Exhausting weekend! Best recovered from by getting back to awesome comics.

A few weeks back someone asked about comics process, which is something that varies a little for each of my projects, if I’m drawing it myself or giving someone else a script to write. Stuff I do on my own can be more spontaneous, because it doesn’t have to go to someone in advance, versus working on a script, which has to be more planned out & detailed so all the people and objects needed in a scene get put in. Although there are times when I just put in as much as can and let the artist figure it out. If you have time for edits built in, it’ll work out in the end, and having someone look over the script is also helpful. I sometimes forget to describe things in the first draft, until someone (Greg usually) points out that it would be helpful to throw in a few sentences about the room they’re standing in, at least for the establishing shot.

The parts that stay the same are mostly from idea generation to the outline, which is one of the most productive phases for me, even if it occasionally takes forever. But usually when there’s an outline, I’m ready to start working on something seriously.

For ideas, I read a lot. Like, all the time. Comics, articles, books, a mix of fiction, non-fiction & how to’s. I listen stuff while I draw, from economics to storytelling podcasts like The Moth, to audiobooks. (Common practice for cartoonists.) I used to watch more movies, but I have difficulty sitting for two hours watching something now, unless I’m definitely too tired to work on drawing, or it’s something I REALLY want to watch. TV shows I have less of a problem devoting an hour to, especially if it’s taped and I can skip the commercials. The point is, anyway, to just sponge up ideas from every direction. Not just ideas, but techniques and methods. I’ve just started watching episodes of Game of Thrones is after listening to the audiobooks all summer, and while it’s a fun story, it’s interesting from a craft point of view to compare the episodes to the text, and see what they stuck with & how they choose to deliver information differently.

Different things will gel when you absorb enough. Common themes will sort themselves out, and eventually you’ll pull strands together to form a plot idea. Your feelings surface around that mess, and you can start hacking at it and shaping it into something understandable by other people. This can take weeks, months, or years. My ideas for comics have been sparked by books, the news, experiences I’ve had, biopsychology lectures, thinking friends were doing something stupid or acting in a funny way, and seeing a uniting principle in a sequence of disparate action movies. When they hit right, they’ll keep you awake at night.

Then there’s the R&D phase. This often looks like a lot of sitting around & staring out the window, reading more books, or spending an hour or two on wikipedia following links.

Then, finally, there’s outlining. When I start to get a sense of the scope the project is going to take, I start to break it down. It’s helpful for just about anything longer than about four pages. It gets out what needs to happen on each page, or in each scene, and taken a chapter at a time, it gets to the end of the book. Sometimes it’ll end up changing a bit, and I’ll revise the outline a couple times before I think it’s ready. Sometimes THAT takes a year. (Usually while working on other projects.) But it breaks down what information has to get on each page, the beats of the story, and gives me a rough idea of how long I’m going to be working on a project. (Although I pretty much always underestimate this.)

So that’s how I start.