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Starting comics small

Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 9:57 pm
by thirdeyeh
I grew up drawing comics and longing to do them for a living. As I've grown older and all my perception has left the whole superhero thing, to graphic novels. While I am in the beginning of my graphic novel, (31 pages in) I am wondering, do you think it's better to start with short stories? I'm just thinking about whether its better to spending some time just learning to tell a good short story for awhile and then transitioning up or not. The best kind of analogy I can think of is, that mostly film students aren't going to start off with a feature length film, but learn by making shorts. Mostly.

I dunno. How do you other graphic novelists feel on this subject?

Re: Starting comics small

Posted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 2:25 am
by jdalton
thirdeyeh wrote:While I am in the beginning of my graphic novel, (31 pages in) I am wondering, do you think it's better to start with short stories?
I think so, yes. I've done a bit of this but I wish I'd done more earlier on. Start with stories you know you can finish then work your way up. My current project is going to be less than 50 pages- but it's going to take me a year from start to finish! The comics I've started that are longer than this remain unfinished.

Posted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 6:48 am
by Sebastian Agresti
I think its better to start with short stories to practice building up a story.
After doing some short stories you will have more experience when making a bigger comic. Learn from the mistakes you make in short stories, and use that to later on make a larger story.

Posted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 9:43 am
by Mac McCool
Keeping the passion burning on a long-winded project can be difficult. Short projects offers chances to experiment (that includes making mistakes and not feeling like you've wasted a ton of time). I found that to keep a long project fresh and exciting (even after months or years!), preserve as much creative opportunities for each step along the way. So I plan, but not every single detail. Yet, ultimately, your stories will dictate the length they need for you to tell them well.

Posted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 2:54 pm
by thirdeyeh
Thanks guys. I feel like a small project might be fun to work on just to have on the side when I'm feeling a little burned out out on my graphic novel. I've posted a few pages of it on the board:

I really love this story because it's going to have all of the things I love about stories i n it. I keep thinking, though, that a fun Twilight Zone type short story would be a blast to do.

A problem I've often had is coming up with ideas for short stories. I think too epically. My favorite stories are stories like Lost (by far my favorite running story), His Dark Materials and such. How do you guys come up with your short stories?

I tried something with my wife last night that was kind of fun and it helped me come up with some cool ideas and her too. I wrote down like five-ten different types of people (a husband, a wife, a child etc.), five to ten objects ( a flower, cars, chocolate etc.) and five to ten weird things (ESP, aliens, dragons etc.). Then you had to randomly choose one item from each category and write a story where all three were the main plot devices of the story. Or you can just pull three out at randow. It was really fun! I'm just trying to think outside the box and come up with interesting short stories.

The three story elements I ended up pulling from the hat were Doctors, Chocolate and ESP. The story is shaping. It's gonna be boss.

Posted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 9:41 pm
by Ayo
I think that when a person is not sure as to how to begin, than doing a lot of small projects is the best way to work one's skill level up.

However, you mention that you have a graphic novel that you're actually working on and you're 31 pages in (!!!)

I'm hip hop, so I say "get in where you fit in."

If you are able to dive into that large project off the bat, then don't stop on account of some idea of "conventional wisdom."

You MUST do what inspires you. If you have the story that you want to tell in your mind and heart, then you should just pursue it. Scale back to smaller projects some other time if you're feeling stuck or uninspired, but don't put off your dream because you're not sure if it's "time" yet.

Posted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 7:25 am
by megrar
i agree with the "get in where you fit in" comment. i'm like you--i'm doing a ridiculously large project without doing any sort of small ones as warm up. i had intended to do small ones, following the conventional wisdom, but, i was impatient to start the project i actually wanted to do.

impatient to the point of dropping the small projects i had started in favor of the big one.

my first twenty pages sucked ass. but oh well.

i think the only thing we really need to look out for, is knowing where we're going. i've followed a few projects of other artists who ended up dropping them because they hadn't finished their script and wrote themselves into a corner, or simply couldn't think of what to do next in the story. but if that's handled, and you've got the drive to complete it, go for it.

Posted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 4:18 am
by ChadTHX1138
I'm still finishing a short 12 page story. Just have 3 pages left to pencil and 4 to ink. It's really hard.

Anyway, guys I have worked with or work with now all have this big epic story they think they want to do on thier first comic (like theyre Lucas or Jackson) with all these back stories etc.

I say put those epic stories aside for later, focus on some quick little ones for awhile. even a one pager with a dozen panels can be a challenge. Kazu is a great example of this with Copper. He got his practice in that way...managed to gather a following too. when he felt confident moved on to some bigger stories. And he is fighting an amazing battle with his current book Amulet. I really realy dont think he would have been able to do it if he didnt take all the small steps first to prepare himself.

You dont just pick up a bow and arrow and expect to shoot a bullseye the first time? You practice and shoot many arrows doing it.

I'm in the same boat with you and I'm still trying the small experimental stuff on my own.

Posted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 3:45 pm
by thirdeyeh
Well it seems that there's a bit of wisom in both directions. I mean I am loving my graphic novel and working on it. However, I am thinking about doing my book a bit different than I orginally intended to and if I do it'll free up time to work on another short project. I do kind of want that satisfaction of finishing a short story. So I don't know. I want my cake and eat it too man.

Posted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:32 pm
by Vince
thirdeyeh mentioned having one's cake and eating it too. I'm wondering if a serial approach (e.g. Battlestar Galactica, 24, Lost), or even an episodic approach would be a good compromise. Smaller stories could be told while keeping a larger continuity. Maybe even a thematically linked series of stories like Bradbury's Martial Chronicles?

Posted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 7:56 pm
by thirdeyeh
hmmm ye bring up a good point Vince. I think. That's always an option. You mean having like an ongoing conspiracy like the X-files, but it takes place in smaller story arcs, and the whole of them create the larger story? That's not a bad idea if you can get a story that fits that type of outline. I guess when I think of Lost and 24 I think of shows that are completely dependent on the next episode. But I think if you can great that kind of narrative you could do some cool stuff. I'll have to look up the Bradbury stories you've mentioned. As for now... Lost is coming on. Must watch.

Posted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:02 pm
by Og
Just a little planning ahead of time can make you seem like a genius if you just drop hints of coming attractions along the way. If you hint about a dirty copy in episode 3, get his name in episode 5, let him become a peripheral character in episode 6, and and then let him have center stage against your protagonist in episode 7, you come off like StoryMan.

But it's just old fashioned planning and plotting, and it doesn't have to be very well fleshed out. Just enough to help you chart your way and not get lost from ep to ep.

I vote small eps with larger arcs. All your faves do it - BSG, Firefly (loosely), Lost (a bit too much). TV is built on this, and so could your comic be.

OK, off to draw.

Posted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:26 am
by Scott Hallett
Another good example of smaller arcs containing larger plots is Hellboy. You can pick up any mini and appreciate the action/story for that arc without having to know all the back history in Hellboy's destiny etc.

Posted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 9:54 am
by Sarah Mensinga
Hey thirdeyeh, I totally understand how daunting a graphic novels can be.

One thing I've done lately to make it all a little more manageable is to draw a readable rough of my entire graphic novel. It still takes time, but far less time, and then when I'm done I can get some feedback from friends and other writers, so I'm certain the story is working as a whole before I jump into final art.


Posted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:02 am
by goRaina
Sarah Mensinga wrote: One thing I've done lately to make it all a little more manageable is to draw a readable rough of my entire graphic novel. It still takes time, but far less time, and then when I'm done I can get some feedback from friends and other writers, so I'm certain the story is working as a whole before I jump into final art.

I do what Sarah does. I think a lot of us do!

Especially when you're working with editors, they've got to know what they're getting before you hand in the final version. Whether that means typing up a script, or drawing little thumbnails, or just making a page-by-page outline, it really helps to know exactly where you're going, how many pages it will be, and so on. It's a great way to self-edit your work, too!