Stages of a Comic

by Matt Russell - Posted 2 weeks ago


Welcome, my CryptoComic Compatriots! Have you ever wondered what the process is for making a comic? What about the deadlines? Find out everything you need to know here.

Planning Meetings

This is where the magic starts. Everyone involved in a major comic series will sit down for a meeting. In this day in age that might be a Zoom meeting. Here everyone will come up with a general plot and story for the upcoming comic.


In the above video around the 6-minute mark, the legendary Dan Jurgens talks about this meeting for the Death of Superman series. To be a fly on that wall. I have sat through a few of these in my day.


For me, this is my favorite part. I love to write. According to a comic writer can earn $48,000 annually. Speaking from experience, I have never earned that much. I worked on a per-page basis. For 1 comic I earned $150 per page for a comic that never actually got published even though it made it all the way to the printing stage.


Above is an example of a script that I write. Keep it in the format approved by the editor. This is from page 2 of an upcoming series called D-Day. Basically, take the meeting notes and turn them into a legible coherent story. There is so much that you have to figure out like pacing and character development. This is tough but well worth it.


After you get done writing, hand it over to the editor. They will go through it with a fine-tooth comb. There are several different types of editors; some go through the story, some are the Grammar Nazis that check spelling (they hate me for some reason). If you are trying to break into publication there are critique editors, commissioning editors, beta editors, and so on.


According to an Editor can make up to $84,000 a year!!! Granted that is a senior editor at DC Comics. Do you know how much I make? $45 Total to date. That’s only because I worked as an editor or someone’s book in trade and that was what was left. I don’t handle spelling or grammar. I looked at it from a writer’s perspective.

These people are key to a great comic with the mainstream. They will help course correct your comic and keep you on the straight and narrow path.


Now that the editor has approved the script, the main artist (Penciler) will take the script and throw together some thumbnail sketches. This is used as a starting point to the artistic process. By artistic I mean the visuals. This will give you a quick sketch of the layout, camera angles, and such.

At times, they will ask the writer to do this. If you are asking the writer, that means that you have no idea what the script is saying and since the writer made some crazy decisions, they want inside the mind of a writer. Yep, I’ve been asked to do this a time or 2.


Where this stage only takes a few minutes, you can have the editor go through it and approve everything. This way you don’t have to ask the artist to redesign a page, but more about this later.


Most comics become famous for the penciler. This is a person that takes the scripts (and thumbnails) and starts to draw. This is the stage that takes the longest amount of time.


The above image is from the D-Day drawn by Jordan JC.

It is uncommon for a Penciler to get a salary position. Most work on a per-book or per-page basis. It is so hard to come up with your own personal style that is quick enough to make the deadlines.


Yep, the editor is back. They have to approve everything. Sometimes (it sucks when this happens) a panel won’t be drawn correctly. The editor will make sure that everything is fine. Now that we have primarily moved to digital, we can redo a single panel without killing an eraser.

For future reference, after every stage, the comic heads back to the editors for approval. Once the page is perfect, it is on to the next stage...inking.


This is something that I’m still learning to do. Don’t listen to Kevin Smith with his movie Chasing Amy. He has no respect for the Inking process. Warning, the following video clip has a few naughty words in it.


So, what you will do is add the inks, and depth to the penciling stage. You will also sometimes have to complete the art or correct it. Karl Kesel (inker) famously used to finish the feet in the Hawk & Dove series for an artist that shall remain unnamed.


This is an example of inking from the same page as shown above (D-Day page 1).  There are so many better inkers than me, so I wanted to show off Jordan's work instead. You can see how his inking added so much depth to the original pencils. 


Lettering a comic is a tough job. I have spoken about it many times. There are so many things that you need to take into consideration. Who is talking, what is the art style in the comic, how wordy is the comic, placement, font, size...the list goes on.


There are some pretty great programs available in the digital age, but my personal favorite is still Adobe Illustrator. Let’s face it, it still does it all better than any other program out there. For those looking for a great alternative, might I suggest Affinity Designer for the iPad. It’s a great alternative that does everything for a 1-time cost of $19.99.


This can make or break great artwork in a comic. There has already been so much written about coloring a comic that I don’t need to go into it here.


As you can see, Jemma Young does a much better job than I can to explain this.

So Much Other Stuff

Oh man there is so much more that still goes into comics; marketing, printing, and shipping. A print comic (floppy) is so much more expensive to produce and it can cut into your budget and profit margin. According to my math, for a $2.99 issue, most publishers make about $1.00-$1.50. This is a blog post for another day, stay tuned and I will get into that soon. Until then, I’ll see you later. Stay safe.