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A WORD FROM OUR FOUNDER
how to not suck at comics part1
I do enough bitching and moaning about my "competion" and the newcomers to the "industry". now that i've more or less moved onto animation let me give some advice.
when i started out i decided the two jobs in front of me were 1-be the best and 2-convince everyone i was the best. For now lets focus on job no.1
basic drawing skills are somethng you can learn pretty much anywhere, anatomy, PERSPECTIVE, and the like NEED to be focused on but you can find books on that anywhere, so i will focus on the writing for now.
I'm ten times the illustrator i was when i put out Arsenic Lullaby no.1, it is the writing that people cared about. the FIRST thing you need to worry about is that.
If you are going to do/are doing a book about you and your buddies or how you broke up with your girlfriend 99.999999% of you should do us all a favor and kill yourself right now. it's not enough for me to just tell you NOT to do that...kill yourself. kill yourself because you are the type of dopey narcissist that makes the rest of us miserable in every facet of your and our lives. you don't have the perspective the hindsight to know what is and is not boring for the rest of us, to know what is and is not common and ordinary and sub par. You don't have the perspective to know when you are in over your head and what you are not good at, and what you should not be attempting. so if i just managed to get you to not try to express yourself creatively i would be passing the buck to the rest of the people you deal with, like your friends and relatives who have to listen to you drone on, your co-workers who have to listen to you give advice on tasks you are merely average or worse at, the people around you who have to watch you make a mess out relationships, jobs, and everything else that you don't have the perspective to know that you suck at. the rest of the world is forced to look kindly on you and pat you on the head because you are the proverbial 4 year old who wants everyone to put their drawing on their refrigerator. so me telling you that we would all be better off if you killed yourself is a service i am doing not just for the creative industry but for the world ...you're welcome world...and might i say you can thank me by telling the next dopey narcissist to kill him or herself BEFORE they enter the creative industry.
sure i sound a little harsh but you don't have to answer "i publish comic books" and be chuckled at when people ask what you do for a living because your industry is flooded with jerk offs like these. and if it is flooded with these jerk offs they at least have to have SOME training in order to call themselves "plumbers" or "electricians". In my industry there is no credentials that must be held...any dumb ass will simply call himself an "artist" or "writer" after they have crapped out a screenplay that no one has seen or crapped out a homemade comic book, or has a stack of crappy paintings...and in some cases they think they can call themselves "artist' or "writers" simply because they aspire to it. you are what your check says you are everywhere else...and it's high time those of us who get paid for our creative works started holding the line on that in our industry.
"Doug ....i thought you said you were going to help us..."
I am helping you. this is good advice. anyone who hasn't gone into the bathroom and slit their wrists yet now knows that titles need to be earned. and that is a big part of step one. self perspective. the ability to view yourself and your work from the eyes of the rest of the world. this is the most important skill you will develop. When i started Arsenic Lullaby i already had a good amount of stand up comedy under my belt and i knew what would and would not fly. Stand up comedy is brutal but it forces you to raise your game to a higher level or have your ego destroyed on stage.
so...take a step back now from your work..use me as training wheels if you like ...would I read it and be disgusted?
writing about you and your buddies CAN work if it is done ABSTRACTLY. you use them and a situation as a template. your friend specifically is not worth writing about, but you CAN use his personality, he can be a character that is useful because you know how he will react, you know his disposition and by putting him into a story as a personality, you will then have AT LEAST ONE character in your work that is consistent. are you following me so far? you don't write about bob...you put bobs personality into doctor doom, or a talking toaster.
some people will disagree with me on the following, and that's fine, but to me the characters are the most important. people could read twenty pages of Voodoo joe going to the grocery store because Voodoo joe is an interesting character, he is a unique kind of jerk and his character would be entertaining even while doing mundane tasks.
here's where it gets tricky on one hand you have bob the person doing mundane tasks and i'm telling you that it sucks...on the other hand i'm telling you that bob as a toaster doing mundane tasks is interesting. what's the difference? BOB IS A TOASTER..THAT'S THE DIFFERENCE. once bob is a toaster there is a world of strange things, juxtapositions, and situations to play with that don't exist if bob is just bob. get me? bob as bob is level one...any jerk off can write about some funny thing that happened to bob (well...YOU though it was funny) level two...bob as a toaster is now a challenge and has infinitely more opportunities for you to stumble into something the REST OF US find interesting. step three would be other characters that interact with bob the toaster. situations that only bob as a toaster could get into.
you creating this world and MAKING IT BELIEVEAVLE ...getting people to accept it and not be confused, getting people to feel as though all this could exist and be going on in some parallel little world. THAT is writing.
as i said some people would disagree...Neil Gaimen would and did. many years ago. A drunk Doug spoke to Neil at an after show party and seeing as how Doug was drunk and struggling to keep up his end of the conversation he played it safe and merely asked a question he already (or thought he did )knew the answer to "which is most important ..characters or story"...(the question i really wanted to ask was why are you at an after party with a bunch of college age people ...a question that seems more ridiculous every time i think about it...he COULD have gone to a party with a bunch of dried up old broads and industry blowhards...or wandered down by us and poached on all the drunk college girls...duh) he replied "the story ...because no matter how interesting the characters if there is no story..what do you have?" i was drunk and a newcomer so i left it at that. but my own thoughts are this "YOU HAVE A BUNCH OF INERESTING CHARACTERS" where as if you have a good story and the characters suck what do you have?!" to which he would have no doubt replied "YOU HAVE A GOOD STORY".
in either case most of you have NIETHER. and that is where you should begin. you need to be drawing something, saying something, telling a story, that no one else has done. that no one else could do and BETTER than anyone else. this is the challenge you have to hold yourself too. you have to re-do and re-do and advance and advance and sharpen and change and modify and evolve (micro evolve that is...macro evolution is a ridiculous myth). you have to take that boring shitty story about you and your buddies getting stoned and either throw it out completely or evolve it into something good. nobody wants to read about you and your buddies getting stoned. but if your buddy's is a toaster and the pot is toast and your buddy keeps putting all the toast into himself and not leaving any for the other toasters...and you have to get more toast from a gold toothed refrigerator in a scary forest (that would be your drug dealer in the hood) well then...NOW you are onto something. and years later boring dopey narcissist pot heads will pat themselves on the back because they figured out it was all about drugs.
There is a pretty good book out there that explains how the wizard of oz was really all about the industrial revolution. the tin man was industry, the scarecrow was the agriculture industry, and the lion was the government. THIS is what i'm talking about...if the guy just wrote an editorial about the industrial revolution his writting would have been no better or different than a thousand other editorials of it's time. he took his complaints and used them as a template.
so let's say for the sake of arguement that baron von donut represents the spirit of america interacting with the world, he's basically good hearted and knows he should be doing good (giving out donuts)but often gets distracted by his own inernal struggles (i.e. political conflict which is writen as alcohalism), has to balance doing good with self preservation (i.e. garry's boss has to keep him focused on making the company money)and often comes to the conclusion that he cannot sucseed ( "i'm just a big donut"=one nation can only do so much for other against global evil while surviving itself).
"wow...i had no idea there was so much underlying a simple story about a donut"
there isn't i just made all that up...or did i? It's good writing either way. using the template technique isn't always nessesary but if you are just starting out i would recommend it because it helps you develop SKILL, it trains your brain to think deeper and try harder and look at all the possibilities and details.
hopefully this helped or you killed yourself.
more next week.