Going in For the Snakes

Opens only once this year- in the fall. Begins October 28,2018. (October is my birth month and this is my gift to myself to teach this material to you!)

This is my best class!

Life is too short to make superficial stories. Let's give our hearts some air and our spirits some light.

“Today, writing, for me, is above all a battle to avoid lying” - Elena Ferrante

This is my favorite course! And my best course.

It's true!

Last year's Snakes class was incredibly successful, and  it coalesced what I have been wanting to focus on for more than 15 years.

How to put your own depths on the page.

Now I know that these methods work, but we gotta have the strength to go in. I've tried it and been lazy, and I've tried it and been strong. It's always better when I go in strong.

How will you go in?

Thanks to Tim Kreider and Megan Kelso for briefing me on this amazing metaphor...

What We'll Do

We'll look at some of my favorite direct and indirect emotional, visceral and powerful comics. We'll read popular samples from Chester Brown, Lynda Barry, Julia Gfrorer, Chris Ware and little seen examples from Kristen Radtke, Leonie Brailey, Alabaster, Josh Bayer and many many more. We'll use their brilliances to guide us.

We'll examine some of our own favorite art, songs and stories. We'll work together and alone, we'll combine ideas, we'll use our mother's favorite song.

We'll do some writing each session.

We'll figure out ways to depict these ideas, and sometimes we'll start with images and see which stories seem to relate.

In all of this, we'll be trying to locate a beating heart we had maybe neglected or not known about it, and we'll try to tell its story in words and pictures.


You must pacify or destroy anything in your way to go forward. - John Darnielle, Wolf in White Van

Going in for the Snakes

(Image by Lynda Barry)

The Snakes are the hard things, the difficult material, the stuff that will bite you. But you and Pee-Wee Herman and Indiana Jones and Elena Ferrante know that if you can confront them, you will be powerful. Joseph Campbell says, "The snake is the symbol of life throwing off the past and continuing to live… It is the power of life, because the snake sheds its skin, just as the moon sheds its shadow." This is the course where we'll grow from the power of our art. Where we will transmute wounds and sorrow into lightness and strength.
Going in for the Snakes
This class is a weekly series of topics, exercises and conversations. I'm hoping you'll share and recommend other readings confidently. (image by Julia Gfrorer)

You don't have to take this class!

It's easier to just make silly diary comics about what's in our fridge, or comics our friends will like on Facebook, but you know we've got a real story to tell, and we ought tell it.

We know that not digging around for the hard stuff is worse than avoiding it.

But we also know it's hard! We sometimes have to come at it from the side, dig around with our eyes closed, throw some stones in and listen for the echoes.

And we know that if we work at it and find and transmute some of that harder stuff, then we'll free a new freedom and satisfaction and strength.

Course curriculum

  • 02
    Session 1 - Simple Lines and Abstract Images
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  • 03
    Session 2 - Dreams - Getting Used To Stories Of Less Conscious Origin
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    • Video Introduction to Session 2
    • Readings - Koch, Woodring, Tsuge and more
    • Readings- Jim Wooding FRANK PDF
    • Readings - Tsuge Screw Style PDF
    • Exercise - The Snake Pit
    • Assignment: Guided Dream and Weather Patterns
    • List of Verbs
  • 04
    Session 3 - Us and Love
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    • Video Intro to Us and Love
    • EXERCISE - One more song lyric
    • Readings - Alabaster, Barry, Bell and More
    • Barry - My Perfect Life; Doug
    • Gabrielle Bell - Excerpt from Everything is Flammable
    • Seiichi Hayashi - Red Dragonfly, 1968
    • Moto Hagio - Hanshin, Half-God
    • Swamp Thing 56
    • Assignment - lovers parting or reuiniting
    • Lovers parting: King Kong (1933)
    • Bonus: Paul Simon's Mother and Child Reunion
  • 05
    Session 4 - Us and Society
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    • Video Introduction to Us and Society
    • Readings - Barry, Harmon, Davis, Kirby
    • Lynda Barry Perfect Life PDF
    • Jack Kirby - Street Code PDF
    • Keith Johnstone on fear of being looked at
    • Assignment - What will they think?
  • 06
    Session 5 - Bodies, Birth and Death
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    • Video Introduction to Bodies, Birth and Death
    • Readings - Vandistendael, Alabaster, Gloeckner
    • Alabaster - The Complete Talamaroo
    • Phoebe Gloeckner - The Sad Tale of the Visible Woman and Her Invisible Man
    • Eleanor Davis - The Fox
    • Judith Vandistendael - Excerpt from When David Lost His Voice
    • Ken Dahl - Excerpt from Monsters
    • Pictorial Exercises - Sketch from Videos or photos
    • Assignment: Bodies, Birth and Death
  • 07
    Session 6 - Us and History
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    • Video Introduction to Us and History
    • Exercise
    • Readings - Ratdke, Bayer
    • Kristen Radtke - History Part 1
    • Kristen Radtke - History Part 2
    • Reading - Julie Doucet - The Magic Necklace
    • Josh Bayer - Theth
    • Assignment
  • 08
    Session 7 - Wrap Up
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    • Wrap Up Video Introduction
    • Assignment - Free form finish
    • Snakes Reflection Sheet
    • Rate the course, please!
  • 09
    Bonuses
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    • Readings - Kristen Radtke, Richard McGuire and more
    • Lynda Barry - The Subject of Dad
    • Extra stuff
    • Miranda Harmon little comic
    • The Long Weekend in Alice Springs by Josh Santospirito and Craig San Roque

What other students have said

  • Jamie Eby

    “I loved everything about this class--the premise, the weekly reading assignments and exercises, the video intro to each week, the Google Communities format, and the enthusiastic and thoughtful fellow students. I learned so much--how exercises with...”

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    “I loved everything about this class--the premise, the weekly reading assignments and exercises, the video intro to each week, the Google Communities format, and the enthusiastic and thoughtful fellow students. I learned so much--how exercises with constraints can help and guide us, and even push us in directions we might have explored otherwise. I learned how to draw faster so I could turn in work every week. From the readings, I learned about new artists that I'm excited about. I appreciate how much work and thought must have been put into creating this class. Each week built on the week before, and the exercises were unique, challenging, and fun. I can't say enough good things. Thank you Tom! ”

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  • Michelle Bissonette

    “This class was really exciting. It allowed me to open up and come at the things I want to deal with in round-about ways. Coming at things in such a gradual way allowed me to tackle some BIG issues/stories without it feeling like such a gargantuan ...”

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    “This class was really exciting. It allowed me to open up and come at the things I want to deal with in round-about ways. Coming at things in such a gradual way allowed me to tackle some BIG issues/stories without it feeling like such a gargantuan task. I feel like many of the exercises and skills are things that I will add to my repertoire of idea building tactics and use for years to come. The readings were excellent and Tom is a fabulous instructor. Having an online community in which we can review each others' work and give feedback as to what is/isn't working was also extremely helpful.”

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  • Karr Antunes

    “I came into this course feeling like I had nothing to write/draw about. The ideas I did have seemed pointless and sometimes too superficial to bother writing about. I thought I would be stuck in my head forever, but this course made me realize tha...”

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    “I came into this course feeling like I had nothing to write/draw about. The ideas I did have seemed pointless and sometimes too superficial to bother writing about. I thought I would be stuck in my head forever, but this course made me realize that all these deep ideas, life experiences, and feelings I have inside me can most definitely be put onto paper. I finished the course feeling like I have TOO MUCH to write about, which is incredible. Now all I want to do is draw and write every second of every day. THANKS A LOT. ”