Living alone, incursions into the writing space were few and far between, but with a family it can be hard to find those broad, uninterrupted swaths of time in which to think of nothing but art. For the last couple years, I’ve had to rely on writing retreats, some taken solo, and some taken with other like-minded artists. Today, I’m on retreat in Flagstaff, working on a new book, and it may not come as a surprise that I’ve decided to try my hand at the graphic novel medium.
Three useful texts
Lacking the time or money for a low-res MFA in graphic storytelling, I’ve been reading voraciously on the subject. The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics by Dennis O’Neil has by far been the most useful resource on the subject, answering many questions about how to draft a script, and how words and images relate to one another in this format. Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics is massive and detailed, offering excellent advice for artists. I’m still working on the Will Eisner book; although I’ve not got very far into it, it definitely offers a very different perspective and set of advice. Eisner basically invented the modern graphic novel format.
The Stan Lee book is probably most useful to those who have already learned quite a bit about figure, landscape, and perspective, and just want to know how to translate that into drawing Marvel-style comics. I’m still looking for some old copies of the books that everyone seems to recommend for those wishing to learn more about figure drawing, which are any of the “Dynamic” drawing books written by Burne Hogarth. I could order them from Amazon, but I have $125 credit at a local used book chain, and I’m still hoping to find what I want there, since their stock always changes.
One useful piece of advice from the DC book involves the use of “suggested layout” sketches, normally visual notes from the writer to the artist. While I do intend to do my own penciling, the idea of generating storyboards seems a good way to communicate to myself (the artist) in the future, while visualizing the book to myself (the writer) in the present. These panel mockups may change, but presently, they correspond with the script, which is divided, per Dennis O’Neil’s advice, into pages and panels.
Suggested layouts corresponding to the script
Comics tend to start on the recto, or right hand page. My pages are marked R and L so I can keep rector and verso (left hand page) straight and ensure that 2-page spreads or splash pages, and pages where deliberate mirroring (pages 9 and 10 above) will actually be printed facing one another.