It's Comical

Welcome to My World!

Hello! You have found your way to my blog, It’s Comical.

As the title suggests, this blog is all about comics books. What inspired me to create this blog is my own interest in comic books, as well as the fact that I have started to write my own. I want to get personal and share with you my journey in writing a comic, along with the journeys of other women in the industry.

Here you will find information tutorials for the different comic creation processes, my reviews of comics created by women, sneak peaks of my own comic developments. What I’m most excited to share with you are interviews I conducted with successful women in the industry who work for companies like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, etc. You will also get to meet my characters, including the fluffy, yeti-guy you see in my logo and in many of my works.

I hope that this blog can create a community of young writers and artists interested in pursuing a career in comics. I’m focusing on women, because we’re still a small niche in the industry, but I know that that will continue to change as time goes on. Through seeing the successes of other women, many who have made a name for themselves well in the past, I hope that young girls feel empowered to pursue this career path.

Thank you for stopping by! Here’s to the great adventure that lies ahead~

-Sabrina

Tools of the Trade

Those who create comic books today are fortunate to have the computers, printers, and advanced technology that weren’t around for the early creators in the 1920s, and up until the 2000s. Technology not only revolutionizes and simplifies the lives of humans, but it expands the possibilities for creating a comic.

I mean, there was a time when color was added to pages for printing by arranging cyan, magenta, and yellow overlays of acetate on an image. And many times, the acetate was created at different strengths by screen printing on the film the dot patterns we know and love. This method, however, severely limited the range of colors artists could use. And of course, there was the method where cyan, magenta, yellow, and black color film separations were shot with a camera, then put together for the larger product process.

Today, comics are made a little differently, although some artists still preserve old techniques.

The general process for which a comic book is made is: scripting, storyboarding, pencilling, inking, coloring, and lettering.

The script is typically made in a computer text program, such as Microsoft Word. The storyboarding and pencilling are simply pencil on paper. The inking is done by hand, which many American comic creators and Japanese mangakas still do.There is a range of technique that comic creators will employ when coloring their comics. You will find many mediums, from colored inks, colored pencils, watercolor, gouache, and acrylic paint.

With the invention of drawing tablets and computer based art programs, many artists will complete the remaining processes, if not all of the processes, digitally.

The best, most widely used software for creating comics includes Clip Studio Paint, Sketchbook Pro, and Photoshop CC.

The best drawing tablets for creating comics are Wacom tablets, specifically the Cintiq, on which an artist draws with a stylus directly on to a touch screen.

While it might be difficult at first to make the switch from drawing on paper to drawing on a tablet, the benefits make it worth it. In the end you will have less material supplies, it takes up less space, and mistakes are very easily corrected with the undo command.

The great thing about the world we live in today, is that there are so many tools available for us to choose from when creating. We can mix and match however we’d like to arrive at a style that we can use to express ourselves and our characters in unique and memorable ways.

Happy creating!

Comics and Women in the City of Brotherly Love

My home city, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has a very unique, charming comic scene, from shops, to creators.

The selection of comic shops include:

Brave New Worlds, located in Old City

Atomic City, located on South Street,

Fat Jack’s Comicrypt, located a few blocks southwest of City Hall

These are just a few of the shops located in the heart of the city, however, there are a few more store in the northern part of town and along the Delaware River.

I’m writing about the comic shops, because for all comic creators, it’s important to start your journey by reading! I’m sure most people interested in writing a comic book has read a fair share in their lifetime, but for those who haven’t, find your local comic shop and pick up a few different books! I like to read a range and variety of styles as a way of studying how other artists depict emotion, movement, and time.

My new favorite spot to hit up is Amalgam Comics and Coffeehouse, located just north of Fishtown, in West Kensington. This shop that celebrates diversity, acceptance, and awesomeness, is owned by a black woman, Ariell Johnson, who graduated from Temple University. Not to mention there’s coffee and comfy couches! If you want to spend your day lounging and sipping a latte, like me, for example, this is the shop for you.

Another woman involved with comics is Jessica Abel, who teaches at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She is a cartoonist who has created works including Life Sucks, Growing Gills, and La Perdida among many others. She also sends out a weekly newsletter about taking control of your creative life, that discusses motivation, time management and other helpful career-based information for any artist trying to stay on track in their creative career.

Why Comics?

Comic books are not just picture books, nor are they just for high schoolers, or adults. The comic book medium is essentially for every reader, and studies have shown that they are very beneficial to young and old readers alike.

Firstly, the level of engagement involved in reading a comic book is very high. The reader focuses on the language, images depicting character’s emotions and movement through space, all while moving from panel to panel across, diagonal, and down the page. Overall, the comic book provides a very unique reading experience, in which readers have to process different components–textual, visual, and spatial.

Secondly, using characters and images to illustrate a complex story helps people improve their reading skills, particular in comics with a higher level of difficulty. This is because the reader is given more than the context clues to decipher unknown words or complex phrases.

Thirdly, the complex character development, as well as being able to see the character’s emotion, leads to stronger relationships between the reader and the character. It’s easier to relate to a character with visible emotions, like characters in a movie. The comic does just that, with the added component of reading. Reading a comic is a lot like watching an animated movie, it’s just up to the reader to envision the movement between the panels.

Colleen Coover

SB: Describe your schedule while working on a long-term project (for example, your latest work, Bandette). What does a typical work day look like?

CC: I mostly work on weekdays. Three days a week I go to the bouldering gym near my house first, but each day I walk (if it’s rainy) or bike (if it’s not) to Helioscope, the studio space I share with about 20 other artists in downtown Portland. I usually get there at about 11 am, and work until 6:30 or 7 pm, when I head home. The work that I do during the day can depend upon my mood: if I’m not feeling 100%, I’ll do something that takes less thought and energy, like lettering or coloring. If I’m firing on all cylinders, I’ll do something that requires more of my storytelling brain, like rough layouts, or penciling. My favorite thing to inking, so I do that when I’m in a really good mood. Of course it also depends on what still needs to get done on any given issue, so sometimes I don’t get to choose. I like to listen to podcasts when I’m working, or sometimes audiobooks.

SB: How did you break into the comic industry? Specifically, what steps did you take before you created for Marvel’s X-Men: First Class? What sort of preparatory work did you have to complete before diving into your first major work, Small Favors?

CC: The answer to the whole of your question is contained in the last bit. Before I submitted Small Favors for publication, I worked for about two years to put together about 100 pages of finished comics. I Xeroxed them all up and put them in an envelope (this is before everyone had scanners) and sent them to Fantagraphics Books in Seattle, where they were accepted for their now-defunct Eros imprint. I worked on Small Favors for about another three years and put out a total of eight issues. It went over pretty well, and I got a lot of good feedback from my peers, but I knew that if I stuck to the one, adults-only genre, I was going to be known solely as the “female artist who makes porno comics”, and that did not appeal to me. So the next project that I worked on with Paul (now my husband) was deliberately a story for all ages: Banana Sunday. We were in the middle of developing Banana Sunday when we moved from Iowa City, Iowa to Portland, Oregon. The move led to us landing Banana Sunday at Oni Press, which is located in Portland, but more importantly we became part of the larger Portland comics community, and specifically I joined Helioscope (previously Mercury Studio, then Periscope Studio). At the studio I became friends with Jeff Parker, who was writing some all-ages comics at Marvel. Jeff showed Banana Sunday to his Marvel editor, and as a result Paul got work writing on some of the editor’s other all-ages titles, and I started doing work with Jeff on his books.

The point of that kind of long anecdote is that I did not break into comics at the end of the story, when I got a job based on my previous experience. I broke in when I sent the two years’ worth of pages to Seattle and got an acceptance letter, and I broke in a little more when I made all my deadlines, and a little more when I changed lanes into all ages stuff, and so on and on. And when I got that gig drawing for Marvel, that was not the end goal, it was just another step on my career path, as is Bandette, as will be whatever may come next.

SB:You have used a multitude of mediums, both traditional and digital, in your illustrations over the years. Technology continues to offer artists new innovative tools to create work. What is your current favorite medium to create with?

CC: My current process is a combination of digital and physical media. I use the comics-specific graphics application Clip Studio Paint (also known as Manga Studio) for layouts and “pencils”, and to place the letters. I print the page out in pale blue ink on paper and use ink wash to do final rendering. Then I scan the art back into my computer to color the page. It works out well for me because all my art decisions are made before I delve into the best part—the inks—and I can just concentrate on doing that bit really well. In the past I’d spend a lot of time with pencils and an eraser and maybe a lightbox tracing board, worried about whether the dialog was going to fit properly in a panel. The ability to resize and juke things around digitally before I print them out means a lot less erasing and lot less anxiety.

SB: Name three comic writers and/or artists who have had a major influence on your work.

CC: The three most direct influences are Los Bros Hernandez, creators of Love & Rockets; Wendy Pini, the artist and co-creator of ElfQuest; and Milton Caniff, the great creator of newspaper adventure strips Terry & The Pirates and Steve Canyon.

SB: What is one piece of advice you would give to the young aspiring comic artist?

When you’re starting out, work on short pieces. Don’t try to tackle a long epic drama with no end in sight. Give yourself a point at which you can say “yay, done!” If you keep doing that over and over without stopping, boom, you’re not aspiring any more: you’ve arrived.

SB: Over the years I’ve been reading comics, I have witnessed an increase in the presence of women in the industry (both as creators and lead characters in comics). Did you experience any significant differences in how you were treated as a creator from, say 2000, to now? Were there any barriers you had to overcome or annoyances you had to deal with that you feel may have existed because you were a woman?

I can only speak to my own experience, which was fully welcoming and positive. If barriers were put in my way, I was not aware of it, or I was too naive to recognize it. I’ve been fortunate to spend most of my career as a member of a large studio that actively supports creators of all genders and backgrounds.

SB: Are you working on any comics or projects at the moment?

I’m focused on Bandette, which has won Paul and me three Eisner awards. We’re also scouting around for opportunities to co-write either as freelancers or on something original, because while I don’t have time to draw more than one project at a time, writing with him is fun and it would be nice to have the opportunity to work on some other projects.

SB: You are given a week to yourself, without any work deadlines or obligations to see anyone. How do you spend it?

Crocheting, and visiting bouldering gyms. I don’t have any desire to climb outside, but I’d like to visit some gyms other than my local one. And crochet has recently taken over my evenings.

SB: If you had to eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Rice, meat, and veggies with Korean gochujang paste. Pretty much everything I eat now is just a vehicle to get gochujang in me.

SB: If you were a superhero, what would your costume/getup look like?

Basic jumpsuit-style overalls, 100%. Dickies makes nice ones.