“Stepping outside of one’s regular environment, interacting with new and different people and experiencing life to its fullest are the best fuel for creativity. "
“Stealing or directly swiping someone else’s work is a No-No. It’s the ultimate corny move."
Shawn Martinbrough is the author of “How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling.”, published by Random House and reprinted in several languages.
He is a critically acclaimed creator/artist whose DC Comics, Marvel and Dark Horse Comics projects include “Batman: Detective Comics”, “Luke Cage Noir”, “Captain America”, “The Black Panther” and “Hellboy”. He is the artist of “Thief of Thieves”, published by Skybound/Image Comics.
Shawn has co-created characters featured in the film, “Deadpool”, the animated “Batman: Gotham Knights”, the FOX television series “GOTHAM”, “The GIFTED” and the “JUSTICE LEAGUE” feature film.
Shawn’s work has been covered by Vanity Fair, USA Today, BBC World America, The New York Times, ABC News, NBC News, The Washington Post, NPR, The Hollywood Reporter, Entertainment Weekly, BET, Essence, Ebony, The New York Daily News, AOL, Publisher’s Weekly, SiriusXM and others.
Shawn has been a featured guest and panelist at comic conventions in San Diego, New York, Washington, D.C., the UK, Paris, São Paulo and Rome.
As an artist, Shawn has given lectures on his career at Walt Disney Animation, Lockheed Martin, The Pentagon, TEDx Mid Atlantic, The Society of Illustrators, the School of Visual Arts, Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, The University of Michigan, The Savannah College of Art and Design, The 100 Black Men of America Conferences and the Book Expo of America.
Inspired by Shawn’s TEDx Talk, which explored storytelling and themes of inclusion, The George Lucas Foundation consulted with Shawn to develop the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art Summer Studio. Co-hosted by the Boys and Girls Club in South Central Los Angeles, Shawn worked with a team of artists and educators to provide an intensive two week workshop culminating with each student creating their own mini comic book.
Shawn is a Native New Yorker and an alum of both the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art/Performing Arts and The School of Visual Arts.
Being born and growing up in the Bronx. How did your experiences affect your art?
During my junior high school years, I learned to paint while taking a class at my local community center in Co-op City. My teacher, Emilio, introduced me to acrylics and color theory. My formal art education began after I was accepted as an art major to the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Arts.
In addition to being immersed in drawing and painting classes, I was interacting with a diverse school of kids from all walks of life across all the five boroughs of New York. The amount of creative and social stimuli I experienced during those years was incredible.
In your How to book (How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling) you share several exercises for artists to practice such as taking B & W pictures to develop composition skills, and drawing faces and objects with dramatic lighting. Are there any other best practices you wish to share that weren’t included in the book or that you developed after its publishing?
Drawing from life is an exercise that I cannot stress enough. I regularly use photo reference for my work since I wasn’t blessed with a photographic memory to remember all of the unique details of a subject. I still use all of the techniques that I describe in my art instruction book, “How to Draw Noir Comics: The Art and Technique of Visual Storytelling”.
I’m always looking to discover and be inspired by artists from across the spectrum so I love visiting museums, galleries, pop up exhibitions, street fairs, etc. Stepping outside of one’s regular environment, interacting with new and different people and experiencing life to its fullest are the best fuel for creativity.
Any worst practices that artists should avoid at all costs?
Copying other artists directly.
We all have our favorite artists but when starting out, you have to realize that the artist whose style you admire, is usually influenced by an artist that they admire. So basically, you’re copying a copy of a copy.
Stealing or directly swiping someone else’s work is a No-No. It’s the ultimate corny move.
Who do you feel should/shouldn’t pursue a career in comics?
If you don’t have the patience or dedication to build a career as an artist, this profession probably isn’t for you. Then again, you can apply this principle to any profession.
I believe that being an artist is akin to being an athlete. You must practice every day to get better and at the same time, you must learn how to market yourself as a small business.
That last part is something art schools don’t teach you.
What do you recommend to aspiring artists that you wish you had known much earlier? What would you of told yourself 20 years ago?
I would have told my younger self, “Make sure to create various employment options for yourself by diversifying the number of companies that you work with sooner in your career. Never get comfortable working for only one company unless, you’re the owner of that company.”
What do you love best about making comics?
I love the process and the art of telling stories. Solving the artistic challenge of visualizing what the writer has written on the page can be very satisfying, for the most part. Sometimes, as the artist, you never quite solve the problem to your satisfaction. You simply run out of time.
Having worked with some of the best writers in the industry over the course of my career has inspired me to write my own stories. Actually, I’ve always written stories of my own. It’s been very advantageous to work alongside really talented writers and absorb some of their approaches to plotting and scripting.
You had your start working with Milestone Comics. That was an incredible ensemble of artists & writers that produced remarkable content but struggled with sales and distribution plus the loss of Dwayne McDuffie. How was your experience working for Milestone?
I fell into working for Milestone actually. I knew Michael Davis, one of the original founders. Years prior, Davis had introduced me and other students from his cartooning class at the Children's Art Carnival in Harlem to many professional artists working in the comic industry like Denys Cowan, Walt Simonson and Bill Sienkiewicz.
Later, when Milestone was founded, I was already working as a freelance artist for Marvel. At that time, the Marvel offices were located on Park Avenue, a ten minute walk from Milestone. When I was done dropping off artwork at Marvel, I would swing by and hang out at the Milestone offices.
One day, they asked if I would be interested in inking a new penciller named John Paul Leon on “Static”, one of their flagship titles. John’s art was amazing so I said sure. Over the next number of years, John and I worked together on various projects including, “Static” and “The Shadow Cabinet” for Milestone, “The Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix” and “Logan” for Marvel and “The Challengers of the Unknown” for DC Comics.
Working at Milestone was a really fun and empowering time in my career. A great and talented group of people.
What do you wish was different about the comics industry?
More diversity on the editorial side would be great. Editors are the gatekeepers for which projects get considered and which writers and artists get hired so it would be nice to have folks who are organically receptive to different voices and experiences than their own. It would be smart business as well.
I also wish there would be stronger synergy between the publishers and the studios when it comes to promoting comic book sales. For example, it makes no sense that Black Panther movie made a billion dollars worldwide but the average Black Panther comic sells under 50k. This is a missed opportunity that applies to most comic book properties that are adapted to film and television.
Which books do you recommend artists should have in their reference library? Favorite instructional material?
This is a tough question because there are so many. “The Alex Toth: Genius Animated & Illustrated” collections are amazing. “DC: The New Frontier” by Darwyn Cooke, “Elektra: Assassin” by Frank Miller & Bill Sienkiewicz, The Fantastic Four” Omnibus by John Byrne, The “Nexus” collection by Mike Baron & Steve Rude…
Top 5 favorite artists.
There are too many artists that I admire and am inspired by so I can’t narrow them down to a top five. To name a few in comics, Alex Toth, Jack Kirby, David Mazzuchelli, John Byrne, George Perez, Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Mignola, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Tony Salmons, Steve Rude, Moebius, Jorge Zaffino, Eduardo Risso, Khary Randolph, Ron Wimberly… I could go on and on.
Top 5 favorite comic characters.
I haven’t had a favorite comic book character since high school. However, I find Doctor Strange, The Question, the cast of characters from “100 Bullets”, Iron Man, Doctor Doom, Galactus, Conrad Paulson and Celia (from “Thief of Thieves”) to be very compelling characters.
Top 5 favorite comics and graphic novels.
Again, I can’t narrow this list down to THE top five so I’ll mention some of my favorites that I feel don’t receive enough love,“Cosmic Odyssey” by Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola, “Nat Turner” by Kyle Baker, “Pride of Baghdad” by Brian K. Vaughan & Niko Henrichon, “Twilight” by Howard Chaykin & Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, “X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills” by Chris Claremont & Brent Eric Anderson.
What type of work are you interested in doing in the future?
More writing. Definitely some original creator owned projects that I will write and draw. I would love to return to directing. Years back, I took some time off from comics to write and direct a few short films that ended up running in several film festivals. Those were some of the most creatively fulfilling times in my life. Working with actors, scouting locations, etc. was such a creative rush.
I also have interest from publishers and a few ideas for a follow up to “How to Draw Noir Comics”. I just need to nail them down.
How can others find you or your work?
Instagram / Twitter : @smartinbrough
Books by Shawn Martinbrough
Media featuring Shawn Martinbrough
We had the pleasure and privilege to participate in the annual Career Day held at the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics (MCAA). Ananya & I along with other parents set up a booth and shared insights about our careers. Students from third to fifth grade came by and asked us about our jobs and the nature of our career. The older students even dressed to impressed and brought their resumes and samples of their art to share. It was an impressive experience.
The parents and other participants had their own presentations as well. Some were in their uniforms and were performing demonstrations of their specialties and were giving away goodies of the students to take with them.
Prime Vice Studios #PVSketch Challenge
We had stickers featuring our original characters and encouraged students to participate in our #PVSketch challenge. Many students were thrilled to show off their drawing talents:
It was amazing to see the eagerness of the students. They genuinely had an avid interest in their futures, diverse interests and hobbies, and were open-minded to expanding their possibilities through the development of their natural talents. Some students had a love and passion for art writing and drawing. Speaking with Ananya and I broadened their horizons and infused them with a new confidence. The excitement in seeing them participate in our sketch challenge was precious.
It’s not common to see artists at this career day, but it was definitely popular!
We hope to continue our work as arts integrators for educational purposes. I believe it is incredibly important to incorporate arts as a major component of education. It is an incredible outlet and platform for the development of critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, making individuals well rounded and better citizens.
Thank you once again to the MCAA for hosting us.
Carlos “Loso” Perez, MFA
About Marietta Center for Advanced Academics (MCAA)
MCAA is an amazing establishment:
Their mission is to provide students an advanced academic experience with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics (STEAM). The school honors this mission with the vision to be the leader in STEM education, preparing and inspiring 21st century students to meet the challenges of our global society through innovation, collaboration, critical and creative thinking.
To learn more about The Marietta Center for Advanced Academics:
Checkout our first humor piece featuring our very own Ananya Vahal & yours truly on Fuss Class News. The first South Asian-American satirical publication created by Rani Shah.
On November 11, 2017 I was invited to teach how to teach how to make comic book pages using the Comic Draw App. This event was held at General Assembly, an educational center that specializes teaching in-demand skills.
I had the privilege to share my expertise with attendees from all over Atlanta. It was a good time with a host of talent in the room so of course we had to bust out the #pvsketch challenge.
Checkout the pics below, find new artists to follow and go ahead and download Comic Draw App for yourself FREE.
Click here for more #PVSketch drawings.
Prime Vice Studios is available for teaching engagements. Book us for your next event and invite the joy of comic creation to your function. 😎
Tales From La Vida: A Latinx Comics Anthology is a collection of comics created by top and emerging contemporary Latinx comic artists including myself.
Exploring Latinx Identity
The anthology explores the diverse experiences of being Latinx. For La Vida I contributed a comic that reflected on Afro-Latinx identity. I titled it “____-American” due to the nature of having to navigate and justify yourself through “hyphen Americanness."
I sincerely hope this book gets widespread attention and proper due. The Latinx experience makes up a large part of the Western Hemisphere yet it’s reflection is negligible in most mediums.
Tales from La Vida: A Latinx Comics Anthology Reviews
Click the picture below to checkout the article written by Chris C Hernandez for Comicosity.com
Our very own content editor Ananya Vahal has written a wonderful review through her blog as well. Click on her image to check it out.
Below you will find the summary reviews from Amazon.com.
In the Latinx comics community, there is much to celebrate today, with more Latinx comic book artists than ever before. The resplendent visual-verbal storyworlds of these artists reach into and radically transform so many visual and storytelling genres. Tales from la Vida celebrates this space by bringing together more than eighty contributions by extraordinary Latinx creators. Their short visual-verbal narratives spring from autobiographical experience as situated within the language, culture, and history that inform Latinx identity and life. Tales from la Vida showcases the huge variety of styles and worldviews of today’s Latinx comic book and visual creators.
Whether it’s detailing the complexities of growing up—mono- or multilingual, bicultural, straight, queer, or feminist Latinx—or focusing on aspects of pop culture, these graphic vignettes demonstrate the expansive complexity of Latinx identities. Taken individually and together, these creators—including such legendary artists as Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Roberta Gregory, and Kat Fajardo, to name a few—and their works show the world that when it comes to Latinx comics, there are no limits to matters of content and form. As we travel from one story to the next and experience the unique ways that each creator chooses to craft his or her story, our hearts and minds wake to the complex ways that Latinxs live within and actively transform the world.
“The auspicious result features a manifold cast from the most established to as-yet-unproven discoveries, each working in varied styles, methods, lengths. . . . As testimony and magnification of the multitudinous Latinx experience, La Vida bursts forth con fuerte.” --Booklist
“The best collection of Latinxdad—humor, pathos, politics, and DESMADRE—since the empanada.” --Gustavo Arellano, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America
“These stories represent the independent voice for Latinxs in comics today and Professor Aldama is the ‘cerebro’ that had the vision to pull them all together.” --Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez, La Borinqueña, https://www.somosarte.com
“This is comic book storytelling at its best. These deftly constructed stories shake us to our core selves, waking us and the world to the sweeping spectrum of Latinx identities and experiences. Mind blowing!” --Keith Knight, The Knight Life and K Chronicles
“You want cutting edge? Tales from la Vida showcases the best of the best. This bounty of Latinx talent opens eyes and hearts to the extraordinary possibilities of comic book storytelling!” --Jeff Smith, Bone
“Tales from la Vida gives me vida! The sheer volume of testimonies bearing witness to the depth and complexities of being Brown and Latinx, of being an interesting sentient being, of being a vato/a nerd, of being a wordsmith and visual creative—and the broad range of intelligence and artistry displayed in these biting comics is mind-bogglingly astonishing, and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with any seminal, canonical anthology of American poetry or prose. We are gifted here with double-barreled throwdowns of resistance, rebellion, and love from some of the most genius Latinx (and American!) comics creators in the land—all mitigated by the judicious and generous inimitable scholar-artist himself, the Good Doctor, Frederick Luis Aldama! Vaya!!!” --Tony Medina, I Am Alfonso Jones
“An eclectic and artistically stunning collection of work overflowing with emotional resonance and cultural reverence, Tales from la Vida is a gift to cherish.” —David Walker, Luke Cage and Bitter Root
About the Author
Frederick Luis Aldama is the author, coauthor, and editor of over thirty books, including recently Long Stories Cut Short: Fictions from the Borderlands and Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics. He is Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor, University Distinguished Scholar, and Director of the award-winning LASER (Latinx Space for Enrichment & Research) at The Ohio State University.
I’ve been doing some live drawing and inviting the world to come jam with me while I work on upcoming PVS publications, play original music in the background and engage with my audience.
Checkout the videos in the Comic Draw: Live Drawing playlist on YouTube and make sure you follow us on social media to tune in for the next live session.
Comic Draw Live Drawing Sessions
Click the links to checkout our live drawing session playlists. These will be updated regularly.
Robert K. Jeffrey
"I love creating these worlds that people can get lost in, just like I did as a kid growing up whenever I picked up a book."
A freelance writer with over 13 years of experience, Robert was chosen along with 5 other writers (out of more than a thousand applicants,) to take part in the 2017 DC Comics Writers Workshop. He’s the creator/ writer of the Glyph Comics Award nominated/ winning comic book series Route 3, Editor In Chief of BlackSci-Fi.com, has contributed to such anthologies like Dark Universe: Bright Empire, and is co-writer of the Glyph Comics Award nominated Radio Free Amerika. His client work includes work done for the Centers for Disease Control and Nitto Tires, and he currently co-hosts the New Wakanda podcast.
Where are you from?
I’m originally from the southside of Chicago.
Where did you grow up?
We moved around a bit when I was growing up. So I’ve actually lived in California (Los Angeles, Pasadena), Chicago, and now Atlanta. I’ve been in Georgia the longest and love it down here.
How did your experiences affect your stories/ writing?
As a kid who loved things like Star Trek, Batman, X-Men, Spiderman, Back To The Future, Hook, etc I began to notice a pattern.
Though folks who looked like me were found in a lot of these fantastical stories, we were often not at the forefront. I had a problem with that and continue to even now. I was surrounded by no shortage of black people who took charge in their own stories on a day by day basis. Sure, they weren’t going out and leaping from rooftops to fight crime, or trekking the stars, seeking new life and new civilizations. The point was, they were handling their ‘ish, and weren’t being relegated to sidekick/ support status, or the comic relief.
I told myself that wasn’t going to be the case in the stories that I wrote, that featured people who looked like me. Though I pride myself on being able to write just about anything and anyone, when it comes to focusing on characters of color I like to make them the power players in these larger than life stories that I like to tell.
Its worked out so far, so I’ll keep doing it. ?
You have been working with DC with their writing program. How has been that experience?
The 2017 DC Writers Workshop was a great experience. Having a chance to learn from an industry legend like Scott Snyder was an experience that I’ll never forget, and the information I took from the workshop has become crucial in helping my growth as a writer.
I also learned A LOT from my fellow workshop participants, and I’ve seen development in my scripts since doing the workshop.
What type of stories do you like to make comics about?
Where to begin? Lol. I write whatever gets me hyped as a creator. I’m kind of selfish in that when I start brainstorming an idea for a script that I focus on things that will keep me entertained and connected to. I try to do that when seeking out client work.
So, my interests in terms of stories that I like to make comics about vary across the board. Route 3 is a coming of age super heroic, espionage thriller. Mine to Avenge: The Book of Layla is a cyber punk/ action horror series. RET: CON is an Afrofuturist time traveling adventure. To say my interests in what I like to create run a wide a gamut is an understatement. The same goes for any client work. I pride myself on being a varied hired gun when it comes to writing for prospective employers.
You can’t limit yourself as a writer. You just can’t. You miss out on countless opportunities like that, and since my goal is to eventually do this full time, I keep myself open to a variety of different things to write about.
Whats your process? Elaborate on how you work through your projects. How do you break up your time for your projects at different stages?
I usually begin with brainstorming, then moving to outlining. I find that unless I have a specific set of steps to follow in building my story, my mind wanders.
Brainstorming can begin with a simple kernel of an idea, which I then build into something more. I try to follow the tried and true model of establishing your “Set Up, Conflict, & Resolution” for the story. It simplifies things in the long run, in terms of giving me a template of sorts to follow. Now, not to say that this template might be switched around for the sake of storytelling, but to have a basic story skeleton of sorts to follow is crucial for me to follow.
After that I’ll begin writing a first draft, just to get the thoughts down on paper. Storytelling is key here, as I’m partly putting together a script that the artist is going to enjoy drawing, just as much as whoever might buy the book will enjoy reading. I try not to over direct when it comes to panel descriptions but provide just enough direction where both I as the writer and the artist know how the page is going to flow.
I find that writing dialogue is a favorite part of the process of mine as it helps me to feel out the various characters in a scene. So, after writing the dialogue, panel descriptions, location captions, thought captions, etc. it all come together to move the story forward.
The first draft is usually followed by a second and third draft where I’m fine tuning everything within the script. After that, it’s off to my editor, comes back to me for another pass, then it goes to the art team.
What do you recommend to aspiring writers that you wish you had known much earlier? What would you tell yourself 20 years ago?
Life is a fickle beast, and it will complicate things every chance that it gets. When that happens, just keep pushing forward. Also, stay out of your head. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Just don’t.
And have more confidence in yourself. Keep learning as much as you can about writing, stay open to constructive criticism, don’t treat people horribly, and just do your best to be the best person you can be. Also, stay out of your head, and have more confidence in yourself. Did I say that already? ?
What do you love best about writing comics?
I love creating these worlds that people can get lost in, just like I did as a kid growing up whenever I picked up a book. To provide an escape, or an alternative to all the BS that surrounds us 24/7, that’s a blessing.
What do you wish was different about the comics industry?
I wish that the industry would realize that EVERY-FRIGGIN-ONE loves these books. Find ways to tap into that, and just build, and build, and build. And some publishers, more so than others have realized that. Continue to reflect the world that exists NOW, and your readership that exists NOW.
Which books do you recommend writers should have in their reference library? Favorite instructional material?
Jim Zub’s Tutorials for creating comics: http://www.jimzub.com/
Alan Moore’s Writing For Comics: Alan Moore
Powers Scriptbook by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
Writing for Comics & Graphic Novels with Peter David: Peter David
Making Comics: Scott McCloud
Understanding Comics: Scott McCloud
The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics: Dennis O’Neill
Words For Pictures: Brian Michael Bendis
Top 5 favorite writers.
1. Dwayne McDuffie
2. Geoffrey Thorne
3. Octavia Butler
4. Greg Rucka
5. Brandon Thomas
Favorite comic characters.
5. Tara Chace
8. Woke AF’ Cyclops
Top 5 favorite comics and graphic novels.
1. Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool
2. New Frontier
3. Icon: A Heroes Welcome
3. Queen and Country: The Definitive Editions, Vol. 1-4
4. The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury
5. Prodigal: Egg of First Light
7. Batman: The Long Halloween
8. Gotham Central: In The Line of Duty
9. Invincible: Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1
10. Noble Vol 1.: God Shots
What type of work are you interested in doing? Now? In the future?
I’m always interested in doing more comics work. I’m open to writing anything. I’m having a great time working for publishers like 133 Art and Evoluzione Publishing. I’d love to work for publishers like Lion Forge, Valiant, Boom! Studios, Dark Horse, IDW, etc. I’ve got a bucket list of licensed characters that I’d like to pitch for including characters/ franchises like Rocket (Milestone Media), Overwatch, Star Trek, The Orville, and heck even my favorite cult classic, Sliders.
In addition to the comics work, I’m trying my hand at writing for table top gaming with New Agenda Publishing, and I’d really like to learn more about, and eventually jump into video game writing. Lastly, I’m going to get back into writing prose fiction by the end of this year, and am currently looking into getting my certification for technical writing.
How can others find and purchase your work?
The PV Blog
Read about our projects, experiments and the fun things involving sequential art writing and drawing!