Tag Archives: Craft

01Mar/22

Craft: Roland Mann – Filling Multiple Roles in Comics

Hey there Silverline Family,

We hope you are all safe and well out there. Especially if you’re a reader in Europe, please take care and we hope that you’re safe. If you’re elsewhere around the world remember to take a break from the doomscrolling and take care of your mental health. We hope our comics and content can give you nice reprieve to relax and be entertained. 

This week we have another Craft Interview. This time with the big cheese, Roland Mann. You might know Roland from a lot of things. He’s the EIC and founder here at Silver, he’s written several comics such as Cat & Mouse, and Trumps. Previously, he was an editor at Marvel and Malibu. He’s also an educator who teaches a course about writing comics, so he may have been your instructor at some point. So listen up class!

This week we talk about working in comics are the multiple duties one might have to fulfill at once. When you’re breaking in and especially if you choose a career in the indies, you may find yourself wearing multiple hats. (I’m a writer, editor, and online content guy, and all I got was this dang shirt.) It’s not uncommon for the team you’re working with to ask you to cover multiple roles to make sure the business of comics gets done for your comic. If you’re a purely independent creator, you get the worst end of it. Finance, marketing, partnerships, and creative all get handled by you. Chances are you might also need to freelance on other comics at the same time make ends meet. 

I hope you enjoy this interview where Roland gives us insight into how he creates and how he covers the multiple duties he needs to do. 

 

Craft: Roland Mann – Filling Multiple Roles in Comics

 

TK: It’s my understanding that Trumps has been rattling around in your mindpalace for a while now. How long do you typically let an idea sit before you develop it, or progress to writing. Is it more of waiting for the right moment for the time, or do you fully develop the idea and then store it until you are able to execute it?

RM: Your understanding is correct. The Trumps concept was born in the late 90s. As I’ve said other places, my family plays a lot of cards, and the idea of the four suits as four kingdoms at war struck me during one such evening while playing Pinocle with my parents. I jotted down the idea quickly, then fleshed the idea out during my next writing session. I don’t generally let ideas sit for too long because I feel like I have to go where my brain is taking me right then. If I wait a month, I might forget where I was headed. But the other reason is that I think WITH my writing. I write and rewrite and revise as part of the “thinking” process.

TK: If an idea is coming together, either in development, or once actual writing or illustration has begun and you feel like it’s not doing the story justice, how do you pivot? Do you just truck through and then hit it again in revisions or do you pursue another idea that you feel the team is better suited for? Any examples?

RM: No, I won’t truck through. I have done that before, but that’s the reason I won’t do it now. Revising or fixing something that isn’t working is far easier—in my opinion—to fix before it is finished than to finish and then try to fix. I think if it’s finished, it’s more difficult to get your mind away from THAT idea. If I stop right then and address the problem, then I can play the “what if” game. What if my character does A? What if my character does B? What if my character does C? and so on. I’ll try to figure out the place in the story the problem is, then see what decision the character can make in a different way—and not just ONE way, what are all sorts of possibilities. Now, I will add this, I try VERY hard to do all that BEFORE an artist gets it. In my view, it’s far easier for me to make the changes at a story level, than for the artist to have to make changes in the art, which could potentially mean a lot of different pages requiring changes. That’s not fair to the artist, and it also signals to the artist that you don’t really know what you’re doing as a writer.

The best example from my own writing, I can’t go into a lot of details because it’s from something unpublished. (how’s THAT for a plug?) But I have a novel that’s now complete, but I was stuck for a time (I don’t believe in writer’s block) on a pivotal decision that a character made. I’d moved passed that point, but it just wasn’t working. So I backtracked to the decision, played out several “what if” scenarios, picked one that I thought worked the best…and went from there. And wouldn’t you know it, the remainder of the novel came fairly easily!

TK: In addition to writer, you also serve as an editor, and several other business titles (but that’s getting too deep in the sausage). Many comic creators will probably find themselves wearing multiple hats, especially in the indies. How do you balance working on your own work and working on the other roles you fill. Is there any special considerations when it comes to budgeting time developing your titles versus helping other creators create their titles.

RM: OMG, that’s a tough one. The truth is that I really do love to see new creators enter the team of the published. There’s not a lot of money in comics, but there’s a lot of emotional rewards. For instance, I’m very excited that our next kickstarter includes WOLF HUNTER, written by our own Tim TK (who supplied these questions and I feel like I’m addressing all the answers to him!). And while it won’t be his first publication, it will be his first published comic book. I like that because I know how “I” feel when I see my work in printed form, and it excites me to know that Tim will get that exact feeling when he holds the printed copies of WOLF HUNTER #1 in his hands! As far as how I budget the time…I wish I could tell you that I have a big spreadsheet (like I used to have as editor at Marvel and Malibu) that has the timelines for every project and every title we’re doing…but the truth of the matter is that because we’re so small press, the timelines for every creator on every title is so different. Someone like Aaron Humphres can really produce pages quickly as his “day job” allows him greater flexibility to create more pages. On the other hand, someone like Dean Zachery can’t do that because his day job requires more time from him that keeps him from drawing the thing he wants to draw. ALL of us want to be more like Aaron, of course, but we can only do what we can do. So my personal decisions on helping other creators budget their titles depends greatly on what the team as a whole can do.

Hope that makes sense.

TK: How does also being a writer influence the kind of feedback you, or how does also being an editor influence how you react to feedback? How you do find the path to encourage a creator to really improve their original idea without getting behind the steering wheel too much yourself?

RM: That’s also a tough one. An editor’s job, or even someone just offering feedback is not to make the writer’s story THEIR story. It’s to try to figure out what the writer is trying to tell and help guide them on that path. Now, there are some things, obviously, that the writers don’t necessarily see because they are so close to the story that the editor can see, and that the writer sometimes thinks the editor is butting in.
One example of this I can think of is the upcoming KNIGHT RISE. Mackenzie had sent me a really nice outline of the story she wanted to tell…the problem with the story is that it wasn’t “A” story, but it was two stories. We swapped a few emails and suddenly she was like “Whoa! Cool! Yeah, I see that”—and she went off to the races with it (And I know readers are really going to love it!)

Another example that comes to mind is with WOLF HUNTER. I remember your summary and the initial second issue was very claustrophobic because it was all inside the train AND it was a lot of talking heads. My recollection is that you knew the story front and back, knew what you were trying to accomplish, but didn’t realize the second issue was like that because it was surrounded with action on either side. So you simply (I say “simply” –ha) rearranged some of the stuff, added a bigger action sequence and made stronger use of noir-style narration  to make it work. 
And I think that leads me to the part of the answer that can be tough: An editor has to think about more than the story. Yeah, you want to make sure all the elements of story are there, but you also have to take into consideration the audience. The editor is really the first audience member, but they come at it with a writer’s eye. Not only that, an un-emotionally-invested writer’s eye. An editor can look at a story and say “hey dude, there’s no action here,” or “hey, there’s nothing at stake for your protagonist here,” or “why do we care about this?” because they see that when they read it. They can then offer up suggestions to the writer not in an attempt to write the story for them, but in an attempt to get the writer thinking about the problem and figuring out how to address it. I always try to offer suggestions to writers when I’m editing, and I try to offer up at least two suggestions which take the character or story in completely opposite directions in order to get the writer to look at all the possibilities. Often what happens is they come up with something that isn’t quite as extreme as my suggestions, something in the middle of the two polar opposites I suggest…and it works.

TK: How would you say your workload has shifted compared to when you got into comics. I would assume you have more responsibilities, but technology has also advanced. Do you find that some tasks are generally more efficient, either as a writer or editor, and has that made your creative life easier or harder, or has it simply made room for more work to fill your day?

RM: The big difference is that when I got into comics, that was what I did full time for a little more than a decade. Now, my primary responsibility is as a college professor. Comics are my night gig. I’m very fortunate in that my boss encourages me to stay involved in comics. A near exact quote from her is something to the effect of “I want you to keep doing that because it keeps you relevant.” Which is really funny, but when you think about it, is also very real. The department can continue to say “the guy who teaches comics is also a comic maker today,” instead of “he used to make comics a bunch of years ago.”

But there are indeed a lot of things that are easier today than they were when I got started in the late 80s thanks to technology. Some of the more obvious things might be the ability to instantly receive the art from the artist as soon as they are done. We no longer have to wait on the mail to hopefully deliver the original art in undamaged condition. We can work with folks internationally a whole lot easier for the same reason.

I can also communicate with creators a lot easier than back then when my options were phone (not always convenient), mail (super slow), or fax (whaaaaa?). I can send you an email and you can get me a pretty quick response when you get to it.
But I DO think that technology has caused me to have a serious case of over commitment. When I was employed as an editor full time, I edited an average of about 6-7 titles a month. Silverline is not remotely close to monthly, but we’ve got 22 projects…YES, TWENTY TWO!!!…in various stages of development. While I try to keep up with where they are all, sometimes things fall through the cracks (that’s why I’m getting some help from Dante Barry on that soon!), not because I care more about one over the other, but simply because I’m looking one way and miss the one in the other direction! Lol

08Feb/22

Content Spotlight: Silverline’s Getting a Facelift

Hey there Silverline Fam!

It’s a new year, new me kind of vibe over at the Silverline Youtube. We’re breaking up wax, hitting the tanning salon, and getting lean for hot-nerd summer. Well, we may not all be going that extreme. But we are getting a major facelift to our podcast videos.

As you probably know by now, every single Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday, we livestream a podcast that gets saved as a VOD on our youtube. That way you can throw us up on your laptop at work, your smart tv after work, or annoy your spouse by watching us on your phone in bed. That last one may get you kicked out to the living room couch.

Under the direction of our CEO, BJ Mann, our videos have a new sense of confidence and a sleek new look for that summer bod. The content of each episode is now spending a bit more time in the training center before coming out and strutting its stuff. So that means each episode will have more hyperfocus, leaving some room for the same old fun asides. But that’ll give the host more time and space to really dig deep into the subject material and deliver to you some true nuggets of wisdom to chew on.

The second part of this facelift is the facelift. Each episode now has a beautiful thumbnail that is sure to appease the almighty algorithm. Or at least, give you the viewer a better idea of what’s going on, as well as build a stronger and more cohesive identity for Silverline. That way if you’re bored and staring at your recommended page, we’ll be easier to identify. Just look for the chiseled chin of Dean.

You can already see it in action!

Check out last week’s and this week’s episodes and get some of that sweet sweet beach-bod VOD taste for yourself.

01Feb/22

Craft : Jose Fuentes

Hey Silverline Fam,

Every Week I have the pleasure to hang out with Jose Fuentes on A Silverline Show on Tuesday. I figured it was about time I got down in the dirt with him and asked him about his craft as an inker. Jose is an all-around talented artist and comics professional, but he takes pride in his inks and has some of the best grit I’ve seen in a person. In this week’s issue of craft, we talk about his use of alternate inking techniques and the work ethic he brings to the page. I hope you all can find some bits of inspiration from the answers Jose gave. I certainly did!

TK: In some of our previous conversations you had talked about applying ink in not just traditional drawn lines, but by flicking or smearing some of the ink. Getting a sort of special effect on the panel. How often do you attempt to do that sort of application or do you have to balance more towards digital inking now?

JF: There are several techniques you can use to give the impression of texture in a flat/2d drawing. Smearing and flicking are just a couple options. I try to use different inking techniques to give that effect on every piece or page if it calls for it. You don’t want to “overwork” a page. You have to be mindful to not overwork the penciler’s work with ink. There is definitely a balance that you have to keep in mind. I try and do the same with any digital inks that I am working on. There are a lot of different digital brushes you can buy/download to help give you the same effects that I try and use traditionally

TK: As a follow-up, how much do you prefer working physically or digitally? What are some of the pros and cons of either?

JF: I prefer to ink traditionally. I like the feel of the crow quill on the paper and trying new techniques. I didn’t use to. I hated to have ink or pencil graphite on my hands, but I have learned to appreciate the process. I don’t get the same feeling from digital, but I have embraced the challenge of trying to achieve the same techniques digitally.

TK: You have also said that you haven’t worked that day if your hands don’t have ink on them. Obviously, that may not be the case if you’re working digitally that day, but do you think that same work ethic, that sense of “really getting into your work” applies?

JF: So the phrase was said to me by Jan Duursema. Then she taught us to [use] various techniques that I still used today. I took everything she taught me to heart and adapted the phrase as more of a motto for my life. Taking this motto into my digital work gives it a bit of a twist. No, I’m not physically getting dirty, but I used it to motivate me to try my best [and use] many digital tricks to make my digital inks look like physical inks

TK: Would you think that mindset is ingrained in you and you apply that to your craft or is that something that came out of specifically your comic craft?

JF: I feel that this developed through the course of my education. I was more laid back in my own personal training, mostly because I was working to take care of my family so I put my art on the warmer. Schooling was a huge eye-opener for me. I learned that I can actually work in comics. I knew I could draw but I never really had much confidence in my career as an artist. My wife is super supportive and has pushed me to reach for my dream job. And now I work on comics full time!

TK: One last thing, what are you currently working on and where can people follow you or see some of your work?

JF: I am currently working on digital inks for Silverline Comics Obsoletes book. Digital colors for a six-page story for Peter Clinton that will be in the Voyage: Melting Pot, and I have a digital coloring job for a book that has been put on the backburner. I’m also lined up to do traditional inks on a book for Jay Cornwell, a local artist in my area.

21Apr/20

Craft: R.A. Jones – Writers are Artists Too – or at least they should try to be

Hey there Silverline Readers and Comic Makers! I was able to get a hold of R.A. Jones and have him give us the low down on part of his writing process. R.A. has made quite the name for himself working on titles like Bullet Proof Monk, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Wolverine & Captain America. As someone who has read a couple of R.A.’s scripts, I can tell you that the second you pick it up, you can immediately see how every detail would translate to panels.

This entry of Craft is about just that. R.A. goes over why writers should think about their comics visually and how he does that himself. It’s our hope that the following entry helps you, dear reader, go about writing your own comic scripts that develop synergy with your artist and better engage your reader.

Writers Are Artists Too – Or At least They Should Try To Be
by R.A. Jones

Years ago, a professional comic book artist gave me a hypothetical and somewhat exaggerated example of the kind of bad scripting of which writers are occasionally guilty. It went something like this:

Panel 1: BATMAN AND ROBIN SLIDE DOWN THE BAT-POLES, RACE ACROSS THE BATCAVE, LEAP INTO THE BATMOBILE AND DRIVE OFF INTO THE NIGHT.

The problem this presents should be obvious – though it always isn’t to some writers. The hypothetical scribe has asked their artist collaborator to visually portray at least four separate actions in a single panel!

Writers also sometimes forget that it takes longer to draw the Statue of Liberty than it does to simply write: Draw the Statue of Liberty. One of the quickest ways for a writer to get on an artist’s bad side is to hand him a script heavy with panels that are so elaborate, so full of characters and actions that he/she is practically reduced to tears of frustration.

A writer does not have to be able to draw any better than does a typical 5-year-old. But they do need to be knowledgeable about the ins and outs of visual storytelling. That is a talent that is often lacking even in those who can draw, at least early in their careers.

Stating that a writer needs to be able to visualize when they write is obvious in certain media, such as comic strips, comic books, and television and motion pictures. But it is a talent that is important to writers of prose as well; useful in describing people, places, and things and thereby creating pictures in the mind’s eye of the reader.

There is a bit of advice I’ve given to many aspiring artists over the years – and I would offer it to writers as well. Choose one of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic films (or director of your choice). Play that movie with the sound off and don’t just watch it – study it.

Get to understand the hows and whys of his varying camera shot choices – from establishing shots to close-ups. Study how he uses the camera to direct our eyes to where he wants them to go. See how much information can be conveyed without the need for any words at all. Develop an appreciation for the creative uses of lighting.

Then apply what you learn to your writing.

There, of course, is no single “right” way to write a comic book script, but I’ll tell you about mine; you find the method that works best for you. This applies to my preferred method of writing a story – full script – but can also be applied when employing all but the briefest and loosest of “Marvel Style” scripting.

First, I write myself a short plot synopsis of that story/issue: usually no more than 3-5 pages long. Along the margins of that plot, I make pencil notations regarding how many pages I think each scene should require to be told visually. Among other things, this lets you know if your plot is too dense for the space allotted and adjust accordingly.
(You will find few if any artists who are happy about working on a script that requires them to cram 12 panels into each page to get all of that story into 20 pages!)

Once I’ve done this, I literally draw the entire issue myself. Full disclosure: my “drawings” are extremely simple and crude, sometimes little more than stick figures. But that’s all I require to make sure the pacing is correct and to be able to fully and understandably explain to the artist what I want from each panel of each page.

Only then do I write the actual script that will go to the editor and artist. If I can draw the story within the required limits and without cramming too much into each panel/page – I know any good, professional artist can comfortably do so as well.

And be flexible; even the method I’ve described should allow artists to flex their creative muscles in terms of layout, etc. Don’t let ego prevent you from recognizing that their visual ideas and instincts can be better than or improve upon your own.

Doing your job well in visualizing your story – makes it easier for your artistic collaborator to do their job!

25Feb/20

Craft Introduction

Hello Silverline Family, we have some exciting news for you!

First of all, allow me to introduce myself properly. My name is Tim Thiessen. I also write under the name, Tim T.K. I’m the associate editor here at Silverline and I help with the website and digital content. You may recognize my name from our Title Spotlight series where we showcase some of the titles in our lineup. I also help with editing some of the series we’re working on, but more on that at a different time.

What I’m writing about today is our new upcoming series ‘Craft!’ As the name implies, this is a series all about the Craft that we at Silverline have fallen in love with: the craft of making comics. Being an independent print, we are in the blessed position of having fewer middlemen between ourselves and the reader. We also have many unique opportunities to take on creators new to the comics industry. This series should help illuminate all the different steps, roles, collaboration, and unique challenges that are part of the comic creation process.

Silverline has had the pleasure to work with some of the most talented individuals in the industry. Writers like R.A. Jones, Sidney Williams, and Brent Larson. Pencilers like Dean Zachary, Luis Czerniawski, Jackson Renick, and Alex Gallimore. Inkers like Barb Kaalberg, Chuck Bordell, Thomas Florimonte, and Terry Pallot. Colorists like Steve Mattson and Kevin Gallegly. I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll be able to get entries from all of the above-named creators, but I have already reached out to a few of the creators we’ve worked with and will be reaching out to more as the series goes on to ask for their insight on the complicated matter of creating a comic book.

Every industry pro has had a different journey. Each person has a different entry point into working in comics. Due to the nature of the industry, many have had to fill different roles, work on a wide spectrum of projects, and have worked with other creators who have helped shape each other’s process. Each person has had to develop their skill set differently because of this.

Our hope with this series is to dig into the nuances of different creator’s process. Throughout this series, we will cover the manifold disciplines found in the industry. Each entry will focus on a specific detail of the creation process for a specific discipline. We will discuss matters like the challenges of writing for a visual art form, creating unique art that tells just as much of the story as the dialogue, and much more.

This series will be great for the beginner or hopeful comic creator, comic fan, or experienced industry pro. Whether you’re learning the skills necessary to make it in comics, a diehard wanting to see how the sausage gets made, or just interested in learning how others do their craft. We’re hopeful that you will come away from each entry of Craft having learned something exciting and new.

Please join us on this journey as we talk with some of our favorite creators and learn about what they do.