View Full Version : My book "Comics Creator Prep" just published by About Comics

Lee Nordling
06-25-2016, 07:34 PM
Hi, all!

The press release, which can be viewed in full here http://www.firstcomicsnews.com/?p=221427 , contains the following overview:

"Comics Creator Prep" offers a self-paced course for creators interested in considerably compressing a potential ten-year learning curve for the craft of sequential art storytelling. Where inspiration and spontaneity prime a comic’s pump, create a vision, propel it forward, and give it life, "Comics Creator Prep" raises the level of comics craft to give a creator the requisite tools to consistently realize that vision. For those serious about working in comics (an ironic consideration, indeed), "Comics Creator Prep" shows creators how to use the tools in their comics toolboxes well.


For those interested or only curious, Amazon.com has included a HUGE "Look Inside" section, which contains the foreword by Marv Wolfman, my introduction, chapters 1 and 2, and part of chapter 3. This preview should give anybody a really good idea of whether the book is for them or somebody they know.


In addition to getting a terrific foreword by Marv, Bryan Talbot, Dave Roman, and Paul Levitz contributed blurbs that made me blush.

Anyway, this is all by way of sharing, because so many people here were instrumental in helping shape this book, which evolved from my "Comics Pro Prep" column that ran on projectfanboy.com

For any of you who check it out (even just the free Amazon "Look Inside" pages), I would be thrilled to read your reactions.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.


Steven Forbes
06-25-2016, 07:59 PM
Screw that, folks.

Go out and buy the book. I went and ordered it already.

Lee's Comic Pro Prep course ran alongside the first iteration of The Proving Grounds at Projectfanboy. I took the "course" myself, learning a lot as I did.

Honestly, if you're serious about making comics, this is the book to get.

(I feel like a used car salesman.)

Lee, do me (and yourself) a favor and list your credits, both editing and writing? This way, people will know who you are, instead of just being some guy who's being endorsed by that Forby jerk.

He's won awards for his writing, folks, and has two Eisner noms under his belt.

Get the damned book!

-Steven (who's going to be reading the book as soon as it gets in)

06-25-2016, 08:02 PM
Screw that, folks.

Go out and buy the book.

I'll order it from Amazon today! Thanks.

Lee Nordling
06-25-2016, 08:39 PM
Thanks, Steven, for the nudge...and to James, too, for taking Steven's other nudge.

And Steven's right--sorry, folks--I forgot to re-introduce myself.

I'm a comics creator, editor, designer, and book packager. I have, over the decades--yeah, I'm an old guy, but still young at heart (because my wife says I still act like a child)--worked with a lot of new, experienced, and A-level talent.

I mention this because this book isn't just a "how to make comics" book; it's a distillation of every important aspect of the field I imparted on a daily basis to hundreds of creators who wanted or needed help making their comics.

I call the book "A Comics Course for Writers and Artists" because it is largely structured like a classroom, and imaginary "students" tackle the assignments, make the same mistakes more people beginning make, and then we identify the problems, and then we fix them.

I hung around Digital Webbing for a number of years, meeting cool people like Steven, and contributed on the DW-originated anthology "Once Upon A Time Machine" with my story "Silver-Hair & The Three Xairs."

Here's most of my bio, as it appears in the back of the book:

Lee Nordling is an Eisner-nominated and award-winning writer, editor, designer, and creative director. He worked on staff at the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Disney Publishing, DC Comics, Nickelodeon Magazine, and Platinum Studios. His book, The Bramble, won the 2013 Moonbeam Gold Medal for Picture Books (ages 4-8), and BirdCatDog, a 2015 Eisner Awards nominee, received the Moonbeam Spirit Award Gold Medal for “Imagination,” and was chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best children’s books of the year. SheHeWe, the third book in his Three-Story Books series, was a 2016 Eisner Award nominee for Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8).


Another blurb by Danny Fingeroth is on the back cover:

“If you’ve ever wished you had someone to walk you through the potential pinnacles and pitfalls of a career in comics, then Lee Nordling’s "Comic Creator Prep" is the book for you. In this guide to a plethora of perplexing situations you’re likely to find yourself in at one point or another in the world of sequential art, Nordling delivers a Master Class in the creative and business issues that confront pretty much everyone who’s ever tried to tell a story in words and pictures. Lee will help you avoid many common mistakes comics beginners—and grizzled pros, for that matter—often make. And for those times when you do find yourself in the middle of a thorny situation, his insights and advice should enable you to dig your way out faster and more gracefully than you otherwise would have.”

--Danny Fingeroth, comics writer, editor and historian; author of books including "Superman on the Couch: What Superheroes Really Tell Us About Ourselves and Our Society"


Is that enough, Steven, or do you want the comics and book credits, too?

Seriously, I'm happy to answer any questions anybody has.

It all continues to be part of the process.

Lee Nordling
06-25-2016, 11:16 PM
One added thought: Marv Wolfman wrote the Foreword to the book, and it's excellent, and not just because he warned you away from buying the book because it could generate too much competition for him.

Marv begins with a pretty lengthy overview of the beginning of the comics business, putting it into perspective for what we Baby Boomers had to deal with, since the people who'd invented and developed the form were still so active in it.

Then he explains how the Boomers learned from the first generation.

And then he explains how the ability to learn from the previous generations stopped, or came close to it.

And THEN he explains where "Comics Creator Prep" fills that need.

The Foreword is free as part of Amazon's Look Inside pages.

Check it out.

It made me want to buy my own book just to see what I could learn from myself. (Imagine the smiley face icon here)


Lee Nordling
06-27-2016, 01:48 PM
The juggernaut continues (just kidding)!

"Comics Creator Prep" is the #1 (print) and #2 (Kindle) of Amazon's Hot New Releases in the "How to Create Comics" category!


Seriously, I get that we're not talking Fiction or Graphic Novel categories here, but I did beat out the pre-orders for the Supergirl coloring book. (Imagine the smiley face icon here.)

Anyway, just sharing.

Steven Forbes
06-27-2016, 03:45 PM
Just imagine the sales of a Power Girl adult coloring book...

06-27-2016, 03:59 PM
I just got the book arriving in the mail. I'll be back to this after reading it.
Right away it feel is a solid book.

I will like to recommend "your career in the comics" by the same Lee Nordling.
Very good reading. Although I would call it "Your career in the comics strips cartooning". Because it is all about comics strips cartooning for newspapers rather than comics books.


Lee Nordling
06-27-2016, 04:32 PM
Thanks, Scribbly!

Yep, "Your Career In the Comics" (Andrews & McMeel, 1995) is about the business of newspaper comic strip syndication, and while much of its focus on the creative challenges and the business is still relevant, it also predated the use of computers and the Internet as tools and delivery systems.

That book was compiled with excerpts from a series of interviews with cartoonists, syndicate executives, and newspaper executives, and remains the definitive work on the industry.

Where the books differ is that "Your Career In the Comics" defines the challenges, and "Comics Creator Prep" shows how to address and overcome the challenges.

Again, Scribbly, thanks for the plug!


06-27-2016, 04:32 PM
This looks great, Lee! I've added it to my Amazon cart!

Steven Forbes
06-27-2016, 05:29 PM
Got an alert text saying it was delivered, but I'm at work! I head home in 30 min, though, and then it's reading and editing and more reading.

Screwtape Jenkins
06-28-2016, 12:44 AM
Steven's word is enough for me.

Gettin' it.

Lee Nordling
06-29-2016, 11:57 AM
One favor to anybody who bought and read my book: please post your thoughts in an amazon.com review.

Word of mouth (good and bad) is everything.



Lee Nordling
07-12-2016, 11:31 PM
Now that some time has passed, I want to float this request again.

If you've read the book, would you please add a review to the amazon page.

This may be the only way anybody else knows what you do and don't think is valuable.


Steven Forbes
07-14-2016, 09:07 PM
If you've got the book, folks, and have done some reading of it, let's give Lee a hand and post a review.

I already have (I gave it one star...I'd have given it half a star if I could. One star means I loved it, right?), and it's not like Lee is asking for much.

You've already bought the book. Give the man your thoughts on Amazon, where others will be able to see your thoughts, too. Help others make the (right) decision of buying the book and learning invaluable lessons.


Lee Nordling
07-14-2016, 10:08 PM
Thanks, Steven (no not that one)!

I really appreciate the great review!

Re. anybody else who has questions about what they read (even if it's Marv Wolfman's Foreword, my Introduction, and the first 2+ chapters that you can read for FREE in the LOOK INSIDE section), feel free to ask.

Michael Ford
07-15-2016, 10:11 PM
I'm convinced. I just bought the book and I'll get it within the week.

How did you get Marv Wolfman to do the foreword? There has to be a good story behind that.

Lee Nordling
07-15-2016, 10:26 PM
Ummm...Marv is one my best friends in the world.

We worked together at Disney, when I was in Creative Services/Publications and he was the Comics Editor at "Disney Adventures."

He was my editor on some stories I wrote, and I was his editor on some stuff that he wrote, and we've always gotten along well, loved talking comics, loved talking comics craft.

When watching us walk ahead of them, with our distinctive walks, our wives just shook their heads and said, "Separated at birth."

But Marv meant everything he wrote in the introduction, especially the part about telling people to not buy or read my book because it would create too much competition. (Imagine the smiley face icon)

'nuff said.

Michael Ford
07-15-2016, 11:06 PM
That is a great story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

I'm looking forward to reading your book.

07-19-2016, 08:57 AM
I left a positive review at Amazon. I read the Kindle version, and did the exercises in the first few chapters, loved what they taught me, and am sorry to say I got impatient and I just had to read the whole rest of the book in one go :-)

The book is absolutely brilliant! A must read, even for people who think they already know the craft.

I really, really love how the exercises are set up, with a discussion of homework handed in by the fictitious students. This helps show what the book is trying to teach, and helps me apply them critically to my own work. It works well, as it elaborates. My scripts are in serious trouble now!

I will be returning to the book and revisiting the homework exercises of course, and I will be redoing them over and over, applying them to my script to isolate the problem areas. Wax on, wax off...

There is a lot of information packed into this book. It is a nice thing to have handy. Thank you for this wonderful book, Mr. Nordling!

Steven Forbes
07-19-2016, 04:57 PM
Another convert!

My job here is done.

Lee Nordling
07-20-2016, 12:41 PM
Thanks for all the kind words, Ayalpinkus!

And I'm especially thrilled you saved the years it would have taken you to learn much of this on your own.

The book appears to have worked for you as I hoped it would/intended it to do.

Since you know from reading the book, that writing with intention (and achieving it) is the ultimate goal of the craft, I am quite pleased.

Getting your response is why I wrote the book.

BTW, for those who are even remotely interested, there's a chapter in the book on comic script writing styles.

Yes, it shows you the stuff you probably already know, and it does cover the advantages and disadvantages of each...

...but it also shows you how to write in two PREVIOUSLY UNDOCUMENTED STYLES.

The first way is a method Marv Wolfman created for "A Man Called AX"; I call it the Marv Method (as Marv would never use such a name for it himself).

The second way is rather extraordinary in a historical and creative context; it was invented by Dan O'Neill and used by him and the Air Pirates for the comics pages they collaborated on in their famous/infamous Air Pirate Funnies (which caused a suit to be brought on them by The Walt Disney Company).

This second method shows how a group of writers can effectively collaborate on a comic, without ANY of them knowing where it's going.

Some of their story is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Pirates

Background info about Dan is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_O%27Neill

The Air Pirates comics covers are here: http://www.recalledcomics.com/AirPirates1and2.php

Anyway, the Air Pirate Method of creating comics is still revolutionary (just like them), and virtually unknown by any outside the inner circle of creators until now.

07-20-2016, 04:24 PM
Lee is a clever bird. On the strength of his free art direction, now I'm compelled to check this book out!

07-22-2016, 02:04 AM
I just started chapter 3, and, I have to say, I'm very disappointed. I mean, Comics Panel Time-Master? Really? Not Time Lord? What a waste...

Other than that the book seems to be very good.

The main thing I want to mention is having other students' answers to the assignments. It's genius. Aside from allowing you to go a little more in-depth with the concepts, there's also something oddly comforting about knowing that someone else already got the assignment wrong. Knowing someone else already failed makes you more comfortable with getting an answer wrong, which in turn helps you learn more effectively.

Lee Nordling
07-22-2016, 10:18 PM
Yeah, I really missed ripping off Doctor Who in the chapter where I wrote my first Spirit story. I should've gone for it!

This painful failure on my part aside, gmartyt, I'm thrilled (TRULY thrilled) you're getting from the faux student interaction what I hoped you'd get.

It's kinda like knowing the Jeopardy answers when you're not actually on the show and having to slam down on the buzzer before the other guy.

Michael Ford
07-23-2016, 08:54 PM
I'm actually glad you didn't use a Doctor Who reference there. Too many people already do that and I could use a breather. Plus, this book will still be relevant in 20 years. Doctors Who might not.

I also appreciate the students in the book. They allow you to give a formal explanation and then repeat it in the simplest way possible, which is a huge help and hammers in that repetitiveness without feeling redundant. The answers they give are good to help provide examples that would be closer to what I use in the assignment. It's okay if I didn't do something close to one student because there are others who I will probably be closer to.

It was a big surprise to me how casual the language is in this book. I expected it to be more formal, especially since you've clearly been in the business for so long that you give off a professor vibe. If anything, the tone of this book reminds me a lot of Steven Forbes writing in his Bolts and Nuts articles.

Steven Forbes
07-23-2016, 10:47 PM
When I was writing my articles, I wanted to do three things:

1. I wanted to make sure things were well covered, so I would say things in different ways in an effort to make sure readers understood.

2. I wanted to make sure there was a sense of history for things that have gone before (I feel that we have lost a lot of our history due to time and the advent of technology).

3. I wanted to make sure that I didn't sound stuffy so that it didn't sound like reading a textbook. (This is the main reason there are a lot of parentheticals--I wanted the asides to feel conversational, very much like this.)

It sounds like I reached at least one of those goals.

Thanks, Michael!

Anyway, Lee's book is absolutely fantastic. Do the lessons. They will do you a world of good.

Lee Nordling
07-25-2016, 01:04 AM
Thanks for your thoughts, Michael.

Re. the tone, I was more interested in being conversational, sharing how things work and can work, and keeping it interesting. I never liked reading sentences that required so much parsing that I still wasn't sure what they said.

Re. the review of Mr. A. Z. Pinkus, aka ayalpinkus, that was an amazing review, mostly for how much ground you covered in the review. I think you did a real service to prospective readers who can read that and decide if the book is for them.

Following up on that, and to confirm what ayalpinkus wrote, this isn't a book on how to design the comics page, and there are many excellent books on that top. However, the book IS for artists who need to understand how the average reader will view what she/he draws in a panel, because, knowing that is followed by the ability to direct the eye...and no, I didn't cover that; it's implicit from understanding how comics read and what can and can't be perceived.

I appreciate the work that went into writing that review, and to you, too, Steven, for your constant efforts.

Steven, your goals in writing what you write are my goals in writing what I write.

Stay the course!

Ingrid K. V. Hardy
07-27-2016, 09:16 AM
I just went and bought the book and look forward to reading it, and doing the assignments! Looked at the preview and honestly, it looks like a keeper. Can't wait to get it. Maybe it's the book that will finally help me understand.

Lee Nordling
07-28-2016, 10:02 PM
Thanks, Ingrid, and if you have any questions (the same goes for everybody else, too) I'll be happy to fill any of the gaps in explanations and/or to connect any unconnected dots.

Steve Colle
08-10-2016, 08:50 AM
I've just placed the order for it, Lee. Having read your previous articles on pitch writing and knowing your experience in this industry, I know that this will be a hugely valuable resource. I will also be suggesting my international clients look into purchasing this book themselves.

Lee Nordling
08-11-2016, 01:17 AM
Thanks, Steve!

As I've mentioned before, if anybody has any questions about what they read in the book, I'll be happy to field the questions.

The book is the classroom, but this site with the questions, examples, and answers is even closer to the training ground.

Steve Colle
08-12-2016, 03:39 PM
I'd be interested, as an editor, to receive any guidance towards expanding my knowledge in that particular area. Though I've been an editor in comics for over 25 years and have taught creators and aspiring editors about that aspect of the craft, I've never stopped learning more about my own role.

There isn't much online for this type of reference and very, very little in print resources. Any suggestions or planned material from yourself in this regards coming up?

Thanks for your openness to teaching.

Lee Nordling
08-13-2016, 10:27 PM
Hi, Steve.

Which particular area are you referring to?


Let me know, and I'll be happy to share whatever I can.

Thanks again.

Steve Colle
08-15-2016, 01:20 AM
Hi Lee,

Have you ever read CREATING COMICS FROM START TO FINISH by Buddy Scalera? It's probably one of the best and most comprehensive reference books on comic creation that I've read. It's also not very often that a writer includes material on editing for comics as deliberate content in their reference book. In this particular title, 17 pages are dedicated to editing. Unfortunately, most content - if not all - deals with the administrative aspects, which is great on one level and lacking on another.

To those I teach comic editing to, I give samples of different creative stages and ask them to tell me their thoughts. Then I ask them to look deeper, giving some cues as to what to look for. I ask them to consider alternative ways to present what's there in a way that would help with clarity, misunderstanding, etc. Then I ask them to consider others who would be reading this same material, those coming from different levels of awareness and understanding, in order to look outside of their own solitary opinions. And so on and so on...

I find that part of being an effective editor is being a proverbial 'jack of all trades, master of none' of the creative positions and process, from writer to penciller, inker to letterer, and so on. They need to understand what makes a well written story and how to present it in this medium. They need to know how sequential art works and the language associated with it. They need to know how font size, balloon placement, negative space in the balloon, and so forth makes or breaks the readability of the story. And etcetera.

With this being my viewpoint of the creative knowledge a comic editor requires, I'd like to hear what your thoughts are and if you have any guidance in this regards, not just for myself, but for others reading this and for those who want to edit comics - whether self-publisher, small press editor, freelance editor, or those looking to find work in the big leagues.

Thanks again,


Lee Nordling
08-15-2016, 01:46 PM
Hey, Steve.

I'll be happy to offer some thoughts about editing, those that go beyond my "Editors Are Like A Box of Chocolates" chapter in CCP.

I'll start broad, then we can go into details.

First, there are two types of books that an editor gets: something brought from the outside by a creator and/or team; something that the publisher has the rights to (whether they own it or have licensed it) and need to bring creators to work on it.

Now, there's also the question of whether the book is for a property (new or existing) owned by the creator or one the publisher already owns or controls.

This is a major fork in the road for what an editor does.

Let's start with a property the publisher owns or controls: they're the dog and the creator is the tail. There are nuances to this, like what a name-creator brings to the interpretation of the property, but they are STILL serving at the pleasure (and displeasure) of the publisher. We can discuss this process later and in detail if you want to, but let's set it aside for now.

Now let's discuss what happens when a creator owns a property and brings it to a publisher. There are two extremes for how an editor will behave here: the editor identifies and shepherds the original vision that was agreed to; the editor forces the creators to do what she/he wants them to do.

I was on a comics editor panel at Comic-Con (in San Diego) a number of years ago. Each of us had decades in the business, and we all agreed that the former was the "right" way to approach a book brought to us by a creator.

To be clear, this doesn't mean just doing what the creator wants; it means identifying the project we agreed to publish, then holding the creator to that standard. See how "personal opinion" gets shoved aside by "what was agreed to." Now, there can be personal opinion about whether something works or not in accomplishing "what was agreed to," and an editor with an even temperament and a high enough level of craft can point out where something does and doesn't work. If they can't...well, that's perhaps part of an expanded discussion.

Regarding editors who take on projects that were brought in by creators, and then get the creators to produce a book that fulfills (for whatever reason) the editor's vision, there are many reasons this happens, but the biggest reasons are either "the editor behaving like a creator (for numerous additional reasons, which we can discuss later)," or a perceived need to adapt the original vision into something that accomplishes an agreed-upon-goal by the creator and editor.

The first of these two is some version of ego: the editors making changes because they can. Maybe they're frustrated creators who want their fingerprints on books, or are so inexperienced they don't know how to identify what is and isn't working but still know what they want to see changed and know how they want it changed, rather than offering the problem for the creators to find fixes on their own. Or maybe they're like the corrupt editor I worked with but won't name who was handed a line of creator-originated books and simply decided he knew what was best and steamrolled over all of them because he could. (Luckily this guy is no longer an editor and is working for a non-profit organization that's helping people, so perhaps his Karma is improving.)

Now to the editor who has a different or modified vision for a project that’s brought to her/him. There’s a fine but distinctive line between this editor and the previous editor, and the distinction is defined by the involvement of the creator in agreeing to the different or modified vision. If the creator doesn’t want to have the vision changed, they are free to take their project elsewhere. If they do agree to the different or modified vision, then they are bound to producing that version.

What gets interesting here are the reasons an editor might need to change the original vision, and the reason is that she/he likely has to reconcile competing agendas: what the creator offered; what the editor needs (for aesthetic and/or commercial reasons).

Now, the editor’s “NEED” can be real or perceived, and the distinction between the two is a huge gray area.

At Platinum Studios, I worked with a LOT of new talent, people with interesting ideas who often didn’t have the level of requisite craft to produce the book they created. (ADVERTISEMENT: Read “Comics Creator Prep” for how to achieve that level of craft.)

Sometimes I was the guy who determined whether creators were accomplishing what they set out to do, and sometimes I was the guy who said, “That’s a really interesting idea, but I think this aspect of your proposal is a much more interesting story.”

BTW, “Calvin & Hobbes” started as a family strip, and an editor said (in essence), “I’d like to see the strip centered around the kid and his stuffed tiger.” That direction worked out pretty well.

And I’ve been on the receiving end of this, too. I proposed a new comics property, and the editor said, “I really am more interested in the innocent bad guy in your story than the anti-hero who defends him; can you build a series around him?” He ended up liking what I produced, but the publisher passed, and that’s okay, because I like what I produced for him.

Now, very little of what I’ve written here is about process; it’s about circumstances.

I can tell you that my process shifts ACCORDING to circumstances, and any GOOD editor needs to know the differences in approach and direction based on the circumstances for every project she/he works on.

And when the editor doesn’t know or understand the difference in circumstances, they usually are a BAD editor.

To continue this, if anybody wants to propose specific circumstances from above or elsewhere, I’ll be happy to detail a constructive process for editing.

Hope this gets the conversation going.

Steven Forbes
08-15-2016, 02:25 PM
Ask questions, folks.

Just be aware that I might break it into another thread in order to keep it semi-orderly.


Steve Colle
08-15-2016, 03:46 PM
I was thinking that this would have so much value as its own thread, even before I saw your comment, Steven. I hope you decide to do just that. And having this as a separate thread also expands Lee's exposure and could increase interest in his book. Just thinking out loud, so to speak in a soundless medium...

Lee Nordling
08-15-2016, 06:50 PM
Semi-orderly is okay with me, hopefully keeping the original thread alive.

Michael Ford
09-30-2016, 03:32 PM
I've been enjoying the book, getting good bits of advice throughout the first few chapters. It has been helpful and easy to understand.

However, once Lee breaks down what does and does not work in a script Hercules submits in the chapter about silent panels, I learned so much. Seriously, it was an amazing read. If Lee writes another book that is all about panel breakdowns, I would get it instantly and read it cover-to-cover until they were worn out.

I still have a lot of the book to go through, and I am looking forward to it, but that chapter was eye-opening and one of the best pieces of help I have ever seen for learning to write comics. I hope the later chapters have the same thing.

Lee Nordling
10-01-2016, 09:05 AM
I'm thrilled that section worked for you, Michael.

I don't think that book filled with panel breakdowns is gonna happen, but thanks for the offer to be the guy who buys the book. (Imagine the smiley face icon here.)

10-05-2016, 04:52 PM
Got the book, read it in one sitting (despite Lee's stern warnings to stop and do the exercises before moving on - what can I say? I was never a patient student) and felt I really gained a lot from the quick read-through. Now it's time to go back and do the work.

I thought the classroom conceit was helpful at really making the necessary points; it's very easy to read a suggestion, say, "That makes sense," or "Well, obviously!" and move on, learning nothing. Engaging in critique, and seeing the work of others being critiqued, reinforces those previously passed-over points.

Lee Nordling
10-07-2016, 09:24 AM
Thanks for using the book the book the way it was intended to be used, Newt!

And yes, the critiques of the "students'" work was intended to help in exactly the way it appears to have helped: they allow you to apply what's discussed to somebody's work other than your own, which is, frankly, easier.

In short, I was hoping to accomplished what appears to have been accomplished: a classroom vibe and experience in a book (that costs a lot less than a class; imagine the smiley face icon here).