I’ve posted snippets like the one above for a while – it’s fun and gets a few thoughts down in a fun way. The comic ‘Me’ up there is quite right – I love comic books! I read a lot (more on that in another post) and I love some more than others, that’s quite natural.
But I also think I’m guilty of a bit of whining here and there (maybe you too?). Oh, the colours are hard to look at, the style is all scratchy, the font is hard to read etc…There are also professionals who give a better review of comics too – fair points well made. But what is it to create a comic?
As Hercules probably didn’t say ‘This stuff is hard work!’
Don’t get me wrong, there are books on my shelves that are in danger of being taken apart so I can frame some of the artwork in there. It’s breathtaking and beautiful! (More fool the art lover who ignores comic publishing!)
So, I decided to explore a starting point that some comics folks I know went through to get to where they are today. A six page story. Short stories like these can be submitted to comics houses and websites to be shared with a wider audience. I think it’s a great way to learn bucket-loads about what it takes to commit to completing a comic.
Here’s what I did –
1. Write a story. Welcome to writer world. Plenty of folks have this down as a piece of cake – but it took me some thought to create a short with even shorter dialogue!
2. Plan the images you want to see. How did I want to tell the story? I wasn’t really sure, but I kinda jumped in with both feet and all my brushes. Some panels I already had in mind, some took lots of trial sketches.
3. Design the characters. This bit I did in writing first, I jotted a few notes down to give them more dimensions in my mind. Things changed rapidly here! Mrs Leonard was a series of truly awful drawings until I understood her. Dr Rose, was a guy I couldn’t seem to visualise, so I drew her as a woman and it all clicked for me.
4. Pencil in those panels! I sketched out the panels I wanted to draw on my usual grid paper notebook (grid paper is my safe place!). Some things were drawn from objects in front of me. In some cases I snapped a photo on my phone to draw (It’s amazing how easily people will pose their bottom for you to draw if you ask nicely!)
5. Draw it again, bigger and tighten it up. I drew on pages of an A3 sketchbook. I took the pages out before working on them (this I learned at art school a bajillion years ago after I created some work and then ripped it trying to get it out of the sketchbook. Don’t do that.)
6 .Ink in the lines. Ok. I really paused here. Performance anxiety! But I love to work in ink, so I kept pushing. You don’t know until you try right?
7. Splashy shading. As ever, I work with brushes and ink. So watery inks it was for this one. I decided to stick with what I know so that I felt a bit braver. I lucked out too! There’s no erasing of ink and all of the pages are the ones I started out with. I didn’t have to start them again – yay!
8. Text. I cheated – kind of. You could say I ‘picked a style’ but that would be complete bobbins. I was nervous about fitting the speech bubbles in – they’re still a bit tight. So, instead of putting it on the page, I put them in cut outs and stuck them on. That way, if I messed them up, I could replace them and not have to change the panels.
9. Scan and fix. I went down to the copy shop and paid them to scan the pages into a PDF. My little scanner is A – moody, B – too small. So I paid to get it done. It might have been possible to take photos but the pages are a bit big. The image at the top of the page is a photo, it’s ok for me when I do something smaller.
I ‘fixed’ the scans a bit in Photoshop. I had to desaturate, um, because I accidentally splashed coffee on one of the pages. (What!? Don’t judge! It’s an occupational hazard for the caffeine dependent.) I also used the ‘burn’ tool on the speech bubbles and the title panel. They came up a bit pale. Frankly, that’s less tweaking and phaffing about than I expected.
10. Publish. Am I bricking it? Oh, yessir, I certainly am! Why? Because I like the nice folks who support my creative mess and I don’t want their eyes to roll so far back into their head that they see their own optic nerves. I also know folks who are super-pro at this game, and that makes me feel a bit shy too. But given both sets of people are also the ones who are kind enough to even take a minute to look at what I’m doing, well, it’s better to complete something and learn from it.
Naturally it was not entirely that simple and it takes a lot of time around the usual tasks of working life. By all means ask about it in the comments – probably best I stop waffling here and get on with it. You can click on the images to make them a bit bigger (for squishy text reasons).
Here we go then. A punchline based on walking through a city of zombies who can’t look up.
What did I learn?
1. I’m thinking on how I write text and how I use a computer to adjust imagery. That will take some practice!
2. Doing things to completion is the best way of learning.
3. Reading more comics helped me solve things as I worked.
4. Much, much more! And – there’s a follow-up strip associated with Mrs Leonard’s investigation above.
5. Try it yourself.