Comics Workbook Composition Competition 2013

I just wanted to write something the composition competition I ran over at Comics Workbook on Tumblr. 

Tumblr is an interesting phenomenon. It’s sort of like Facebook, sort of like Twitter, and sort of like Instagram. But it’s different. It feels perfect for sharing short comics. You can “reblog” a post similarly to how on Twitter you can “retweet”. So the post that you reblog shows up on your own Tumblr homepage. Forgive me if you know all this.

I’ve been surprised how Tumblr has taken off within indie comics. And I’m surprised how many comics makers I have gotten to know all over the world simply from following different people’s Tumblrs. It’s really widened my eyes to how many different kinds of comics are out there. For example, I became aware of Simon Hanselmann, the Australian cartoonist, because I was seeing some of his comics being reblogged. I think Tumblr has really changed the indie comics landscape for the better.

The thing about Tumblr though is that if someone posts something on the other side of the world while I am sleeping I may just miss it entirely. Posts just seem to disappear. There are specific url links of course that you can locate – however when you go back to look through someone’s Tumblr usually they have added so many new posts since the last time you visited their homepage that it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.

So, I wanted to share the amazing comics that poured into the Comics Workbook Composition Competition with the TCJ audience who may not be on Tumblr.

Now that the Xeric Foundation no longer exists there are very few institutions that offer cash rewards for making comics. The Xeric grants also provided something for makers to aim for on the calendar. Having a deadline is often the thing that really kicks one in the ass to MAKE something; to finish something.

I was truly humbled by the response. There were, in the end, over 70 entries. I thought there would be about a dozen. I was surprised when it went over 20. In fact, with only two weeks to go before the deadline there were under 30 entries. Then the floodgates opened. Deadlines work wonders apparently. (Add smiley face icon here)

Myself and the other judges (three women and three men) crafted this response when we announced the winners:

“The evidence is piling up:  comics is THE ascendant art form. The sheer amount of energy and talent that poured into this competition during its relatively brief window provides ample testimony to this. It is our belief that artistic creation is a two way street. An artist, or any other creator, grows in the process of creating; the greater the efforts, the greater the growth. By this measure, comics creators in general – and those who submitted work to this competition in particular – are growing by leaps and bounds, and so, by definition, is the comics form; as in the final analysis, the value of a form is coincident with the work that it contains.  It is our hope that all of the makers who participated in this contest have been TRANSFORMED in some way – artistically, personally, spiritually, and/or physically (improved eye-hand coordination?  yes!) – by the time and energy dedicated to the creation of their submissions. Everyone who took part in this exercise has completed a hero’s journey.”

When I took part in the Eisner Award judging this year, I learned that everyone has different tastes (duh). For some judges on the Eisner Awards, the art in the comic book is the most important factor. For other judges it seemed that the story was the most important thing. Obviously, the combination of great art and great writing makes for great comics. However, I was very surprised for example when a fellow judge didn’t care for a comic that I thought was brilliant. I asked why and the response was,”I just don’t like the art style.”

The same thing happened when judging the Comics Workbook contest. Certain comics that I thought were stunning registered a “meh” by some of the other judges. And vice versa. It was a very difficult process. Everyone has different tastes.

So, with that in mind I hope that the TCJ audience will sift through these wonderful comics and discuss them in the comments section. Feel free to “vote” for your favorites. However, please refrain from taking the time to bitch about the ones that you don’t like. Cool? Cool!

The requirements for the competition were that each entry had to use the same page size and panel arrangement. Each comic had to be 14 pages in length plus a front and back cover. This, of course, creates a 16 page “signature” which can easily be made into a comic book. The requirements, I believe, leveled the playing field and allowed the maker to easily print the comic up when complete.




(Triangle Circle Square) by Alexander Tanazefti

A Cramped, Well Pressurized Place by Scott Kroll

A Kat, A Brick, A Mouse, A Dog or Comics: A Vast Waste Land by Paul

A Poorly Edited Ending by Alison Crofts

A Tender-Hearted Beheading by Nick Francis Potter

Arachnodacks by Rowan Tedge

Attempt 101 by MK Stangeland Jr

Baba’s Accordion by Jared Cullum

Bibo by Lauren Molina

Big Wheel  (AKA The Curse of Santoro) by Tyler Luetkehans 

Black Goo by Moonpulse

Blue Dusk by Mica Agregado

Boxes by Whit Taylor

Clangor by Derek Timm-Brock

Close One by Nick Alexander

Death of Spot by Bill Wehmann

Dog Dead Afternoon by Eva Houzard & Tarquin Pons

Escape to the Top by Andy Frederick

Exile from Cyclops Island by Pat Guppy

Freefall by Alexey Sokolin

Glory Trolls by Nicky Minus

Goldie Over There by Jeremy Sorese

Good Night Billy Moon by Ian Chachere and Jesse Dewyer

Hacienda by Dave Ortega

Hiccup by Mike Centeno

House of Bees by Jillian Fleck

JAS by Phillip Dokes

Joey by Melissa Mendes

July 99 by Suny Gao

Late Night by Jack Reese

Lesbian Sunrise by Rick Manlapig

Little Dreamers by Dan Tabata

Loner Anger by Mike Olson

Meet by Harrison G Prince

Molarhead by Mou

Moon Festival by Todd Webb

Moonling by Lydia Grace Henderson

Mouth by Tristan Wright

Object Memory Featuring Mother Koala and Mi the Yellow Dolphin by


Off the Grid by AT Pratt

Old Port by Evangelos Androutsopoulos

On The Way by Michael Fikaris

One Woods by Brad A

Post Fallout by Blake R. Sims

Problem Child by PR Gamlen

ProcrastiNation by Camilo Vieco

Prof Lewis by KL Ricks

Real Real Deep by Nick Jankowski

Red and the Wolf by Michelle LaPlante

Redneck Beach by Gabrielle Mulholland

Repetition is a Form of Change by RM Rhodes

Ringed Planets by Bob Schofield

Sea by Rosie Haghighi

Searching by Andrew Pannell

Shield by Zoe Coughlin

Stay Frosty by Ben Duncan

Strange Outpost by Pablo Selin

Swampy 93 by Bjorn

Symbolon by Lucas Teixeira

Temple by Jared Morgan

The Abridged History of a Moon by Patt Kelley

The Bad Unicorn by Yuliya Sobotyuk

The Green Fly Theater by James Dale

The Grid is the Thing by Derik A Badman

The Perfect Human by L. Nichols

The Quest by Kalen Knowles

The Secret Life of Steven Seagal by Mat Barton and Adam Cooper

The Steganographer’s Dream by Miranda

The Story So Far by Royce Icon

Then They Stand Stationary Again by Derik A Badman

They Live by Night by Cole Johnson

Thin Virtual Cloud Structure by Shawn Eisenach

Tides by Andrew White

Transaction by Joseph Lambert

Valley Post by Mark Wang

Vespers by Alexander Rothman



The winners, as chosen by the judges:

FIRST PLACE – $500 cash prize

Hacienda by Dave Ortega

Our decision to award “Hacienda” First Place recognizes Dave Ortega’s creation of an ambitious, multi-layered narrative that cuts through history, class, status and power in a deftly constructed story which takes the reader back and forth in time to reveal the conceit and illusion undergirding dominant paradigms in a way that only comics can.  This complex concoction of culture and character made for a winning combination.


SECOND PLACE – $250 gift certificate at Copacetic Comics

Shield by Zoe Coughlin

In Second Place, Zoe Choughlin’s “Shield” puts an inventive twist on the mutant superhero theme, and in so doing gives new meaning to the phrase, “prickly personality.”  Here is an adolescent power fantasy right where it’s needed most:  the hallways of high school.  Bullying takes many forms, some invisible to all but the victim.  By recognizing this in a convincing and dramatic fashion, Ms. Coughlin has effectively demonstrated the power of comics to contribute to the eventual remedying of this unfortunate human trait.


THIRD PLACE – $100 gift certificate at Copacetic Comics

Old Port by Evangelos Androutsopoulos

The Comics Workbook Competition’s Third Place, “Old Port”, clearly embodies excellence in both conception and execution.  In telling the story of youth’s first forays into independence and how the discovery of a nurturing space and mentorship can lead to creativity’s first flowering, the story provides an apt recapitulation of the very ideals powering this competition; its excellence in execution is plain for all to see.




HONORABLE MENTIONS – $50 gift (each) at Big Planet Comics

A Cramped, Well Pressurized Place by Scott Kroll

Prof. Lewis by K. L. Ricks

Goldie Over There by Jeremy Sorese

Arachnodacks by Rowan Tedge



SPECIAL MENTION – $25 gift certificate at PictureBox

The Perfect Human by L. Nichols





THANK YOU to everyone who participated. The plan is to make it a yearly event. I think it worked out to have the contest deadline so close to SPX. It seems like everyone in the small press community furiously makes comics over the summer to debut at SPX. So for those who can’t make it to SPX this contest and the deadline allowed them to join in that special mania. Many of the comics that were created for the contest will be on display at SPX, so check ’em out! Thanks again. This was a truly humbling experience for myself and the folks involved in making the contest possible. Cheers.

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12 thoughts on “Comics Workbook Composition Competition 2013

  1. Is anyone else having as hard of a time reading these as I am? When I open them in a full screen browser and click on a single image to bring it into focus – the panels are still only around 1.25 x 1.75 inches, which makes all lettering very difficult to read. If I download the images seperately and open them at original size they are easier to read – but its annoying to do for every comic every page. Maybe different browser settings or screen resolution would help – I dunno?

    The quality is very good for the ones I have read so far though.

    1. For what it’s worth, I’m using Firefox and this has been my tactic: Right click the image and have it open in a new tab. Then you can zoom in to full size. But agreed, not ideal. Really cool contest idea though. Big ups to TCJ/Big Planet/Copacetic/PictureBox.

    2. Just on the easy to read thing, this was driving me crazy so I knocked up this bookmarklet to magic all the images to full size without having to open each separately:

      If you make a new bookmark in your browser, then paste that in as the URL, you can click it while on a comp entry page and it should turn the images big. Seems to work most of the time.

  2. Nice post, I was really surprised with the winners because I also had some personal favorites that didn’t make it to the prizes, but I liked that the judges had differents point of view, anyway the quality was overwhelming and the process was a real challenge for me, it helped me understand a lot of the mechanics and elements that come into play when you develop a story. Tumblr has been an eye-opener about alternative comics and I hope this continues to go on because the non-verbal communication of reblogs and likes is also really stimulating for making stuff.

    PD. I also uploaded some higher resolution versions of my work if anyone is interested in checking it:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    I still have a long way to go comics-wise, but working on this competition felt really good!

  3. I think the contest is a great idea. I live in the middle of nowhere and can’t go to a comics shop and peruse comics. I also can’t afford to buy comics online at the moment. Tumblr has allowed me to see all kinds of comics that I would not have otherwise seen. And the contest made it even better. A bunch of great work in one easy to find and organized place.

    I feel like the contest submissions (and comics on tumblr in general) show of how far comics have come in the last 10 years or so. It was not long ago that (speaking strictly for myself) I felt like I could count all the cartoonists worth following on two hands and possibly a foot. Now I see interesting new things by new cartoonists nearly every week.

    Thank you (!) to those who organized and participated.

  4. I want to thank Frank and everyone involved in this competition. My submission is the only comic I’ve been able to finish this year and I doubt I would have found the motivation to come home from my day job and draw til 2am every night if there without a tight deadline. I only have about four hours of free time a day so deadlines are key in maintaining steady energy in comic making instead of being consumed by other endeavors. Artists and writers only get better by making and this sort of friendly competition does nothing but increase the quality of artists and comics out there. I hope more competitions pop up as a result of how well everyone responded to this one. I look forward to seeing all the makers who submitted here growing and drawing a lot more.

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