Meet Carl Potts, Creator of “Alien Legion” and Purchase College Continuing Ed Instructor (Part Three)

It was a dark and stormy night a few weeks ago when I interviewed Carl Potts at the Purchase College Starbucks.  In Part One of this interview, he talked about writing and selling the “Alien Legion” screenplay to Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney (the script is based on the long-running “Alien Legion” comics series Carl created for Marvel’s Epic comics imprint in the mid ’80s).  In Part Two, he talked about how he got his start and how he developed his philosophy of teaching and mentoring.  In Part Three, he talks about comic books and graphic novels from a historical perspective.

The term graphic novel has been used by writers such as Will Eisner to differentiate their works from serials.  Comic books began as collections of the newspapers’ Sunday comic strips, which were humorous.  Most modern comic books are not humorous but represent a variety of genres.

As for the market for comic books, in general, the print runs are smaller now than they were 10 or 15 years ago.  However, there has never been as much genre and subject diversity in the American comics market as there is today.  Many independent productions are true labors of love.  The North American comics audience is also very diverse, although young adult males are still the core demographic.

In the 1930’s and 40’s there was a large adult audience that included women.  Members of the armed forces were avid readers.  In the 50’s there was a sort of witch hunt leading to the creation of the “comics code.”  This resulted in the end of the diverse audience as the comic books became sanitized escapist, juvenile literature.  Starting in the 1960’s, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others created more sophisticated comic books that appealed to young adults, and led to Stan going on college lecture tours.

With the decline in newsstand distribution for comics, it has become difficult to introduce casual readers to comics. Today, comic books are available only in comic book specialty stores.  There are only several thousand of those shops scattered across the country, and most are not located in places that would expose comics to casual consumer traffic.

Even so, comic books exert a huge influence on pop culture through their translation into movies, TV, video games and fashion.

Interview copy edited by Carl Potts.

For more about Carl Potts, check out his blog.  For information about the new “Drawing for Comics and Storyboards” courses Carl Potts will be teaching at Purchase College in the Spring 2011 session, click here.  Courses are closed when the enrollment limit is reached, so register early!  Registration begins this week for both the adult and the precollege classes.

Meet Carl Potts, Creator of “Alien Legion” and Purchase College Continuing Ed Instructor (Part Two)

It was a dark and stormy night a few weeks ago when I interviewed Carl Potts at the Purchase College Starbucks.  In Part One of this interview, he talked about writing and selling the “Alien Legion” screenplay to Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney (the script is based on the long-running “Alien Legion” comics series Carl created for Marvel’s Epic comics imprint in the mid ’80s).  How did he get his start?  As a kid, he was interested in the usual things:  film, TV, comics.  From the start he was interested in visual storytelling and drawing, so he gravitated naturally to comic books.

While Carl Potts was growing up, creating comics was accessible as a medium in a way that film-making was not.  He started out in CA, then “naively” moved to NY to try his luck with the big publishers.  When Carl decided to move to NYC (where he did not know anyone), established comics professionals Carl had met in California arranged for him to stay with other comics pros in NY while he got situated.  Even today, it’s difficult to get a contract with the major publishers without personal contact.

Had he gone to conventions to connect with publishers? The unique thing about comic conventions is that they include both fans and professionals, unlike other types of conventions which are usually aimed at only one of those groups.  Early on he had shown his portfolio to an artist he respected, whose feedback style was unfortunately very negative and who looked for people to fight back after harsh criticism.  That might work with some personality types, but others might be so discouraged that they would give up.  Because of this, Potts decided when he became an editor at Marvel to always take the time to review all unsolicited art submissions and give each one prompt and useful feedback. The process was similar to going through a pile of coal to find rough diamonds.  In that way Potts discovered a number of artists he mentored and trained who went on to major careers.

Visual storytelling’s concepts are generally neglected in most books about creating comics.  At the time of the interview Potts was preparing a presentation on the principles of sequential visual storytelling for SCAD, the Savannah College of Arts and Design.

Who are the ideal students for his Continuing Education course? People interested in creating or increasing their appreciation for comics and graphic novels; people interested in film and video; also, writers for visual storytelling media like comics, film, video and games – they need a solid understanding of how to tell stories visually and how to communicate with their artist collaborators.

For more about Carl Potts, check out his blog–and stay tuned for Part Three of this interview!  For information about the new “Drawing for Comics and Storyboards” courses Carl Potts will be teaching at Purchase College in the Spring 2011 session, click here.

Interview copy edited by Carl Potts.

Winter/Spring 2011 at Purchase College Continuing Education

Our Winter/Spring 2011 catalog is now available online.  Click here to see our latest course offerings.

Meet Carl Potts, Creator of “Alien Legion” and Purchase College Continuing Ed Instructor (Part One)

It was a dark and stormy night a few weeks ago when I interviewed Carl Potts at the Purchase College Starbucks.  He had recently been at the NY Comic Book Convention.

Q:  What did you do there?
A:  I met with some of the friends I’ve made in the comics business over the years, met with potential clients and, in general, had fun!

Carl Potts wrote and sold the “Alien Legion” screenplay to Jerry Bruckheimer/Disney.  The script is based on the long-running “Alien Legion” comics series Carl created for Marvel’s Epic comics imprint in the mid ’80s. Disney’s successful experience of combining live action and CGI characters in “Pirates of the Caribbean” led to their considering this type of film (sci-fi).  Carl began work on the script in ’94.  Over the years “Alien Legion” was optioned four times, meaning people paid for the exclusive right to develop and buy it for 18 months with the possibility of an extension of an additional 18 months.  Disney now owns all the rights to “Alien Legion” except the comic book rights.

How did he get his start?  As a kid, he was interested in the usual things:  film, TV, comics.  From the start he was interested in visual storytelling and drawing, so he gravitated naturally to comic books.

For more about Carl Potts, check out his blog and stay tuned for Part Two of this interview!  For information about the new “Drawing for Comics and Storyboards” courses Carl Potts will be teaching at Purchase College in the Spring 2011 session, click here.

Interview copy edited by Carl Potts.

Comic Books Color Our World

Purchase College Continuing Education will offer a  new course, “Drawing for Comics & Storyboards,” starting in February 2011.  The course will be taught by Carl Potts, long-time Marvel Comics editor.  I recently had a chance to interview Carl, and more information will be posted later.

Comic books are in the news, in decorating and in fashion trends.  New York City has more than 40 comic book stores.  A new biography of Al Jaffee, of “Mad Magazine” fame, was just published.  And a group of comic superheroes based on Islamic culture and religion crosses cultures to create a new moral framework for confronting evil, even teaming up with the Justice League of America.