Before Scott Snyder was a legendary comic book writer, he was a teacher! His previous students range from the likes of James Tynion IV to Marguerite Bennett. Now Snyder is ready to help craft the next generation of comic book legends. As part of his Substack, up and coming creators can join his writing program for the opportunity to better their work. As a result, a group of his students made their own comic book anthology that is currently raising funds on Kickstarter.
As a nod to Scott Snyder’s Best Jackett Press, all the stories in the anthology used a throughline of jackets. The book puts a spotlight on unheard voices with 50% of the creators being 2SLGBTQIA+, women, and/or BIPOC. Luckily, Popverse had the chance to chat with Scott Snyder Presents Tales From the Cloakroom’s editors Aubrey Lyn Jeppson and C.K. Lawson about the anthology and their overall experience with the course. We talked about the nuggets of the gold they received from taking the course, their experience putting editor hats on, and even how Snyder shaped the final product.
Popverse: Let’s jump right in, what made you two join Scott Snyder’s Substack Writing Course?
Aubrey Lyn Jeppson: I love classes. I've always been the sort to sign up for these kinds of things to see what else I can learn. I'd taken a short class that Scott did for Women in Comics and thought this one had to have great information.
C.K. Lawson: While I've been a lover of comics since I was 10 years old and wrote a lot when I was younger, my disability took me out of commission for about 15 years. Now that some functionality has returned, I'm learning to work within my limitations to pursue my passions, rather than being too defeated to even try. Scott's class was the catalyst for finally getting on that path. I respect his work, and his Substack stood out because of the course; I'd honestly just never considered taking one, and his received a ton of press.
How did the idea for this anthology come about?
Jeppson: In fall 2021, Joe G. Shuster came up with the initial idea for a jacket-based anthology with students from the class. Ben O’Grady joined up with him shortly after that.
I initially joined as a story consultant but ended up staying on to see the project through as an editor. C.K. came on board first as a writer and then wanted to learn more about self-publishing, so they began working closely with me throughout the entire process.
How were the creators picked?
Jeppson: It was a bit unconventional. Anyone who wanted to give it a go was invited to submit a script. Then we provided feedback and edits. As long as the end result was professional quality and a self-contained story, those that submitted were accepted into the project.
Lawson: To build on that, I think by not doing a pitch process, creators missed out on an experience vital to the industry, but the wheels were already in motion by the time we were brought on. In the spirit of Scott's class, we tried diligently to help every creator get in, though unfortunately, some were not quite ready. To be clear, though, this collection is of a very impressive caliber. Some of these creators are definitely going to be big names in the indie comics world very soon.
Did you have to connect to artists outside of the class? If so, what was that process like?
Lawson: We have a handful in the anthology who both wrote and illustrated their own stories. An impressive feat considering I can barely draw a stick figure! For the rest, we provided several resources for connecting with artists and sometimes even worked closely with a writer to help them find an artist who fit their story well.
What are some stand out stories from the book?
Jeppson: Oh, there are so many good ones. I think there's a bit of something for everyone, but some of my favorites are the emotional Malachite, the action-packed The Key, The Scent of You, and the sci-fi Mech-Alpha One. I love stories that kind of pull at my heart strings.
Lawson: Way to put us on the spot lol! With so many genres on display, it definitely comes down to personal taste. There isn't a bad one in the bunch. Each reviewer has named different favorites, which is very validating as an editor. For me personally, the supernatural Skeleton made me choke up. The fantasy Armor warmed my soul. Malachite's colors alone are pure poetry. And to shamelessly self-promote, I'm pretty proud of my story The Scent of You. For good or bad, I get, "Damn you for making me cry!" a lot, which I consider a success lol.
Did Scott help shape the anthology at all?
Jeppson: I think his influence is definitely there. All the stories either have a jacket that is central to the story or in the story as an easter egg. This is a nod to Scott's Best Jackett Press studio. We have a Discord server, and you can definitely feel how much Scott has shaped the group as creators in our discussions there.
Lawson: We had Scott's blessing early in the process, and he and his editorial team have been nothing but supportive the last eight months. However, I don't want to diminish the amount of blood, sweat, and (quite literally) tears we've put into this as editors. There was no formal editorial guidance in the sense of walking us through the process, but they've definitely been our cheerleaders from the word 'go.' They want to do what they can to help us succeed in the understandably limited time they can spare.
What was the atmosphere of Scott’s classes like?
Jeppson: Very laid back, but full of gems of information. I've taken a lot of comics classes, and I like that Scott feels really approachable and encouraging to his students. A lot of the best teachers in comics have that sort of feel to them.
Lawson: Scott's passion for the comics medium really drove the energy of the classes. He would constantly say how the monthly lectures were something he really looked forward to. That mentality is really infectious. There are also more informal quarterly hangs where annual subscribers can get more face time with him. The first curriculum is scheduled to wrap in June (hence the anthology's June 14 launch date). I highly suggest joining and trying it out, as you'll have access to the entire backlog of classes.
I know that Scott had some amazing guests talk about comics during your classes, who were some of your favorites and what did you learn from them?
Jeppson: I love the collaboration aspect of comics, so my pick would be James Tynion IV. I love to see the relationships that come out of collaboration. So much of collaboration is trust, and they really showed how essential that is as you work with someone.
Lawson: Greg Capullo joining one of the first classes was really memorable, simply because Scott surprised us. The chat room went nuts, because at that time, I don't think we knew guest lecturers would be a thing. To piggyback off Aubrey, that conversation not only showed me the importance of collaboration in this medium, but also how you can form lifelong bonds outside of the work, which a LOT of us have done. And listening to Will Dennis talk about pitching was an important conversation for a lot of writers to hear.
What made you pick Kickstarter to help fund the book?
Jeppson: Kickstarter seems to be the most common platform right now. Since a lot of our creators are emerging voices, we wanted to give the best chance possible at getting this book funded and created. Kickstarter has a wide audience, so it felt like the best bet.
Lawson: Yeah, we certainly weighed our options in light of recent controversy, but after seeking some advice from some big-name indie creators, we decided on Kickstarter for one simple reason: we owed it to our extremely talented creators to get them the biggest audience possible at this moment.
Any plans to get this into comic shops, bookstores, and on digital platforms?
Jeppson: Oh boy! Definitely in comic shops and bookstores. The Kickstarter has a retailer tier. Beyond that, once the Kickstarter is successful, we can see if there's a chance to pursue those avenues.
Lawson: I believe digital platforms are a consideration too, but we're kicking that can down the road a little bit. And yeah, we're already starting to hit up comics shops! There's nothing more exciting or validating than having shops actually want your product, especially if it's a local store where you can just soak in the pride that comes with your achievement sitting on a shelf right in front of you. If you're a comics shop or bookstore and want a special deal, hit us up! We'll definitely work something out for you!
How did the class give you the fundamentals to pitch your own projects?
Jeppson: I've gone through Jim Zub's pitch blogs and I've taken a class on pitching before, so this really helped me hone in and sharpen those skills. As an editor, it also helped remind me of what I want to look for when pitches come across my desk.
Lawson: Scott's classes and talks really ran the gamut, from the foundations of story building to pitching to what NOT to do when trying to break into the industry. Each class organically built on the one before. If you don't have a good story, your pitch will fail, so those lessons were important. Once you have a good story, let's now talk about effective collaboration. Now that your team is ready, here's how to go about the pitch process. We obviously can't say too much, because that's the point of signing up for the class, but one of my biggest takeaways for pitching was hire an editor when doing anything! If you're not open to feedback, you can't hone your craft. Thinking you're above critique is not going to cut it in this industry. I've pitched 4 stories to anthologies during this class; three were accepted, and the other is in the works as a graphic novella for a popular publisher. That all happened because of the elements taught in this class and because I didn't treat my pitch editor like I knew better than her.
What future projects can you tease from the creators involved in the project?
Jeppson: So many of them have already made it into future anthologies or are working on full-length books of their own. I definitely think our creators are a list of people to watch and wouldn't be surprised if a lot of them are well-known in the next decade. There's just so much talent in this book.
Lawson: Aubrey Lyn has a story in the Producing the End of the World anthology, which is live on Kickstarter right now. George Papandreou has a continuing slice-of-life series on Webtoons called Typical Campus. Some have begun getting work-for-hire projects art-wise. Others are getting ready to self-publish or have works in some anthologies, but their projects can't be discussed at this time.
As for me, I'll have a queer-centric short comic in Limit Break Comics' Greek Myth/Noir anthology Down Below, a disability/service dog short comic in Arledge Comics' anthology Adorable Assistants, and a queer-centric graphic novella mid-2023, the contract for which is still in the works. Follow me on Twitter @chrisdoescomics to stay up to date!
And my final question, what’s your final end of the semester evaluation of Scott Snyder as a teacher?
Jeppson: He's fantastic! We're so grateful for his support of the project and his willingness to share his knowledge with us as a community.
Lawson: I second Aubrey. He makes you feel comfortable and is never condescending to anyone asking questions live. He teaches you the fundamentals but also has nuggets of wisdom from which even prolific writers can learn. He'll sometimes go off-script and throw in industry tangents, which I find particularly endearing. He knows when to let his guests take the reins. He's passionate. So very passionate. But most of all, because of him, our creators have built a small family that talk daily about our lives, analyze each other's projects, goof off in monthly video hangs, and lift each other up when the creative spirit is running low. Without Scott, we would have none of that.
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