Sunday, September 22

Creating a Comic Series is Hard.

Image (cc) by Michael Maggs
I've been really lucky, I think, to have had the opportunity to study comics creation in both an academic and workshop setting, learning from great artist-authors like Paul Hornschemier and Wayne Wise.

Because otherwise, I'm pretty sure I'd be completely lost on my project, Son of the Siren. Now I'm only mostly-lost.

Son of the Siren sprouted from my brain in March right when I was finishing up my novel, The Name and the Key.  I was SO TEMPTED to start working on it then, because I was nearing burnout mode on the book, and I wanted to make something else. But I held off.

After graduating from SHU and sending out queries to agents (and beginning the next two books in the series), I did reach full burnout mode and decided to temporarily shelve work on the trilogy. I figure if you're starting to hate your books, you need to pull away, fast.

And thus I began work on Son of the Siren--a project to keep my brain creative, my fingers moving, and fill the nothingness of my schedule while I wait for agent responses and potential employer responses.

I remembered the importance of drawing thumbnails (storyboards) the art for the comic from a three-hour comics module I took with Wayne Wise. I grabbed a GIANT artist portfolio notebook ( 12 x 8 inches), flipped it on its side, and got to work.

At first, I wanted to draw characters that looked like characters. That was the perfectionist in me trying to take over. But I realized when you're storyboarding and plotting, little sketchy shapes will do just fine. It took me a few squares to figure that out, but once I got over myself, (and got messy!) I started working faster.

Starting to ink in Manga Studio, whee!
Image (c) KEB.
After drafting 45 thumbnails, I got a little antsy and tried to get a full-fledged page completed.  It took me about twelve hours to do this, because I am a total newbie and honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing most of the time.

I am unable to draw people without using references for their body, so luckily deviantArt has Senshi Stock, a resource of photographs with different poses for artists to reference. I'm pretty sure until I get better, my comic series will be full of Senshi Stock people.

When I draw, I have more of an interest in people than I do backgrounds or scenery. I also am incapable of drawing realistically or clean on any level. For a bit, I beat myself up about this, and being unable to understand things like perspective or anatomy (d'oh!) that "real" artists understand.

But then I remembered Paul Hornschemier's words from the Thurber House workshop: you don't have to be a great artist to create a comic. You have to have a good story. 

Because my self-confidence has taken a bit of a hit lately, I felt like I needed this concept to be validated by my artistic peers. I ran a poll on my deviantArt page asking what people look for when they pick up a comic. 81% said it was the promise of a good story that ensured whether or not they'd give a comic or manga a chance.

I found that data to be very encouraging, which gave me enough of a boost to get the series up and running. I'm happy to say I just completed the first page of the story, which only took... uh...ten hours, maybe? And although I can look at the art and realize that I've made technical mistakes a pro would be able to overcome,  I have to tell myself that I've got a great story here, and my artwork is a bit more stylized, and totally how I do things. Since the comic is a fantasy, I figure I can get away with a little bit more. :)


I'm happy with the first page of the comic. If you're interested in keeping tabs on the story, click the picture and it'll take you to deviantArt, which is where I'll be submitting it. If interest increases, or if enough of the comic is posted, I'll probably expand it to a place like SmackJeeves or Manga Magazine (for free). 

I'll keep you updated on the creative process, and if there's any resources or tips I uncover while I work on this, I'll let you know.