Home is where the art is…
This week’s comic was hopefully worth the wait for you faithful readers. No dialog from me, but my oh my was there a lot of work regardless.
That probably doesn’t make much sense, since you’d think all the burden of work in a wordless page would be on the artist. And truth to tell, I’ve seen some comic scripts where what’s given to the artist is something along the lines of “Captain Cosmos and Lieutenant Walrus approach a spaceship”, but if I gave something like that to Dawn she’d probably want to murder me in my sleep… no, no that’s not right… she’d probably want to murder me while I was wide awake and could fully experience her ire. Not right away, perhaps, but certainly if she made her best guess at what ‘a spaceship’ represents, spending hours on drawing it, only to have me tell her she’d gotten my vision ALL WRONG.
So as a comics writer, I think you have two options when dealing with your artist on details: Get specific, or be ready to accept that what they come up with may be wildly different than what was in your head. How specific? Well hell, folks, Dawn and I once discovered that we had an entirely different idea of what a “tank top” was. For her, a tank top was a spaghetti-strapped little number only women wear. For me, a tank top and an A-shirt (or in common American slang parlance, a “wifebeater”) were interchangeable terms. As you can imagine, my discussion with her on what Uncle Chuck should be wearing became much more complicated than I’d imagined.
Therefore, despite having written up several paragraphs on how the Zane’s Ranch House should appear, I spent several more days finding reference images, and trying to piece them together with my meager Photoshop skills into something approaching that whole “writer’s vision” thing that she could then work from. These are probably the times where the people who both draw and write their comics as a solo act have it the easiest. Then again, they still have to try to live up to their own imaginations, so maybe they also have it the hardest.
I still do remember talking to an artist of Fables at Comic-Con and asking them how Bill Willingham communicated what he wanted. Well, apparently Willingham is quite the artist in his own right and just draws it all for the artists to… re-draw? I don’t quite know how that works, but that was the process. I do know that when I asked what the options were for someone without drawing skills he told me “Learn to draw”.
I was annoyed by the answer then, but looking back on it now… hmm, no, still annoyed. Can’t even truthfully say the guy meant well, with how it was said. Not one of my more positive convention experiences, and also such a disingenuous answer given how many comics out there are produced with only the barest hints given of what should be drawn. Again, though, I figure the flip side of that is the writer looks at the end result, finds it different than what he imagined, and just shrugs and cashes his paycheck. On the other end of the scale, Alan Moore is no visual arts virtuoso, but is (in)famous for his scripts spelling out minute details of character, setting, and how things should be meaningfully arranged from panel to panel.
I’m somewhere in between, I suppose, gravitating towards one end of the scale or the other as the visual importance of a given comic strikes me. And then every so often, even though I still haven’t learned to draw, I’ll break out the Photoshop and do my best to pretend like I can. I wanted this one to be something special, especially after we made you all wait a week to find out why Rosa was saying “Wow”. I hope at least some of you agree with her.