Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Do It Yourself Comic: The Concept

So where to start? I'm going to make a comic. The way I think, the first step to making a comic is having an idea. A comic (or any art) might not reach creation without your brain putting together something you find interesting yourself, which plays into the oft-repeated "write what you know" guideline. True, you can in fact make a comic without having an idea first, but doing so is probably going to lead toward something that you don't find personally fulfilling, and might leave anyone who reads it pretty freaking bored. So yeah, idea time.

Ideas can come from anywhere, from any image, sound, or just random screwed up thought you might stumble across during your regular day. The one I'm working with deals with a few factors which directly relate to the creation of the book I'm going to put together, specifically the actual craft of illustration. I suck at drawing. I suck at drawing so badly I can't even classify what I do as drawing. So already I have a huge obstacle to overcome. If I can't draw, what kind of freaking comic am I going to be able to make? I am approaching this problem not unlike Robert Rodriguez did when he made his first film El Mariachi, which he wrote about in his book Rebel Without a Crew. Later that film and book (along with a film called Slacker, by Richard Linklater) helped inspire a dude named Kevin Smith write, direct, and star in Clerks. The basic idea Rodriguez presented was to make a list of things you have, and to write your script around those things. This is a dangerous way to create a story because you deal with the very real possibility of creating a shallow story based around objects which have little to no connection to one another, or even just a story that falls flat because it is devoid of character. You might only have a rolling pin and some stamps. Sure, it's possible to write a compelling story about those two objects, but you better be a freaking Story Magician if that's what you're working with.

In my case the idea of generating this list of objects to be used comes about because, yeah, I can't draw for shit. I'm left with a few options, which are: 1. Find someone to illustrate for me. This kind of conflicts with the whole idea of DIY, and will take longer (and cost more), so it's out; 2. Compile a comic using photographs. While this is definitely a viable option, it leaves me pretty cold. I've always found it hard to get into comics that are "illustrated" with photographs, and that right there is a bad sign when thinking about making one myself. So yeah, moving on; 3. Take photos and light box them to produce penciled art. True, this is technically still photographs, but my primitive brain sees the penciled art and thinks "comic," whereas when it sees photographs it thinks "photographs." It's a weird, neurotic thing, and one I could maybe delve into deeper, but I'd rather just make a comic. So I'm going to go with option number 3.

Which leads us back to the concept. Knowing I'm going to be "illustrating" it myself based off of pictures I take, my list has to contain some obvious materials:

• camera
• computer
• scanner
• light box
• pencils, pens, paper, all that jazz...

None of those concern story, though, right? So how do I arrive at the concept I want to make, using those tools? I like to start with things - either emotions, ideas, images, anything really - I find interesting. When I decided to go on this DIY comic journey, an idea popped into my head which would utilize things I had, while relying minimally on other people and objects. The concept evolved out of an idea I already had for a two-page spread within a story I am plotting called "Ninjaville." It revolves around anger, and how it can fester inside of us, and occasionally doing so without our knowledge. We might not even recognize our anger secretly forming, nursing itself, doubling and tripling until one day it comes rocketing out in some form. I liked that idea. It made me nod, so I went further.

The two-page spread I had in mind would deal specifically with one character's fist, and what happens when his anger gets the best of him. It's somewhat obvious, but that's something I can't let myself worry about at this stage. It could stall me, kill my momentum quickly, so I need to focus on my conviction that I can tell an interesting story using this concept, and one that will maybe be compelling to read. Also, showing anyone the process from concept to completion immediately lets them in on any secrets or surprises the story might have, so this is technically a little different than it would normally go.

Another roadblock I need to avoid - and this is from learning my lesson in the past, with other attempts - is to worry about the title later. I LOVE naming things. I freaking love it. I don't know why, but naming shit gives me such joy, so I have to be careful or I'll just sit around writing down potential titles.

So now what? I have to take my concept, which I'll sum up as "creeping anger," and create a story. Since I'm planning on writing, drawing, and even starring in this comic myself, I have to think about time. How much time do I have to do this? It isn't a strong enough concept to create anything more than a single issue, and that actually lends itself to the amount of time I'll be spending making the thing, as well. Also, I'm going to have to print the thing myself as well, most likely from a computer I own. This leads to an entire world of information I'll need, but right now I want to focus on the creation. There is always time for editing later - yet another lesson learned - and I know if I let myself wander too far away from the world I'm trying to create, I can most definitely get lost and be unable to find my way back there. One thing I know I'll have to keep in mind though is script length. Even though it's great to be artsy, and live in the moment while spinning around and letting my mind be free, I can't float off completely. I'm going to aim for writing a comprehensible story in 16 pages. More on that later, and how many pages of actual paper it'll translate into.

So here we go. I'm going to take the concept of creeping anger and how it can affect us, and see what my head comes up with.
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Obviously this is all very subjective, and is one way to do things. I am absolutely in love with comics in almost every aspect. I love reading and hearing about process, and have mined various creators' own methods to come up with my own. This is just how I go about doing what I am trying to do. I'm not an expert, and will never ever claim to be. Later I'll post script pages, art samples while I'm refining my "illustration" process, and whatever relevant information/experience comes up.

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