I attended the last of The Fantastic in Word and Image workshops this afternoon. The guest panelists were "comic writers and artists:" Adam Beechen, Paul Fini, and Benjamin Ilka. Although my original decision to attend was based primarily on a desire to support library programs such as this one, I'm really glad I went as I enjoyed the program and found it very informative.
Adam Beechen, who was visiting from Los Angeles, writes for comics, animated cartoons, live-action films, and other media. Some of the comics and animated series he has worked with include Justice League, Robin, and Teen Titans (plus lots more), and his current writing projects include the Batgirl series and other projects for DC comics. Since I don't know much about writing for comics, and only slightly more about animation, I found his comments very interesting. But, then, I found the comments of all the participants interesting.
Paul Fini writes and draws comics, and publishes his work through IndieOnly Comics
, a small press he founded; so far, this includes issues of Bliss, an autobiographical comic, and Plant Guy, a superhero comic. He enjoys being able to work on two completely different art styles in his work, since for Bliss he uses a realistic style and for Plant Guy a more comic-y style. IndieOnly Comics has also published Sequentially Tucson
which showcases collaborative works by the Sequentially Tucson comic sketch group. Paul also works as a graphic designer and musician.
Benjamin Ilka created the comic book Ventriloquists Pay Double
and the graphic novel A Boy and His Shadow
. He has illustrated the coloring books, Navajo Code Talker
, for Rio Nuevo Publishers
. He publishes a number of "Ash Can" comics through his small press, MadSeaDog
and he's also a printmaker. Benjamin once traveled to Nepal with the Peace Corps and will be leaving for Ethiopia in a few weeks with his wife and their one-year-old child (a boy, I think) in association with his wife's work. Their Tucson home is on the market, so please wish them luck for being able to sell it quickly.
The three discussed a wide range of topics about comic art and writing. All of them fell in love with comics at an early age and it was their love for the art and the storytelling in comics that drew them to make it the focus of their careers. There's so much I could write about, but since my focus is primarily writing, I'd like to pick up on a comment Paul made, that the storytelling for movies and comics is very similar, as each is composed of a number of shots or panels which work visually to tell one event or aspect of the story. Adam elaborated on this topic, explaining a few of the differences he sees in writing for different visual media. When writing a script for a live action film, the writer typically gives a minimum of direction on the page, allowing the actors [and director] scope for their addition to the collaborative work. When writing for animated films and comic books, however; the writer may give a little more information about visuals, perhaps suggesting that a scene or image be drawn as a high or low shot (a technique which contributes the mood being established), although it's still a collaborative process in which the artists interpret the script. One very important aspect of a comic writer's work is also to be very aware of page breaks: each page must draw the reader through the page and end in such a way as to make the reader want to turn the page.
I know that many writers find that techniques that apply to writing for live-action films can be useful to writers working on short stories and novels, so my question to ponder at this moment is whether writing techniques that apply to writing for comics may also prove useful to those of us working in less visual mediums.