Welcome new Writers’ Program instructor Brian Cunningham! Brian is teaching a NEW course Comics and Graphic Novels I (Reg# 382702) in our Remote Instruction format, with live Zoom class meetings on Saturdays at 10am PT this Fall. He sat down with us to offer some insight into creative life and his upcoming course.

What sparks your creativity?
Mowing the lawn. For some reason the most mundane things get me thinking creatively. I think I get so bored that my brain insists on doing something fun. That’s where I get the craziest ideas.

What do you rely on for those times it’s difficult to find the time, energy, motivation and/or inspiration to create?
Procrastination! I find I work well under pressure because I have no other choice, even though I curse myself for not figuring it out earlier.

What’s your favorite book and/or movie?
If you ask me this tomorrow, I might have a completely different answer…The first book that came to mind – simply because it was a surprisingly super-fun read – is Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I read it before the movie had come out, so the story was all new to me.
Favorite movie…oof. Back to the Future? Raiders of the Lost Ark? Casablanca? The Godfather? It really depends on my mood.

What makes writing comics/graphic novels a unique experience (vs writing for screen, prose, poetry, etc.)?
Comics use aspects of all those other media in a way that makes it unique. In fact, day one of my class gets into what comics can and can’t do versus other media. For me, comics is a relatively inexpensive visual means of expressing oneself using a pencil and paper, or a Wacom tablet. The story’s “budget” is only limited by your imagination. You don’t even need art skills – stick figures can tell a story. More than anything, my course hopefully instills that lesson: You Can Do This.
Comics is also a static, silent medium that requires the reader to immerse themselves within your story’s “reality” and imagine movement and sound. So comic writers and artists need to create the ILLUSION of all that with still pictures – and it’s fascinating to find ways to do that successfully. Another way the reader is an active participant in a comic’s storytelling is when they “fill in the blanks” with what happens between one panel box and the next. That’s where the story comes “alive” within the reader’s mind – and everyone imagines it slightly differently! You can’t get more unique than that!

What excites you most about teaching for the Writers’ Program?
I’ve learned so much from so many creators and industry pros over the course of 25-plus years working in the comic book business, and I want to share it with as many people as possible! The students can take what I give them and build their own philosophies on how to make comics. I’m certain I’ll also be learning from the students, and I can’t wait for that.

What do you hope your students get from your course(s)?
I hope they find the comics medium can be just as robust a storytelling platform as any other to express themselves. I’ll be covering a lot of ground that I hope can be a foundation upon which they can build their own comics.

Anything else?
Oh, that’s dangerous to ask because I can talk about comics all day and night!

Thank you to Brian for taking time to share with us. Look for more instructor interviews coming soon!


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