Writing Comics and All That Comes With It…

Comics have always been a part of my life. Rolling back the years to my childhood at my hometown in Madurai, India, I can distinctly remember the excitement I felt every weekend awaiting the delivery of the weekly comics magazines that accompanied the local newspaper.

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Siruvarmalar and Thangamalar, the literal translation beings “Kids’ Flower” and “Golden Flower,” provided a mashup of a children’s activity book mixed in with folktales, fables, and short stories presented in the format of a comic book.

           

(Left) Sample cover of a Siruvarmalar  issue, and (Right) a sample comic strip from within detailing a mythological tale of the Hindu God Shiva. The characters observed are of my native language, Tamil.  

I would spend hours on end pouring over the enormous collection of said magazines that my grandfather stored away in his closet, and that would be a weekend well-spent.

My family’s departure from India to Egypt would result in a break of sorts from comics and my full-fledged introduction to their animated counterparts in cartoons and anime. A few more years down the road, and following the commencement of my post-secondary studies at university, I would rekindle my love for comics in Japanese manga, and other Western staples including DC, Marvel, and an assortment of graphical novels.

As an avid comic-book fan and as an aspiring writer, the goal of kick-starting my own comic-book had always been on my mind. Now, two weeks into writing the script for what I hope will be my first graphical novel, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the diverse challenges that seem to crop up on every front as I try to bring my story together. A large part of these challenges originate from my unfamiliarity in tackling not only a new genre of writing but also a new medium.

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It’s a steep learning curve, but one worth embarking on. 

So, what have I learned so far:

1. Writing a comic is not exactly the same as writing a novel. They say a picture is a thousand words. That has become the driving motto of my work thus far, being that I spend a lot of my time imagining the outline of my story before settling down on the script. It is like constructing a silent motion film in my mind.

2. Attention to detail is important, but so is also being concise with what you want to convey to your readers. In writing the script, I found my greatest challenge in getting used to the fact that my dialogues would remain in a world separate from the art work that will serve to provide the emotions to my story. Thus, I had to keep my dialogues effective, concise, and kind of resonate with the emotions I wished to convey in the scene.

3. Writing a script may seem relatively easy ONLY at the start. This was somewhat of a lesson in humility. I began with lofty expectations, assuming that I would be able to complete the script to my comic over the period of a weekend. Boy, was I wrong! Let’s give it at the least till the end of summer, or maybe the end of the year.

4. Don’t overthink. Every writer has a quirk that makes them unique. Overthinking may be a popular category for many writers, and I can certainly be counted in that special group. It’s difficult but sometimes the best way to go about writing a script, not to mention a story in general, is to not overthink to the point where you hinder your own writing.

5. Temper your expectations. This is more of a personal challenge, in that I’ve always been the greatest critic of my own works to the point that my expectations get heavier and heavier. In writing my script, on several occasions, I had to step back and tell myself to relax and not place lofty expectations on myself, especially when it was my first outing in a new medium. Most importantly, I’ve learned my lesson in patience and perseverance. 

What I’ve said thus far may make it seem that resultant process of writing my novel script has turned me into

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The reality is quite different. As frustrating as the process can be, I’m relishing in the challenge, and it has only motivated me towards my goals. In 2 weeks, I have written 2 chapters, and that’s great while trying on one hand to balance my PhD studies. I hope to keep up the pace, maybe even go a little faster, and keep the ball rolling. Once the script is done, my efforts will be fully directed toward the necessary art work, but that’s a story for another day!

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Adventures in Drawing – A New Beginning

Previously on “Adventures in Drawing,” I discussed several matters of art. I specifically placed emphasis on the three valuable lessons of learning to actively see thingsthe value of repetition, and drawing what one sees, not what one knows.

The second half of the drawing course followed the application of said rules with a series of projects. I had the wonderful opportunity to test my skills with various mediums from charcoal, graphite, and conté sticks. Along for the ride came an assortment of healthy drawing techniques I had learned earlier involving the use of guidelines, the ability to delineate depth and active perception in objects, as well as blind contour drawing etc. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to test my skills with the various media (Figures 1-2).

Figure 1. Man’s best friend (using charcoal, and graphite). 

 

Having completed the course, I can certainly say that my knowledge, and library of resources pertaining to drawing has grown exponentially. If there is a takeaway message from my experiences so far, it would be the following: simply put, anyone can be an artist. All you need is an HB pencil, a sketchbook, and a little bit of incentive. Most importantly, practice makes perfect.

In my opinion, I view drawing, and art, in general, as a personal interpretation of one’s environment, and imagination; a realm of infinite possibilities. The uniqueness factor of one’s works is dictated not through the judgment of external critics but rather one’s own individuality. Thus, you have nothing to fear in the criticism of your own doodles. We are all artists in our own measure. As Mason Cooley put it, “Art begins with imitation, and ends in innovation.”

Figure 2. Unfinished swimmer (using conté sticks)

With every passing day, I get closer to achieving the same with my artwork. Once again, I’ve learned that practice makes perfect. (On a side note, it also helps to have an encouraging partner, especially one who goes out of their way to buy you a legit Japanese manga kit but I digress.) If I could briefly summarize the steps that I have taken so far in my journey in drawing, and that I wish to share to my fellow aspiring artists, they would be:

(1) Start with doodles, and doodle frequently. Sketch whatever you wish to sketch. Freedom of imagination, and action is important in drawing.

(2) Get a few guide books on the side, or even better, just parse through the overwhelming history of artists, and their works that we can readily find information about on the WWW (world-wide-web).

(3) Trying a short, and supplementary course is highly beneficial too. Learning drawing also involves the communication of ideas, and techniques. (Check out the arts center in your city. If you don’t have one, Udemy is a wonderful online resource for awesome, and cheap courses. And if that doesn’t work, then it’s even more simple, learn from nature, and become your own artist. There’s no limit to human creativity, and imagination.)

(4) Aggregate the lessons you learn in infinitesimal steps, and integrate them toward a full learning experience.

Moving on from here, I intend to eagerly pursue my dream of becoming a mangaka in the future. For those among my readers who are avid comic fans, and are particularly interested in making their own comics, I highly suggest the constructive anatomy, and figure drawing books written by Burne Hogarth, and George Bridgman (shown below) to get you started.

But after all is said, and done, remember to relax, and just have fun with it!

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