Not all bad tropes are bad

In my class, students read a lot of comics. A goodly portion of them are superhero comics. Super HERO comics. Of those that aren’t “superhero” comics, they often still have “heroes” though not so super. “Heroes” do heroic things. A lot of those heroic things include SAVING PEOPLE.

So I laugh to myself when I read a student write about some comic they’ve read: “oh, hero saved the damsel in distress. I hate this trope, therefore I hate this comic.”

I get it. No really, I do. You’ve been told this for years—that women don’t need to be rescued, women are tough, they don’t need a “man” to rescue them, etc., so the story is old and therefore you should hate it.

The problem (often) is, it ain’t about the person being rescued being a woman. I mean, heroes can save THE WORLD (which includes men and women) like the Avengers do in the movies…but that, too, can get old after a while. No, it’s about the hero doing something heroic, saving SOMEONE in need of saving.

If heroes are saving people, they’re either going to save a damsel in distress or a dude in distress. You’ve got a 50/50 chance of either of those. I guess you COULD make it 33/33/33 and make it a “kid” where it doesn’t really matter if they’re a boy or girl, they’re a kid.

But…I dunno, people need saving sometimes. Sometimes that person is a man, sometimes that person is a female …let heroes by heroes. Let them save people. Let them save kids. Let them save dudes. Let them save damsels! I WANT to see my heroes doing heroic things!

And PS. For the uninitiated, “heroes” can be a male or female. It’s not about their biology, it’s about what they do with the power they have.

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How a comic book is created

(Note: I wrote this a few years back for National Cartoonists Day for a magazine that has since disappeared, and since yesterday was May 5, I felt it would be the right time to “reprint” it! Hope you enjoy!)

Today is Cartoonist Day. Let me confess rather quickly that I did not know until very recently that such a day even existed. But, to celebrate the occasion, I’m going to explain to you how comic books are created.

I should first explain the difference between a comic “strip” and a comic “book” or, as the longer versions are called, “graphic novels.” Most people think those terms are interchangeable. A comic book is the traditional magazine style Batman, X-Men or Spider-Man comic you might buy off the spinner rack. It generally contains 22-32 pages and tells a complete story or is part of a longer story. A comic strip is something you find in the newspaper, and is generally only a couple of panels of art. Rather than tell a story, strips often end with a gag or joke. Strips are often done by one person (sometimes with an assistant) and their label is more appropriately “cartoonist.”

Comic books are generally produced by a creative “team” which starts with a writer. Regular readers here will recall Saturday’s [insert link to MAY 2 column] explanation of the two main comic script styles. Regardless of script style used, the process still starts with a writer creating a concise story that must be told in a predetermined number of pages. Not as easy as it sounds. Generally, a 24 page full script comic should be done in 3-5 full working days. An editor must approve the work after each stage is completed.

After the editor approves it, the script is sent to a pencil artist, or penciler. The penciler reads the script and brings it to life via pencil artwork, very much like story boards are done for movies. Most artists can do 1-2 pages per day…which means it can take 2-4 working weeks to complete a full comic book. Keep in mind that this is the complete comic drawn in pencil.

The lettering (the text you actually read on the comic page) can either be done directly on the artboard at this stage, or pasted on after the ink artist has completed his work. Depending on the amount of text per page, a letterer can complete a page in 2-3 hours, which means a week or two.

The art then goes to an ink artist or inker. It is the inker’s job to enhance the pencil lines. There is often much confusion by those who aren’t artists as to exactly what the inker does. A long running joke among comic artists is that inkers are just “tracers.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. In a nutshell, though, an inker brings three-dimensional depth to the pencil drawing. He has to know which lines to make very thick and which lines to make very thin—thus giving the illustration depth. A bad inker can really mess up a penciled drawing. An inker takes about the same amount of time as a penciler; 2-4 working weeks.

If the comic book is lucky enough to be one of the ones in color, the finished black and white pages are scanned at a high resolution and sent to the color artist. The colorist will then use a computer program, most often Photoshop, and apply color to the art. There is a wide variety of complexity to a colored comic page, ranging from the very simple traditional Sunday funnies color to coloring that appears to be fully painted.

With the coloring finished, electronic files are sent to the printer and the comic book is printed onto paper—the final product which we get to sit and enjoy. So you see, all in all, a traditional comic book can take up to as much as six months to produce. But it all starts with the writer!

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Evolution of Silverline…and the logo

After my last blog about Silverline, someone asked me about the logos and a little more, so I thought I’d write a bit of a “part 2” about Silverline. But first: if you haven’t already, please consider checking out (and possibly backing?) my kickstarter for Cat & Mouse #2 here: CLICK HERE

After we went from the idea of publishing our own material under the company name Top Comics, we adopted the name Silverline and became a packager. We didn’t really think of ourselves that way at first, we were just a group of creative folks trying to make comics.

So since we couldn’t be Top Comics, we still wanted to brand our line, Steven Butler created a Silverline banner that would run the width of the comic at the bottom of the covers. That way, EFG fans would see the banner and know that story and title took place in the Silverline world. We loved that idea as it was the next best thing to publishing on our own. Cat & Mouse would be followed by a SilverStorm mini-series, a bi-monthly anthology title, and then a new ongoing series, the Hero Task Force (which would use the characters from the anthology, SilverStorm and Cat & Mouse).

But EFG folded before they could do much. So we took our printed copies and stacks of photocopies of the work in progress…and sent it off to a handful of independent publishers hot at the time. We talked to several, but ultimately ended up at Aircel. Except…they only wanted Cat & Mouse and SilverStorm. We didn’t know at the time that they were already planning a “super” world of their own (the Protectors) and just didn’t want competition. C&M was different enough and SilverStorm was a mini-series.

We packaged a few other titles (Mantis Files, Sirens, Pendulum) before Malibu hired me as an editor. Mitch and Steven had both moved on to other projects anyway, so Silverline basically ceased to exist.

Until 1997.

Marvel bought Malibu in ’94, turning me into a Marvel editor. They declared bankruptcy in ’96 and fired 400 people. I decided to use what I had learned and try publishing again…and did. Rather than try to come up with a new label, I just used Silverline again and published comics from 97 until 2001 (Marauder, Switchblade, Cybertrash and the Dog, and others). The problem was that Marvel fired people because the boom of the late 80s and early 90s lead to a crash in the late 90s…and it was just tough to sell comics. I lost more than 20k of my own money trying to make Silverline happen, but called it quits in 2001.

I went back to school, got an advanced degree and started teaching at the university level. While doing research for a class, I stumbled across an internet announcement looking for writers to adapt Huckleberry Finn into a graphic novel. I submitted, got the work, and had a blast. This was in 2008. I followed that up with an adaptation of Wizard of Oz and remembered that I actually really did like comics. So I started making them again, but as a side thing to teaching. Still, I needed to call them SOMETHING for the ones I did on my own. I fell back to Silverline. That’s when this logo came into play. I never really loved this logo, but liked it alot … so just continued to use it because I wasn’t really planning to do anything with Silverline…not really. And I feel terrible that I don’t remember who put this together for me. EDIT: NOW I know that it was my pal Mike W. Belcher who put the red oval together! My public apologies to him for not remembering.

Fast forward to 2018 and kickstarting Cat & Mouse #1 vol 2. The creative team of Dean Zachary, Barb Kaalberg, and Kevin Gallegly, had such a fun experience, they encouraged me to restart Silverline as a publisher. While that’s just the short version, that’s how we got this new logo, a new take on the old one.

And now you know!

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