Academy Of Art University – Ultrasylvania

The comic industry is growing in a lateral way, leading business in a new direction that is hard to track or predict. It’s certainly a very interesting time to be a comic book creator.

Comic books have generally been regarded by the art community as being somewhat of a low-brow form of art, along with their sister mediums like tattooing and graffiti. But that’s changed with the sudden surge of entertainment that seems to point to the conclusion that comics are not only respectable, but are inspiring. Comic readers have known that all along, and few are surprised that mainstream culture in America is starting to catch on to this. Among those realizing the potential of sequential story-telling are colleges that are all clamouring to be ahead of the curve in offering programs tailored for comic book development. Among the leaders in these new curriculums is the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, whose  comic book industry-involved teachers and passionate students are making strides to make sure AAU is the top of the line in comic book education and unrivaled in its rich and engrossing community of creators. This weekend on Bleeding Cool you can read individual testimonies of what AAU has to offer to someone who dreams of creating comic books.


Written by Matt Harding

“In this alternate history of 19th century Europe, Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and a certain Egyptian resident don’t lurk in the darkness – they’re world leaders, struggling to hold their nations together amid assassination plots, romantic betrayals, and political intrigues.”

One of the biggest developments at AAU in the last year was the creation of “Ultrasylvania”, a first-of-its-kind graphic novel created and collaborated on by the best comic book students at AAU, and led by two of the schools premier comics teachers. Digital illustration teacher Jeremy Saliba and “Writing for Comics” teacher Brian Schirmer hand picked eleven students and slammed them into a wall of inspiration to help blaze the trail with this project, spending the first few weeks designing the world and characters of “Ultrasylvania”, and then spending the rest of the 15-week class drawing, inking, and coloring the graphic novel in the Academy’s state-of-the art digital Cintiq Lab.

“I spent a month traveling solo in Europe in the summer of 2011,” remembers Brian Schirmer, the writer of “Ultrasylvania”. “I had a notebook with me – as every good writer should – and jotted down a myriad of ideas during that time. One of these was what if Dracula had been a 19th century world leader? This idea stuck with me and evolved.” As Brian traveled he absorbed everything he saw, from the cultures to the histories to the architecture. He literally became one with the story he was crafting, and the influence shows in the richness of the story.

Jeremy Saliba, a recurring cover artist for the popular comic book, “Wheel of Time,” led the class in all things art. Every week the students would present what they had, and Jeremy would give them direction in what to change design-wise as well as the sequential storytelling of “Ultrasylvania”. “Jeremy told them from the beginning that he’d be expecting their absolute best, both in artistic quality and professionalism,” commented Brian, “Everyone brought something different to the table, and the variety of styles really works well for the story. Most treated this like an actual freelance assignment and not so much like a class.”

The aspect of this graphic novel that makes this a first-of-it’s-kind creation is the fact that it’s out in the industry being shown to fans and professionals alike, right next to books put out by Marvel and DC comics. Most art schools in the country tailor and groom their students to be ready to work in the industry upon their graduation, but what Saliba and Schirmer, along with the Academy of Art, have actually done is introduce the students into the industry with a product that shows their design aptitudes as well as their ability to work fast and to meet deadlines. Some say that the hardest part of breaking into the industry is to break into the industry, but with the production of “Ultrasylvania” the students have already done that before they graduate.

As of now, “Ultrasylvania” is formatted as a web comic, releasing a new page every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and can be found on their website,

Future plans for a printed copy are in the works, with plans to be released for New York Comic Con, and San Francisco’s Alternative Press Expo in October, if all goes well with the Kickstarter campaign currently running at

If you want to be a part of comic book history, as well as get some good swag from the comic book industry’s future rock stars, donating to their Kickstarter campaign is the way to do it!

The Comic Collaborative will return with volume 2 of “Ultrasylvania” at the beginning of next year.


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