Saturday, September 21, 2013

Western Comics Class

This Wednesday the first issue of the Comixology-exclusive western comics anthology becomes available from Monkeybrain Comics!

Series Cover art by Nick Zamudio

The series is called REAL WEST, and the first story is written by John Arcudi (BPRD, A God Somewhere, The Mask) and drawn by A.C. Zamudio.  And it's pretty great.

Art by A.C. Zamudio

The anthology came about as a means by which to get a class that I really wanted to make happen become possible, from an administrative standpoint.  I figured that if I could show a viable publishing outlet for work created in the class that it would make it in the school's best interest to approve the new course.  My original desire was to create a "Genre Comics" class that could be put into the curriculum and altered depending on who taught it and the desire of the students.  This first go 'round would be western, but you could do science fiction comics, crime comics, horror comics.  Treat the class as a framework for a study of the genre in its larger scope and a means by which to exhaustively study the visual components that are a necessity of that genre, and learn to draw them well.

That ended up not being the case.  The course did get approved, but as Western comics specifically, and as a special topic.  I'm including the syllabus here, though, in case any teachers out there want to adapt it to their purposes.  Or use it as is, if you're a western buff.

As you can see, we did our best to cover a lot of stuff.  It was a small class and the students were informed at its onset of the crazy workload that it would entail.  

We watched a lot of movies (not in class, but often the students would team up for viewings), each one chosen as an indicator of changes in the view of the west as a reflection of the times in which the film was produced.  We also visited museums, a cowboy festival, what we thought was a Civil War museum but was actually just a really, really racist store... it was a really travel-heavy course.

We went horseback riding and did some from-life drawings...

Liz Enright pets one of the artists' models while Rory Morris watches another

Melody Ledford waits her turn to ride while Chris Malone finishes his trot

Liz sketching
Kit, Maria, and Liz listen to Brian as Melody draws

Nick and A.C. Zamudio watch the riders order to have enough mental ammo to do the horses assignment.

Actually, there were lots of assignments like this.  The stagecoach:


Designs by A.C Zamudio

Etc, etc, etc.  My personal favorite activity was the quick-draw tournament.  Now, before you freak out, I cleared this with security, we were in a closed-off space, and we had a big sign on the door that said something to the effect of "if you open this door and see firearms, don't be alarmed, they're not real, they're for class, etc."  Anyway, I wanted the students to realize how darn hard it is to actually draw and shoot anything under any sort of pressure, so I made some holsters to fit single-action airsoft revolvers and we did a lesson, some target shooting, and a single-elimination tournament.  

I had a great time teaching the class, and I feel like we successfully covered a lot of ground.  My hope is that the immersive nature of it gave the students a good grounding in approaching other time periods and genres in the future, and I had a heck of a great time.  I'll post some of my lecture images at some point, but I have to find them first.

Anyway, for their final project, the students did comics for the REAL WEST anthology.  Some of them were written by existing comics writers (John Arcudi, Gregg Taylor, Kevin Church), and some were written by the students themselves.  Don't think this is student-quality work, though.  These guys are pros.

You can subscribe to REAL WEST, and doing so will go a very, very small way to helping these students pay off this and their other classes.  So give these comics a shot, and note the names.  Theses guys are gonna be big news in a few years.


  1. Amazing course, and amazing concept art! I would have loved to have taken one of your classes.

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