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Thread: Your Professional Self-Assessment

  1. LeeNordling Guest

    Your Professional Self-Assessment

    It’s been six months, a longer semester than most semesters, and you’ve had your face shoved in the mirror so many times you might barely recognize it for all the bruises and scars.

    You have a right to be tired.

    A hand goes up.

    “Yes?” I ask.

    “How about you?” you ask.

    “Okay, I admit my arm is tired from throwing all those elbow-wrenching curveballs, so it’s time to take a break.”

    A hand goes up.

    “Yes?” I ask.

    “Will there be another semester?” you ask.

    “I don’t know,” I reply. “My next step, beyond giving greater attention to my graphic novel packaging business, is to begin to fashion the Comics Pro Prep material into a book…just to see if it is a book. Early indications and advice from those whom I respect are good.”

    I will be contacting those of you who’ve contributed to see if you’d mind if I used excerpts or revised versions of our discussions as part of the book, either under your own names or with fabricated identities. The point will be to accomplish there what we’ve accomplished here, and to test the boundaries of the discussion and exercises. I don’t believe somebody can just read a column or chapter and suddenly know how to apply it to their work. Perhaps recounting our time together will help new readers find their way. Anyway, that’s the plan.

    It’s beautiful outside, so let’s get through this last class, and then you’re off for the summer (or however long you choose to be off before resuming your studies).

    This week’s assignment is deceptively simple: share what you learned.

    A hand goes up.

    “Yes?” I ask.

    “You used the word ‘deceptive’,” you note.

    “I did,” I reply. “That was perceptive of you.”

    “So where’s the complicated part of this assignment?”

    “Look to last week’s assignment for the answer,” I reply.

    Only one of you was able to review an experience with an editor and objectively report on it.

    To do this, he had to take a step back, and break down the history of the working relationship into component parts. Then he made an assessment of each one of those components.

    Anybody who believes this isn’t hard hasn’t tried to do it.

    There are two things I’ve consistently pressed you on.

    The first is to write or create with intention. Do that and there’s a greater chance readers will perceive what you want them to perceive. (Yes, I just gave away one of the answers…I hope.)

    The second is breaking down circumstances, relationships, and aspects of the craft, into component parts. We did this so you will be able to examine each facet, understand it, and be able to bend each of them into something that helps you achieve your goals. I know many of you struggled with this, and we lost some contributors because of it, so don’t underestimate how difficult it is to do this.

    This is how I want you to assess what you’ve learned this semester.

    You’ll need to look back, recall what was new, and make an assessment of how (if at all) it’s affected your perception of the craft or business of sequential art.

    In short, you’re grading yourselves.

    Before getting to work, I wish to thank each of you who’ve given your time and attention to Comics Pro Prep, and especially to those of you who put your necks in the noose, week after week.

    You’re the ones who gained the most.

    This is open book, and our last assignment is: share what you learned at Comics Pro Prep.


    Lee Nordling is the owner and founding partner of The Pack (, a comics-related content provider for the publishing industry. He is also author of “Your Career In the Comics,” an overview of the newspaper comics syndication profession and industry.

    If you wish to contact Lee separately from Comics Pro Prep, please write to him at lee@projectfanboy.
    Last edited by LeeNordling; Friday, May 21, 2010 at 02:23 PM.

  2. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    What I learned as I thought of them:
    1. How to identify and assess the different sandboxes and places for me in them.
    2. How to communicate constructively with co-workers and editors.
    3. How to manage time in the panel.
    4. How to manage time across panels.
    5. How to find the heart of a story and pitch it.
    6. How to write with intent.
    7. Thematic storytelling.
    8. Dynamic storytelling.
    9. Writing to an artist's strengths.
    10. Don't poke the bear.
    11. Comics in relation to film and the differences in mediums.
    12. Writing left to right in a clear fashion.
    13. Being a professional is about communicating, being dependable, and fulfilling the expectations of the job.

    Thanks for the classes. My favorites were the three silent exercises. Feel free to use any material I posted with my name. It's all out there in the public domain anyway.

  3. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by RonaldMontgomery View Post
    10. Don't poke the bear.
    This one cracked me up, presuming I'M the bear.

    Thanks, Ronald.

    Folks, each of your answers is personal, so just because Ronald learned it, don't cross it off your list.


  4. harryd Guest

    Well, writing left to right was a new approach to comic scripting for me, and one that I'll probably remember. The writing exercises were nice to have something to practice on, and to stretch those creative muscles. Though as to how much I'll retain from them, only time will tell.

    Thanks for taking the time to do this column, and best of luck with your book.

  5. Rain Guest

    Off the top of my head, here's the biggies I've taken away from CPP:

    1) KISS: Keep it Simple Scripter. I'm no artist, so don't try to micro-manage those that are by writing panel descriptions with camera angles.
    2) The benefits, and process, of writing left to right in a panel.
    3) The importance of clearly and concisely conveying my intent for a panel/page.
    4) How to identify if a potential deal, the publisher, and collaborators that are a good fit for me and my goals.
    5) The difference in comic cultures, and what projects are more likely to be identified as "commercial."

    On a slightly related note, I'm personally a bit of a techno-hermit; refuse to own a cell phone, continually stick it out with dial up Internet connection, and before now, most certainly avoided participation in forums.

    And while I have no plans to purchase an iPhone or WiFi, I'm glad CPP broke down one of those barriers. I've learned a lot and enjoyed the dialogue from everyone, not just Lee.

    Thanks to you all, and the best of luck with your endeavors!


  6. LeeNordling Guest

    Thanks, Rain.

    You were a valuable contributor to CPP.

    What did any of you who sat on the sidelines pick up from watching the execution of the exercises and discussions unfold?


  7. LeeNordling Guest

    As our curtain lowers, I wish to thank you all again for attending this session of Comics Pro Prep.

    My goal was to offer thoughts, discussion, perspective, and process.

    Now take whatever works well for you (or what you believe, after work, MAY work well for you), and do something with it.

    At the end of the day, as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.

    So go make some great pudding.

    Be well, and see you in the funny books.

    Last edited by LeeNordling; Sunday, May 09, 2010 at 07:29 PM.

  8. danialworks Guest

    Looks like I'm late.

    What have I learned?

    Absorb the left to right... feel it, know it, even when not directly applying it... and directly apply it as often as you can, especially if a panel isn't reading right. If you can't apply the left to right, you probably need a new panel.

    It's not show or tell in comics, it's both.

    Always keep the reader in the loop of where you are in the story, both time and place alike. They might just read you again, both the work in their hands, and maybe even the next one they come across. If you confuse them, they will walk away and stay away.

    Comics is more of a community than tv or novels. Not entirely sure what to do with this knowledge, but learned it is...

    I've really gotta recover my SELLING skills.

    Each word is a storytelling choice in any medium, but in comics? It's a bigger, more important choice even than writing prose. In a novel, a bad sentence can lead to a brilliant one. In comics, a bad sentence just makes headaches for everyone.

    If you NEED a page to convey to illustrators, editors, and ultimately readers what you feel about a panel, what you NEED to share in that panel, to show and tell, so be it; if you don't need so many words and thoughts and ideas, two lines is as good, likely even better-- than twenty to describe what you need.

    Peace, guys.

  9. LeeNordling Guest

    Thanks, Danial.

    Your contributions and observations were appreciated.

    Have a great weekend everybody.


  10. drgerb Guest

    I get back from a vacation in Vegas expecting to see a couple of new articles and instead I get this?! The (hopefully temporary) death of CPP?! Nooo!

    I am going to say straight up that I might have a hard time figuring out what I learned here, which may be a good thing. I probably will leave out a lot. I have been reading numerous books on creating comics alongside this article so Lee's advice is meshed up in between Alan Moore's and Will Eisner's, among others. Not a bad company.

    One thing I learned is how confusing being just a writer is. From the beginning, I used me being the artist / writer as an escape route for when I did something wrong. If I ever want to be just the writer of a project, I have a long ways to go in writing with intent, being clear for the other collaborators, all that jazz. For Frank Miller, it's easy. Write out a few pages for Sin City, draw them, and tada everyone realizes how brilliant he was. Alan Moore did it TOTALLY different. He'd spend one page describing the first three panels of Watchmen. He did this because it worked best for HIM.

    Another thing I learned is no ONE single way is ever right for everybody. Alan Moore did what worked for him, Frank Miller what worked for him. I'm not trying to find the way that works for them, or the way that works for most of the professionals out there. I'm using this knowledge, this article, the books I read as a way of finding what works best for me.

    The sandbox bit was great. It gave the possibility of looking at the bright side when my projects are rejected. I just dipped my toes in the wrong part of the sandbox. It's not about my project being garbage.

    All the stuff on pitching really helped me. Actually putting it to use and writing the perfect pitch is easier said than done, but right now I'm WAY farther than I was before I read that bit.

    I guess I don't really know what else. I knew I'd have a hard time with this one, so I put it off for a while. Honestly, reading this article alongside so many books really makes it hard for me to differentiate between where I learned the things I learned. But to me that isn't much of a problem. The fact that I've been learning so much is enough. I'll probably have to go buy a few more books now, but thanks for the help along the way, Lee. Here's to hoping you decide to ressurect this for a potential book and also for a second semester.

    For my money, I learned more here for free than I learned from quite a few of my expensive college teachers. So hooray for that.

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