Decided to start a poster business on the side marrying my two loves – design and movies. You can purchase these posters and more at www.etsy.com/shop/bubblegumprints.
Decided to start a poster business on the side marrying my two loves – design and movies. You can purchase these posters and more at www.etsy.com/shop/bubblegumprints.
“Just when you think you’ve reached the epicenter, the VIP room within the VIP room, a shift occurs, a reversal of perspective, and you find that you’re on the inside looking out with much the same sense of longing and displacement you felt when you were looking in. There’s always another, cooler party behind the next locked door.” – Walter Kirn on attending the Oscars after the film adaptation of his book, Up in the Air, was nominated for Best Picture.
Hudson Phillips has a kickass short here for us with a style I’m head over heels for.
Read the entire article and view other great short films here.
Mark Andrew Smith is the Harvey & Eisner award winning writer/creator of the Amazing Joy Buzzards, Kill All Parents, & Aqua Leung (all published by Image Comics), as well as co-creator and editor of the brilliant Popgun anthologies. Along with artist Matthew Weldon, Mark is currently working on his second volume of New Brighton Archeological Society, the all-ages original graphic novel series, following the fantasy adventures of the “world’s most famous explorer’s” offspring.
How did you first break-in and get connected with Image?
It seems like so long ago. I think it was a case of determination and then finding Dan Hipp to work with on the Amazing Joy Buzzards. Those two things started the career that I have now.
How did you get hooked up with artist Mathew Weldon?
The New Brighton Archeological Society began as a series of shorts in the Popgun Anthology with Matthew Weldon who I met when he did a pinup for one of my other books.
What’s your process like?
I’ll usually work in scene sections. I’ll be about 40 pages ahead of Matthew and then when he catches up I’ll write the next 40 pages until the book is finished. I like it because it gives me enough of a break in between to muster up creative forces and then I can see his art as it comes in and be inspired as I write the next scenes.
Why an all-ages OGN?
I enjoy the Original Graphic Novel as a format to read but also I enjoy it as a writer for the space and freedom it provides when creating a story. With monthly comics I feel like I’m too ADD to wait for a month. It’s hard to remember what happened in the story after a month. But the direct market is really based on monthly books and that’s what a lot of readers enjoy. My next project out in May, Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, is a Young Adult monthly series.
A huge drawback is that when an Original Graphic Novel comes out it’s got a life of about three months if it’s lucky and then it’s gone. But if you do a monthly series then your name is out for a year with the same amount of work and it can go farther to build an audience. For readers and comic/bookstores it’s hard to take a risk with something in OGN format at a higher price-point that isn’t yet tested material.
Do you think the format is currently overlooked or underexplored?
I don’t think that this particular area of comics is that overlooked and there are a lot of all-ages OGNs that do well. I think it’s much more the larger picture of retailers not ordering a lot of copies of untested material and not reordering when it sells out. The market is flooded and most creators do almost nothing to promote or sell their books. I think creators really should do their best to get the word out about their books outside of the comics market.
Talk about your marketing strategy a little bit. Currently you have a campaign going at Kickstarter to help in production on the next volume, but I imagine you’re also constantly trying to bring new readers in. What creative things are you doing to promote the book?
The answer to that question is ‘everything I can’. I feel like I can be smart with marketing but I don’t want to give away my tricks here for others to use because I learned them over time and they’re mine. I definitely have a playbook but also I wish the book would market itself or elves would do it for me. We did a lot of things that didn’t work also like mailing hard copies out to YA review sites and creating a website. We probably spent $300 mailing out copies and got ten quick reviews.
I think a while ago I heard some famous Authors state that giving away stuff for free was a good way to get people buying the material. So we thought we’d experiment and try it out by posting the comic book online. Web Comics and the idea of doing those were also interesting to me at the time in having something that got over a certain number of subscribers. I think it was great to try but this idea didn’t work or have much of an impact. For webcomics it’s important to follow the form and have something new and then for the free material angle. I think it just didn’t circulate around enough that it was there and that people were able to read it or the updates were so slow that it was hard for people to follow.
So those ones failed but other things that we do are very successful and have an impact. We tried and not everything works. Still it’s important to try new things out.
Is New Brighton available digitally?
I’ve really wanted to get New Brighton onto the Ipad but the wait is next to impossible with the Ipad gatekeepers. I think that approach of the gatekeepers isn’t the best because they all go through one app and then they’re in a candy bowl with a million other books.
The trick is to stand out and to get in front of as many people as you can. I’d like to finance our own app and also go straight to ibooks store. I’m going to look into that and getting my own distribution digitally. I like print because anyone and everyone can publish digitally. I would like to distribute digitally also but not solely digitally.
What does it take for you to consider your book a “success?”
I think what’s important is to get your book out in front of as many people as you can. I think our book is already a success on a personal level. I’d like to get to best seller status of course.
I think success for me then probably means that the book pays my bills and Matthew’s bills for the time that we’re working on it. But we’ll keep working on it for free and do our best to finish the series.
Strawberries tells the story of a monk, a tiger, and two kids in love.
Click here to download a pdf (or view jpg’s at the iFanboy link above).
Would love to get your feedback! Look for more from Brandon and I in the near future.
“I have lived such a wonderful life! I’ve lived enough for two people.” - Charlton Heston
Both will be missed.
The WonderCon 2008 Podcast Panel featured personalities from the podcasts “iFanboy”, “Around Comics”, “Comic Geek Speak”, and “I Read Comics” discussing the state of comics podcasting and comics in general.
One of the highlights was when the moderator asked the panelists what they thought were the most encouraging trends in comics today. Here are their answers, (along with my comments in italics):
1) “More Collected Editions.” Brian Deemer (Comic Geek Speak)
“Books in bookstores, because they reach a much huger audience than the comic book stores ever will. Original graphic novels, cheap trade paperbacks, all of that stuff is very, very, important. I think that’s the future of comics. I think the floppies’ days are numbered. It’s all going to be books in a bookstore.”
Ron Richards (iFanboy): “I love single issues, but we look at success by the number of comics sold on single issues in the top 300, but we don’t see any reporting on how many Amazon is selling or how many Barnes & Noble is selling or how many borders is selling and that’s going to be the real key.”
HP – If the floppies do disappear, this would be a major shift in the financial model of comic book companies… and it would shut down all the “mom & pop” comic book stores. It would make it harder on publishers because it would be more money up front to pay the creators for 144 pages instead of just 22.
And you would reduce two financial models into one – these companies make money twice from the same story – once from the floppies, then again from the collected editions. If this shifts, it’d be like television shows being released straight to DVD in entire seasons. You find that many readers buy the same story twice, much like television viewers will watch it on TV and then buy the DVD.
Most companies offer original graphic novels (OGNs) already, that is, they aren’t collected single comics, but a story meant to be printed all together… Except for (as far as I know) the big two (Marvel & DC). Some companies, like TokyoPop release only OGNs and their sales are through the roof.
I’m not sure this shift will ever take place, but it could be heading that way. I suppose it all depends on if the chain bookstores are ready to embrace the floppies. History has shown they aren’t. It’s a very small profit margin for a large amount of in-and-out inventory and floor space.
2. “The best trend in the past 5 years is the return to quality.” Ron Richards (iFanboy):
“You can put as much as you want out there, but if it’s crap, no one is going to buy it. You can have 17 “X” titles and if only one of them is worth reading, then the whole line is not worth anything. It’s got to be really good creators writing, drawing, & making good comics.”
HP – This, of course, is everything. There are some great comic books out there. And there is some crap out there. I wish that comic readers would be harsher with their purchases. Many readers will buy a book just because of the character or to have a complete set, even if the story sucks. This creates a model where publishers can put out any so-so story and readers will buy it. Money talks and if readers stop buying crappy books, then publishers will stop making them. I find that the more willing you are to explore smaller publishers, Top Shelf, Oni, Image, TokyoPop, the better stories you’ll find.
3. “Borders is doing the comic book store inside a store, folks, that’s the future.” Christopher Neseman (Around Comics)
“The Local Comic Book Store’s I love them, I go every week, but that business does not have a real bright future to it. It comes down to foot traffic. Plain and simple. The internet is cutting into that. Other entertainment forms is cutting into it. The bookstores are really looking like they will be the future of mass market sequential art. I firmly believe that’s where it’s going. And that’s a good thing.”
Ron Richards (iFanboy): “We all just lived through the music revolution of the late 90′s to early 00′s and it’s going to be the same thing. You’re going to see the mom & pop stores go under, unfortunately, which I hate because there’s stores like Isotope here in San Francisco, Meltdown in L.A., Rocketship in Brooklyn, that are just awesome stores , but as soon as the big boxes get involved you’re going to see the small stores go and you’ll see the internet cut in.”
HP – I’ve talked about this on numerous occasions and I completely agree. It is time that comics moved past the geeky little subculture it is and become a media in the forefront. The main reason I got into writing this blog is for this very reason. I want to see the comics I love be loved by millions. In order to break past that stereotypical subculture (whether it lives up to that stereotype or not) the industry needs to prominately settle itself where the majority of people already are – the chain bookstores.
4. “Digital Comics.” Ron Richards (iFanboy)
“I know the digital comics thing is a hot topic and we don’t know how that will play out but you can’t avoid that. The moment someone figures out how to read a cood comic on the iPhone, you’re going to watch it explode”
HP – This is a big “wait and see.” I personally can’t imagine reading comics on an iPhone, or Kindle or any device. But if the quality grows and the size, it may be a very natural transition. I’m excited about those that are experimenting with this. It will be fun to follow.
5. “There’s a lot more diversity in the comics you’re reading.” Josh Flannigan (iFanboy)
“Most comics are still superhero comics, but there’s stories about other things than super heroes. Y: The Last Man was a huge book, and having stories like that and having places like Vertigo and Oni and Image. They’re doing all sort of different things. I love that there are books that you can give to people or recommend to people that can challenge all the expectations of what it is. “Read this comic book.” “Well I don’t like superheroes.” This is a story, it moves you like any movie or any book you’ve ever read. I think that when you wanna talk about growing the whole base of everything like like putting them in bookstores and having collected editions, that’s really important.”
HP – This also plays a huge part in marketing comics to a larger audience. Comics need to be easy to find, easy to access, high quality, and of a diverse amount of genres. A lot of people still consider comics books Superhero-only. But this hasn’t be the case… well, ever. But that still sits at the forefront (in public opinion, and sales). But Josh is right, there are graphic novels out there that rival anything in movies, TV, or books. And more and more publishers & creators are embracing other genre’s, from romantic comedy, to horror, to drama, to action.
6. “I think in mainstream comics, the move to other media has been huge.” Lene Taylor (I Read Comics)
“Especially DC doing the direct to DVD stuff that they finally figured out that they should be making animated movies that aren’t shit.”
HP – This, of course, includes comic book movies on the big screen, not just with the big superhero movies (Spiderman, X-men, Batman) but also the smaller graphic novels being adapted well (V for Vendetta, 300, 30 Days of Night, Stardust, Sin City, A History of Violence) This could also be said of books that cross over into superhero territory & television shows like Heroes. I’m not sure how much these works bring in new readers, but I know with movies like Sin City & 300, where you can pick up the stories easily in collected editions, sales have sky-rocketed.
You can view the entire panel at iFanboy.com.
My writing partners and I have been writing screenplays for about 3 years now. We’ve found moderate success. We’ve written 3 screenplays and one TV show. We’ve sold an option on a script. We’re in talks for a couple of other things. We have a great attorney, but no manager and no agent… yet. We’re not WGA… yet.
We assumed that once we sold a script, we’d be “in” and that it’d be “easy” from there on in. We were wrong.
It has been the most passionate, challenging, encouraging, pulse-pounding, smile-inducing, hand-raising, heart-racing, head-scratching, hair-pulling, wrist-slitting, higher-power-questioning, mind-numbing experience I’ve ever gone through. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
As we continue our journey, 4 things have consistently popped out in my head as the “building blocks” of a screenwriter. Without these 4 things, you will never make it in this crazy world. (It’s yet to be seen if we truly have these 4 things or not.)
Trying to break into screenwriting is a long and hard road. Notice that I said just “trying” to break in is a long and hard road… not breaking in. There is no guarantee at the end of the journey. So, you better be sure that you are passionate about, not only movies, but writing. If you are not truly and deeply passionate about what you are doing, you will not sustain.
We’ve gone through a lot in our 3 short years… from bad script notes to rewrites to being replaced to falling-outs to lies & deception to long drawn out contract negotiations… The only thing that has kept us going is the fact that we LOVE writing.
I feel like I have stories within me that need to be told. I love movies. I love the power they hold. The power to entertain, to take you to worlds you never dreamed, the power to challenge, and the power of escape. To have written a screenplay is like learning a magic trick to me. I feel like I’ve been let into this world of creation, shared by Steven Spielberg, William Shakespeare, and God himself.
The first thing I want to do in the morning is write. The last thing I want to do at night is write. I want to write movies that show my girlfriend how much I love her, to teach my son a lesson, and to tell my friends how much they mean to me. It’s in me and I have to get it out or I don’t feel like I’ve lived.
Because of this, no matter what obstacle comes my way, I will be writing today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of my life, even if it takes that long to “break in.”
You’ve got to know what you’re doing. I think there are many people who are born talented writers. Others have to work at it. Everyone strikes that balance to some degree. No matter where you lie in the talent department, you need some education.
I have not been to school for screenwriting, so I can’t speak to that. But I have read basically everything I can get my hands on.
It’s important, first of all (of course), to get a handle on what a screenplay looks like. Learn the rules. There are any number of books out there about the how-to’s of screenwriting… or you could just pick up a script and “see how they did it.” That’s how I first learned the proper screenwriting format. Buying software such as Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter does this for you.
But secondly, you need to learn the “secrets” of screenwriting. Screenwriting is unique in a number of ways and you only realize this as you start writing.
The first step is to watch a lot of movies. The more movies you watch, the more storytelling comes naturally to you.
The 2nd step is to read a lot of scripts. What better way of learning the craft than seeing how the greats have done it before you.
The 3rd step is to read a lot of books. I’m going to recommend a couple of resources here that aren’t books, but to me are way more important.
wordplayer.com – this is the single greatest resource I’ve found anywhere on screenwriting. 48 columns written by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, the screenwriting team behind Aladdin, Shrek, the Mask of Zorro, & the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. These columns opened my eyes to that “new level” of writing. Ted & Terry share some amazing inside information here from their many years in the business.
Artful Writer Forums – In a very close 2nd to wordplayer is Artful Writer, a website started by Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 3&4, Superhero Movie). Part of his website features a forum with a section called “Ask A Pro.”
In this section, people have posted questions for professional writers, and each thread on there is like taking a class. The professionals posting their thoughts include John Turman (Hulk, Silver Surfer), Mike France (GoldenEye, Fantastic Four), the Wibberleys (National Treasure, the 6th Day), Jeff Lowell (Sport Night, Spin City), Tim O’Donnell (Growing Pains, Phil of the Future), Tim Talbott (South Park, the Stanford Prison Experiment), Derek Haas (3:10 to Yuma, Wanted), Ted Elliott (Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean), and Brian Koppelman (Rounders, Runaway Jury.
Go there and you can spend days getting a free education.
The old saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know?” Well, it’s true. When it comes down to it, you could write the best screenplay this side of Casablanca, and if you have no one with connections to give it to, no one will ever see it.
This has been tricky for us as we’re still in Atlanta. The way we’ve gotten around it is just asking around… following every lead we can. Following up on every friend who says “hey, I’ve got a cousin who worked on this show…” No one you meet is not worth meeting. Get to know people. Don’t just take advantage of them, befriend them. No matter how low on the totem pole they are, they could be running things down the line. If you’re outside of L.A. find people in your own area who share common interests. Hollywood is a collaborative business, so collaborate.
The other way we meet people, more than any other, is through the wonders of the world wide web. Get on a forum of other filmmakers. I think you’ll be surprised by how willing some people are to help you. Find out emails of Agents, Managers, Producers, Execs, and just give it a shot. We’ve blindly emailed over 100 “business folk” and got about a 10% response rate. (That is 10% actually returned my email). Part of this is due to our having sold something before, but I believe nearly as many would respond to a quality script.
All this is moot of course if you don’t have a great product. You’re only as good as your latest script. So, make sure you have something of quality to present before you contact those directly involved. They can’t help you if you can’t help them.
Writing is 90% observation, 90% persistence, and 0% math.
This screenwriting thing is a long and bumpy ride. You’ve got to be in for the long haul. And I mean really long.
Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio gave themselves 10 years to break into the business. Rossio made the observation that “anyone who worked at a job for 10 years invariably became an expert at that job.” Therefore, they would give themselves 10 years to become experts and if they didn’t break in by then… well, who knows what would’ve happened. They did it in five.
Five Years is still a long time. Remember how long High School was? Add to that Freshman in college.
If you’re not willing to give it that much time, at least, you’re probably not cut out for it.
For me, part of what keeps me going, besides my love for the craft, is having writing partners that encourage me… having parents that encourage me… a girlfriend that encourages me. It’s important to surround yourself with people who keep you going.
I have a feeling that I’ll always be writing to some degree… and I hope the Hollywood thing happens soon. It would be really hard to hang around for another 7 years with nothing to show for it, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Jonathan Hickman is the writer of the boldly creative new comic books The Nightly News, Pax Romana, & Transhuman, all out through Image Comics. I believe he is doing a lot to “change the face” of comics by pushing people expectations of what a comic could be. His books merge heavy design, prose & screenwriting techniques, as well as exceptional traditional comic book storytelling.
He also writes a great column for iFanboy.com titled Concentric Circles. Here is some of his great writing advice from a recent column:
“I write stories that I want to read. If at any point in the ‘writing process’ I mentally check out of a story I throw it away and start over. Accept that it’s shit and move on.”
“Here are a couple of other tips that we in the hack writer cabal find useful:
1. Keep it simple.
2. Don’t telegraph. A good story doesn’t turn, it unfolds.
3. Always have a theme.
4. Action should explode – think of this like a Pixies song – soft, soft, loud.
5. When a character becomes interesting, kill them.”
“It also helps to not have an ego about yourself or your work. Remember, it’s just a single story that you drew from what you believe to be an endless well of ideas existing inside of you. Not everyone is going to like your story because it’s not for everyone. Create. Move on.”