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B&N Week 174: Is Continuing Education Important In Comics?

| April 22, 2014

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It’s another Tuesday! Arizona doesn’t do Daylight Savings Time [thankfully], so the days are extremely noticeably longer. I can drive in to work and the sun is coming up, and I can drive home from work twelve hours later and the sun is still hanging in the sky. I like it. [And yes, I work twelve hour shifts. Some days are more challenging than others.]

This week, I want to ask an important question. (Aren’t all the questions important this year, Steven?) I like to think they are. However, I think this question is more important than most I’ll ask this year.

Is continuing education important?

Let’s take a look outside of comics for a bit, and then bring it back around.

No one is going to say that you don’t need an education. If anyone ever said that, then they aren’t being honest. Everything you do, from reading to writing to eating to getting to work requires an education of some kind. That job you have? No matter what school you went to, you required some sort of education while on the job in order to perform it.

Now, although every job needs some sort of education, not every job requires a higher education. Even though a lot of jobs “require” a college degree, most jobs really don’t. [Don’t get me wrong—you need special training in order to do a lot of jobs, and there are definitely certain areas in which a degree is useful, but most jobs, no matter what they say, do not require a degree. Some intelligence on the part of the individual, sure, but not a degree.]

Those in a leadership position often have a degree of some kind. Not only that, but they may have several degrees, or could be pursuing a second degree. Not uncommon anymore. And many jobs have some sort of reimbursement to help you pay for a higher education [many times, as long as it is relevant to your current position], or they have some sort of continuing education requirement in order to keep employees either current or refreshed with tasks that they do not often do.

It would not surprise me if most of you reading this do not already have some sort of degree, are pursuing one [or maybe another one], have a job which “requires” you to have a degree, have a job which will reimburse you to help pay for a degree, or will have you doing some sort of continuing education. (That covers a lot of territory.) [Just goes to show just how important education is.]

But you want to be a comic book creator! What sort of education do you need, would you have to continue your education once you’ve created a comic, and what would continuing education look like?

We already know that in order to create comics, all kinds of skills are going to be needed. For artists and inkers, you have to know how to draw everything, including how to make imaginary things seem real. Colorists have to know color theory, letterers have to know how to be unobtrusive on the page, writers have to know how to tell a story in static images, and editors have to know what does and does not work on the page, as well as how to work with people.

All of that, of course, is grossly oversimplified. (Grossly.) [I said that…]

What kind of education would you need to create a comic? Personally, I believe that every creator should have some sort of cross-training when it comes to creating a comic. It doesn’t have to be publishable, but it should be enough to understand what the other creators are doing when they are asked to do something. I believe that having that understanding will help a creator know what is and isn’t “good,” and thus cut down on the amount of bad comics out there. [Yes, there are a lot of bad comics being made because there are a lot of creators who haven’t yet learned the subjective difference between good and bad.]

Aside from cross-training and gathering all the information you can not just on the process of creating comics, but on your own particular bailiwick, you should also review every so often. A review of the basics will help keep you fresh on things you’ve built upon, because what you’ve done as you’ve grown is you’ve created shortcuts to the process, and in doing the shortcuts so much over time, you can forget how you got there. Review is important.

When I was doing martial arts, my sensei had some prerequisites in order to graduate to the next belt. One of those was that we had to compete in a tournament. I didn’t place in my category, but my sensei won his, which was katas. [Basically, fighting imaginary opponents and showing technique. Ever watch a martial arts movie? The training montage where the character is fighting no one? That’s a kata.] The kata he won with was one I had learned as a white belt. My sensei had only added a sword. A basic kata won in a competition against other black belts.

I do believe that continuing your education is important. Otherwise, you stop growing, and no one wants that. The great thing about being a creator is that just about anything and everything can be considered continuing education. You just have to have fun with it.

If you want to be good at something, you work at it. If you want to become great at something, you work even harder at it. Hard work means coming at the same thing from different avenues. Gain an understanding and an appreciation for whatever it is.

I believe that continuing your education as a creator is important. Learn all you can from every avenue. Get different points of view on the same thing. Gain your own perspective. Review. Over time, try to impart what you’ve learned. Teaching is a form of review, and will also help continue your education.

And that’s all I have for this week. See you in seven.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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