Art Students and Comic Pros Collaborate for the Spitball Comics Anthology

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(Photo: CCAD)

Last week, the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) released the second volume of Spitball, a comics anthology that pairs established comics pros like Kelly Sue DeConnick and Jonathan Hickman with student artists getting a hands on crash course on the comics industry. Spitball is the culmination of a semester long Comics Practicum Course taught by Laurenn McCubbin, a former comics illustrator and art director for Image Comics. McCubbin asked several comics professionals to submit scripts for the course, while students were chosen for the course by submitting a portfolio of sequential artwork and recommendation from a professor. Nine students were selected out of a potential pool of twenty, with classes meeting for over five hours once a week.

Once in the class, students chose which scripts they wanted to work with, although the scripts were given anonymously. Students were told to focus on the story and the writing instead of who they thought had written each script. Each student had their own reason for picking out their script. Mackenzie Fields, a senior CCAD student, picked out a script written by Sam Humphries because he gave a pep-talk in the middle of his script. “It was really casual and really made me laugh and smile,” Fields said. “I could tell that the sort of person who wrote it would be someone fun to work with, and in a project that requires so much collaboration, it was important to have a partner that you get along with!”

After each student had their scripts, students were put into contact with their writers and the collaborative process began. Some students only spoke to their writers via email, while others conversed over the phone, Skype or in person. Kelly Sue DeConnick stated that she didn’t treat her student partner, Alissa Sallah, any different than her other collaborators. “There’s some part of me that was thinking that I ought to have talked through my process with her more about it,” DeConnick said. “But I was also like, ‘No, I’m here to be a professional who would collaborate with you, and this is how I would collaborate with you.’”

In total, Spitball contains nine stories ranging from the introspective to the bizarre. Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer and Alec Valerius’s “All the Stars in Heaven” plays on the Cthulhu mythos, while Oliver Ono and Jonathan Hickman’s “Superficial” explores body horror. The anthology also contains Shea Beagle and Grace Ellis’s story “Moonstruck”, which shows a first date between monsters, Christopher Sebela and Griffin Lundeen’s story “Simple Things” about the surprising role a skillet plays in the life of a man, and Cailey Tervo and Kathryn Immonen’s story “Never Land” about a young woman’s visit to her deceased grandmother’s home. Anna D’Amico and Mikki Kendall’s story “Weedkiller” is a twist on the Rapunzel fairy tale, Lauren Myers and Greg Rucka “Clicker” shows the lessons that a dog and his human teach one another and Sallah and DeConnick’s story “Tropical Butterflies Alive in Winter” is an abstract comic about body image and butterflies.

But the students’ work didn’t stop with illustrating, coloring and lettering. Each student was also assigned additional roles to bring Spitball to print. For instance, Sallah acted as assistant editor to McCubbin and worked as a go between for students and their instructor, while Cailey Tervo acted as marketing director for the book, arranging interviews and handling the book’s social media accounts. Other students handled layouts, copy editing and even cover design.

The students also learned about the technical side of making comics, learning about contracts and preparing a comic for print. Several of the students pointed out that these were some of the most useful lessons in the course and added practical lessons to the class. Fields said learning about the nuances of printing comics helped her plan for her own personal projects, while Tervo found the lesson about contracts to be very useful. Tervo pointed out that, after talking with a lawyer brought in to give a lesson about contracts, they decided to change some of the language in a contract for Spitball to make a little bit more fair for students.

Overall, the students found working on Spitball to help immensely with their comics careers. Fields began her own business, Ghostly Muse Comics, after taking the class, while Sallah got an internship with Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, a company working on television and comics projects owned by DeConnick and her husband Matt Fraction. Several of the writers also got something out of the collaborations. For instance, Grace Ellis and her student partner Shea Beagle are working on turning “Moonstruck” into a full comics series.

As part of the marketing for Spitball, students even exhibited at several conventions to help promote and sell the book. A contingent of students attended Heroes Con in North Carolina as part of the book’s launch, and they also plan to exhibit at SPX in Maryland and CXC in Columbus, OH in the fall.

The first volume of Spitball, published last year, can be purchased online for $10.00. The newest volume will be released later this year.