Friday, April 05, 2013

Free Comic Book Day 2013 at Grimsby Public Library

I'm honoured to be participating in Free Comic Book Day celebrations on Satuday, May 4 at Grimsby Public Library.  Should be a wonderful time for all with everything from free comic books, to free cartooning workshops for kids, to prizes for wearing your favourite comic costume!

The day's events will be taking place in the shared lobby between the library and the Grimsby Public Art Gallery, as well as a classroom within the gallery for our cartooning workshops.

Please note that there is an advance registration for the workshops with a maximum of 30 participants in each, so don't wait or it may be too late!

Here's a text-copy of the day's schedule.

Saturday, May 4 / 2:00-4:00pm

Meet cartoonist Mike Cope
and pick up your free comic while they last!

2:00 - 2:30 pm / meet Mike in lobby
2:30 - 3:00 pm / Workshop #1 (maximum 30 participants)
3:00 - 3:30 pm / Mike's Comics: Show & Tell
3:30 - 4:00 / Workshop #2 (maximum 30 participants)

To register for a free workshop, or tell us you'd like to display some of your own comic art, email: and put FCBD in the subject line.  Or, call us at 905-945-5142.

Wear your favourite comic costume and you could win a prize!

Hope to see you there... Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Monday, March 04, 2013

FEBTOR 2013 - Part 2: C.B. Cebulski, Disney-Marvel

Time to share some more of my notes and reflections from Autodesk SketchBook Pro's FEBTOR 2013.
My introduction and presentation notes from Pixar story artist, Alex Woo, are available in Part 1.

FEBTOR 2013: C.B. Cebulski (Marvel/Disney)

Senior Vice President Marvel/Disney
“a.k.a. Talent Scout”

C.B. Cebulski was an encore presenter from last year's SketchBook Toronto Event.  Last year, he focussed primarily on comic book portfolio in's and out's--specifically, what he looks for as talent scout for Marvel & Disney.  And so, with this year's presentations themed on "storytelling," it was great to hear him speak again.

C.B. began his presentation by noting how comics are "a perfect global medium."  To him, there are no language barriers in comics because the art speaks to everyone.  Comics are a visual storytelling medium.

In his talent scout role, C.B. meets aspiring and professional comic artists from all around the world.  Even though he may not speak the native-tongue, if the cartoonist has done their job well, all of a story’s action and emotion will be understandable without the speech balloons.

With a nod to Marvel Comics history, C.B. then talked a little about the inner creative and marketing debates between “storytelling covers” (those that hint of the story events within a comic book) vs. “pin-up covers” (those that just look great hanging on a wall).  For C.B., there is no debate.  A great comic book cover can be both.

Next, C.B. Cebulski described how storytelling is everywhere, even in food.  Referring to world-renown chef, Susur Lee (the opening speaker from last year’s SketchBook Toronto Event), Cebulski noted how the different courses of a meal take you on a journey -- a story written by the chef.

Another medium where C.B. sees great storytelling is in television commercials, especially SuperBowl ads.  The two examples he used were Volkswagen’s 2012 ad featuring a kid dressed as Darth Vader using the Force, and Budweiser’s 2013 clydesdales horses.  One humorous, one an emotional tear-jerker, but both great short stories...

“Heart First, Powers Second.”

Speaking more specifically about storytelling at Marvel Comics, C.B. Cebulski described how the creative teams take annual story retreats together, where they determine each Marvel character’s story arc for the entire year.  They outline where a character will be at the start of their journey (or publishing year), and where they will be at the end.  The exact events and specific details are not as evident, but by the end of the retreat, everyone knows what direction each character is headed.

As to the exact events and specific details of each character’s story, C.B. notes that the best comic stories are more about a character’s alter-ego than their costume/powers.  C.B. summarized this nicely as “Heart first, Powers second.”  Interestingly, C.B. used Peter Parker vs. Spider-Man as an example here, then followed-up by saying it’s important to not be afraid to sacrifice in order to tell a good story.  Readers need to feel they get their monies worth.

*ahem* ... R.I.P. Peter Parker.

COVER ART: Amazing Spider-Man #700 - Death of Peter Parker

Breaking into Comics vs. Staying in Comics

C.B. Cebulski concluded his presentation with some "storytelling" portfolio suggestions for aspiring comic book artists.  Before doing so, he noted how the Internet has busted down many of the gates that prevented younger talent from getting noticed before.  Today, some seasoned comic artists feel it's almost more difficult to retain work (or "stay in comics") because it seems there's that many more new talents finding work with the big name publishers like Marvel & Disney.

On backgrounds... In Marvel stories, New York City is a character as much as any other.  Something frequently being suggested to artists is to “pull back” the camera and show more background details.  You want readers to feel like they are in that world.

On body language and facial expressions... This goes back to what C.B. said at the start about comics being a visual storytelling medium.  One particular critique was on the often seen “gritting teeth” expression -- you know, that copy-and-paste face that’s used whether a character is happy, sad, or angry -- Don’t do that!!

On YOUR own story... C.B. Cebulski suggests focussing on telling your own story.  This not only applies to the art that you put in your portfolio, but also how you present yourself as an artist.  Use social media, tell your own stories.  For example, if you enjoy photography, don’t be afraid to share it.  Yes, you can draw cool pictures, but who are you as a person?  A key ingredient to the story is the personality you bring as an artist.
And so intrepid cartoonists, don't be afraid to share your work with the world.  Let potential clients know who you are.  Build a nice online portfolio and presence.

For as C.B. said (with a nod to the movie Field of Dreams), “If you build it, they will come.” 

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

UP NEXT:  Notes from FEBTOR 2013 presentations by members of The RAID Studio.

Friday, February 22, 2013

AutoDesk SketchBook’s FebTor 2013 - (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I received an email invitation from Chris Cheung, Product Line Manager for SketchBook Pro by Autodesk.  He was planning a sequel to the ‘SketchBook Toronto’ event that took place in March 2012 at Autodesk’s Toronto office.  Chris called this year’s event “FEBTOR 2013.”

Now, I’ve previously attended events hosted by other software companies, but they’ve been little more than glorified commercials for the product line.  Rather than going home inspired, you wish you could have pressed “skip” on your DVR and saved a valuable day.

Forget the skip button with Chris and his team at Autodesk.  To them, the most important ingredients are the people.  And their events reflect this, from start to “finish.” (I use quotes there because the events really are just a starting point).

The original event was themed “Inspiration” and it had an amazing lineup of speakers, including newly published children’s book illustrator, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, who was incredibly kind to invite me as a guest.  Debbie has a great reflection of the entire day on her blog and photos on Flickr.  And I highly recommend that you also check out her amazing work!

What I remembered most about the first event was the overall level of positive energy.  Throughout the day, I had the pleasure of meeting many talented artists, including both aspiring and professional cartoonists, and so, there was no question about accepting Chris’s invitation to attend FEBTOR 2013.

After taking a few days to reflect, I still feel very fortunate to have attended.

The theme for this year’s event was “Storytelling,” something entirely relatable and relevant to any cartoonist.  The diversity of the speakers kept each presentation fresh and inspirational, while complementary.

I tried my best to tweet photos during the day, but I also scratched a modest handful of notes during the presentations.  Rather than keep them all to myself, I'd like to share them with you...

My notes from FEBTOR 2013 at Autodesk SketchBook.

Pixar Story Artist

What better way to start a series of presenters on “Storytelling” than a story artist from the world famous studio where their mantra is, “Story is King.”

Alex opened by introducing us to a few of his favourite movies as a kid.  He joked about how, as a boy, he fell in love with Lea Thompson in Back to The Future, yet this romance was short-lived after seeing her in Howard the Duck.  Similarly Nala in Disney’s Lion King and Ariel in The Little Mermaid didn’t seem as appealing in their poorly written animated sequels.  As funny as it sounds, the quality of a film’s story had an affect on how attracted he was to the female leading roles -- animated or animal!

FEBTOR 2013 presentation sketch from Alex Woo
Pixar Story Artist, Alex Woo, presenting at SketchBook's FEBTOR 2013.

Alex then delved into the story process involved in creating an animated feature film, including the creative problem solving that takes place involving plot, dialogue, and even the overall theme.  An interesting example was how one of Alex’s high school memories inspired one of the most memorable lines in Disney-Pixar’s WALL•E, where the Captain says, “I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”

For those who haven't seen the movie (you should!!), here's a clip of the scene that I found on YouTube...

But WHY is story King?

According to Alex Woo, it comes down to global themes (ex. power and love).  The values presented in stories reflect the values of a society.  A society’s culture shapes the way people think.  On a more local level, the stories are relatable, even to children.  They invoke empathy.  Stories are about human relationships.  And human relationships give meaning to our lives.