Thursday, February 28, 2013

Making Comics is Hard

I've been trying to do some work on Mystery Project X every day. And nearly every day I hit some problem on which I bang and bang and bang and bang and eventually pound through. I've heard it said that if it's not hard, you're not stretching yourself enough. I'm stretched.

The problem usually isn't drawing, it's storytelling--controlling the pace of the story through the panels and deciding what information needs to be in each panel to not only depict that moment of action but pay off the previous one and set up the next.

I could write a really long post on this topic someday. Not today. But here's a fundamental truth about making comics I didn't understand when I was young: a lot of people can draw one pretty picture that'll take your breath away. Literally millions of artists can draw prettier, more impressive pictures than I can.

The trick--what makes what I'm trying to do comics rather than illustration--is drawing the pictures before and after that one to convey information, create a mood, evoke an emotion. The choices you make define your voice. They can't all be technical showstoppers, any more than every violin recital can be "Flight of the Bumblebee." Sometimes the very best comics panel is one that shows very little. Sometimes the most perfect thing you can draw is nothing at all.

It's really hard.


Mike Lynch said...

I was watching some documentary whose name maybe I can remember by the time I finish this comment. So, anyway, it was about making movies and someone, a producer I think, said the script doesn't matter -- it's the STORY. So, dialogue, camera angles, casting, etc. are important -- but not as important as the story behind them. Does this make sense? Sizzle can't hide a bad steak, etc.

OK, I'm at the end and I'm not sure I remember where I saw this. Maybe some mini-doc on the Oscars. Regardless, good advice.

Looking forward to the storytelling in MPX -- and I hope it's one day soon.

karen martin said...

It's the same as what I tell my peeps - if your job doesn't make you throw up, you are not reaching high enough!

Jim O'Kane said...

The most accursed part of storytelling is that when you *know* every last stinking detail of the amazing colossal narrative you want to astound and impress upon your audience, it seems obvious how to present the thrilling thing. Once the story that was in your mind is transferred to page or screen, though, it instantly morphs into a plodding, murky, pointless distraction that has little to nothing to do with the mood and insights you had in your head.

At least, that's my experience.

I've told my Sekrit Space History story dozens of times to complete strangers and close relatives. It all seems so darned *compelling*, but when I've dumped the hair-curling tale into Microsoft Word, I want to delete the drive partition and go bowling. Why do storytelling roadblocks appear when you try to put stuff between book covers? Urrrgh.