I’m all about trying to increase my knowledge of all thing comics and graphic novels, so of course, this past weekend when I attended the L.A. Times Festival of Books, I was sure to attend the panels on graphic novels and comic books. Since I know what it is to search the Internet for whatever nuggets I can find on what goes into the creation of comics, I’m sharing some of what I learned this weekend with you.
Saturday Kazu Kibuishi, creator of the Cooper webcomic and the Amulet series and editor of Flight, was on the Young Adult Stage (along side Tracy White and Deborah Vankin), talking about his process and answering audience questions. He had a lot of interesting points and here are some things I walked away thinking about after the session.
· Comics have the ability to compress really big ideas into tiny chunks in a small space. He tries to compress as much as he can into each book.
· In his graphic novels, everything is a metaphor for a truth and everything has an emotional truth to it.
· A reader should be able to get the story of a comic book or graphic novel just by flipping through and looking at the art, but if they read it they get to know the story more deeply
· Kibuishi states that if he doesn’t enjoy his story himself, it isn’t working. Trust your intuition. (Authors at another panel I attended said something similar)
· Currently just under 200-pages long, Kibuishi actually drew 700 pages for Amulet 1 while was working on it.
· He treats his characters like they really exist. It took him a while to get to know them, but at this point in the Amulet series, Kibuishi says he works for his characters. They’re exploring themes practically on their own.
· He didn’t go to school for art (he was film student) and learned a lot about creating comics from just doing it. Namely, drawing comics for his school paper where he had to put things out quickly and on a regular basis.
· It’s not just about drawing well—worry less, communicate more.
· As far as breaking into the comic book industry, Kibuishi‘s advice is that you have to be pro-active. You have to have an attitude of “I think I’m doing something worth doing. I’m going to make it work.”
· When working on the Amulet series, it took him two years to complete the first graphic novel, nine months for the second, seven months for the third, and a year for the fourth. (He currently works with one assistant and two interns.)
Sunday there were two BOOM! Studios panels. One featuring writers Gary Phillips and Michael Alan Nelson, and both featuring Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon. Now, when you have the opportunity to sit and listen to what the editor-in-chief of what may be one of the fastest growing comic book publishers in the land, you might want to be in attendance.
What I took from here is that while comics is obviously an artistic field, professionalism is still important in the comic books industry and can set you apart. So while you’re honing your craft, you might also want to work on other important qualities (if they’re not innate to you, that is) such reliability, the ability to get things done quickly, flexibility and the ability to collaborate. I know, my fellow artistic people, those things are supposed to be hard for us, but I believe we can do it.
Gagnon also had some advice for breaking into the industry: Plug yourself into the comic book community. It’s a small community and when you start building those friendships whether at a comic book store, online, or what have you, you’re building connections with future industry professionals.
Also, put your work out there. Post your art online—at the BOOM! Studios forum, for example, self-publish whether print or with a webcomic, just do something. No one – not readers, not industry professionals – is going to find you if you’re nowhere to be found.
The folks who participated in the panels had a lot more stuff to say than I can fit into a 800-word post, but I wrote another something over at my other blog about what some novelists had to say. If ever you have an opportunity to attend these types of events, especially if they’re free like this one, definitely make a point to go. Educating yourself is half the battle, right?
(Side note: I finally learned how to re-size the pages for our own webcomic, Justine, making it easier to read. If you previously didn’t click on each page in order to read it, now’s your chance to actually see what all those words are saying.)