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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Keeping Afloat

In response to a question from “The Masked Retriever” on “How do I Keep this Ship from Sinking” (in relation to making a graphic novel). I decided to make this a post to give other people a place to chime in and add to the topic.

There are so many different ways to tell a story in comic form, but I can only speak for myself and what works for me. Personally, I hate doing a ton of pre-production. It just sucks the spark out of the work for me. I’d rather develop the comic on paper, page by page designing what is needed at the time. It keeps it fresh for me and every new page is a new challenge as well as a surprise. I know people like Craig Thompson who draw every page in a very (almost finished) detailed rough and work out the whole project before hand, and more power to him because his stuff kicks ass.

That being said, I can’t do anything without knowing my story (at least in broad terms). I’d place myself in box #3 “The Idiom” from Scott McClouds Understanding Comics for my approach to comics. I start with an idea & the idea dictates the style and tone of the work.

I don’t write out the story, mostly because the story lives and develops in my head, fleshing out over time as new ideas and twists crop up. Originally Chiaroscuro was a serial, so I would pen out some rough dialogue and the ideas I wanted to convey in a comic of 20 odd pages. I kept that approach mentality even after I stopped publishing the individual issues, kind of like chapters in a novel. I’m not sure if/how that will change for Book 2, which will not be published in segments.

Above all I know where my story is going, it has an end and I know the ideas I want to play with and explore in between. The great thing about the graphic novel though is the room you have to play with tangents and digressions that allow the story to breath.

As for the art, I decided right off the bat to allow that to develop on it’s own as well. I knew that page five was not going to look like page 230; the overall feel of the story would dictate the look. A comfortable and “right” look would emerge that would suit the story. I figured it’s better to draw page one and get on with it than to plan my life away. It’s probably also a reaction to working in animation for so many years, the idea of “On Model” drives be around the bend and is probably the reason I’ll never get work at Marvel (Not that I’d necessarily want to, I’m just saying).

So for me, the idea and the story are the most important. If the art can compliment the tone of the story then in my mind we have a winner and something you can really bite into. If you can’t wait to draw issue #4 when you’re only half way through issue #1 then I wouldn’t worry to much about things going stale, because if you’re excited about the work it will come through.

I hope that was helpful, anyone else?


At 1:49 PM, Anonymous The Masked Retriever said...


It makes a lot of sense not to worry so much about drifting style, drifting convention, drifting plot.

After asking my question, I began to realize that I am in fact almost two years into my first truly long-form comic, Umlaut House 2.

Perhaps in the end, comprehension is the only "hard goal" for consistent artwork; if the reader can always recognize two characters from one another, does it matter that both change how they look over the course of the work?

Perhaps not.

Thanks for the advice, though!

At 3:00 PM, Blogger CamChes said...

Congratulations Troy. I'm looking forward to reading the entire book. Good Luck with the publisher search.


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