A Very Personal My Comic Life Sundays Part 2

MCL Banner

 

032 2016 Unplugged

Catch up with the My Comic Life Comic Strip on our Reader>>

Catch up with the My Comic Life Column at our Archive and Resources Page>>

My Comic Life Column 014: A Very Personal Message Part 2

C. Edward Sellner cropped

I duly warned everyone – this time was also going to be more on the personal side – but squarely aimed at all my fellow creators, no matter what medium, or level of work you do.

We as creators often face a lot of challenges with our work – how to improve our craft, how to find time, how to earn sufficient income, how to get our work in front of the right people either for publication or to build a fanbase, etc. Most of these are very practical challenges, very logistical.

What often gets glossed over is the internal struggle of the artist vs. the art. Even more so when it gets overshadowed by all those other concerns which often have far more pressing needs for solutions.

But here’s the thing every creator knows down deep, even if we sometimes forget it – the best art we will ever create will ALWAYS come from somewhere down deep in our heart and soul. Our best art will NEVER come simply out of commercial or contract work. We may get paid for it, but our best work will never simply come because we ARE getting paid.

Our best work – whether it be music, writing, art, dance, whatever – will always be a deep reflection of who we are – our priorities, our struggles, our losses, our deepest loves, our biggest questions, our greatest fears and our highest hopes. Why? Well, that one is simple, it goes to the core of what art is really all about. But, it may not seem as simple given today’s norms and perceptions.

We as a culture, as people in general around the world, have become obsessed with entertainment. The Entertainment industry is a multi-billion dollar industry just in the United States. Popular artists, especially actors and musicians, are like royalty, often earning more than just about anyone, with thousands interested in their every outing, thought and personal development in their lives.

Yet, at the same time we’ve become obsessed, many are determined to devalue the art involved and reduce ‘entertainment’ to its most superficial and commercial elements. It’s fun, not meant to be taken seriously, it’s a distraction from our daily lives, it bears no connection or direct impact on the real world. Those self-same artists whom many are obsessed with are likewise often reduced to caricatures of human beings. It’s okay for fans to go on and on about who someone is dating, changes in hairstyle, favorite foods, weight gain, or pregnancy but let any of those artists step up for a cause, make a statement on their values or challenge anything about our society and they are dismissed as ‘simply’ artists. But that’s not art.

Art, since those first scrawlings on cave walls, since those first stories told around campfires, those first songs sung, has always been so very much more.

Art is About Teaching. It has been used to teach tradition, faith, culture, principles of belief and practice. Art has helped to bring to life history and illustrate the power of science. Art has even taught us about ourselves, our fellow human beings, and much about the world in which we live. Unlike many other forms of teaching that simply present dry facts, art teaches by engaging, by connecting with the learner. This means that learning often happens at a deeper, more fundamental level. It also means art can teach things very hard to teach otherwise, including teaching us about our own innermost thoughts and feelings.

Art is About Inspiring. It may be as grand as a painting that inspires an appreciation for the beauty of the world around us, or a song that inspires us to go after a dream, or a poem that inspires us to reach out to one we love. It can be as profound as a super-hero that inspires us to know with great power comes great responsibility, or that with determination we can even overcome the greatest of losses. It can also be as simple as a comic strip that inspires laughter and brightens our day.

Art is About Challenging. Art is not just about the status quo – if it were it would not serve as escapism and would be redundant if you think about it; because of this true art always contains an element of challenge. It may be a challenge to see or think about something different, a challenge to believe in something we felt impossible or to recognize the fragility of something we take for granted. It may challenge something about the world around us or challenge something deep within. But true art should always leave us wrestling with something once we walk away.

001 It Should Be Funny

For us as fans – readers, watchers, listeners – I guarantee you can take every single piece of ‘entertainment’ you’ve ever really, truly enjoyed, the ones that stayed with you and find something of each of these principles in it. Some may be obvious, others you may need to unpack and think about, but when you do those elements will be there, even if you never fully realized it before.

But what then about us as Creators?

We create any given work of art for many reasons, but we create art in general because we feel driven to – sometimes a deep, abiding drive we can’t turn off, much less turn away from. At the heart of that drive is the heart of a student, a heart that is inspired, and a heart that faces its own challenges it so desperately wants to overcome. Now, in other folks, those things may exist as well, but it is for us the foundation of our art – at least when we let it be.

I see this in aspiring artists and even from some established professionals – art with no soul, no deeper connection to who and what the artist behind it is. For aspiring creators, they may be trying too hard to mimic what is already on the market to prove they can cut it as a professional. For professional creators, it may be work they don’t enjoy, that is simply paying the bills, or over time their work may have been reduced to a mere discipline, or distraction. In either case, that art is probably doing little for the fulfillment of the artist.

As a creator, as an artist of any kind – to truly create – dig deep. Face your demons, wrestle with your doubts, push against the rough edges of your life and the world around you and see which ones rub you raw. Figure out what inspires you, what makes your heart sing, what makes you laugh from the deepest part of your gut, or cry tears of joy. Do it for that creator-owned thing you so desperately want to make and find ways to do it for every single paid job you take.

As artists, true artists, we have a calling. It is an awesome responsibility and an incredible honor. We are called to be the touchstones of humanity, to plumb our depths, soar in our heights, and to then transform that into raw fodder and put it out into the world around us so that others might find that work of art that helps them do the same. Your struggles, the ones that keep you up at night, are the same struggles so many others face – the strength you muster to face them and put them out there in the world might inspire another to face their own. A dream that inspires you, might just be a dream that, captured in art, could inspire a generation. Even if it’s not a specific issue, at the core, every hero’s story is a story of overcoming all odds isn’t it?

Last year I swore 2016 was going be the year I got more focused on my own creative work but other than the ongoing My Comic Life strip and a few other things, I’ve found myself struggling. I’ve found myself having a harder time writing and doing full art than I’ve had in a long time. As I shared last column, there’s certainly been a lot going on this year, including a lot of stressful and life-changing things that certainly could disrupt the process, but I had difficulty putting my finger on the exact cause, until recently.

I realized I had been so focused on improving my own writing and art, so focused on managing and overseeing other’s writing and art, thus focused on the form and not the underlying function, that I’d lost touch with some of that deeper passion, that core from which true art arises. Oh, now most of the stories I want to tell come from that deeper core, because I was very much in touch with that when I first formed the seeds for each of those – but now, I think I was trying to start them without tapping the primal energy that originally inspired them in me in the first place.

End result? I realized I first had to do a bit of reconnecting with that fire, that core, that passion. I had to once again truly create in order to create true art, and not just go through the mechanics and motions. That has ended up not only reawakening that art, that creative fire, but it’s also reawakened some other arenas of my life, ones that inspired the column and invitation last week, ones that inspired this column, and ones I will talk more about on my personal sites later on New Year’s Day.

For 2017 and beyond, my resolution is to do the kind of art, to be the kind of creator, whose every piece digs deep, goes to the core, makes my heart sing, and I’m pretty excited about the work so far. Here’s hoping for a very creative year.

NEXT

If you want to follow more personal stuff I post regularly on my personal Facebook page which will include a major post later today (New Year’s Day) and will be relaunching my blog first of the year.

To get first looks at all my creative work, you can check out my Patreon, which will be building up after the new year. Right now, I’m doing a Classic-Print-A-Day for the Holidays, sending out hi-res file versions of my entire classic print library to all my patrons. New stuff will be appearing soon.

Next week in this space, we get back to the creative process and start our Penciling 101 series! Don’t miss it!

NOW DISCUSS…

What’s your story? Share if you like, post here or email me anytime at [email protected].

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

If you want more great content like this, support his Patreon campaign today by clicking the image!

About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Creative Services, one of the best-known production studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycreativeservices.com!

Weekly Visions 12.29.16: Our New Year’s Resolutions

WV Generic

If you’re a regular you may have noticed – we’re quite proud of our name. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s largely because when we chose a name for the studio, we wanted a name to grow into, and we feel we’ve done a pretty good job of doing that so far. But what exactly does it mean for us to live up to that name, to grow into it?

Most assume it just means producing top quality content, garnering top recommended lists, awards, and other nods, which we’ve done. Others assume it means being first or best at what we do and we’ve hit those marks as well in a lot of ways. All of which is wonderful, but only a part of what living up to that name means for us.

For us being Visionary is about being the best creative studio for creators – a haven where creators are treated fairly with respect and appreciation, where they are front and center in their work, as invested as they want to be and taken care of while doing it.  It’s also about being the best creative studio for publishers – going above and beyond to make sure everything they need is done not just to spec, but to perfection. It’s about being the best creative studio for retailers – where they see us as we see them – vital partners in launching any product or series. Our product carries our brand and we’ve always done our best to support retailers and venues on every front, even when others just step back and let the publishers carry that weight.

Most importantly it means for us to be the best creative studio for our clients and our fans. Whether it’s someone who’s hired us for a project, or someone who’s plunked down their hard earned cash for one of our books, we want to make sure they get everything they expected and so much more. It’s one-on-one client and fan relations, answering questions, working out solutions, getting things done and in the hands of those wanting it that plays a big part of what being Visionary is all about. Call our main line, you get one of our Chief executives, email us, you get one of our key staff, message us on Facebook, you get a response almost immediately. We love meeting people at conventions (it’s why we do so many) and we love nothing more than when someone gets excited about a new book from us because it means we got it right.

But there’s more to it than just that.

023 Let's Call It Visionary

For us being Visionary also means making a difference, making an impact, not just in the market, but in the world. Sure we want to tell great stories with stunning art, stories that are fun, some epic, some twisted (hey, we are the Deadlands people after all). But we also know the power of comics and fiction to inspire, to teach, to challenge and that to us is what truly makes visionary work.

We’ve always done our part giving back, to local communities, to the industry, but in 2017 you’ll see a focused effort on Visionary’s part to broaden that on multiple fronts and begin reflecting that in some of the new content we create. We’re thrilled that in 2017 we’ll be announcing multiple partnerships with museums, learning centers, and other non-profit organizations that are all about broadening our horizons and reaching for a better future as we create stories that embody those bold and visionary ideals.

After all, for a studio that got it’s start in comics and went with a name like Visionary, part of its mission has just got to be about saving the world, right?


Meet Our Latest Interns

Visionary is closing out 2016 with it’s single biggest class of interns ever. We introduced most of the crew already, but we added three final, dynamite members to the team and we are looking forward to great things from all these amazing creators!

JordanJordan Loux
An Alfred University (NY) graduate with a BA in Communication Studies, Jordan has a passion for media. He enjoys reading, writing, film and any other medium that works to convey a story. Recently he has returned from a year abroad working at TTV Productions in Israel.

 

 

 

JasmineJasmine Wilson
Jasmine is an aspiring comic book, children’s book, and cartoon writer. She was born and raised in Atlanta, GA and has always loved visual culture, specifically photography, comics, cartoons, and graphic novels. Jasmine is currently a senior English major at Howard University and plans to utilize her background as a writing tutor, editor, and researcher of comics as a Visionary Intern this year.

 

 

BradfordBradford Spady
Bradford Olander Spady is an artist with a focus on character design. A graduate of Langley High School in McLean, VA, Bradford studies cartooning at the Cafritz Art Center at Montgomery College, Takoma Park, and professional on-line art classes with Schoolism, based in Canada. Bradford has worked on a special White House Project to design the 2011 Christmas card and participated in a half day at Disney with two Disney illustrators for one-on-one tutoring. He has had solo art shows and is now a proud intern at Visionary. Bradford resides in Reston, VA.

 


MCL Banner

Next, in a special release at midnight New Year’s Eve, check out the latest My Comic Life column and strip from our CCO C. Edward Sellner, with some major announcements! Be sure not to miss it and Subscribe Now!

A Very Personal My Comic Life Sundays Part 1

MCL Banner

031-Happy-Holidays

The above strip is my first My Comic Life Animated GIF – It may not work on your phone or email browser, to see it in full click on the page.

Catch up with the My Comic Life Comic Strip on our Reader>>

Catch up with the My Comic Life Column at our Archive and Resources Page>>

My Comic Life Column 013: A Very Personal Message Part 1

C. Edward Sellner cropped

Bear with me, this week and next are going to be very different than my standard Sunday fare. Seeing as how this post falls on Christmas Day and the beginning of Hanukkah and next week’s on New Year’s Day – well, how could I help but not get a little more introspective?

Before my comic life, I spent twenty-five years in ministry and outreach – working for a variety of Churches and social service programs. On the ministry side, I am an ordained clergy and worked as Christian Education Director, Youth Director, and Pastor on various levels in various congregations. On social services, I worked in crisis response and management, including a long stint at a teen crisis shelter I eventually ran for two years and an even longer one running an agency I founded and managed for ten years. Needless to say my life was very different then.

I think anyone in that line of work, as well as anyone who pursues a creative life can identify with the concept of a calling, even if we don’t all see it as coming from the same source. For me, it came in my high school years. Like most, that time was a dramatic time for me – lots of change, difficulty fitting in, sometimes feeling the world was against me. Things got bad at times, even once to the point of being ready to give up. When I was in my darkest time is when that calling came and changed my life. It opened me to see those same struggles I had in others, often including those whose lives had far more real challenges than my own.

It first centered around an invitation to teach Sunday school, despite being a naive sixteen and eventually getting shanghaied into taking on a small Junior High Class of four boys. Each of those guys came out of broken homes, had lived through things no kid ever should and yet still showed up every week. Two of the boys were brothers, being raised by their grandmother, and I will never forget the day when she, in tears, asked for my help with them.

That was when I began mentoring, the single most important outreach I ever did. The opportunity and the chance to help them, be there for them suddenly seemed far more important than my own issues. Even though I was not much older than they, we became inseparable on all fronts. I spent most evenings at one home or another helping with homework, spent weekends taking them out to events, attended school, sports, and concert activities, and every time they messed up or needed help, I got the call.

I went on to mentor over forty young people through that chapter of my life, some in limited programs for a few months, others were part of my life for decades. I mentored kids who were dealing with abuse in the home, substance abuse issues, problems in school, kids who lost their parents to suicide and violence, kids with disabilities and many who society was in the process of giving up on.

Through my mentoring and other ministry work, I stood with so many people at the absolute best and worst moments of their lives. I had a chance to witness miracles and more than a few times ended up walking through Hell with someone to see them through to the other side. My time at the teen crisis shelter, my work at my own outreach center, the various youth groups, they all formed a tapestry of a truly wonderful life in many ways, a truly challenging one in others.

Then in 2006 one of those first young men I mentored, Danny, one who had in so many ways been a brother and a son to me, died. He committed suicide after years of struggling with his own personal demons. He had been in my life for decades, our relationship sometimes his safe haven, sometimes strained. He would disappear, sometimes for a year or more, and then out of the blue call when he hit bottom and wanted to come home. When I got the call from his grandmother, that same one who originally invited me into his life, I fully expected her to tell me he needed help and to ask if I could go to him. Instead, she told me he was gone.

My life changed again. There had been other challenges, other losses, and together with Danny’s death something inside broke. I took a six-month sabbatical from most of my responsibilities, although I found myself still often getting called in for one situation or another. I finally realized the only way to truly step back was to step away – completely. I chose to move to the other side of the country and decided now was the time to focus on my fledgling studio. Charlie Hall and I had launched Visionary around that time, but it was always a side gig as long as my other life was central, so it seemed as good a time as any to then focus on it fully and completely.

The next few years opened a new life to me, one I also found rewarding, but I was also still very much a lesser man – much of the time I was angry, depressed, withdrawn. I pulled away from just about everyone and everything other than my work. Over the years, though I didn’t realize it fully at the time, I shut myself off from so many and so much.

Over the years I’ve done a lot of healing and built a life that has truly been a joy in its own way as much as my previous life. But there has always been those missing pieces, ones I often tried hard not to think about because inevitably it would lead me to feeling the loss. Holidays especially became challenging because there had been so many great memories surrounding those.

Most of those missing pieces are people who in the time since have been lost to my life. That happens, people come and go in your life. But there were many, especially among those mentored and youth group members, and good friends in various places I served, I had hoped to have in my life forever, and if things had been different, may well have still been part of my life today.

Now, part of the joy of my current life is that I have made many friends through my years with the studio. I am very fortunate to work with a great group of people and count a number of my colleagues, my staff, and my peers as good friends. This past year, like for many of us, was an especially difficult one. There were many reasons, most critical of all for me was a brutal reminder of the fragility of life when I stood with my cousin as he held his three-year-old son while he died after being removed from life support after a tragic accident.

But through that what spoke to me most was the support from all sides, for him, for his family, even for me – from clients and colleagues, from staff and friends, even at times from total strangers. Oddly enough, coming out of this year and loss what I’ve found is that it has once more awakened a part of me I thought gone. I’ll talk more about that next time.

X-mas copy

Art and Greetings from Ishan Trivedi

For today, whatever tradition you celebrate, beyond the glitter and the gifts, after the food and drinks, the laughter and celebration – remember the most important thing about these holidays – the people surrounding you. The ones you fight with, laugh with, cry with, the ones who drive you nuts at times, and the ones you’re nuts about. Hold tight to the ones surrounding you now, remember the ones you’ve lost who still surround you in your heart, and spare some compassion for those you haven’t even met who still share this spinning blue dot we call home.

For beyond today, to my readers, remember no life is just about one thing. Be a creator, pursue it with all the passion you can muster, but keep that balance, keep in touch with those around you, continue to be part of the larger world we all live in. Many of us on the creative side tend to be introverts, we sometimes get lost in our work, our worlds, and don’t come up nearly often enough to be present with others. Sometimes it may be an intentional escape, sometimes it may sneak up on us, but it’s always harder to get out of then to slide into. Remember, for all its drama, for all its ups and downs, it’s those parts of our life that we live outside our studio, our office, our neverending work that fuel our creative energy, that gives us raw material to process in our art and stories. Simply put, our life? It’s our story, make it a work of art.

To all my friends and family near and far, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Kwanza, happy holidays whatever they may be. Thank you for all you do, for your presence in my life and others, may I be worthy of it every day.

In closing, I need to put out an invitation. I’m not always good at apologizing, or explaining stuff going on deep inside. I’ve always been a much better listener than talker. But today, today I’m also thinking a lot about the people who made my life special in years gone by. Mentees, former youth, friends, all of you. I miss those of you who over the last several years have slipped out of my life. For some, you may have reached out at a time when I wasn’t ready to reconnect and I may have not been welcoming then. I hope you can forgive me. For others, things just seemed to slip away. For a few, there were issues that seemed to throw a wall between us. I don’t want that to be the way things continue. Know I love you all, always have, always will, I think about most of you on a regular basis and if any are so inclined, I’d really love to hear from you, to catch up, to reconnect, to reflect on old memories, and start making some new ones. That would be the best gift ever, one I may not deserve, but would nevertheless treasure.

Sorry for the deeply personal, but, I did say this column would cover every aspect of a freelancer and creative life and I know many out there who struggle with the same things even if not for the same reasons, hope this helps.

NEXT

Some profound (for me at least) New Year’s resolutions, and then I absolutely promise, back to the creative stuff.

If you want to follow more personal stuff I post regularly on my personal Facebook page and will be relaunching my blog first of the year. You can also always check out my Patreon which will be building up this week and after the new year.

NOW DISCUSS…

What’s your story? Share if you like, post here or email me anytime at [email protected].

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

If you want more great content like this, support his Patreon campaign today by clicking the image!

About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Creative Services, one of the best-known production studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycreativeservices.com!

Weekly Visions 12.22.16: Happy Holidays from Visionary

happy-holidays-greeting-14470407458Ey

From all of us at Visionary to all of you, may you have a truly blessed and happy holiday season!

Whatever tradition you may celebrate, they all point to a spirit of love and peace, so may you find ways to truly embrace that spirit this season.

Surround yourself with family and friends but also reach out to those less fortunate who may be alone or struggling

The greatest gift is not the one we receive, but the one we give. Often the greatest gift received is not the one from those we know, but the unexpected one from the total stranger.

2016: Downs and Ups and More of Both

Our Books Division Chief, Jeff Mariotte wrote a special guest post at the Flames Rising site, all about his year of 2016.
Check it out>>

One Artist’s Take on Santa

Mark Wheatley is an amazing artist who’s worked in comics for many years, he’s also a good friend and supporter of Visionary and has been almost since day one. We asked if we could share the digital Christmas card he sent around this year on our post and he graciously agreed. Click on it to check out Mark’s site.

XMASS-CARD-2016-M - Copy

Our CCO will share his Holiday Greetings in a special edition of My Comic Life Sundays on Christmas Day!

 

Weekly Visions 12.15.16: SDCC and More 2017 Exclusive Announcements!

WV Generic

Welcome back everyone! Weekly Visions kicks back into high gear this week for our last regular update (we’ll be doing some special stuff for the holidays).

Below, check out some great reviews, our first spotlight, and some exclusive announcements about the coming year!

 

 

Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising Reviews

Deadlands Thunder Moon Rising Cover Art

“Beyond Tuck Bringloe, who has a peach of a story arc, I honestly had little idea which of the cast of characters would become prominent and which would be ruthlessly killed off. I’ve been told by a couple of authors that every single character are the lead of their own story and they should be written that way. Mariotte does a fantastic job of doing that here, because even his minor characters are drawn well enough to invite us into their lives. It felt notable when they died and it felt important when those with a higher purpose met each other.” – Hal C F Astell at The Nameless Zine

“I couldn’t stop reading, the pages turned as fast as I could. What a mix the author treats us to. The book was different and refreshing. Something on the other side of the regular western read. I liked the fact that Tucker was used as the one to actually lead the search. It sent a message while giving the reader a character that you wouldn’t ever expect to have the guts and the character to do what he did.” – Gayle Pace

“This isn’t the Wild West, it’s the weird west. The author not only gives you the gunfighters of the west in Arizona territory but you get scientists that are on the edge of reality and then we get the unexplainable evil forces that exist everywhere. ” –Night Owl Paranormal

Now available on Amazon, and at finer bookstores EVERYWHERE!
Check out the Official Publisher Page!


Spotlight

We often get people thinking Visionary is primarily a publisher, but we’re actually not, we’re a production studio and transmedia development company. Which basically means we’re more focused on creating the great content and then work with partners in getting that content out there.

Our staff are primarily creators, writers, artists, editors, letterers and graphic design artists. We’re a little bit creator studio, a collective of creative braintrusts, and a lean mean transmedia machine!

Our imprints, Visionary Comics and Visionary Books are for the content we actually package and release through our publishing partners, great folks like Tor Books, IDW, and Image Comics for print, and Amazon, Comixology, iVerse, and Drive-Thru for digital. We are also in the process of launching our own online store you can find right on our main site that will soon be stocked with all our exclusive merchandise, both digital and physical, including comics, books, playing cards, prints and more! We’ll be relaunching our digital publishing initiative early 2017, so look for the announcement!

As a creative production studio our focus is providing high quality content for clients of all kinds! We’ve created a couple thousand pages of prose, several hundred pages of comics, and dozens of covers, illustrations and custom art in just the last year and will be doing even more this coming year. Some of those could be for YOUR PROJECT!

We’ve worked with Hollywood producers, top publishers, top creators, sports stars, celebrities, and other studios, as well as great non-profits, universities, museums and other educational organizations! We’ll be doing several spotlights on our various creative services and announcing new packaging deals early in 2017! Interested? Get our Services One-Sheet NOW!

You can also now find us at www.visionarycreativeservices.com!

Services Book Cover Image MCL / PB


Visionary Internship Program Update

Visionary has a long tradition of bringing new creators into the industry and doing our part to educate, inspire, and train the next generation of great talent. To that end we relaunched our highly successful internship program last year. Half of our current staff were promoted up from internships and we currently boast our largest class ever as of the end of 2016, with a total of eight active interns!

What do Visionary interns get to do? They hang out once a month at CCO C. Edward Sellner’s place, eat pizza, learn about making comics, being a professional freelancer, get to participate in comic awards, and get to work on projects as support, managers, and even do creative work! That’s the good news!

The bad news (especially if we just got you all excited about the program) is we are now full for the quarter. We may reopen applications in the Spring. Stay tuned to be the first to know! Spots fill fast! We’ll be introducing our final additions for the year soon!


SDCC

Visionary Returns to SDCC in 2017!

Hard as it may be to believe, Visionary is already prepping its 2017 show schedule, and our biggest announcement is we will be making our triumphant return to San Diego Comic Con International in 2017!

We can also already confirm the following shows for our 2017 Schedule:

And more coming soon! Check our Events page for details after the first of the year!

Visionary offers a complete slate of convention and events programming as well as our merchandise sales. Visionary staff do workshops with children, youth, fans, aspiring creators, and panels on numerous topics, from creating comics to crowdfunding, and all topics in between. If you’d like to invite us to YOUR event – contact us now before we book up!

My Comic Life Sundays: Contracts and Conventions!

MCL Banner

 

MCL_029

Catch up with the My Comic Life Comic Strip on our Reader>>

Catch up with the My Comic Life Column at our Archive and Resources Page>>

My Comic Life Column 011: The Contract!

C. Edward Sellner cropped

Welcome back, and let me apologize for the extra week away. We do try to keep those to a minimum, so hopefully, it won’t happen again!

Last time around we wrapped up a multi-part series on writing where we looked at script format, panel, page, and storytelling. You can get the whole back catalog of columns over at our always up to date Archive page, which also collects all the creating comic resource links I share through here.

In between longer series on creative work, I’m going to try and introduce a number of single column practical topics that can be just as important to aspiring creators and freelancers.

Today’s topic may not tingle your creative urges, but you may end up thanking me tremendously someday anyway.

Why a Contract Is a MUST!!

If you’re going to be a professional creator or freelancer it’s important you realize that professionalism is embodied in a lot more than simply talent or creative skills. It’s embodied in how you conduct yourself, how you relate to colleagues, clients, and employers, and how you present yourself and your value with any potential job opportunity. I’ll be doing a number of columns on important aspects of conducting yourself professionally and the many ways that’s important, but let’s start with one of the simplest, most basic indicators of your professionalism – the contract!

Contracts are legally binding agreements between two parties for the exchange of goods and services. They can be fairly simple and straightforward, or incredibly complex and labyrinthine. I’ve had one-page contracts and forty-page contracts. If you’re just starting out, simpler and straightforward is better. By the time you get in to more complex ones, you really should consider having an attorney at least as a consultant to review those.

But the biggest mistake I see new and aspiring creative freelancers make is the assumption they don’t NEED a contract at all. “Oh, it’s for a friend” or “it’s just a simple commission piece” or “they told me not to worry about that” are never good reasons to not have an agreement in place to protect everyone’s interests. Why, you ask?

First, the fact of the matter is that most contracts are never really needed in good, solid professional relationships. They are set out, agreed, signed, filed and maybe reviewed every couple years to see if they need to be renewed yet or not. That’s good, that means things are going well, that means there is dialogue, negotiation, and everyone is happy with the arrangement. Doesn’t that contradict the admonition to always have one then? Nope, because good relations are not what contracts are for.

Contracts are for when things go wrong. They are the seatbelt, the life-vest, the airbag, the backup parachute, the helmet, etc. for the professional – kind of annoying, a distraction, and maybe even irritating – right up until that moment that you end up REALLY glad you had it. And yes, hopefully, for the vast majority of jobs that moment will never come – but someday – it will.

If you are providing a service there is absolutely nothing out of place or inappropriate about asking for a contract. It is the norm, it is expected, it is a right. Now, your ol’ Aunt Nellie who asked you to draw a picture of Schloopy the schnauzer may look at you funny if you ask for one, and maybe for Schloopy you can let it go. But remember this, the only individual or company absolutely guaranteed to not want a contract in place is the one planning to rip you off.

Second, contracts aren’t magic solutions to every problem but they can be life-saving stop gaps or firewalls that can protect you and your interests. For a lot of smaller freelance jobs, the client not paying, would not even be worth the price of getting to a courtroom to sue them (which is why you put in place other protections we will talk about). There will also be times that despite limits set in contracts clients will push for more and expect it anyway. The beauty of a contract, however, is that, if nothing else, it empowers you to draw a line in the sand and stop things spiraling down. It gives you a signed, legal document where, if it’s written well, you can point to and say THIS is what we agreed.

Visionary, in our experience, has had maybe three times contracts became life-vests on a fast sinking ship. But those three times? We kept control of rights we otherwise may have lost and saved us collectively over twenty-thousand dollars. Glad we had them? You bet.

So, what should a contract cover? Let’s hit the highlights.

The 411

Contracts should include names, contact info, dates, and specific terms of the agreement. They should state clearly who will own the completed work, what rights if any are retained by the creator, and what services are expected, with specific guidelines, along with the costs and payments for those services.

Work-For-Hire

Usually, if you are a creator doing work-for-hire, in other words, being paid for your work, then the material you create is generally owned by the person or company paying you. Every writer and artist working on Marvel and DC main universe titles are doing work-for-hire, they don’t own those characters, those stories, or that art. But, there are exceptions to this general rule, such as the fact that with most standard agreements the artist retains ownership of the original art and the right to sell that original art for personal profit, but does NOT retain the right to print it in collected form and sell it. It’s a small concession, but for many artists with established fan bases original art sales end up generating a steady stream of income.

Workflow – Approvals – Payments – Deadlines

This is getting a little more into the details, but contracts should at least provide some answers to all these questions:

How and in what format or file spec will the work be submitted to the client?

This matters. Especially when getting into digital files it’s important specs be set out at the beginning to make sure all the hard work you put in as a creator is going to end up being work the client can actually use. Be aware, you may need to educate your client a bit on some of these things, but make sure you know their expectations up front and make sure those expectations are what is really needed.

How and on what timeline will the client respond with feedback regarding the work?

This also plays into deadline considerations. Just as it’s important that you as a creator commit the time needed to complete work, it’s also important the client commit the time to respond effectively and fairly quickly, especially in those cases where you can’t really do anything more until you do hear back. Setting limits on responding and noting that extended delays will impact deadlines is one way to help draw that line in the sand early.

What limits are there to corrections, changes, or ‘tweaks’ before additional fees should be charged?

Very important! It’s fair a client have some approval over the work they are paying you for. Build in steps to help protect your time. Doing a script? Submit a plot outline first. Doing pencils? Submit layouts for review. These steps help make sure you are moving in the direction the client wants before you finish something they won’t like. It’s also fair to set some limits so clients can’t just endlessly needle things to death. Allowing three revisions is common – any beyond that, means you get paid additional time for your work.

How will payments be made? How often, how will they be processed, what is the process to GET paid, etc.?

Many companies, Visionary included, require creators to submit invoices. Most clients will have a preferred way to send payments. Make sure tax forms are filed if needed. Have all this in place before you have a payment due to avoid delays once you’re counting on a check.

What deadlines are there, and what understanding is there for factors that could impact deadlines?

One of the biggest challenges for freelancers is learning how to gauge their work speed and amount of content they can regularly produce. Deadlines are important, but it’s also important to understand, by the nature of the work, that things happen. If you are a single creator and you end up in the hospital for a week, not much you can do about that work wise. Discuss this going in and have some backup plans or at least considerations in place for various possibilities.

Defaults

Perhaps the most important piece of any contract is the section that lays out options and limitations for what happens if either party fails to meet their end of the deal. (Remember? It matters the second something goes wrong.)

This is the section where it is spelled out what options the client has available if you fail to produce the work by a deadline. Likewise, this is the section where your options as a creator are spelled out if the client fails to pay for work, or fails to approve work. The reason this section is so important is because it limits the backlash, clearly states how the contract can be terminated if necessary, what can and can NOT happen. This section is literally the emergency exit. Give it careful consideration.

Negotiations and Protections

Part of the vital process of putting together a contract is negotiations. When negotiating anything, it’s important to remember the principle of the act is a sharing of risk and a balance of expectations. Good contracts are not exclusively in the favor of any one party, no matter how much more they bring to the table. Good contracts protect the interests of all parties and put in place steps and processes that assure that.

For an example, I’m going to use the standard process we use at Visionary.

When a client approaches us for a job the first thing we have to do is assess – we have to discuss terms of a contract, we have to look into what resources we have to fulfill that contract, what resources the client has to make it happen etc. This can mean investing anywhere from three to thirty hours of effort that is essentially an act of good faith. No money is exchanged, no agreement is in place, but I’m already working on the client’s behalf.

At the end of that process, we then require a signed contract in place and a deposit paid to the studio before we do anything more. When someone balks at a deposit, I remind them we’ve already invested work to get the contract in place, plus, to move forward, we now need to hire creators, which means we will have contracts in place with them. We need to know we can pay our people timely, and to do that, we need the client to now make an act of good faith by paying a fair deposit.

Details vary depending on the size, complexity, resources etc. involved in any given job, but inevitably there are times the studio is in the hole and owed money by a client, and times we have an installment or payment from the client in the bank, entrusted to us to then pay to creators as they invoice for approved work still in process.

One strict art policy we follow in all cases is that finished work is never sent until the final full payment is processed. We will send lower resolution preview files for client feedback but not final hi-res files for print. If money is still owed at that point, it means it is money we now owe a creator that we will pay no matter what, else that’s on us and out of pocket. So, we don’t hand over the final product until that payment is in, because really, what reason would we have to NOT do so once that check clears? How long would we stay in business if we played those mind games? But, how many clients have failed to make final payments once they have everything they need? Enough to be common horror stories among freelancers.

In Closing…

Now, every creator and every job is going to be different, and there is no way I can write a single column that addresses every aspect of every contract. What I can say is this…

-Require a contract.
-Make sure it protects you as well as your client.
-Make sure it sets limits and boundaries for all parties.
-Make sure you’re fully prepared to deal with every single possibility and clause included in that contract, else don’t agree.

If you’re just starting out, it may feel like this kind of stance may rule out possibilities that could be your big break. It could, but it could also end up saving you a lot of time from con artists, cheats and thieves who will steal your work, your time, and your kindness. So, keep that part in mind also.

I’m including a template contract similar to the one Visionary uses. This is simple, basic, but solid and written specifically for freelancers and creative work-for-hire. The file is in WORD so you can download, add in your information in the highlighted sections, and use it yourself as a starting point. It can be used by you when you are agreeing to work with a client, or when you may be hiring someone to work with you on a project.

Download it here>>>

PLEASE NOTE: The author of this column is NOT an attorney and his advice here should not be construed as legal advice, just some common sense. (Basic disclaimer my attorney made me add…)

NEXT

Time to get back into creative stuff as I start a series on penciling! So, yes, pictures!!!

NOW DISCUSS…

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

If you want more great content like this, support his Patreon campaign today by clicking the image!

About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Comics, one of the best known comic studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycomics.com!

Weekly Visions 12.8.16: Coming Soon…

Things have been a little hectic around the studio these past few weeks, so we apologize for missing our time together last Thursday, and a rather short update this round! But, the good news is we’re going to more than make it up to you in coming weeks!

We teased sometime back that we were going to start rolling out additional web content on our main site and social networking sites, everything from creator interviews, project previews, features on other goings on in the entertainment industry, and more! Well, that time is upon us, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to start pulling together a ton of material we’re going to start sharing on a more regular basis.

WV Generic

Weekly Visions will be back in force as of next week, with more detailed news items on everything Visionary. Hitting every Thursday, this will be your main source of news on the studio, its creators, projects, and upcoming events!

MCL Banner

My Comic Life Sundays return this coming Sunday with weekly new strips in the popular webcomic series, along with the in-depth My Comic Life Columns! An addition to this feature will be an ever-growing list of online and other resources for creating comics all of which will be included on the column’s archive page.

Get Creative

Debuting in January, Visionary’s new Get Creative weekly feature will run every Tuesday, chock full of interviews, previews, reviews, and other special features for your entertainment! Get more in-depth behind the scenes from the studio itself, our every growing ranks of awesome creators, and a look at some of the other cool things the studio’s partners, friends, and family are up to!

Spotlight

And starting this month, a new periodic feature, Visionary Spotlight. Unlike our other features, this will run sporadically, and do a focus on a single aspect of the studio. Spotlights will go in depth on our creators, our various services, specific projects, art galleries and more! Look for the first ones to hit soon!


Deadlands Thunder Moon Rising Cover Art

Another Great Review for Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising!

The Nameless ‘Zine has quite a few good things to say about our latest entry in the Deadlands universe! We couldn’t agree more! Check out the review, and then head on over to buy it if you haven’t already!

Now available on Amazon, and at finer bookstores EVERYWHERE!
Check out the Official Publisher Page!

And remember you can subscribe to our site to get all these updates directly in your email! Why wait? Subscribe Now!

 

 

 

My Comic Life Sundays: A Wrap on Writing!

MCL Banner

 

028 You Sure You're Not Lost

Catch up with the My Comic Life comic strip on our Reader>>

Catch up with the My Comic Life column at our Archive and Resources Page>>

My Comic Life Column 010: Writing Comics 101: The Story

C. Edward Sellner cropped

Welcome back as we wrap this round on writing (say that three times fast). Remember, this column looks at the entire process of creating and selling comics, so, I’ll focus on one arena for a series and then move into another.

Writers, you’re going to want to stay tuned to future editions simply because the more you know about creating and selling comics, the more skills you bring to any project you’re signing on for. Not to mention after the penciling series, I’ll be focusing on collaboration, then not too long and another writing arc for more advanced stuff. Ok?

So, we’ve looked at the mechanics of the script, the panel, and the page, now as we bow out on the art of stringing words together, let’s look at…

 

Telling the Story

There are tons of resources out there that can help you learn the basics of storytelling in general, from character development to plot, pacing, etc. There is also a good number that focus on storytelling and writing comics in particular. I’ve already started listing some great resources on our Archive page and will be adding to that a good bit before the end of the year with my own recommended reading for everyone’s wishlist this holiday season.  Any of those listed would be great resources for aspiring writers to check out.

For here and now, let’s focus a little on the specifics of telling a good comic story and some of the general principles you need to be aware of.

Beyond the Panel and Page

In previous columns, I focused a lot on the mechanics of the script as well as the comic book panel and page. I talked about how each of those represented ‘beats’ in a story and the potential and limitations for each. However, once you start linking those small beats of panels into pages, then those larger beats of pages into something more, then you’re getting into storytelling.

And just as I mentioned how important it is for a writer to be thinking visually at each of those levels, that becomes even more important here, because the broader story being told is one that is a meshing of word and art, a flowing sequence that will be breathed into life by art, so it’s critical that you as a writer are thinking on some visual level. You’ll see what I mean as we go.

There are several general factors a writer should be aware of when working in the comics’ medium, in order to make their comic writing as effective as possible. Let’s take a look at each.

1) Let the Art Tell the Story

A common mistake among aspiring and neophyte comic writers is when they feel the need to describe the action in captions or dialogue that could much more easily just be shown in the art. This includes settings, actions, even emotions. It’s true, a picture is worth a thousand words, which is what our medium is built on, so, when you can, let the art tell as much story as possible and get out of the way.

Double-page spread by Ale Aragon

Double-page spread by Ale Aragon

2) Make Sure the Art IS Telling the Story

The flip side of the above coin is when the writer passes up great opportunities to let the art carry more details of the story by failing to give proper direction to the artist. I can’t tell you how many scripts I’ve read that fail to include any body language, facial expression, or other visual emotional cues to the artist that can add depth to the story. The majority of scripts I read in submissions and from new writers mention WHO is in the panel, but only in the rarest circumstances mentions anything to give more insight into those characters.

Telling us our heroine is in the panel is fine, but pointing out “our heroine should be standing hands on hips with a broad smile on her face” helps carry the emotion, mood and depth of the story, especially in those times it may not be clear to the artist just what those feelings and emotions are. Only you, the writer, may know the deeper motivations of your characters so it’s on you to communicate those underlying elements.

c23_Theknight_ink_page04_sm

Page art by Ale Aragon

Now, if you’re working with a great artist who recognizes the importance of such subtle elements to the art, such as body language, expression, etc. then they may be great at adding it in anyway, but without direction, they may assign different motivations than you had in mind. If it’s a character you both have worked on a while, then even those deeper motivations and little character bits may come naturally.

But if it’s a new story, and a newer artist still feeling their own way, and you as the writer don’t share some of those cues, you may also end up with a bunch of listless, boring people just standing around, and that will be partly on you.

Beyond expressions and emotion, this kind of visual storytelling can happen on a lot of levels. Establishing a setting of ‘a city street’ is basic, but establishing a setting as ‘a city street in a bad neighborhood, with boarded up windows, trash littering the sidewalks, etc.’ sets the tone. Letting an artist choreograph a fight scene is best, but pointing out ‘one fighter is clear, smooth, skilled and simply defending themselves, while their opponent is desperate and savage’ helps the artist add layers of depth to that fight scene that will tell more story with the art.

You can even craft a story such that this ‘visual storytelling’ element is crucial to the actual story working. Some of the best comics, to me, are the ones that once you finish the story, you want to go back and read it again for all the little visual clues you missed. For example, if you’re writing a mystery, make sure certain props or features are clear in the art, so that they can be revealed later as the clues that lead to the solution.

Use of iconic visuals, as mentioned previously with Watchmen, also adds elements to a story. They can be specific symbols, or simply powerful, iconic shots that bring the story to a critical focus, such as a drop of blood falling into a pool of blood, a character sitting with their head in their hands, dejected and lost, or someone cradling the corpse of a fallen loved one. Think about some of your favorite comic stories and I can pretty much guarantee you there was at least one image somewhere in that story where the art told it all, no words were even needed, and that image stayed with you a long time.

Incorporate these things to add depth and detail to your work and help your artist tell the full story.

3) Use an Economy of Words

Because comics are a visual medium, you want to strike a fine balance of text and art. Make sure you aren’t overwhelming your story with narrative. Lots of words on a page make it look cluttered, detract from the art, slows the pace and tends to drag for the reader, increasing the chance they will get bored or frustrated.

Of course, there are going to be exceptions. There are times when there may be a need for heavier narrative. It may be an expositional scene to give necessary backstory or an important dialogue between two characters that explores their relationship, but these should be exceptions, not the rule.

4) Comics Are a Visual Medium So Make It Visually Dynamic

This is obviously something we will explore more in the art end of things, but it’s an important concept for writers as well. There is a reason the abundance of comics have over the top storylines that include lots of action, fantasy, and other visually dynamic plots. Simply put, dynamic, exciting visuals grab reader’s attentions and interest MUCH faster than pictures of people sitting around talking.

Yes, there can be perfectly good comics that do not include world-saving battles requiring two-page spreads for all the explosions. However, whether it is a use of setting, a purposeful focus on mood and tone to add dramatic tension, or any other tool, the more visually dynamic you can make a scene, the better it will play in an illustrated book.

For example, say you’re writing a scene where our hero is talking with his lady love about their relationship. It’s an important story element. It has emotional drama, people love the characters so they will be invested in it, but can you help make sure it plays out better? Sure. Do they decide to chat in her apartment? Or maybe he flies her to a mountaintop at sunset? Think about what choices you can make to give room to and ensure the art stays as dramatic and dynamic as possible, no matter what the content of the scene itself.

5) Comics Are a Visual Medium, Play to That Strength

As a comic writer, keep in mind you have multiple levels you can tell a story on. There is the narrative caption box, the actual dialogue, the internal monolog, and the actual portrayed events. Those portrayed events give you a whole level of storytelling you don’t have in prose so exploit it where and when you can.

For example, a prose novella I wrote, Legend of Fire-Mane, that was published in our first run with Visions, was later being adapted for a proposed original graphic novel. The opening scene in that story is a prophetic nightmare of the aged Dwarven-Lord in the story. In the prose edition, I had to focus on ‘painting’ the dramatic scene of crows feasting on mounds of dwarven corpses and the two elemental giants that then appear and fight. But, once the artist, Revin Denisya A Putra, illustrated those pages (seen above) and brought that scene to life, I didn’t need to use words to do it. So, I added the haunting words of a Dwarven funeral dirge that anchors the images, alludes to them, but adds more to the story.

Work on ways to maximize the story being told in the comic. Don’t include tricks for the sake of including tricks, but ask yourself how you can enrich or deepen the story by playing to the unique strengths of comics.

6) Write to the Format and Know the Limits

As I started this series I pointed out that one thing that makes writing for comics unique is the need for the writer to continually be mentally aware of the finished product. I kept a tight focus on that as I discussed the panel, the page, composition, etc. This also applies on a larger level in terms of the story as a whole.

Most comic writing opportunities are going to come with a set of expectations and thus limitations that will need to be considered in your approach to the story. This will often include having a certain page count to hit, which could range from 6 to 240 pages. It will also include the means by which the story is going to be released – serialized chapters, or a single collected edition, digital or print.

This will even be true if you’re creating your own thing alone, or with an artist. You’ll need to have a platform to release your comic, set up a schedule that can be met, and however those logistics play out, should then be considered once you begin writing.

The point here is that you need to know WHAT format you are writing a project for and write accordingly.

A stand-alone story should, obviously, be a complete story with beginning, middle and end. You’ll need proper pacing that will carry the story through the allotted pages, if that is a limitation in place. That story will also need a definitive enough resolution that the reader feels they got the desired payoff and the story wrapped up for a satisfying finish. Sure it can hint at more, set up a sequel if desired, but by and large, THIS story comes to a definitive end.

Serialized writing, such as doing issues of a comic series, or chapters of an ongoing webcomic, begins to introduce new elements to storytelling that are also important. Here, each issue or chapter becomes yet another beat to a still larger story. Oh, sure, maybe any given story – an origin, a specific conflict, or adventure in general – may end in any given chapter or issue, but the nature of serialized writing is that that ‘story’ then becomes part of the larger story for that series.

So, once you get into serialized writing of any kind it becomes even more important to be able to craft overlaying storylines, plots, and sub-plots, etc. that can weave in and out of the spotlight of the larger, ongoing storyline. It will also become important to be able to learn to write each chapter or issue to serve two very distinct purposes. First, each chapter or issue has to provide the reader sufficient payoff to make them feel the time invested was worth it. Second, and just as important, each chapter or issue in some way, shape or form, needs to provide enough of a hook to ensure the reader will want to come back for more.

And that will form the basis of our next writing series!

NEXT

We break next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, so HAPPY THANKSGIVING to everyone who will be celebrating! We’ll return December 4th for a one-shot column topic critical to freelancers everywhere – The Contract!

NOW DISCUSS…

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

If you want more great content like this, support his Patreon campaign today by clicking the image!

About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Comics, one of the best known comic studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycomics.com!

Weekly Visions 11.17.16: Wrapping Up and Looking Ahead!

Visionary Creative Services logoAs the holidays approach, we figured it was a good a time as any to look back on the year closing out and clear the deck to begin looking ahead to the year to come – something we’ll be teasing more and more in coming weeks.

So, without further ado…

 

 

2016 – The Year in Review

Deadlands Ghostwalkers MMP CoverWhile there’s no doubt 2016 has been a tough year for many, it was still a great year for the studio! We saw our single largest year of staff growth and expansion, our single busiest year for conventions and special events, a great launch for our outreach efforts, great recognition for our projects, and more work flowing through the studio than ever in our history.

Our staff has been growing exponentially and it seems every time we post we either have a new promotion or a new addition (and this time we have both). Visionary expanded with new partners as co-founders C. Edward Sellner and Charlie Hall welcomed Jeff Mariotte, Kas Decarvalho, Brian Augustyn, Mike Munshaw, and Gary Cohn as voting partners of the studio. We also saw promotions almost completely across the board as Cathy Dougherty became our Children’s Book Division Chief, Natalie Ekelund and Matt Horstmann stepped up to lay the groundwork for our new digital publishing initiative (one of those big things coming in 2017), and our latest, as we proudly announce the promotion of Chrissie Nelson to our in-house Marketing Director! We also introduced our single largest intern class ever in our history with five active (and yeah, looks like that won’t be the final number there)!

Deadlands Thunder Moon Rising Cover ArtMeanwhile, we were proud of our key releases this year and how well they did. Our first novel with  Tor Books, Deadlands: Ghostwalkers by New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Maberry , released its mass market paperback edition this past summer and netted nominations for two very prestigious awards: the Scribe and Dragon Awards. Our second novel, Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising by award-winning author Jeff Mariotte hit stands with its first paperback edition, to numerous positive reviews. On the comic front, we debuted our latest graphic novel collection with Deadlands: Cackler, a gorgeous book that is perhaps the epitome of our Deadlands graphic novel line, written by game creator Shane Lacy Hensley, and amazing art by Bart Sears and crew!

On top of that Visionary had more active work-for-hire projects going on than ever before in our history, with custom art, concept-design, writing, editing, and other creative projects for a wide variety of clients. We dabbled in Star Wars, launched into the Astral Universe, hung out with lions, beasts and bears (oh my!) all while delving deep into My Comic Life! The great news is more of these projects will be reaching a point where we can start sharing more details in 2017 – with new books hitting every market imaginable!

 

Visionary, Events, Conventions, Main Banner

On the events front, Visionary, as a crew or our various staff individually, attended no less that twenty-seven shows and events this past year! Don’t believe me? Well, here they are…

  • Amazing Arizona Con
  • Annapolis Comic-Con
  • Anne Arundel Library Con
  • Awesome Con
  • Baltimore Book Festival
  • Baltimore Comic Con
  • Columbia Comic-Con
  • DC Author Fest
  • Dover Comic-Con
  • FredCon
  • Free Comic Book Day Locations
  • Galactic Con
  • Girl-Scout Con
  • Hampton Comic-Con
  • Maryland Seafood Festival
  • New York Comic-Con
  • Popcomiganza
  • San Diego Comic-Con
  • Savor Bowie
  • Savor Maryland
  • Southern Maryland Comic-Con
  • Steampunk World Festival
  • Tidewater Comic Con
  • Tucson Comic-Con
  • Tuscon
  • VA ComiCon
  • Washington County Library Con

We want to thank all the awesome show organizers, sponsors, crew, volunteers and fellow exhibitors for such a great year! Collectively we nearly sold out of most of our previous line of books, many of our print runs, and we’re figuring somewhere over a few dozen commissions, sketch covers and original art sketch cards!

On top of that, we did numerous panels at various shows this year, from the Weird West, to My Comic Life, and Be Your Own Super-Hero or Super-Heroine! Our best guess is that a few hundred folks at some point sat in a panel, a workshop, a class or chat session hosted by Visionary this year.

 

Be Visionary Header

Artway Alliance Logo

We also launched our outreach initiative, Be Visionary, and our first official partner in that effort, the awesome team at Artway Alliance. With them, we brought interactive workshops for kids to several events this year and are looking forward to an even bigger year with them next year!

Not bad for a little studio that could.

Looking Ahead for 2017?

Our Get Creative Feature is coming together nicely as the first articles and features are coming in! What can you look forward to there? Creator Interviews! Movie, Book and Comic Reviews! In the News Features! Play Lists! Art Galleries! and More! We are still looking for a name for it though, so chime in if you have any ideas!

We also will be announcing new partnerships with some great organizations, like Inkwell Awards, and the Smithsonian!

We’ll start unpacking more of that NEXT TIME (so you should probably subscribe now if you haven’t already!)

Note: With the hectic schedule we’ve had and next week being the Thanksgiving holiday, we’ll be skipping our regular weekly features, so, Weekly Visions will return on December 1st, and My Comic Life Sundays will hit this Sunday then return on December 4th! Happy Thanksgiving to all our fans and all folks everywhere!

 

 

My Comic Life Sundays: Writing Comics 101: Composition Workshop

MCL Banner

Heck of a week, huh? I understand, so, if you need to decompress, get your mind chilled out, later today, I am running my ever popular My Comic Life Panel at the Southern Maryland Comic-Con at the Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department, which is also Visionary’s last full convention of the year. Come join us if you can!

Get all the Details on our Events Page >>

I also want to do a quick shout out to the DC Authorfest from last week, I had no idea what to expect and ended up with a great crowd of awesome folks, very engaged, lots of questions, good dialogue – it’s just so sad these things only last an hour! But pretty awesome a bunch of us adjourned to a nearby room and chatted a bit longer. Loved it! Thanks DC Library and everyone who attended!

detail_1

I’ll be announcing some more ‘informal’ events for local fans I hope will spark interest soon, and Visionary announced our new Get Creative online feature debuting early next year, so lots of fun coming! Stay tuned!

Just a note, this week’s strip is a bit of a PSA from yours truly, something I felt needed to be said after some recent events in our industry (which were really just repeats of other events similar), triggered by a certain cover image…

I think anyone who knows me would know my general take on this, but, far be it for me to be subtle. Right?

027 PSA

Catch up with the My Comic Life comic strip on our Reader>>

My Comic Life Column 009: Writing Comics 101: Compositional Workshop

C. Edward Sellner cropped

Last time I focused a good bit on composition, a term used to refer to bringing various elements of an artistic work together in smooth harmony to better enhance the overall finished piece. We looked at how composition needs to be considered in the panel, the page, and touched on it in terms of the entire issue, starting with the actual script.

Believe me, this is a critical piece for good comics and I will do an entire series on it when I get to drawing the comic. However, as I mentioned last time, the composition of the comic is something a good writer is also going to be thinking of, to help ensure the script has lots of potential for the artist to run with.

Along with discussing all this last time, I included a number of pages from various comic series that incorporate very effective use of composition, meshing art and story together to create truly outstanding work.

Many of you no doubt noticed a number of these are by writer-artists as opposed to the more traditional writer / artist teams. Why? Well, that one’s pretty simple. An excellent artist who is also an excellent writer is going to visualize their story and knows how the art can truly enhance the themes and mood. They are going to have the easiest time in bringing all that together in a script that gives plenty of potential and room for the art to bring it to life.

However, it is also VERY possible for a writer and artist working together to bring this to the table as well, as can be seen in the Watchmen samples as well as plenty of other notable comic series that have been published. I’ll revisit this after we examine these pages and let all you aspiring writers in on a little secret that might literally change the way you create comics.

The Watchmen

watchmen3

Watchmen – Writer: Alan Moore / Artist Dave Gibbons – copyright and trademark by DC Comics

This series redefined comics on multiple levels. It was a brilliant collaboration between Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that showed just how powerful a story can be when told effectively in the graphic medium.

It is also very clear this collaboration started long before finished scripts were written. The world itself, the character designs, both the people and their costumes, the environs in general, every visual element re-enforces many of the themes of the series. There are also many visual plays and cues used throughout to tell the story on multiple levels, to illicit intuitive reactions and feelings that enhance the story. This includes the page layouts.

Throughout the twelve-issue run, by far, the nine-panel grid layout dominated (as seen in these sample pages). This layout is one that has been used many times in comics throughout their history. Keith Giffen is also quite well-known for his preference of this layout. However, it was used so much in Watchmen that it has since been seen as one of the identifying trademarks of it.

The grid layout has several strengths logistically. It is the easiest layout to follow, standard grid pattern allows the reader to very easily move through the page. In a way, it is a nice balance to a story far more complex on the intellectual and emotional levels. It allows the reader to use less focus in following the art, to give more focus on what’s happening IN the art and in the actual story.

The grid also allows a good bit of story to unfold with every page. It makes it easy for cinematic sequences, where the panels seem akin to animation cells, one following after the other in sequence. In a dialogue and character based story, it also allows for a wealth of dialogue, narration and story to unfold.

However, the layouts also enhance the story stylistically and emotionally. Watchmen is a dark, oppressive story, filled with violence, people trapped in various ways by their decisions, their lifestyles, etc. Many of the themes of the story revolve around some form of restraint or constriction. The rigid grid pattern enforces this. Even action scenes are often constrained in smaller panels making them feel almost claustrophobic.

When panels DO open up in that series, they contain something truly remarkable. I don’t claim to know and have never read any in-depth review on how Moore and Gibbons collaborated on this series, but it is clear the story focuses on visuals in a way that was brought in at the writing stage. The famous happy face with the blood smear, the ticking clock ticking down to doomsday, at the same time being a visual for WATCHmen, these are all ways the story was brought to life using visual cues and images that were an effective combination from writer and artist.

The Red Star

REDSTAR

The Red Star – Writer / Artist / Copyright and Trademark: Christian Gossett

This series, primarily from creator Christian Gossett, is another comic that has defined itself visually and compositionally from the outset. A sweeping, alternate history, fantasy-sci-fi epic, the art and story work together hand in hand to bring to vivid life a story well-crafted and well-executed.

Almost the opposite of Watchmen that uses a paranoia, clinging, restricting oppression to tell its tale, The Red Star is a sweeping epic that needs lots of room to breathe. My guess is this series has more two-page spreads than any series in history. Gosset defines this series visually in three ways. First is his own unique art style. Second is his blending of 3-D CGI images with more traditional art. Third is his use of page layouts and specifically 2-page spreads to enhance the storytelling.

His style itself is very energetic, dramatic, and emotionally powerful. His blending of traditional or ‘organic’ art for people and environs, but CGI rendered images for machines, ships, weapons, etc. is very nicely done. The people remain more dramatic, more ‘earthy’ and natural. But with the CGI images, he can add a level of 3-D, realism, depth and scale that opens the scenes up more. Pages that spotlight the Russian warships in the sky are truly impressive pieces that feel like they have a scale befitting a mile long, 20,000 crew floating fortress.

Part of what makes this work for Gossett is he allows the pages to open up to really show the scale, the size and scope of this epic he is telling. Very cinematic, movie quality images from that series make this world detailed, complex and feel very real, despite how different it really is.

While it might be argued the typical issue of The Red Star seems to have less content story-wise, there can be no argument that the story that is told leaves you with an impression. There is a sense of grandeur, a sense of the epic, even mythological levels of this story that want you to pause and stare at those wide open pages, and the art does just that.

Hellboy

INT_HELLBOY_WHITEth

Hellboy – Writer / Artist / Copyright and Trademark: Mike Mignola

Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, like the rest of these, doesn’t really need much in the way of introduction. One of the most well-known creator-owned series ever and one that has successfully made the leap into film.

When Mignola talked about creating Hellboy, I remember him saying that he had been invited to do a creator-owned series at Dark Horse and decided if he was going to do one it had to be one that let him draw all the stuff he REALLY wanted to draw. He accomplished just that.

Hellboy is a series so defined by Mignola’s style that fans once found it hard to accept other artists, even very good ones, drawing the iconic adventures. It’s because Mignola succeeded in creating a character whose appearance and world seems only right when drawn by him.

If we look at how Mignola enhances his story through the art, his style in general is obviously first and foremost. He does not have a distinct layout pattern that defines his work or the series, as he varies it a good bit in keeping with more traditional graphic storytelling. However, he does add some of his own quirks that are purely Mignola. His use of shadow and light, minimalist approach, and some of his distinct camera angles and close up shots also help define the look and feel overall.

Did You Catch It?

Yes, I absolutely did pick one series each that shows key art composition where the story shapes the art at the panel (Watchmen), the page (The Red Star), and the larger, overall series (Hellboy).

Let’s look at a couple other examples that are literally world’s apart.

The Walking Dead

walkingdead

The Walking Dead – Writer / Copyright and Trademark: Robert Kirkman / Art: Charlie Adlard

Arguably one of the most successful creator-owned series ever, Robert Kirkman created a powerhouse in The Walking Dead. He originally launched the series with artist Tony Moore, who left after the first several issues. He was replaced with Charlie Adlard who has carried it ever since. While I love Tony’s art, and there is no doubt he is an incredibly talented creator, I think this was one of those lucky breaks in terms of the series. You’ve seen Charlie’s work in the samples above, now compare it to a single page from Tony.

the-walking-dead-comics-e1346441747177

The Walking Dead – Art by Tony Moore

Tony’s art, again, excellent, but his style isn’t as perfect a match with the story as Charlie’s who seems born to do this series.

Adlard uses a much simpler, minimalist style similar to Mignola, with stark light and shadow, very realistic looking characters, more gritty, grim, and haggard looking all of which creates the stark and forbidding contrast of this world.

Tony’s work has much more detailed linework, slightly more cartoonish bent to the characters and more going on in the art which dilutes the world to some degree.

Would the series have gone on to be such a major franchise if the change hadn’t happened? It’s obviously impossible to say, but any long term fans who’ve been with the series now for a while, without looking back at those original issues might find it jarring to do so and that says a lot about the power of art and story.

Mouse Guard

MGfcbd2

Writer / Art / Copyright and Trademark: David Petersen

Last but by no means least is David Petersen’s amazing series Mouse Guard. This series is printed in a square format, typical of children’s books, as opposed to standard comic dimensions. A very smart move for an all-ages series for a number of reasons. The shorter, stouter page leaves less panel transition over a longer, narrower spread for the reader to get lost in, which is good for a younger reader who may not be as versed in comic flow. David also keeps his layouts pretty simple and straight-forward. It’s also smart marketing – it looks more like the product a parent might typically buy for their child, targeting the primary demographic.

Now, this is another example of a writer-artist series, and David’s dream series of choice, but let’s ask an interesting question… What if David’s ‘dream series’ he wanted to do had been Walking Dead? Yeah, I don’t see it either.

See, the synergy between story and art, for a single writer-artist planning their own dream-series is going to start at the very first stages of conception. Artists who want to write are going to doodle, sketch, do designs, and the world, characters and story will start forming in their head as they go and naturally, that story will reflect the art, because that is where it was nurtured. One informs, shapes, guides, and fine tunes the other.

So, What Does All This Mean?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this series on writing, one of the challenges to the writer in comics, more so than any other medium, is how much the quality writer is going to need to focus on and visualize the finished product. That needs to start at the very beginning of the conceptualization of the series and run right through to the final editing of the script.

Which leads me to my closing point on this column: introducing the topic of collaboration, one I will explore far more in-depth after this writing series and the following penciling series.

I am continually amazed at how many writers fully visualize their comic, write story bibles, full scripts, character descriptions and bios, literally fully plot out everything, THEN go looking for an artist. They’ve just made their lives ten times harder than it needs to be because now they are looking for a single artist to match a singular vision that has to fit inside the box.

Don’t get me wrong, it can work, and obviously with longer running series, especially big-two series spanning decades, there will be multiple teams over time. But if you think about it, how many writer and artist (or writer-artist) team runs on those specific books REALLY stand the test of time as a milestone? Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Christopher Claremont and Dave Cockrum then John Byrne on X-Men, Byrne solo on Fantastic Four. More recently I’d add Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run. That magic can be hard to capture when creators are stepping into a ‘thing’ already made.

So, if you’re a writer, thinking about creating a series you want to do, don’t build it out in exhaustive detail and then try to find an artist – find an artist you want to work with and then create something together. Ask them what they want to draw? Let their art shape the world, the characters, the story. You just might be surprised what comes out of it.

Next…

Now that we’ve explored a lot of the comic-specific dynamics of writing comics, we’re going to close out this series run with a focus on “Telling the Story” and look at some of the important aspects of telling good stories that work well in comics. Hope to see you there!

NOW DISCUSS…

My Comic Life Patreon Promotion

If you want more great content like this, support his Patreon campaign today by clicking the image!

About C. Edward Sellner

A full-time professional freelancer, Sellner has credits as a comics writer, prose author, colorist, artist, and editor from multiple publishers. He is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Visionary Comics, one of the best known comic studios and digital publishers in the industry. The studio opened in 2006 and since then has published over 70 different titles in its digital line, and been involved in over a hundred different projects in production. Its clients range from Hollywood producers to international sports stars to other studios and publishers. It became the first independent studio to enter the licensing game with the announcement of its Deadlands license, which has since been published in comics from Image and IDW and novels from Tor Books. The studio also hosts a successful internship program where interns get practical, real-world freelancing experience, including paid work on actual jobs fitting their skill levels. Learn more at www.visionarycomics.com!

Pin It on Pinterest