Sunday, April 13, 2014

How I Make Comics

The comics I make tend to be silent. Wordless comics, in theory, are able to be read by an international audience of illiterates. Cartoonists Without Borders. The first ones I made were like the twelve minute guitar solos of obtuse comics. I was making comics I myself wasn't reading, heady conceptual games, lots of obscure symbolism, some heavy handedness. The stuff I read is mostly inane humour comics. I read that stuff over and over. Dumb jokes. And Archie.
    The stuff I make aims at some seriousness. I crave to make thought provoking stories that warrant multiple readings, the ten year olds getting some of it, the illuminati getting some other bits. Every short story I used to make was in a different style, I'd hop around in graphic land experimenting, always experimenting. A few years ago I rediscovered pencil and this led to a larger body of work centred around a couple of consistent characters. It's visually cute and makes up around a hundred pages of material. I'm not sure if I've exhausted this particular world or if it will shape shift into the next permutation. I've always hoped to integrate all my fave motifs and characters into one cohesive cartoon universe but frankly I'm not sure if I have the patience.
    It isn't narrative that tugs at me so much as moments. And moments don't exist until they are actualized on paper spontaneously. This method of working makes for a lot of pre-job anxiety but ultimately proves rewarding. I don't know the beginning, middle or end of a story when I begin it. I simply delve in and somehow narrative accretes around my efforts, my discrete moments intuitively building a story. The anxiety comes into play before I start working. All possible styles and motifs crowd my head, each making a strong case for being the thing that will make a decent comic. Of course, this onslaught of potentialities tends to freeze me in place. No work gets done but endless notes and scribbles, and even these lay in piles and never have much to do with the work that eventually get's done.
    Right now I would like to begin my next graphic novel. I'd like to use words. I am wondering if it should be a continuation of my previous works, the richly pencilled adventures of a young magician and his cat. Also in the running is a new approach made up of little 'billy heads' talking about my life, the pithy version of the writing on this blog. This is liberating because I very much want to integrate text into my comics but am unsure how to. With the talking head approach I can veer off into any visual universe because the little head can set it up nicely. Another approach I am seriously considering is a funny animal strip showcasing my famous bunnies. These big eared tricksters would simply be bandying about ridiculous word play. Again, text. Then of course, there is my desire to explore the merging of abstract comics with textual poetics. The fourth and possibly final solution would be to create a cohesive narrative that employs all these directions. Multiple styles telling one overarching story, a work of undeniable complexity and genius.
    Frozen in place. Stock still. Pencils collecting dust and guts churning anxiously. This sounds all too precious and intentional. My passing glimpses reveal an over wrought attempt at a master work. One makes trouble for oneself if that's the thought going out the gate. Failure or frustration will ensue. So I don't know what this next graphic novel will be until I start it. A branding nightmare. It may look like nothing I've done before, it may end up being too oblique for a publisher to bother with. Procrastination also rears it's familiar head and I end up with jots and plans, confidant statements about pagination and panelling. Maybe a title or vague design thumbnails. I need a format before I start. I need a stack of index cards or pre-cut paper, lots of it, to draw on, to waste until I settle into the groove that emerges.
    So the first step, invariably, is preparing paper I've bought specifically for a new project. And new pencils and erasers. New gear sitting there waiting to be hit on, waiting to reveal via first false starts and then a fury of inspiration, an unfolding paper world.
    Wish me luck.