Last month, Pronto Comics brought its semi-annual networking and creative workshop, Phrases to Pages (P2P) to Big Apple Con.
For those who have yet to attend, the main event at P2P is Pronto’s writing and drawing contest, in which aspiring writers and artists are paired up, given a phrase, and instructed to create a one-page comic based on a phrase. The work is then judged by professionals from the comics industry, and first, second, and third place winners receive prizes and get published in a special P2P comic book.
P2P Con Edition was the first time the event was held right at a comic convention, but it certainly won’t be the last!
The phrase this time was: “Oh the things you can do with a sorcerer’s stone.”
We were very fortunate to get some great judges, including the talented Jim Shaw, who co-founded Blu Trinity Comics. Shaw holds an Associate’s Degree in Studio Art and is the creator of such projects as Will Draw for Food. Here, he shares with us part of his comic book-making journey and what it was like judging P2P.
Pronto Presents: What got you into cartooning and illustrating, and how long have you been working in comics?
Jim Shaw: As a kid, like many people, I grew up during the anime explosion of the early 2000s with shows like Pokemon, Dragonball Z, Inu Yasha, Yu Yu Hakusho, Cowboy Bebop, and a ton of other cool and awesome shows. I loved the style and wanted to emulate that kind of work. It’s been a tough road, and I still don’t think I’m there yet, but it’s what started me down this road of making comics and illustration.
PP: Tell us about some of your new or upcoming projects.
JS: Aside from Will Draw for Food, which is my gag-a-day style comic, I’m working on two other major projects. One is a long form comic that I’ve been developing for the past couple of years and is still in the concept art phase. Its title is Ember, but that may be subject to change as time goes on. It’s an action-adventure comic inspired by games like Final Fantasy, with the adventure feel of a shonen manga (Japanese comics aimed at younger boys). The other is a graphic novel adaptation of the album An American Prayer, by The Doors. This will be done entirely traditionally and is meant as a means to take me away from the more modernized world of digital comics.
PP: What interested you in being a judge for P2P?
JS: I’ve always been an advocate for comic art as an academic subject, much like Scott McCloud and Will Eisner before me. However, I haven’t had much opportunity to exercise my knowledge of the subject outside of a few classes and workshops I teach here and there. This judge position was an excellent opportunity for me to share what I know.
PP: What do you feel makes for a good comic art?
JS: Artwork comes in many different forms and styles, as does storytelling. What matters to me most is how the writing and the art complement each other in the process of delivering the narrative. I can’t tell you how many potentially amazing stories I’ve put down, simply because the artwork didn’t carry the story, and vice versa. It’s also important to note that one does not only need the technical knowhow and skill of drawing and writing, but also how to convey story on a page. With new technology as well, one should always be conscious of the variety of media they are publishing on, and how that will change the reader’s experience.
PP: What do you feel makes for a good collaboration in comics?
JS: Collaboration requires a lot of understanding from both parties, but not only that, a lot of motivation is required as well. When one leg of the chair begins to wobble, the whole chair does too. It’s always important to keep each other in check without becoming overbearing.
PP: In what direction would you like to see the comics industry go for aspiring creators?
JS: I do see the world of smart phones, tablets, and online webcomics really changing the way the world sees comics. With the availability of sites such as Tapastic and Webtoons, one really does not need a publisher or a contact in the local newspaper to have their comic seen anymore. And with sites like Patreon, the opportunity to be financially supported by your fans also presents a potentially viable lifestyle if done correctly.
The way we consume media has dramatically changed in the past decade, and it’s your job as a content creator to be able to keep up with trends. As Scott McCloud put it, “The comics industry is like a fast moving train that never stops at the same station twice.”
Personally, I was always a fan of the many ways movement can be conveyed on an 8.5” x 11” page, but the virtual industry has really changed that in a way where it can’t be conveyed like it used to. Though I’m a little sad to see that go, I am interested in seeing what new and exciting techniques the digital world can present to us as artists!
PP: Share a bit of your personal story about how you broke into comics.
JS: Haha, well, ask any comic artist, and they’ll tell you that they don’t really think they’ve made it. In fact, it’s really hard to tell. A lot of content creators hide behind this veil of “faking it” until they realize they’re sitting at a table at a convention talking to hundreds of fans. And even then, it kind of just gently taps them on the shoulder like, “Hey…I think I’m an ‘official’ comic artist now.”
It’s a surreal experience to some people. I just had a fan of mine put me on the same level as another comic artist that I look up to, and I was just like, “Wow! Really? You think I’m like…their level? You must be on something!”
I mean, I do have a whole big dramatic story of how I overcame obstacles to break into the industry, but I’ll save that for another interview. Too melodramatic for some, and your mileage may vary.
Really, though, a lot of it is just about being a decent person, communicating with other people (especially those you look up to), and putting yourself out there. It’s important to remember that the people you look up to, are just that—people. They get up in the morning same as you, they have their tragic backstory, they struggle to motivate themselves to leave their warm beds, they love, they laugh, they cry. They’re just as human as you are, and if they can do it, so can you.
Jim also has a Patreon, where supporters can get access to exclusive comics.