Dudes, it is Christmas Eve Eve, so it is time to break out the Zombies. Yeeaaaah! So this is the play Daniel and his theatre buddies were working on, and wow it is … it is exactly like all the plays you see in high school! Lots of passionate flinging around of arms and singing and waving at the audience … ahhh, good times.
On this final blog post before Christmas, I wanted to talk about making comics with other people. Writers, in particular.
Typically, I make my comics all myself. That’s actually what I like best about making comics: I can do them all myself. Of course, there are other great people involved in the making of a great comic that’s going to be published, editors and designers and printers and publicists and others whose titles I forget, but the actual writing and drawing of the comic I can do all myself. I’m not an artist, and I’m not a writer. I’m both. I’m a cartoonist. Which is pretty cool.
I have reasons for preferring to draw AND write my own comics, and here they are:
1) I can do my own timing. I have strong opinions on how a comic should be paced. I like decompressed storytelling, and I like when the art is given time to breathe within the story, and characters given moments to act and express, rather than rushing around shouting dialogue at each other. That’s my main complaint with comic book writers: too many words! There doesn’t need to be a crush of dialogue on every page. Trust your artist to tell the story with drawings, not words! It won’t kill you to be quiet for a page or two, dear writers, I promise.
2) It is not very often that a writer approaches me with a story idea I want to draw. I do get offers, and sometimes I take those offers, but they are few and far between. Which disappoints me! I love other people’s stories! I love reading and consuming them, and I love it when I read something that’s so different from the stories I write. I would really love to team up with a writer and we could have a true collaboration together, creating a completely unique and different world together. I look at writers like John Arcudi and Mike Mignola (what they’ve done with the BPRD comics is amaaaaazing) or Brian Vaughn (Runaways), and I think their stories are so interesting and so different from what I would make … the thought of drawing a story so unlike my own is very attractive. But that hasn’t happened. For the most part, writers seem to think I’d like to draw relationship stories (about 80% of the stuff I’ve been offered has been stuff like that), which, if you look at my past work, is very baffling. I’ve done comics about demon families, girls fighting at boarding schools, zombies and superhero girls because they are fun and exciting to draw. Drawing a sitcom is not very interesting to me. I don’t know if writers are responding to the fact that I’m a girl, but I hope not because ew.
3) Comics are so time consuming! I can only draw about one graphic novel a year (around 300 pages. This year I drew about 240 pages not counting the Superhero Girl comics, but 96 of those were coloured, so that slowed me down), and I have tons of ideas for comics myself. Taking time off from my own comics to draw someone else’s is sometimes not possible if I want to get my own comics finished. But again, this goes back to being offered good projects. I’m delighted when one lands in my lap (like Bigfoot Boy or Brain Camp, more on them later), but it just doesn’t happen very often. It often strikes me as unfair that a writer can write more comics than I can draw. I’ve seen writers do three comics at a time, whereas I can only draw one at a time (although I’m currently doing two comics, but I’m soooo behind on one of them XD). It’s frustrating. I wish I could clone myself so I could draw all the comics. Sadly, I can’t.
But every now and then, I make comics with other people. So far I’ve made two graphic novels with others: Brain Camp, which was my first experience drawing someone else’s script, and the graphic novel I’m working on now with writer J.Torres, called Bigfoot Boy.
Both of these experiences were different, and both presented unique challanges, but before I talk about them, let me mention how I ended up drawing these books, because that’s always the number one question I get asked at conventions: “I’m a writer and I want to make comic books. How do I get an artist to draw my script?”
Answer: Pay them.
Both Brain Camp and Bigfoot Boy were scripts that were at publishers who had money to pay the artist who would draw those scripts. And I didn’t have to do a ton of work to be considered for the job, either: for Brain Camp I drew three pages of the script, and for Bigfoot Boy I didn’t even have to do that, I just did character sketches. So the time I had to put in on a project that might not pay was minimal. For an overworked artist like myself, struggling to get her work out there, that was a big plus.
Also, they were pretty cool projects. Brain Camp is about an evil summer camp, and reminded me of John Carpenter’s The Thing, one of my favourite movies. Bigfoot Boy has, well, a Bigfoot in it (I am Canadian. ;)). And the scripts were written by experienced writers with many publishing credits to their name, which is a big plus. When you’re an artist working with a writer, you want to be able to trust that writer. I personally feel that in comics, a good story can overcome mediocre art, but if your story sucks, there is no amount of amazing artwork that will make that comic a good comic.
Now, as to attracting artists before reaching that experienced writer stage where your scripts are in the hands of publishers who can pay artists to draw them …. I have no idea! And I feel like I’m the wrong person to ask, because I feel the most comfortable writing and drawing my own stories. I know artists who do not write, and who have no desire to tell their own stories, they just want to draw. But that isn’t me, so I don’t feel like my response to the age old “how do you attract an artist if you’re a writer” question is not the norm.
But anyway, back to my experiences drawing someone else’s script. They were good! Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan were the writers on Brain Camp, and they were content to let me draw the script how I interpreted it. They let me design the characters how I thought they should look (I made the male lead look a bit like a baby Kurt Russell to reference The Thing), which I enjoyed. The script was done by the time I came aboard, so I appreciated that they let me leave my visual stamp on the book. If they’d hovered or been more picky about the look of the comic, it probably would have felt less “mine,” and like I was just hired to do an illustration gig.
Bigfoot Boy, so far, has been great fun (well, except for the super-crunchy deadline, but o wells). It’s a comic for young readers, so it’s bouncy and funny, and contains lots of physical comedy and cute animals. J.Torres is an experienced comic book writer, and it shows. He’ll have pages where characters won’t be talking, but instead be reacting to the world around them, and it’s very nice. As an artist I feel trusted to tell the story visually. And that’s really want you want, if you’re going to be drawing someone else’s script.
A panel from Bigfoot Boy! I think it will be out next year, so yay. Buy one for your little sibling or other cool kids who like comics.