When New York Comic Con crashes into the Javits Center October 9–12, the fanfare will be led by Marvel, DC, Hollywood reps, and video game publishing giants. For participants more interested in learning about self-publishing comics than the death of Wolverine, navigating NYCC can be confusing. With that in mind, we’ve compiled the panels relevant to aspiring creators who don’t want to take a run through the traditional publishing houses.

Thursday, October 9

Make Your Own Comics: Create Your Own Characters

Time: 2–2:45 p.m. Location: 1A21

Panelists: Amy Chu (Girls Night Out, The VIP Room), Becky Cloonan (Demeter, The Mire), Fred Van Lente (Evil Twins Comics), Marguerite Bennett (Joker’s Daughter), Ryan Dunlavey (Evil Twins Comics), Scott Snyder (American Vampire, Batman)

Official Description: What makes making comics so special and why are we so passionate about it? Writers and artists give you a glimpse into the creative process—how script and character ideas are born, and then brought to life (or killed...!).

Comics creator Cloonan falls in love early and often. “I’m obsessed with my characters,” she says. “I get crushes on them. I draw them so much and we laugh and cry together.” Her current crushes? Every character in Gotham Academy, the DC comic she cowrites with Brenden Fletcher.

That opportunity came because Cloonan, widely respected as an artist, proved her writing chops when she self-published three one-shots from 2011 to 2013: Wolves, The Mire, and Demeter. These experiences changed her perception of the writing process.

“The biggest misconception I had is that characters have to be [static],” she says. “You think of your characters in a certain way, but they don’t have to stay that way.”

ComiXology Submit: The Future of Self-Publishing

Time: 6–6:45 p.m. Location: 1A21

Panelists: Bethany Romero (The Agency), Charles Forsman (Snake Oil), Chip Mosher (ComiXology), John D. Roberts (ComiXology), Joshua Fialkov (The Bunker), Ruben Romero (The Bunker)

Official Description: To date, ComiXology Submit has released over 2,000 independent comic books, graphic novels, and manga from celebrated indie creators like Shannon Wheeler, Becky Cloonan, and more. Join [the panelists] for a tell-all discussion on how you too can create, submit, and reach the ranks of ComiXology Submit stardom!

While ComiXology declined to comment on what to expect from this panel, it hosted a similar one at last year’s NYCC, with creator Fialkov also on the panel.

The panel last year, which included an audience q&a, was an introduction to Submit, as well as to Fialkov’s series The Bunker, for which Submit was an online distribution portal.

How to Succeed in Self-Publishing

Time: 7:15–8 p.m. Location: 1A01

Panelists: Morgan Rosenblum (TRD­WTER), others TBD

Official Description: Pretty much anyone can self-publish these days. But just because [you can] make [your] book available for sale doesn’t mean that [you will] be successful and able to have a self sustaining business.

Two years ago, Rosenblum quit his job in medical tech sales and emptied out his 401(k) to become a comic creator. The fruit from that decision, and the labor that went into it, became his production company, Darkrose Studios. In September, the studio released its first graphic novel, TRDWTR.

“I started with saved-up money,” he recalls. “We definitely used Kickstarter, but before you do a Kickstarter, you have to have content to show off. This is what I did with the limited funds I had.”

Friday, October 10

Writing and Penciling: Storytelling

Time: 11–11:45 a.m. Location: 1B03

Panelists: Buddy Scalera (Comic Book School), Darren Sanchez (Necrotic), Jamal Igle (Supergirl), Paul Mounts (Fantastic Four, Ultimates), Sara Pichelli (Ultimate Spider-Man, All-New X-Men), Sean Chen (Iron Man, X-Men: The End)

Official Description: Learn how to structure a complete issue from beginning to end. Pace, panel breakdown, and story arc are discussed by professional writers who work for mainstream publishers like Marvel, DC, and more... Creators will use Copic markers for this panel.

Creating comics is more than knowing how to draw; it’s about knowing how to tell a story visually. While an artist might be proficient in illustration, the technical elements involved in moving a narrative panel by panel is a wholly different discipline.

“One common mistake is people attempting to tell two actions in the same panel,” says Scalera, an educator at the Comic Book School. “One panel, one action. You can’t have someone go to a window and then open it in the same panel. Experienced artists have tricks, but developing artists should focus on telling a clear, basic story one panel at a time.”

Scalera’s Writing and Penciling panel will focus on helping new creators build the necessary tools to become bona fide comic creators. Much of this practice revolves around preparation; “measure twice, cut once.”

“Don’t just think of a few cool scenes and try to wing it to 22 pages,” Scalera says. Another tip: educate yourself, take classes, and read books about the art of creating comics.

Creator Connection

Time: 3–4:45 p.m. Location: 1B03

Panelists: Andy Seabert (Comic Book School), Buddy Scalera (Comic Book School), Dirk Manning (Nightmare World), Pat Quinn (Necrotic, The Phantom)

Official Description: Meet your next creative partner in this fun, interactive networking session. Bring business cards and samples of your work. This is the panel that has literally helped complete strangers form creative teams and publish comic books. This is the original and best Creator Connection. Be there and launch your career.

Maybe you can write, but you can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. Or you can sling together panels with a clarity Will Eisner would envy, but you’re all thumbs when stitching together two sentences of prose. This panel, which Scalera says originated in 1997 at the first Wizard World Chicago comic convention, is all about helping you find your creative soul mate. One successful marriage? The independent publisher Pronto Comics came from a previous Creator Connection panel, Scalera recalls.

“Lots of individual success stories are rooted in the Creator Connections panel because we work very hard to help people make human connections,” he says. “I always tell people that they should follow up with everyone, even people they don’t plan to work with. You never know who will become a personal friend or professional advocate.”

Sunday, October 12

Successfully Crowdfund Your Comic

Time: 1:15–2 p.m. Location: 1A01

Panelists: Hope Nicholson (CGA Comics), Ivan Salazar (ComiXology), Jen Vaughn (Fantagraphics), Jimmy Palmiotti (Painkiller Jane, Daredevil, Deadpool, and multiple Kickstarter success stories), John D. Roberts (ComiXology)

Official Description: Get in on the self-publishing revolution! From crowdfunding your own comic on Kickstarter to self-publishing with ComiXology Submit, this is a panel you can’t miss.

The great thing about tools like Kickstarter and ComiXology is they give more people opportunities to fund and publish their work. The downside is that they give more people opportunities to fund and publish their work.

In other words, just because you put your work out there doesn’t mean people will be able to find it—or even want to fund it.

“Honestly, if you are not an established creator, you have a ton of work on your hands to make this work for you,” says Palmiotti. Having friends and family as your initial supporters is the most important starting point, and without their support, he points out, your project is doomed.

Whether support comes from those you know or online strangers, creators need to present their project “carefully and clearly.” Perks for supporting the project, as well as the project itself, have to genuinely excite people. And creators should maintain a clear and open line of communication with everybody who kicks in money. Despite some high-profile crowdfunding success stories, creators searching for sponsorship should expect to put in a lot of work.

“I personally think crowdfunding a project is very difficult, and most people will find that it is so time consuming they might regret doing it,” Palmiotti says. “But what you have to understand is that the project has to be something you are passionate about.”

Protecting Your Ideas—What Should You Do?

Time: 5–5:45 p.m. Location: 1B03

Panelists: Meredith Mazzola, Michael Lee (attorneys at Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty LLP)

Official Description: You have a great idea for a new comic or business venture, but: what should you do? Navigating the laws regarding business and creativity can sometimes feel like you need superpowers, but this seminar will help you understand the basics of forming a corporation, tax law, copyrights and trademarks, fair use, and work-for-hire agreements. Most importantly, you will walk away knowing how to deal with villains who improperly use your creations and how to avoid improperly using another hero’s works.

Just because you created it, doesn’t meant it’s protected by intellectual property laws. This is the biggest misconception around copyright that attorney Lee wants to clarify.

Legal protection means registering work at the Copyright Office and the Trademark Office when appropriate, he says. “For example, if you don’t have a registered copyright and someone steals your work, you cannot sue them for copyright infringement. And if you are collaborating with someone else, you should have written agreements regarding ownership of the work in order to determine the parties’ legal rights.”

For better or worse, this means creators serious about the business of publishing need to set up paperwork around details like corporate formation, taxation, copyright, and partner agreements. “It is better to be prepared and do these important things earlier instead of having to undo mistakes later,” Lee says.