Sexism, Sharks and Selling Books: The ASA Comic and Graphic Novel Masterclass, Day 1.

It’s Saturday night here in Sydney. I’ve worn down shoe leather hiking across Darling Harbour, through Chinatown and back again and there may or may not have been a couple of burgers and rock ‘n roll bars along the way. I’m already beat, but loving every moment so far. Sydney is a beach city, warm and busy and bright. There is also a disproportionate amount of sushi shops.

Now I am, of course, here for the ASA’s Comic and Graphic Novel Masterclass with the super sharp, sequential storyteller seer Colleen Doran. Colleen is an esteemed author, penciller, inker and colourist who began her career as a teenager and has spent consequent decades working with the best of the best- no, strike that. She is the best of the best.

True to legendary form, the riotous Colleen favoured us all with jaw dropping war stories of surviving sexist work environments and the deadlines, death-threats and deadbeats of an often-predatory industry. Amongst the cautionary tales, there were more than a few treasures in jars of clay, like casually delivered anecdotes about drawing Alan Moore scripts or gags concerning high-flying artists. At one point she shared an insight into the process of working with Neil Gaiman and a hush fell.

Still, the purpose of the masterclass is to hear an industry stalwart of diverse and proven mettle dispense her wisdom. So the good Ms. Doran unpacked major topics such as Western vs Japanese styles, DC vs Marvel method, copyright issues, editorial process, world building and overall story writing techniques.

Colleen also took a few moments to break down the highest examples of the medium: Frank Miller’s lyrical use of captions, Alan Moore’s use of pacing and symbolism, the sheer and stunning classic composition of Hal Fosters Prince Valiant, etc. Her passion for detail and artistic respect is infectious and we all left the smarter for it.

So, the Colleen quote of the day:

‘Hand a comic to a ten year old and they can understand it straight away. Give a comic to a thirty year old and they find it challenging. Word pictures are primal, the first recorded form of storytelling’

Indeed, there were so many special sound-bytes. She also later added that while maneuvering the ins-and-outs of the industry she has never peeled someone’s face off, though she’s ‘certainly considered it’. Too much gold for one post really.

Serendipitously, I won some books in a raffle (The Killing Joke and Umbrella Academy) and my team has been shortlisted for the project review component of the event. Overall, many laughs, clues, hints and tips for the faithful and many impressive creators with quality work on hand. That was the first day.


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