How do you all feel about comics as a medium? I think they can be an amazing way to tell a story, but I know not everyone agrees. There are some people out there that think comics are for kids, or that they have to be called Graphic Novels to have any kind of importance. Hogwash! I say.
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to take a class with Brian Michael Bendis. Brian is one of the main Marvel Creators right now, and has written some amazing self-produced comics, including the Powers series with artist Michael Avon Oeming. The two of them along with a host of amazingly talented comic artists, and self-producers, including David Mack (one of my favorites), have changed the way we look at comics as a genre.
Durring the class, we were expected to write a number of scripts, small comics, and a final, full length comic. This final project was all about constructing a full length comic from start to finish, and all that entails. We had to write the script, storyboard, and draw the final product (or get an artist). I chose to draw it myself, which was funny and gave me an unholy appreciation for artists. That process was no joke.
When I was finally done I turned in Trained, the story of a young man who gets taken on an adventure across country with two Hobos. There is geological humor, bad drawings, and what I hope, is an alright story. The whole thing is on Webcomics Nation, feel free to check it out. As a teaser, here is the front page.
I know, my artistic skills are amazing.
What does all this have to do with writing? Well, a lot. There is a ton of writing that goes into making comics. It’s one thing if you are drawing the piece as well, there can be little more leeway with the visual descriptions. Then you have to take into consideration your artist, and how much information you want to give them as far as artistic direction. Some artist like a lot of direction, some just want the script. Talk to your artist and figure it out beforehand so you don’t make anyone mad.
When the whole thing is finally laid out, the drawing begins. In the mean time, you still have to worry about grammar, punctuation, and storytelling. The storytelling process is, in my mind, sometimes more important than that of fiction writing. If you, as an author, don’t have a clear picture, how is your artist and your audience going to see and understand that vision?
What does this all have to do with anything? If you want to craft a good story check out some comics. They can teach you a lot about the craft. Learning more about comics certainly helped me craft a better story.
If you’re interested, here are a few books to check out:
- Making Comics, by Scott McCloud
- Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
- Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee
- Comics and Sequential Art, by Will Eisner
- Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, by Douglas Wolk
There are many more out there, the above list is just a sample of books that helped me. Check out your local comic store for more info.
As always, thanks for reading and please share.