Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Paul Levitz on Plotting - MoCCA 12/6/10

Rob Anderson, Panda Dog Press publisher, and writer of Animal Control: Special Creatures Unit, attended the Paul Levitz class, The Craft of Comics Writing: The Long and Short of Plotting, at MoCCA in New York City on December 6, 2010. Here's his report:

When I heard that Paul Levitz would be teaching a MoCCA Master Class on plotting, I knew I had to find a way to attend.

Thus was hatched a crazy scheme in which fellow Comics Experience alum, Joe Sergi, and I would make a single day, round-trip, road trip from Virginia up to New York City. Our plan eventually settled around a combination of car, Amtrak, subways, and taxis...and started at around 7am in the morning, and didn't finish up until after 2am the next morning.

It was worth it.

Paul Levitz is the legendary writer of the Legion of Super-Heroes, particularly The Great Darkness Saga. Twenty years after its release, The Great Darkness Saga is sitting at #5 on the New York Times best-seller list for Hardcover Graphic Books (as of December 2010). Paul's also writing the current run on Legion of Super-Heroes, which demonstrates he still has the magic when it comes to plotting, even after a "break" in writing to...y'know...run DC Comics in one capacity or another for many years.

The class ran for two hours on Monday night and was standing room only. Chairs had to be added to the back of the room as Paul got started. Clearly, Joe and I weren't the only ones interested in hearing Paul's thoughts on writing. In fact, almost the entire front row was packed with Comics Experience colleagues who had traveled from Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York to hear Paul speak--including Janine Frederick, Bill Yurkas, and Dan Rivera. (Pictured above, Joe Sergi, in front of Jim Hanley's Universe. It was so cold that even the Silver Surfer in the window had on a coat!)

Paul explained that he'd be providing five tools that we could use to improve and organize our own writing, specifically with regard to plotting, and he delivered! From beat sheets to discussing how he flow charts his multi-issue story arcs, we heard from a master on how to plan out our stories. I walked away with a lot of ideas, and some personal homework, that I'll definitely be applying to my own writing.

Paul was also very gracious (and patient) in answering many questions from the audience, even after class ended. And at least one attendee had brought the 20-pound 75 Years of DC Comics book for Paul to sign; an idea I'd briefly entertained...before thinking about the toll of dragging that monster tome throughout a 19-hour, multi-state trek.

Having seen Paul speak about writing both at a panel at NYCC and at MoCCA, I can highly recommend his class for aspiring comic book writers. Paul is also apparently teaching courses at colleges in the NYC area, so if you live nearby, you should check them out!

On the personal front, my whole time in NYC was a blast. Joe and I had lunch with Bill Yurkas at Island Burgers & Shakes, then we did a geek tour of the city for a couple hours, hitting the new Disney Story, Jim Hanley's Universe, Forbidden Planet, and Strand Bookstore, before meeting the remainder of our Comics Experience crew (including Comics Experience alum and Zenescope artist, DaFu Yu) for dinner. Our initial dinner spot turned out to be closed for a private party, but after a rather frigid trek in search of food, we still had a great time catching up with everyone. I'm already looking forward to the next time I'll be in NYC!

-- Rob Anderson

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