were easy to write because I knew what they looked like.
What made you want to work in the all ages genre?
I think it’s a lot of fun, and I want to make comics that everyone can read and enjoy.
How did you get Gladstone’s picked up with Image Comics?
Gladstone’s is my fifth book with Image Comics, so it’s as simple as I e-mailed them and they said, “Okay. Let’s do it”.
What pitch process (script, sequential art) did you use when presenting to Image Comics?
I think you should have a good ten pages or so of art done to show the style and the tone of the book. Also have an outline of the series, and perhaps a character sheet. The submission guidelines are up on the Image site, anyone interested in pitching to Image can go there and follow them.
As a writer do you typically leave most of the art direction to the artist or do you write specifics for panel lay out, character design, etc?
I don’t write Alan Moore style where I describe everything, and I don’t write Screenplay style where there is only dialogue. I write someplace in between those two. If it’s a new scene, then I’ll go heavy on the description, or if there’s something vital to the story. I think a lot of my writing is more pacing and beats for the artist to draw to. For character designs, the characters will all be designed before the book is done, so they’re written on another sheet of paper and sent off to the artist, but for a new character or bad guys, those go into the scripts, and often I’ll include photo references of things that I want to help the artist out and to save them time.
What comics inspired you to want to write for comics?
Too many to name haha. I think the work of Scott Morse, and Jim Mahfood got me inspired to write for comics. With Morse, he was using a lot of silent panels, and his pacing was excellent, and I hadn’t seen anything like that before. It was really interesting to me, and he’s been a large influence on my work. Powers also inspired me to write for comics, and the work of Mike Allred, and Paul Pope.
What’s next for Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors?
The next story arch is starting in early summer and they find out there’s some big trouble headed their way.
Any last advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t be so committed to your craft and stubborn that you miss out on life and friendships.
I want to thank Mark for taking the time to answer some questions for us at Panel Bound, Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors is really a fantastic all ages title that is definitely worth picking up. You can find links to buy it in trade paper back below.