“We teach people how to make great comics and get them out in the world!” Andy Schmidt discusses the Comics Experience experience
Comics Experience started out as a teaching tool for aspiring pros, but they’ve branched out into the world of digital publishing with series like Tet, Gutter Magic and Deluge all debuting on ComiXology. Partnered with IDW Publishing they offer amazing new ways for creators to learn their skills and get work published. To find out more about we contacted founder Andy Schmidt to discover what the Comics Experience experience involves!
We’ve been seeing the name Comics Experience appear on a number of titles on ComiXology recently, (Tet, Deluge, Gutter Magic) can you tell us a bit about how and why that might be?
Andy Schmidt: We launched Comics Experience Digital on January 13 of last year – four titles were in the launch – they are Past The Last Mountain, Deluge, Wretched Things, and Karma Police. They are all 100% creator-owned and, in fact, the creators get 100% of the profits from these titles. Comics Experience’s mission, is to help passionate people hone their creative skills and help them develop very good projects.
That’s what Comics Experience was founded to do back in 2007 – teach people not only how to make GREAT comics, but also how to get those comics out in the world. So getting into publishing is a natural extension of that.
And launching on comiXology allows us to be more flexible about the type of content that we publish, where as our print program with IDW has a more rigid structure to it because the market forces are very different on print than they are on digital publishing—but that’s a whole other topic for another time—ha ha.
You seem to have a bit of a link to IDW Publishing as well can you tell us a bit about what that arrangement might be?
AS: IDW is a great partner. Our deal with them, which launched in January of 2015 is to publish about one comic per month that comes from our Creators Workshop. That’s not a lot of space when you consider that each project has multiple issues. So we can get about three mini-series out per year. And again, because of market forces, we’re more limited in genre, issue count and format, than we are with digital publishing.
Co-published with IDW, we’ve already released Tet – a critical and sales hit set in and after the Vietnam War, Drones – a surreal, dark comedy and satire about the relationship of entertainment, sex, and war, Creature Cops – a police procedural in a world where science has gene-spliced animals together into outrageous monsters, and Gutter Magic – an adventure tale set in a world in which WWII was fought with magic. All of those are already out, selling well, and getting great reviews.
As for what the deals look like with creators, they retain 100% ownership and control (except they grant us publishing rights so we can, you know, publish the books), of their property. On the print deal, because there’s so much more risk involved, I can’t pass all the profits back to the creators, but the majority of the profits split between Comics Experience and the creators goes to the creators.
You started out as a comics education service nearly 10 years ago, so can you tell us a bit about what made you start Comics Experience and how the company has evolved over the years?
AS: Wow, has it been that long? Ha ha. Well, I have two great passions when it comes to my work: 1. Comics and making them, and 2. Teaching.
I had just left Marvel editorial where I had worked closely on a number of very high profile projects and started teaching comics classes on writing and art. I had been a college instructor before I started at Marvel, so it was a natural merger of the two things I was trained to do and loved. Those courses quickly expanded into coloring, lettering, inking, and so on. We’ve got a whole flight of courses – even things like “Law for Comics Creators”.
The courses are online and they’re taught by real professionals – that means you can be anywhere with a decent internet connection and you can take the courses – we’ve had students on six continents and currently have alumni getting published on five continents. After we developed the line of courses, we then launched the online Creators Workshop, and that’s where we started to see full projects start to develop while getting feedback from peers and professionals alike. It’s an amazing place to learn and grow, whether someone is just starting out or a seasoned pro.
And while Comics Experience was growing over several years, I went back to work at IDW Publishing, hence our relationship with them, where I was a senior editor for three years. I went to Hasbro for a couple of years. And now I’m full time Comics Experience and my own writing and freelance work, which is pretty awesome.
Comics Experience’s core mission is help people become the creators they know they can be. We don’t teach “how to write like Andy” or “how to draw in Robert’s style.” We teach an approach that gives our students and our Creators Workshop members a framework that allows for their creative vision to come out in the best possible way – in the creator’s way. We want to help new creators be creative, not paint by numbers. And we believe that in doing this, we’ll help the comics industry as a whole.
Which of the titles that you have recently released are you proudest of, or most excited by, and can you tell us about any new titles that are coming soon?
AS: Ah, man, that’s a trap! I’m not going to pick just one. As the publisher, and as a mentor and friend to many of the creators involved, I can’t pick just one. I’m so proud of all of the projects and their creators. I really can’t under-sell how difficult it is to get a creator-owned comic off the ground. Just getting the right people involved and committed, and developing the project and all of that is an absolutely monumental task. And so ANYONE that can do that has a lot to be proud of already.
One thing that I’m proud of is the diversity of the kinds of content we publish. We don’t look down on any genre or any type of creator or style. We celebrate diversity in creators and in creativity. We are willing to publish things that are risky, and I think Drones is a perfect example of that. There’s a book that some folks just won’t get. It’s risky, but it’s well-crafted and it does what it sets out to do and it’s darn good. And I think Tet is another example of that. There aren’t a lot of “war” comics, and this one really isn’t one in the traditional sense. It’s also a “romance” comic and a “mystery” all at the same time. But it’s so good that it made several “best of 2015” lists at the end of the year.
So, yeah, I’m really proud of the work these creators have done and I’m proud of what Comics Experience is beginning to represent in the industry as a publisher, beyond a great place to learn how to make comics.
For any creators looking to get involved with Comics Experience what services are you offering and how do people get in touch?
AS: The easiest thing is to go to our website: www.ComicsExperience.com and take a look at our comics courses, the Creators Workshop, and the publishing program. And it’s worth noting that the publishing program is an extension of the Creators Workshop. So in order for a project to be considered for publication, one of the requirements (there aren’t may requirements) is that some portion of it has to have been workshopped. In some ways, the publishing is a showcase of how great the talent is in there – and not everyone starts off that way, all creators grow through hard work and critiquing and discussion.
We offer several introductory courses as well as Master Seminars that are awesome. Our next Master Seminar is with David Finch and that’s on March 12, so be sure to check that out if you’re an artist—or if you just want to spend about five hours watching Finch work online and hear about how he approaches his work, his career and all kinds of cool stuff.
You can purchase Deluge, Gutter Magic, Karma Police, Past the Last Mountain, Tet and The Wretched Things from ComiXology and for more information about their Creators Workshops then visit the Comics Experience website