Comics can teach you a lot about life, an editor Shelly Bond is taking that to a new level with a series of one-page instructional comics under the banner of Hey, Amateur!. Bond is raising runs for this anthology through Kickstarter, and if it reaches its $50,000 goal by August 31 it will released next year - with early copies sent to supporters.
This isn't a dry instructional manual. It's a colorful, spirited take on the "how-to" formula, expanding it into "how-so" and covering a vareity of topics from becoming a badass goth to doing an ollie on a skateboard - even how to spot a galaxy in the night sky. It's a how-to guide for all the things you wish they taught you in school.
Newarama spoke with Bond about this unique twist on comics storytelling, and how she herself put it all together. As a bonus, we even managed to get Bond to write a comic on how to edit comics - read through until the end!
Newsarama: Shelly, what's the first thing that was taught to you in comics form? How to evacuate a plane? How to wash your hands? What do you remember?
Shelley Bond: How to fall in love, thanks to Peanuts by Charles Schultz. And, how to safely evacuate a hotel. When I was a kid my dad, the dry-cleaning magnate, took me to dry-cleaning conventions all around the world. How to exit a burning building was critical info to communicate in pictures when you don’t understand the language.
Nrama: How do you feel about the role comics as a form can play in being instructional?
Bond: It’s fantastic. A diagram allows the instructor to deconstruct the bare essentials. But the stories in Hey, Amateur! are more than that, not just “how-to” but “how so,” with our writers revealing personal aspects of their process that might never occur to the average person. Comics and romance writer Alisa Kwitney and artist Nick Robles will teach you “How to Kiss”, for example, which I’m sure covers more than a mere cavity search. Note that this anthology is teen friendly - it’s a fun and whimsical romp.
Nrama: Black Crown fans will remember Hey, Amateur! for starting out as one-pagers inside Black Crown Quarterly. Was a standalone book always the end goal - or did that come later?
Bond: Yes and Yes. I always loved the British music and fashion magazines of the ‘90s that ended with a one-page comic. If I disagreed with the reviews or the fashion was crap, having that comic as the last beat in the issue made it worth the cover price. That was the inspiration behind Hey, Amateur! and the Black Crown Quarterly. We thought the idea had tremendous mass appeal considering the breadth and depth of the DIY marketplace and the diverse, hidden talents of many comic book creators.
When I think about Jill Thompson alone - award-winning painter, Spartan athlete, thespian, artful baker, designer of monster backpacks - she’s doing “How to Carve A Pumpkin” because #scarygodmother #halloween. It’s my editorial imperative to expose these secret skills. Plus, I’m counting on this book to raise my I.Q. a good 50 points. I’m not getting any younger.
Nrama: How did you go about recruiting who would explain "how to" to do what? Is it about pairing experts in those fields with experts at comics-making, or something else?
Bond: Wrangling talent from disparate parts of the planet is a lot like herding cats - which Cecil Castellucci and Sweeney Boo have on deck in Hey, Amateur! I always reach out to the writers who inspire me, who I can count on to blow my mind and nail the deadline, not necessarily in that order. But I’m committed to paving the way for the new wave of writers and artists too. There’s nothing more gratifying than giving a newcomer a break and helping them hone their skills, or giving artists who aren’t known for their writing skills the chance to both write and draw.
I’m excited to work with Erica Henderson on “How to do a Turkish Get Up” and Mark Buckingham, who is writing and drawing “How to be the Perfect Party Host” with co-writer Matthew Howes from Strictly Ballroom. Some creators are sharing tricks of the comic-book trade, like Gene Ha’s “How to Draw Likenesses” or Alex Paknadel and Simon Bisley’s “How to Train Your Doppelgänger” or the hobbies that keep them sane away from the all-consuming comic-book page.
Practical skills are just as important as the bizarre. Karrie Fransman is illustrating “How to be Mindful” which, let’s face it, a few nations could use. And, with any luck, I’ll finally learn how to change a tire. I’ll always curse my dad for not showing me how to get my hands dirty when it comes to car maintenance. But I can claim almost-expert status at sorting dirty hotel laundry, so thanks anyway, Dad.
Nrama: What was the hardest one-pager to crack, in terms of picking it, shepherding it, and getting it finished?
Bond: That’s tricky. Unless Hey, Amateur! is funded we won’t have a book. I’ve procured almost all the stories but I haven’t been able to give the creators the go-ahead to put pen to paper.
But secretly, I’ve been working on spec.
Liz Prince has been illustrating the backup story in Eve Sranger and when she proferred a story about her greatest passion, “How to be a Successful Hobby Heroetologist,” I couldn’t resist. Of course when I realized it was code for catching frogs, I was a bit grossed out. But who am I to dissuade one of the most charming cartoonists since Schultz?
I’m also lucky to be working with a serious prodigy, Lola the Illustrator, thanks to the solid recommendations of Hall of Fame skateboarder Cindy Whitehead and cartoonist Jim Rugg. Lola is the youngest graffiti artist in New York’s famed Bushwick collective and her first draft of the “How to Paint a Mural” script was superb.
Nrama: On the flipside, what was the easiest? And why?
Bond: The one that favorite artist & husband Philip Bond will draw.
Nrama:When people see this, I can imagine the calculations in their head and them thinking "hey, if the Kickstarter works or not this will probably be released by Black Crown through IDW to comic stores and digitally." Is that assumption true? How important is the Kickstarter to making this project work the way you want it to work?
Bond: Sadly, a guarantee is not the case. Anthologies are notoriously a big gamble for publishers. There are a lot of moving parts for not only the editorial wranglers but for the administrators and the people who cut the checks.
Femme Magnifique was my first Kickstarter anthology and I wanted to follow the same successful business model to produce the exclusive hardcover through crowdfunding, then release a softcover months later with bonus material. It’s important to me to pay the writers and artists a reasonable page rate and make the stories creator-owned so they would be eligible for royalties. I’m lettering comics now and there’s nothing I enjoy more than editing script, art directing and getting my hands around every aspect of the comics page. That includes writing royalty checks.
Nrama: Have to ask - is there a page on how to do a successful Kickstarter?
Bond: We have that on our list of potential bonus subjects if we hit the 100 how-tos level. But that can only happen if we fund this massive tome! I don’t want to go down in history as an Amateur Kickstarter Campaigner. So thanks for helping us spread the world!
Nrama: Last question - what would a "how-to" on editing comics look like?
Bond: We’re using the traditional 9-panel grid to celebrate the comics artform in all its graphic glory. So here it is, just for you:
A shot of the editor at her desk asleep in front of a computer screen that says FIN in large, Cooper Bold. She‘s wearing a black dress by Courreges, black gogo boots. This is actually panel 9, the big reveal, but you need to know where we’re headed. This panel is packed with 10 word balloons replete with adverbs that cover the figure so we barely make out what could be blood. This stationary camera shot is another comics classic.
More of the above but fewer balloons so we eventually see the editor asleep at her desk, bright red ink from the pen on her hands and bleeding out from the pen and onto the (double spaced) script page printed out in front of her.