Comics anthology class at CCAD connects students with professional writers
Columbus College of Art & Design students partner with professional, award-winning writers (we’re talking Eisner Award-winning writers) whose day jobs involve some big names (like Spider-man and Superman) for Spitball, a real-life comic book project with real-life impact beyond the classroom.
At Columbus College of Art & Design, students in the Comics & Narrative Practice and Illustration programs don’t just learn how to work in the comics industry in theory. They get to do the real thing, partnering with award-winning professional comic writers to produce an eye-popping anthology whose masthead rivals that of Marvel or Image Comics. Those partnerships not only make for outstanding classroom experiences, they can also plant the seeds for collaborations that can bear fruit long after graduation (and sometimes before).
Providing students a chance to work directly with acclaimed writers is exactly what CCAD Associate Professor Laurenn McCubbin had in mind when she designed the Comics Practicum to simulate professional comic publishing practices. The veteran comics pro draws on her extensive industry connections to invite guest writers to collaborate with her students and provide them with an invaluable real-world experience.
For the semester-long class, students are paired with established writers of comics or graphic novels to work together on comics. Students communicate directly with the writers, making the process truly collaborative. The result each year is Spitball: A CCAD Comics Anthology. The students not only illustrate the work but design the anthology, handle the merchandising, and sell the book at conventions and online.
Lee Meyers (Illustration, 2017) didn’t know who had written the story she would eventually illustrate for the Comics Practicum the first time she read it. She was just drawn to what she felt was a hilarious, relatable tale. Turns out it was written by acclaimed Marvel comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man, Superman).
“I was honored to be working on something with him. His writing is really down to earth, and that’s what I enjoyed,” Meyers says.
Most exciting is the stream of collaborative success stories that have come out of the course when CCAD grads and pro comic writers continue to work together outside of the classroom.
CCAD and Spitball have launched comics careers.
One of the breakout hits from the practicum is Moonstruck, about a barista who happens to be a werewolf. Moonstruck made media waves when it debuted in 2017, picking up well-deserved raves from the likes of Entertainment Weekly, The A.V. Club, and Uproxx. The comic by illustrator Shae Beagle (Illustration, 2017) and Lumberjanes creator writer Grace Ellis tells a story of monsters, romance, and magical hijinks, and has its origins in the Spitball anthology. While working on a 5-page story for Spitball, Beagle and Ellis found they have similar senses of humor and ways of thinking.
“I was really happy that their time at CCAD was able to give them this kind of opportunity,” McCubbin says.
Another student, A. D’Amico (Illustration, 2016), met writer Mikki Kendall through the practicum as well. A little over a year after they worked together on Weedkiller, a story for Spitball 2, Kendall called D’Amico to see if she’d be interested in collaborating on the graphic novel Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights. The book is scheduled to come out in November through Ten Speed Press.
And for the new original comic book series b.b. free, acclaimed author Gabby Rivera partnered with Royal A. Dunlap (Illustration, 2019), who worked on Spitball 2 and Spitball 3. Rivera called him “one of the best artists on the planet," and in b.b. free, they tell the coming-of-age story of a road trip adventure with a post-climate-change America twist. The first issue debuts in November through Boom! Studios’ Boom! Box imprint.