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Valiant Presents: The Craft of Comics Part 1

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Part 1: Writing

20150919_170549Valiant Entertainment and Hastings stores have teamed up to bring live streaming workshops with Q&A sessions covering the process of comic creation. The series began on September 19th and will continue each Saturday through October 10th. Several of Valiant’s creative talents will be on hand to lead discussion and demonstrate skills. Each week has a different focus: writing, penciling, inking, and coloring. Hastings guests will receive a free exclusive workbook in which to create and hone their artistic skills.

In addition to the workshops, guests can enter The Craft of Comics contest, where one winner will have their work published in an upcoming Valiant comic. Official rules and submission forms are available in the exclusive book and online at goHastings.com/Valiant.

I attended the first session which focused on writing. Valiant writer James Asmus (Quantum & Woody, Delinquents, Unity) was on hand to share his expertise and explain the different challenges of writing for the comic medium.

Moderator Jacob Rivera directed questions to Asmus and later opened up the floor to questions asked by guests via Twitter (for future reference, if you’d like to ask questions of the creators, be sure to tweet it to @goHastings AND include the hashtag #ValiantLiveQA).

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Valiant Fan Sonicdan with Valiant Femmes’ Pixierosa at the Hastings event

Asmus spoke about how he became involved with Quantum & Woody. He was a fan of the title in the 90’s. Valiant approached him and asked him to pitch what he would do with the odd couple in an updated version. The rest is history. Asmus also discussed his method of writing and general rules that comic writers should pay heed to – including brevity, a concept that he admits he struggles with.

Asmus emphasized the importance of tonal complexity in all types of comic writing, even comedic. He believes it is a necessary component to getting readers to care about a character at its core. Tonal complexity is part of what he finds enjoyable about script writing, showing the darkness, light, and vulnerability in a character.

Other tips for writers include being aware of writing for a limited number of panels. A good rule of thumb is to remember that for each panel, a character can have only one action. For instance, a character can’t both catch and throw a ball all in one panel. Writers must learn to be concise, determine what will be the focus of the panel, and be sure that it makes sense in continuity (i.e. having a character throw something when readers never saw them catch it first can be confusing). Writers must think in terms of small gestures.

As for Valiant itself, Asmus had high praise both for what the company has accomplished and the manner in which they have done so. He feels that working with Valiant is very similar to the creative freedom of creator-owned comics, and this allows the creators to pour their hearts into the stories.

The session ended with Asmus discussing his upcoming Unity story. He teased that it involves an apparent suicide mission, and one member’s allegiance may lie elsewhere. He also said that each member has their own motivations for being a part of the team, and these may come to light.

The next session will be on September 26th. The topic will be penciling, and artist Clayton Henry (Archer and Armstrong) will be on hand to lend his expertise. If you have questions about penciling or his approach to art, be sure to tweet your questions to @goHastings #ValiantLiveQA.

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