Monday, August 29, 2011

The Do It Yourself Comic - Plotting

Here I am, working my way toward making a comic. I've gone through a couple of steps already, working on the concept of my book, as well as some preliminary design work regarding the art. It's all been a ton of fun, and I'm ready to get started on the next step in the process. I've said it before, but I'll reiterate it now: none of this is supposed to read as a How-To, but simply as a description of how one amateur does things.

Normally when I start writing what I hope will turn out as a comic, whether I have an artist attached or not, I begin with plotting. It wasn't always like this, but it's something I've gotten more and more comfortable with, and something I view as necessary to make sure I go into the actual writing as prepared as possible. At first it was hard, and felt pretty arduous, but after doing it consistently something weird happened. It stopped seeming like work, and started seeming like fun. Actually, sometimes it feels like I'm having more fun plotting than actually writing. That doesn't really matter in the end, because I can't really not do one or the other, not without making myself feel like shit.

The comic I'm trying to make is going to be 16 pages, a mini-comic that tells a story with a beginning and an end. Technically there will probably be a middle, but that might be kind of hard to plan for, so right now I'm plotting out the beginning and end. I want to try and present two characters in a way so the reader feels as if they know about them and their lives, and finds them intriguing, interesting, and provocative in some way. It's definitely a tall order for 16 pages wherein I introduce the characters while simultaneously trying to tell a story and end it satisfyingly.

I talked a little about what I have in mind during the concept stage, and I'll expand on that here. The idea I came up with for this mini evolved out of a two-page spread layout I had planned for a story I'm currently plotting for another book called "Ninjaville." I'd still like to use the layout for that comic, but that one's going to need an illustrator, a lot more time, and most likely some funding. For now I'll have to settle for using the idea within this mini, and having it filtered through my own abilities with photographs, light-boxing, digital editing, and print methods.

The layout would have 10 panels, with 6 running across the top (an even number to easily divide down the middle, with that bastard fold), one giant panel in the middle, and four panels running across the bottom (again, even). I want to follow a character walking through the top 6 panels, illustrating and laying out the art so the character's head/face isn't shown. The idea not to show the character's face is based on two things: first, I don't really want my face in this mini a bunch. It's partly a shyness/self-conscious thing, but it's also because I don't really want to be the star of a comic, I just want to write and create them. Second, I really like the idea of showing emotion using nothing but body language, particularly hands. Why the hell did I choose hands? That's part of the original layout; those top 6 panels following the character walking will have six smaller panels within them, framing the right hand of our protagonist. It will be clenched into a fist, and I want the readers' eyes to follow it just as closely as they follow his walking, maybe more so.

The concept of creeping anger, or having anger sneak up on you and take hold so completely it poisons your thoughts, actions, and emotions is intriguing to me. By putting the focus on that fist I'm letting the reader know that something is going to happen. I can either make it obvious, or not. I'm choosing to go the obvious route. This guy is heading somewhere to punch someone, and this has to come across with no facial expressions. It's going to have dialogue, all in narrative text boxes, but none of it is going to say anything like, "I'm going to punch him."

After I knew I wanted to incorporate that two-page spread, and play with the idea of a very sneaky anger, my head circled the idea, looked at all the angles and corners it could possibly go in. Focusing on that hand gave me the idea to do a comic that is largely based around nothing but hands. They are how we interact with the world on a daily basis. That particular thought sent me down a path that led me to the theme of giving and taking, both of which we do with our hands, including throwing punches. With a theme now - give and take - I thought about why this character wanted to punch the other character so badly. One of the things I came up with was a disgruntled employee. It isn't original, admittedly, but for a 16-page mini-comic I'm not planning on doing any follow-up issues to, I decided that was fine. Right now it's more about showing myself I can do this if I want to, and I am the only one who is going to stop me. Still though, I want the story to have something original, and plan on bringing that with my characterizations and layout.

My character is going to react to something so poorly that he believes punching his boss is the answer. Actually, he probably doesn't think about it at all. Once that anger takes hold things escalate quickly, and if he thinks anything it's a hazy mess of emotion. With the why in place I could focus more fully on the ending, which I'm not planning on being just a punch; I want to make the reader care that this person has punched someone else, and again, with 16 pages I'll have my work cut out for me.

One thing I've read from numerous editors, writers, and artists is that when pitching a comic it's important to completely explain the project, and not attempt to hold out on the ending or any surprises. You're not trying to have them experience the pitch exactly like the reader will experience the comic. I'm not pitching this comic though, so I can violate that rule. I'm not going to tell what the ending is, other than someone gets punched. I still want someone to read this eventually, so I'll hold onto at least one secret.

Knowing that I will be writing about anger, using hands to illustrate how we give and take from each other constantly and how that can maybe incite anger, I went from there. I would use myself as the character who does the punching, and cast a friend as the character who gets punched. Now I can start writing the script, which won't come out finished. It'll need editing and refining, and will most likely give me some ideas regarding layout that could potentially affect story as well.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Do It Yourself Comic: The Design

After deciding to make a comic and thinking up a concept for what exactly the thing would contain and be about, I moved onto the next step. Since I'm going to compile the art myself by taking photographs and light-boxing them, I wanted to focus on the design before I got too far into scripting. In this case, "design" is sort of a loose term, since I'm referring to light-boxing photographs to produce pencils. I've messed around with light-boxing in the past, and was generally pretty happy with the results I came up with, but it'd been a while. It was possible I'd take some photos, sit down to light-box them, and realize it looked like garbage.

All the times in the past I've ever started working on a comic I've always started with the writing first, but that's because I haven't been involved in the illustration. Now, since I'm doing both, I was able to think of things somewhat differently, or at least in a slightly altered order. Although I haven't written any of the script yet there are a lot of images in my head, ideas for panel progression and storytelling mechanisms, and knowing some of this stuff definitely helped when I wanted to do some practice art. I really like thinking of how a page will be laid out, how to utilize the comic form to tell interesting stories, and visualization plays a pretty big role in my writing process.

I went out with my camera and my buddy named Emery Peck to take some photos. Some of the pictures were random, staged so I could practice with penciling in (tracing) details later, things like shadows, folds in clothing and so forth. Other pictures were reminiscent of sequences I am planning to write. There were a few concerns I had with my camera - mostly about utilizing continuous shooting to capture movement, and whether that would look more authentic than posing the "actors" - along with how close I would need to shoot in order to give myself high quality pictures, basically so I wouldn't be with a photo to light-box and end up trying to discern what the hell all the blurry blobs in the background were.

Here are two of the 56 pictures we took. I selected these because they presented people at two very different distances, and also in places with varied amounts of shadow and detail.

I took the pictures in color, then changed them to black and white afterwards on my laptop. I also altered the contrast, exposure, and definition to make the blacks darker. This makes it easier to find definition between objects when light-boxing. I'm still unsure if I'm planning on inking the pencils or not. I can definitely alter the pencils digitally, darkening them either in Photoshop or Illustrator, but inks tend to add another level of completion to pencils.

After altering the original photos I printed them both out on a single page of regular computer paper. Since I don't have a light box, and
don't have the money to buy one (or the materials to make one) I had to figure out some way to create a light box from what I have around the house. I took a drawing out of a picture frame, removed its cardboard back, and was left with a large pane of glass. Next, I took a table lamp from the living room, removed its shade and sat it on the floor. I sat with the pane of glass on my knees, and let the bare light bulb project its light up and through the glass. I laid the page with the printed photos down and taped it in place using Painter's Tape, the blue kind people usually use to make sure they don't accidentally paint on their wainscoting or carpet. Painter's Tape is made with less adhesive (or at least a less-aggressive adhesive), so you can pull it off without worrying about bringing whatever it's stuck to along. In this case it's going to be the art for the comic, so I don't have to worry about ruining a page because I accidentally tore the page in half or something.

Next, I laid a piece of plain computer paper over the photo page, and taped it in place as well. Someone once showed me a trick for keeping two sheets of paper flat against each other, and I did that here: I laid a ruler down, keeping the pages flush and allowing the maximum amount of detail to shine through from the photographs.

To "illustrate" I used a simple, cheap mechanical pencil. I had a fine tip Sharpie next to me, in case I wanted to try my hand at inking, but I skipped that for now. Here's what I came up with.

 I didn't get too deep into the details yet because I wanted to focus on the face in the first image and the shadows in the second. There is a lot of wood grain in that first photo, and a ton of bushes in the second, and I didn't want to spend too much time on these. I definitely don't want to "draw" in an intensely realistic style, and did a pretty loose trace in some parts. After doing this initial test with the light-boxing I'm confident I can achieve the style I'm looking for, and will be able to at least get the images I want. There's definitely further design work in the future, though, because I've got a few very specific ideas about layout, but I don't want to think too much of that just yet.

I'm definitely planning on drawing more of the backgrounds, but didn't do so here because these were just tests. I'm pleased with how the art turned out, so I can let my head move on to the next phase: scripting.

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.
- • -

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.

Paying Too Much Attention: Doing It Yourself

There are a lot of ideas out there. People are thinking all the time, and it isn't always about whether their jeans are too saggy in the butt, or if their breath smells, or if maybe one eye is slightly bigger (or slightly squintier) than the other. Those are very real concerns, yes, and mostly because these Smell Factories called bodies carry our minds around all day and night. Eventually we learn to curb these worries, and think about something outside of ourselves, something Other. When that happens the possibilities are only limited by where we're willing to let our heads go.

My head has continually gone toward the land of fiction for a while now. It's a great big universe where anything can happen, and usually does. I could cut this up into little finer slices of existence, but seriously, it is just so huge that I would be putting too fine a point on it. Fiction allows us to describe our lives (individual or collective) by talking about ANYTHING.

Fiction isn't constrained to prose, and realistically it isn't even confined within the realm of the written word. I certainly don't think that all fiction is art, but that's the great thing, isn't it? The subjective nature of art allows all of us to see something different in whatever form we're enjoying; or hating, consuming, watching, reading, just pick a verb and enter it here and you are taking part in the freaking amazing world of art.

I'm not trying to figure out what is or isn't art. There is no definitive answer there, at least not one that isn't completely colored by opinion. What I'm thinking about is the idea I mentioned earlier, at the beginning of all this: the astronomical amount of ideas and the amount of people having them. Not everyone is concerned with fiction, though, so that original number (which really only exists as a symbol) can be decreased. Now we're dealing with a more manageable amount of thinkers. Still though, everyone who has thoughts about fiction does not have the desire to create more, so again, we can subtract. It's a smaller amount gone, however, because if you are a reader - specifically of comic books - the chances are somewhat high you'll want to create what you enjoy. I would never say the comic book world is filled with people aching to create the art they love, more so than any other artistic field, but it probably wouldn't be too hard to convince me.

I read comics. I want to make comics. More specifically, write them. I've been working at it for a while now, and the amount of people (fellow comic readers) I've met who have ideas for comics is large. If looked at one way, this means the odds of becoming a comic book writer (or artist, inker, letterer, editor, etc.) are constantly shifting, steadily closing in to suffocate. Another way to look at it is that with more ideas comes more yearning for creation. So if cut up into two very rigid categories, we're dealing with either being disheartened or inspired.

Those aren't the only two options, obviously. One of them is incredibly negative, and the other can easily come off as arrogant or pretentious. It's possible to avoid falling into these traps (I think doctors call them emotions), and go after what you want regardless of the bullshit known as "the odds." No one can stop you from making comics. People can hurt you, but they can help you too, and the latter is hard to remember occasionally. One place that made me realize I haven't tried hard enough to make comics was Kickstarter. It's an amazing place, a freaking portal of inspiration. I found a comic project on there which clicked my head-gears over into a configuration where the thought of "I'm going to do this" wasn't so hard to come by. I didn't decide to start a Kickstarter project, but I did decide that putting together a small comic is something I'm completely capable of, and immensely passionate about.

Even if I'm not getting paid to do it, I feel like I have to make comics. I replace all my worries about whether my jeans are the right shade of denim for my outfit with thoughts about comics. If I'm not making a comic of some kind, then I'm wasting my time. So I'm going to put together a comic, and document the process on here.  Maybe no one will see it, maybe I'll show it to everyone because I took something out of my head and made it into something. It might suck. It might be mediocre. It might even be good. But it will definitely be.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#048 - Party Like a Serial Killer

It turns out partying like a serial killer is actually the same as partying like you normally would? Yeah, trust us. Beg us to continue on Twitter. Email and talk to us about all the things you can't talk to anyone else about. Facebook isn't just for your grandma. Fanoff loves us and we love them. Tumblr has the pictures. Comic Booked will let you enjoy us over there too. Why don't you go to iTunes and download us? Please?

Episode #048:
• Intro - Partying in one form or another! Discount Comic Book Services wants you to party with them.
• Topic Thunder - Korean webcomics are gonna' get ya'; Brian Azzarello is going to scare us with Wonder Woman; and Grant Morrison wants to commit vehicular manslaughter.
• Read 'Em and Weep - Walking Dead #88 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard; Venom #6 by Rick Remender and Tom Fowler; and Supergirl #68 by Kelly-Sue Deconnick and Chriscross.
• Listen Bitches - Schmreen selects "Hell" by Tegan and Sara; Austin selects "On Palestine" by JJ Grey and Mofro; and David selects "Heartbeats" by Jose Gonzalez.

David Hopkins and Austin Wilson love Frisbee. This show runs 2:01:21. Go to and find your way to us in all forms.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#047 - Trailblazers? No.

The pre-show preparation includes a lot of chanting and speaking in tongues. Episode #047 touches on this somewhat, but not a lot. Ask us about it more on Twitter. Email for any reason at all. Facebook lets you show your friends that you love us. Fanoff rocks, go there! Tumblr is nice yes? Comic Booked is a cool place too, so go there after. Listen, especially on iTunes. You can love, too.

Episode #047:
• Intro - Ceremonial body painting is discussed! Go visit Discount Comic Book Services where there are some freaking awesome deals! 
• Topic Thunder - Web-comic product placement and Taco Bell; Robert Kirkman may betray us; and Marvel hates Jack Kirby, apparently.
• Read 'Em and Weep - Batgirl #24 by Bryan Q. Miller and Pere Perez; Criminal: Last of the Innocents #3 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips; Punisher Max #16, by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon.
• Listen Bitches - David selects "Make It Wit Chu" by Queens of the Stone Age; Austin selects "Give a Little" by Hanson; both the boys select "Hideous Energy: The Truth Shirts" by Bryan J. Daggett.

David Hopkins and Austin Wilson are their own product placement. They talk about themselves like they are products. It's weird. This show runs 1:39:45. Oh yeah! Go to now, and you'll go right to Fan Off, which acts as a hub for all of our stuff! It even has an iTunes link on it. Yes!

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Tom Brevoort Interview!

We're taking over the whole week! Not really, but we are expanding to publish interviews on Fridays. This doesn't mean there will be an interview every Friday, but that when we do have one it will appear on said day. Go find us on Twitter. Email if you are a creator and want interviewed, or if you want to suggest an interview idea. Facebook could use you. Fanoff has MP3 downloads of us talking! Tumblr gives you plenty of ideas of how to be creative. Comic Booked has us and other shows too. Right now though...

Go listen to this interview we did with Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing for Marvel Comics, Tom Brevoort. Tom stopped by to talk with us about what exactly his job entails, and we delve deeply into the process Marvel uses to edit its stories, as well as their thoughts on finding and using new talent. It's a very informative interview. If you wanted to know more about how the comics get from the companies/creators into your hands, then listen to this!

Austin Wilson and David Hopkins love doing interviews. Don't forget, they'll be on Fridays from now on. This show runs 1:05:06, and is available from Fan Off, Comic Booked, and most importantly from iTunes!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

#046 - Our Business Ain't Usual

Episode #046 shows what happens when people sponsor us. The result? Nothing too different. Chatter at us on Twitter. Email with either Top 5 suggestions, or anything at all. Facebook lets us all be friends together forever. Fanoff lets you download our shows too! Tumblr is the New Museum. Comic Booked lets Austin post things, and also posts our show. They're nice and awesome! What iTunes has is all of our episodes. Go there! Quickly. Also, look out for our new format, wherein we post interviews the Friday following our Wednesday shows. This week, Marvel Executive Editor and Senior VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort!

Episode #046:
• Intro - Welcome to the new world! We are now officially sponsored by Discount Comic Book Services! As you can see, very little has changed.
• Topic Thunder - Movie pictures everywhere; and Brian Michael Bendis may think you're childish? Maybe? It all depends.
• You Should Read This - The boys discuss "Promethea" by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III, and "The Batman: Nine Lives" by Dean Motter and Michael Lark!
• Top 5 - Discarded/Unused Superhero Catch Phrases. These are gross, mostly.
• Outro - Again, you see that very little has changed. Thanks again to DCBS!

David Hopkins and Austin Wilson love comics probably as equally as they love each other. This show runs 1:11:58, and is the first step toward us taking more steps. Oh yeah. Get the show from Fan Off, or listen to us on iTunes, then smile.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Go Straight To Jail - Do Not Pass Go...

In 2010 an American man was arrested for crossing into Canada with what was deemed child pornography by Canadian Customs. You can read more about this, and specifically my opinions by reading the editorial I wrote on Comic

After writing the article, and during the process of its editing, I saw the possibility to publish some information that I didn't include in the original article, specifically quotations from CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein.

In an interview with Robot 6, Brownstein made statements I think sum up the American man's legal troubles perfectly, and places them squarely within the realm of uncertainty.

Brownstein said, "We protect the First Amendment rights of the comics art form. Sometimes that means coming out against bad laws that almost everyone agrees are bad laws, and sometimes that means fighting for important free speech principles by protecting unpopular speech.  Protecting free expression is messy work.  Often protecting the principles of free expression means defending material that makes one personally uncomfortable.  That discomfort is a small price to pay for maintaining a culture of free expression."

It certainly doesn't make it any easier for my own struggle, which I detail further on Comic Booked, as for whether comics depicting underage characters in sexual situations should be considered child pornography or not. My distaste for the material aside, the legal ramifications and classifications are interesting to me, so Brownstein's quote hit home.

An article in the Ottawa Citizen directly addressed the Canadian Constitution, but made much more bold statements than I feel comfortable making. The article, which is posted without a byline, states, "There’s no point in having a right to free speech if we make exceptions for everything that people find distasteful or offensive. We must make an exception, though, when expression causes real harm — such as pornography that uses children as models for photographs or videos. That’s a horrible crime, and even the possession of such material must be treated as a serious offence."

It then goes further, saying, "But Canada’s current law goes beyond pornography that causes harm to children. It also makes some works of the imagination — stories and drawings — illegal if they depict people under the age of 18 in sexual situations. Many classic works of art might meet that definition, and the law does allow for a defence on the grounds of artistic merit. This puts the courts in the bizarre position of determining what is a work of art. Citizens cannot hope to know in advance what the law really forbids, and whether the judge will share their opinion of what is art. Policing the way you express yourself on a piece of paper or on your laptop comes awfully close to policing your thoughts."

One of the most interesting parts within the Ottawa Citizen article is their reference to "classic works," as well as art that is deemed to have "merit." Upon reading this my mind immediately snapped to Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, and Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's Lost Girls. The Moore and Gebbie work may be much more appropriate for this discussion, as it concerns comics. It certainly met with criticism for portraying young characters in sexual situations, but I am unaware if it has ever been deemed child pornography, and will even go so far as to say it hasn't. If it had, would it still be available for purchase?

During my email correspondence with Brandon Graham I asked about comics containing material that clearly goes too far. Specifically, I said, "When you said, 'I don't think it's possible to do anything really harmful with drawings of fictional characters,' does that include all forms of pornographic comics?" This question was related to Graham's mention of controversial comic creator Mike Diana. Graham referred to Diana by saying, "One thing that surprised me about [this case] is you hear that someone has got in trouble for a comic and you immediately assume it's some Mike Diana level cannibal feces dog child sex thing..."

Answering my question about comics which contain material that goes too far, Graham said, "I certainly don't want to read the worst that can be drawn but I can't think of a good reason to not allow it to be drawn."

I find all of this extremely interesting. Please go check out my article on Comic Booked, and feel free to comment, whatever your opinion.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time To Make the Manga - How To Do It Right

Some of us geeks (nerds, whatever) are busy worrying about whether we've "won" or not, and what that means sociologically. It might be a relevant question, but it deals with navel-gazing so blatantly that it becomes unsettling, and I would rather read the books and think about them than what it means for comics to be so visible and relevant now. It would undoubtedly lead to me wondering if comics are in fact that mainstream, but no thanks.

One of the best things to come out of the Harry Potter and Twilight (and arguably other) crazes is the focus on Young-Adult fiction, and how reading is seen as fun and worthwhile by a whole new generation of brains that are attached to eyes. Creating younger readers is the first step to creating older readers, which is one step in a huge process of trying to create better thinkers/feelers (or how about "emotionalators"). There are definitely downsides to the onslaught of YA fiction though: an adherence to derivative plots and characters, unimaginative design sense, writing with your agent overlooking the screenplay already-in-progress, and on and on. Focusing on the positive is such a happy thing to do, however, so let's be happy together.

Maybe YA fiction isn't making a "resurgence." It is definitely a genre that has been around for ages and ages, albeit perhaps in a different form than it inhabits now, and Laura Ingalls Wilder would most likely agree. Even her works weren't immune from adaptation, although it took quite a few years before they made it to the glorious Land of Landon. There is one difference between this age's YA fiction and the fiction of yesteryear: the inevitable and potentially lucrative road toward adaptation. It's a road that may or may not lead to its intended destination. Plenty of books go through the adaptation process only to end up in a cul-de-sac, a sad little dead end that people use to turn around when they're lost. The road has existed for a while though, only now people and properties travel down it much faster, with the speed limit increasing year after year.

Now adaptation doesn't just mean TV or film, but comic books as well. No one was surprised when "Twilight" was adapted into a best-selling Manga. Some people also weren't surprised that it was considered to be below average, which is putting it nicely. This same surprise is applicable to "Harry Potter," and how there are no comics of that insanely popular property. Those two parties of surprised people aside, novels making the leap to comics/graphic novels are starting to look not only more like a trend, but like one piece of the media puzzle.

Rick Riordan's "The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians)" was not only adapted into a movie, but a graphic novel as well. Although the movie did horribly, most likely spelling doom for any sequels, the graphic novel sold well enough that other books in the series will see adaptation as well.  This might be the new blueprint for YA novels (or potentially any genre novel); write book, adapt into movie and comic book simultaneously, cross fingers.

Now another series of YA novels is making its leap to comics, with an eye toward the movie screen as well, this time Scott Westerfeld's "Uglies" series. The first book has been adapted into a Manga where Westerfeld will outline the story, with larger writing duties falling to Devin Grayson, and Steven Cumming illustrating. This isn't just another tale of a YA novel trudging down that slow and difficult road toward adaptation though, this is the tale of how someone is thinking differently. Not only that, but thinking about this process from a perspective you love to see, but are often afraid you won't. Scott Westerfeld is thinking about the adaptation of his novels creatively, with an eye toward character.

Yes, his first novel in the series, "Uglies" is in development as a film, and it could be oh so easy to see the adaptation of that same book into Manga form as a quick cash grab, spiced up with a little bit of marketing ploy. That's not what this is though, at least not from where I'm sitting.

Westerfeld announced in San Diego, at Comic Con International, that the Manga adaptation of "Uglies" (slated for publication in May 2012 from Del Ray) will in fact be following the story of Shay, a secondary character featured in the novel as a friend of the main character, Tally.

Rather than offering up an exact adaptation of the novel so many fans have already read, Westerfeld chose to expand on the world he created, and delve into other characters and their stories. Although, yeah, this will definitely work as a marketing technique, that doesn't seem to be foremost in the minds of the creators involved.

I've read all but one of the "Uglies" series, and was a huge fan of all of them. Seeing this news, I kind of groaned, and wondered why exactly I would want to read a comic book adaptation of a book I had already read. Certainly this is a personal preference, but in my case it's one that just doesn't make sense. Having read the book, I had already pictured the characters and their world as I wanted them to look, so why worry about reading/looking at someone else's interpretation? This leads to the obvious question of why then go see a movie adapted from a book, and my answer for that is: actually moving pictures are different than mentally moving.

I love the idea of taking the adaptation process/opportunity in order to expand a fictional reality. It does lead to the question of whether the word adaptation even applies, but I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about being told great stories. Now, knowing what will be in store for me with the "Uglies" Manga, I'm worried that the adaptations of the future won't be as interesting.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

#045.2 - The Joshua Hale Fialkov Interview

This companion piece to episode #045 is all thanks to Joshua Hale Fialkov! He stopped by for an interview, and we had a blast with him. He is the writer of the books "Elk's Run," "Tumor," "Echoes," as well as the forthcoming, "Last of the Greats," and "I, Vampire." Please go check his stuff out - "Tumor" is probably the best place to start - and show some love.

The interview is a very long one, but Josh talks in-depth regarding the writing process, as well as the comic industry in general, and then we all take turns cussing and talking about orgies. We like to cut a wide swathe through the broad spectrum of interests, and this interview is a great example of how that can go. Thanks to Joshua Hale Fialkov for stopping by to do the incredibly long and fun interview, and taking time away from his busy life! This show runs 2:01:32. Whoa. He rocks!

You can download this, and other shows from Fan Off, or especially on iTunes! Go do that!

#045.1 - Why Can't You Just Say What You Mean?

Here on #045 we talk about people saying things they either didn't mean, or meant to sound different. Then, from the heavens above, we are delivered our very own version of this. The world is a thematic place.  Say things purposefully or otherwise on Twitter. Email with either Top 5 suggestions, or anything at all. Facebook lets you see who else is into our particular brand of nuttiness. Fanoff is sort of like that too, so go there and check out the forums! Tumblr lets you see what we're seeing. Comic Booked has other podcasts, including ours, so go listen and look. Really though, downloading us on iTunes is the most important thing in your life.

Episode 45:
• Intro - We completely rewrite history, specifically World War II. Also, go check out our Joshua Hale Fialkov interview!
• Topic Thunder - Miles Morales is the new Ultimate Spider-Man, and people are freaking out in every possible way; more talk of DC and women, now with more Dan Didio; Robert Kirkman maybe called out his friends; and Alan Moore promises we only need two more Dragonballs before our wishes come true.
• Top 5 - The Band: We pick five comic book characters, assign them instruments and explain our reasoning, then name the band. Thanks to Liz Suburbia for the suggestion!
• Outro - Seriously, go listen to our Joshua Hale Fialkov interview. It is SUPER long, but very informative. He's an entertaining guy, both as a writer and a talker. You won't be sorry you listened! We thank him for being so awesome.

David Hopkins and Austin Wilson might accidentally challenge someone to a duel one day. They just don't know. This show runs 1:17:43, and has a lot of giggling. Get the show from Fan Off, or listen to us on iTunes and think about us all day long.