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Most Independent Comic book writers don't do enough.

Discussion in 'Fantasy Art' started by Annoyingkid, Sep 28, 2017.

  1. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Browsing the "Comic books and Graphic Novels" section of a certain writing forum, and their topic of how to write a comic book. The topic seemed funny to me. Some quotes I want to bring to your attention. They are from the same poster.

    Moderator Note: Quote removed, we have to avoid posting content from other sites.

    Wow even more difficult than "Ain't gonna happen". :banghead: Why is that then? Let's find out.

    Moderator Note: Quote removed, we have to avoid posting content from other sites.

    The first thing to understand here is these guys aren't writing two hundred page epics. They simply can't afford it, as to hire an artist to do that would go into the tens of thousands of dollars if not more for a very uncertain return. So they're fundamentally writing short stories. They aren't dealing with the painstaking journey of learning the art of prose or illustration. Their work is in script form.

    Here's what the same poster has to say about comic scripts, which everyone there agreed:

    Moderator Note: Quote removed, we have to avoid posting content from other sites.

    So these scripts are fairly loose, and you just have to "get the idea" to the artist. Sounds pretty mickey mouse to me, but he then says:

    Moderator Note: Quote removed, we have to avoid posting content from other sites.

    Well of course not, he draws the stick men and paneling, before he does the script apparently. Maybe by "do the script" he means insert the dialogue, but he's trying to teach a forum how to write comics here, he should be more clear in what he's saying. But stick men is too much work for the other big poster in the topic, who replies as follows:

    Moderator Note: Quote removed, we have to avoid posting content from other sites.

    I get that these guys can't draw, but rather than do a crude version of the character that has all the elements on there as they see it, instead they "gab" to the artist.

    Even if he had the artistic ability to do rough drafts or "thumbnails", he recommends the artist do them anyway:

    Moderator Note: Quote removed, we have to avoid posting content from other sites.

    They say that as if raised tempers, and ego driven arguments are what's usual when working on these projects/writers.

    Then he says this:

    Moderator Note: Quote removed, we have to avoid posting content from other sites.

    So he's saying if an artist doesn't make his writing look better than it really is, then you're not being a team, you're just being a "follower". To his "lead". They're an artist for hire. Not your disciples mate.

    So what do they do? They have the idea - ideas are cheap, they make a short, loose script, expect the artist to improve it after an informal conversation, and expect the artist to do the concept design, action choreography and illustration with further arguments littered throughout.

    Yet they act surprised that artists bail on them so much and consider it unfair that they aren't as highly regarded as prose novelists, artists, and screenplay writers.

    I'd like to hear your views on the matter. It disheartens one to know that this is what's being taught on such a large forum.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 3, 2017
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I don't know. I feel odd responding to quotations without attribution or at least links to the relevant pages. But beyond that....

    I have no real experience on that side of comics. As a reader of comics–something I've not done much in the last couple decades, by the way–I always felt that a large part of the storytelling was in the art. In fact, a lot of the dialogue and most of the written exposition came across as rather simplistic. Necessary, but simple. And a lot of my fascination was in seeing the story that was being told through the art. E.g., in one pane the superhero might be yelling only, "Stop! I will not let you leave!" which is great I suppose but the magical chains, lasers from eyes, hurled car really told the story of what was happening in that pane.

    I would guess that the best comic writers already have a fairly clear vision of the visuals, and so the script would include stage direction for those bits: [Devil Golem hurls a small Toyota truck, blocking Dr. Putty's exit through the door.] There might be more explicit directions for colors, Devil Golem's grimace, etc.

    At the same time, I've occasionally encountered descriptions of collaboration, in interviews, in which comic authors have complimented and thanked the artists for adding even more than directed. The best collaborations seem to be between authors and artists who are able to work off the work of each other, heh. The author gives excellent direction but still leaves some room for creative "ad libbing" for the artist.

    I'm not an artist, but if I were I'd resent being forced to do all the work, without direction. Heck, I might as well write my own story, in that case, and not use a writer. But then I'm the sort of worker that likes clear instruction and also some small space to add my own touches–when I'm working for another.
     
  3. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Wasn't sure if you're allowed to link other writing sites here, but its How to write a comic

    Absolutewrite---> Comics and Graphic Novels ---> How to write a comic.

    All quotes are from the first 3 pages,
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Ah, thanks.

    On that first page, someone mentioned the detail Alan Moore used for his scripts. I don't know that extreme detail is necessary, but that correlates somewhat with my earlier thoughts.

    Basically, the art in a comic book carries a lot of the weight for telling the story, so the writer should give as much thought and attention to those elements when giving direction to the artist. Maybe the most important details, depending on what the author finds most important for telling the story.

    I can't imagine simple dialogue and bare description of action would be enough.
     
  5. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    If you're creating a comic book, webcomic, manga, or whatever from scratch, the artist is the only one who counts. That's it, that's all that matters. One person has to write the story and do the art if the project is to work.

    I have this idea for a comic book character about a villain who carries a gun. The first shot from the gun fires a computer chip that scan the location and sends back data to the second shot, which hones in on its target. The character is a mercenary who... you get the idea.

    The thing is, no matter how I describe this character to an artist, one of two things will happen:

    - The artist will draw something, I'll nitpick it until it's perfect, and the whole episode puts tons of pressure on the artist.

    - The artist will do the bulk of designing the character, which minimizes my input as a writer.

    ^ Repeat this over and over again, and tell me that this is a working model for a team..... because it's not, not when the writing is a few hundred words and the art is panel after panel after panel. The grunt work is 95% on the artist, so as the artist takes any creative control, the writer becomes redundant, and if the writer puts too much pressure on the artist, it's the artist's workload that increases. Either way, the team is lopsided.

    But wait, you say. Marvel and DC comics are created by two-person teams, one the writer, one the artist. Sure, that's true. But Spider Man is an established character. If I said to an artist, "Draw spider man opening a can of soda," everybody knows what that's going to look like. The creative input of the artist isn't as decisive as it would be for an original work.

    Successful manga and web comics are usually written and drawn by the same creative person. That's just how it is.

    I mean, never say never. Maybe if the writer gives the artist enough creative freedom, and also handles the business side of things, like managing the website and social networks, you might have a case for a team. Or if the project isn't a pure webcomic, but say, an illustrated story, or something that similarly shares the workload. But an original comic is disproportionate towards the art, and works best when the artist is also the storyteller.
     
  6. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Alan Moore works with established characters for the most part. People know the designs of Batman or whatever super hero he's working on. He is a good example of someone who realizes that if scripts is all you do, then you better do it impeccably. A mistake independent comic writers make is in copying how the writer at DC or Marvel does it. The same poster I quoted even says as much:
    The DC method is for characters who are brand name icons who's world design is well known. A writer who's working on their own original idea can't get away with that and expect the artist to pick up the slack.

    The thing is, artists aren't uncreative people, and ideas are cheap so if they wanted to they could make their own story and most probably do have their own baby on the side. Meaning what these writers represent to them is just upfront money. But these writers get the wrong idea and start to think the artist is as passionate about the writer's script as it's creator was and engage in a labour of love. When...no. That's what it is to the writer. That's not what it is to the artist. Things like choreography, world design and character design step on the territory of the writer overtly and are disciplines in themselves. They're difficult, and if they don't pay the artist for each of these elements, they'll get generic garbage in return. And then they try to argue to change elements until they basically get a good design for free. That's not a good way to keep an artist from bailing.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
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  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    @Devor, of course there was a time when the audience in fact did not know what to expect Spiderman to look like. The artist (Ditko) and the writer (Lee) worked together on that. Same goes for Lee and Kirby on a bunch of projects. The same, for that matter, goes for the various iterations of Spiderman since Ditko. Or, to take a different example, Richard and Wendy Pini on Elfquest.

    Not all comic books are team efforts; not all are solo efforts. It is an unusual medium in that respect.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I can't comment much on Elfquest. But I mean, if Stan Lee is the example here, then we're back to that "impeccable" word above.
     
  9. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    The Walking Dead comic was created by a team. Kirkman owns the rights to the series and since issue 6 has paid someone to do the art.

    As for independent comic writers not doing enough, well, isn't that dependant on the individual? There are always going to be people in all walks of life who want someone else to do the bulk of the work and reap the benefits.

    I heard an interview with Neil Gaiman where he tells the tail someone saying to him they had this awesome idea for a story. He tells Gaiman that if he writes it, they'll share the profits. The idea, man travels back in time and kills grandfather.

    Just like in prose writing, there will be those who get it and those who don't. And I think that's pretty much par for he course.

    As a writer, one has to be critical of all advice being presented on the internet. There is a lot of good advice, but there is also bad advice too. And IMHO part of being a writer is learning how to tell one from the other.
     
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2017
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  10. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    The Spider and the Fly: Al Nickerson: "Who Really Created Spider-Man?"

    Interesting little story about Spider-Man's origin.

    Apparently, Stan Lee gave the idea to Jack Kirby, who designed a character and did several story pages, but Lee didn't like the result:

    "’Nah, that’s not what I want, Jack.' I said, ‘Look, forget it. I’ll give it to someone else.’ So Jack said, ‘fine.’ It was nothing. We didn’t think that Spider-Man meant anything. And Jack had a million other things to do. So I said, ‘I’ll get somebody else.’ [Jack] said, ‘Sure.’ I thought Steve Ditko would be perfect for it. He drew people that looked like the kind of people you’d meet in the street, you know? So I gave it to Steve. And, oh man, was I ever right in picking Steve. He did a beautiful job."

    ...

    Ditko designed the Spider-Man character as we know him today. With Stan as editor and writer, Ditko became the artist and co-plotter on Spider-Man’s first appearance in AMAZING FANTASY #15 (1962), and then onto the following AMAZING SPIDER-MAN comic book series. Accordingly to "Steve Ditko- A Portrait of the Master" from COMIC FAN #2 (1965), Ditko explains things like this: "Stan Lee thought the name up. I did costume, web gimmick on wrist and spider signal."
     
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  11. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Isn't there more to writing than simply dialogue and coming up with a story idea? There's plotting, non-physical character traits (personality, character-building), pacing, foreshadowing, and so forth. So beyond the potential money issue, I wonder whether some artists would like to work with writers who have mastered these other areas of storytelling. Why else forego simply writing the story themselves?

    I wonder whether this is always the case. I do get the idea that an artist simply hired to put images to a story–but really, to story-tell with art–might have little interest beyond the business of selling art. It's like hiring an artist to design a cover for a book or to design an ad for the Sunday paper. I'm not in the business of comic books, so I can only speculate, but I wonder whether new writers trying to break into that business would be better off networking with new artists who are also trying to break into the business. Try enthusing that artist with a top-notch script, cool story ideas–and probably, allowing that artist to collaborate in these things, the freedom to be creative. (A la the Stan Lee-Steve Ditko example above.)

    But, if it's only a business transaction, hired art, then $$$ would be a good approach, as well as very detailed, top-notch scripts.

    Plus, I wonder whether working out the character design and world design beforehand would be good, before jumping into the actual illustrations for the story. Trade some concept art back and forth, approve general designs and concepts for the design...then step back and let the artist handle any other small details not already addressed or provided in the script.
     
  12. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    @Fifthview,

    Again, though, we have to take a second to split the established franchise and the new/original one. If you're independent or just starting up, there might not be much, if any, money involved at the outset. If you're asking both people to take a risk, it's the artist who is taking the big risk of working on the writer's big vision. That's a tough sell.

    At Marvel/DC, everyone gets paid for their time even if the comic doesn't get published. They have systems in place for that.
     
  13. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Yeah. However, I wonder whether true collaboration, rather than a client & service provider relationship, might be better for the writer trying to break into the business. A vision shared by artist and writer.

    I'm curious though about what comes after "Don't do this!" advice, heh. If you are just starting out, then what are some constructive, useful things to do, ways to approach the endeavor.

    I've toyed in the past with the idea. A few years ago, I began to toy with Daz Studio for creating the images for comic panels, and I used Manga Studio to create the panels, dialogue bubbles, etc., importing the images I created with Daz Studio. I spent three months just getting the first "chapter" for a story rendered and put together. I was surprised how well it turned out visually....but it was a great learning experience, because I realized after, about 13 pages, that the story was boring as hell, hah. (At least, those 13 pages were boring.) I don't know if I'll ever make the endeavor again.

    I do think that being artist and writer is a viable approach, and from what I can see all comic strips and the vast majority of web comics are typically done by only one person. I've entertained the idea of limiting my scope, just doing a regular comic strip. A full-on comic book published regularly would be impossible for me probably, given the work involved. (Even though I've had a few years' more experience using Daz Studio at this point.)

    Edit: Just to follow up on my own personal experience...There's also the example of Hollywood movies that look visually stunning but have horrible stories. Basically, I think a writer would need to pull his weight in that partnership, and maybe not all artists have the storytelling chops themselves. Obviously, for such a collaboration to work, each party would need to provide something necessary to the endeavor.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
  14. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    This would be my advice, actually. Many of the most successful webcomics, at least, have very rudimentary art. If somebody is looking to break out as a comic book writer, I would suggest starting with DIY artwork, and focus on telling the story, and leveraging that story, as best as you can.
     
  15. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    With Marvel and DC, it's work for hire. The artist and writer get paid a fee and everything they creat belongs to the company. With an independent situation, writer and artist can share the the rights. Now like you said it's a risk, but if the writer finds an artist who believes in the project, it may be a risk worth taking for them.

    It's like investing in stock. You find something you believe in and maybe it will give you a nice return. And if the artist is lucky they can end up owning part of a money making property. It's not like an artist has to forgo a pay check to do an independent project. Most are fast enough to draw multiple books at the same time.

    And it's not just the writer who gets into situations like this. There are artist who can't write who need to hire or team up with writers. It's not as simple as write it yourself.

    IMHO, In today's comics, art and artists have never been better. But I can't say the same for the writing. If anything there's a shortage of good writers. I swear if DC reboots their universe again, I'm going to have a cow. Ahem....

    I mean in the early 90s, a bunch of big named artists broke away and formed their own company, Image, with their own creations. Many found that it wasn't so easy a thing to do to write/produce etc. books on their own. They couldn't just focus on drawing anymore. The results were a mixed bag of good art with spotty writing. And few books came out on a consistent schedule.
     
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  16. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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  17. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    A typical 22 page comic has about 4 to 5 frames on every page, which comes to roughly 100 frames of artwork.

    Howard, the webcomic writer on Writing Excuses, says that he does the writing for a week's worth of strips in just a few hours on Monday morning, and spends the rest of the week drawing.

    A comic is a pretty big ask. I mean, partnerships happen, and they work. And artists do get on board for writing that they like. But if you're a writer, and you're looking for an artist, and what you want is as art-heavy as a comic, that's a tough sell.
     
  18. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

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    Hm..... Hey, Annoying, how much experience do you have with art or working on a cooperative creative project with somebody?
     
  19. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Howard Taylor is a weird case. He isn't a professionally trained artist. He's self taught, and I'm not entirely sure his abilities allow him to do anything but Schlock Mercenary.

    I don't claim to be an expert on this. All I can say is when I was younger, I wanted to be a comicbook artist. I spent six months at the local art institute after highschool exploring that possibility, so I do know a tiny bit about drawing--aside from knowing I'm not very good at it.

    From what I remember, Jack Kirby could turn out three pages of comicbook in one day. This is before computers. I'm not familiar with the process using computers in comics now, but I bet the computers can make things a lot quicker. Also if someone wants to consistently put out a 22 page comic in a month, they need to churn out at least a page a day if they want their weekends off.

    So there's the general ballpark of how long it takes.

    Sure, it's a big ask, but so is asking someone to alpha or beta read a manuscript and give comments. But I don't hear a lot of people thinking its a big ask, or something unreasonable.

    For me, per 1000 words, to read and comment on a writing piece can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours. A 100k manuscript would then take anywhere from 50 hours to 400 hours. In terms of work time, a week to two months, depending on how problematic the manuscript is.

    Compare that to someone asking for a comic. Is it really that big of an ask now?
     
  20. Annoyingkid

    Annoyingkid Banned

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    Fine Art graduate with a graphic novel trilogy WIP in the high fantasy genre. I have informally collaborated with a prose writer on the level of ideas and concepts on a crossover script for a potential part 9.

    I'm experienced with drawing especially:
    DSC00883.jpg Photo by Ayali_album | Photobucket
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2017

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