First Steps

| September 7, 2011 | 10 Comments

I had sort of given up on writing comics a few years ago.

Writing comics was one of those things I had   always wanted to do, but was always finding excuses not to. At first, it was not knowing how to write a script. Then, not knowing how to hook up with an artist. Then, needing to have things like food, and a roof over my head. I quietly slipped into a day job, kept my head down and just concentrated on graphic design – a job that I didn’t hate, but that I knew I would never love – not like I loved to write.

I wrote in my spare time – fiction mostly, articles occasionally. I even had a few short stories published with small presses – but comic books kept coming back to me as something I really wanted to do.

I had this story in mind, called Gutter Magic. I was writing it as prose, but I kept picturing these visuals in my head, these scenes, and telling myself, this should be a comic. My writing started to fall flat on me – suddenly, I didn’t want to write a novel anymore. I wanted to write a comic.

I didn’t have one idea where to start. I got a couple of books – one of those For Dummies type of books, and Peter David’s excellent Writing for Comics and Graphic Novels. Now, instructional books are great, but (at least for me), they don’t motivate. Whatever I learn just gets filed away for future reference. So I still wasn’t making comics.

Peter’s book, though, had an appendix written by Andy Schmidt – where he mentioned his writing course at I looked it up online, and, though I had never taken an online course, I was intrigued. In terms of creating comics, taking the intro to writing course was definitely a good move for me.

The course was equal parts learning how to write a proper script and construct a story, and how to maneuver and network within the comics industry. I picked up a lot of great tips, but the most valuable thing to me was the fact that I had homework. I had a project! A deadline! Concrete goals I could work towards completing. It was electrifying – by the end of the course, I had a 5-page script called Gutter Magic – which is actually an intro piece to the larger story I had been writing as a novel.

And honestly, it almost ended there. The course was done – the script was finished. Nobody was cracking a whip over me to get it done. But I made a decision. I wanted to see my comic done. Even if it was just 5 pages – even if it was the one and only thing I ever did before sinking back into my day job.

So, using some tips I picked up from Andy and some more experienced classmates, I got out there and found a creative team. I was really lucky in the sense that I got good responses to the ads I put up on Penciljack, Digital Webbing, and elsewhere.

Jason Baroody was one of the first guys to contact me, and after seeing his samples, I knew he was the guy. He knocked it out of the park, as far as I was concerned; as did Paul John Little on colors, and E.T. Dollman on letters.

So, fast forward a month and a half, and I’ve got my first comic, ever. I get really excited. This was the litmus test. I can do this! I can do Gutter Magic, the gigantic, sprawling story that will be my masterpiece!

Um. No. Not yet. I thought about it, really thought about it for a while. I want Gutter Magic to be awesome – as close to perfect as it can be. I know I can write it, I know I can eventually produce it, but with only 5 pages under my belt, can I really be sure I’m doing things the best way I can do them?

I wasn’t sure. I felt like I needed to work with some other people – different artists, if for no other reason than to just confirm that I had a really good team on my hands. I decided to take some advice given from Dirk Manning, creator of Nightmare World. I decided to work on a series of short scripts first, with different teams. It made a lot of sense. I would rather run into some pitfalls on a small, 5-page project, than a full script, or series. I felt like I needed a little more of a warm up before tackling my first big project.

I feel like I made the right decision. I went from having zero experience, in January of this year, to having one complete script, drawn colored and lettered, and three more in various stages of production. I’m planning on putting them all together in a short volume called Gutter Magic: Welcome to Meridian, which will act as a lead in to the miniseries I have planned.

It’s exciting, frustrating, fun, and a lot of hard work. Not a day goes by where I’m not working on some aspect of this project – whether it’s the scripts, the website, or networking with other creators. I’m always busy. And I couldn’t be happier.

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Category: Trenches

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  1. Rich_Douek says:

    P.S. – If anyone would like to check out the actual comic, you can see it here:

  2. Tyler James says:

    Thanks for sharing this story, Rich. You know, it was a comics scriptwriting class that I took back in 2004 that got me back into creating comics after several years away from the medium. If you’re stuck, or in need of structure for your creative pursuits, I highly recommend classes, either in person at local continuing ed centers, or online, like Andy offers.

  3. Yannick Morin says:

    Rich, not only was this article very inspiring for someone like me who’s going through the same initial turmoils as you did, but also…


    Sorry, not using caps for that sentence just wasn’t strong enough to convey the feeling. Thanks for sharing it all, man.

  4. Janine N.F. says:

    Bravisimo, Rich! This article is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. Thank you for sharing your experiences – this is VERY motivating!
    Also, Gutter Magic is one hell of an awesome comic and an extremely intriguing story. I can’t wait to see who picks it up. I want to be able to go to my LCS and add it to my pull list right now! 🙂

  5. Nicely said, Rich. I have no idea why I didn’t notice the connection with Jason sooner. He’s wonderful! I hope we can spend some face to face time together at a con.

  6. Rich Douek says:

    Thank you everyone! Glad you enjoyed the article (and the comic). It feels really good to hear that you guys found it inspiring.

  7. dregj says:

    jesus christ!!!
    that’s an expensive course
    when you said i online i imagined a reasonable rate

  8. Rich Douek says:

    YMMV, obviously, but I thought the course was worth the price. Making the actual comic cost way more, and I feel like the course actually saved me money in the long run by pointing out potential pitfalls to avoid in the production process.

    In any case, its up to you whether or not to decide if its worth it or not. I can only say from my experience that I found it really helpful and have no regrets about the cost, or the time spent.

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