July 6, 2016
No artist who can write should avoid words; no author who can draw should avoid drawing.
—Al Capp, creator of “Li’l Abner” (from The enigma of Al Capp / Alexander Theroux. Fantagraphics Books, 1999). I’ve highlighted this quote before, but I still think they’re words any cartoonist should take pride in. And live by.
Capp is a complicated figure to say the least, but his story is an interesting one. If you want to find out more about the man, I recommend the fine biography by Michael Schumacher and Denis Kitchen, Al Capp, A Life to the Contrary (Bloomsbury USA, 2013).
April 6, 2016
Unfortunately, sometimes there isn’t enough room for all of the really small actions or subtle moments I originally imagined. There isn’t always enough room on a page to show every nervous glance or stepping foot as a character runs along the roof of a train. Sometimes I have to cut those less important moments to keep the story moving along at the right pace.
—Shane McDermott, 2016 (from his excellent recent exhibit at the Memphis College of Art, Seahorse in Sequence: Creating a Comic). Not only did that show feature Shane’s work from various stages of the process, he shared well-written descriptions such as this, too. It’s a great reminder that creators– myself included– need to be willing to make those kinds of cuts to make a better story. Probably more often than I’m willing to admit, too…
February 17, 2016
Comics are both art and commerce. I believe in the former and live with the latter. With the comic’s inflexible daily deadline there is little time for rumination. You do the best you can and then you let it go. You don’t live with a piece; you live with the process.
—Patrick McDonnell (from Mutts: the comic art of Patrick McDonnell. Harry N. Abrams, 2003). The best of many insights of what goes into his strip every day to be found in this beautiful volume. I’d definitely put this book in the same class as those by Schulz and Watterson I wrote about last month.
October 21, 2015
I felt then and now that sometimes comic-book stories, in an effort to always raise the stakes, keep getting larger and larger until there is nothing left for the readers to identify with. If all the people a super-hero meets have super powers of their own, it takes away the fragile layer of reality that we depend on. That’s why characters like Sarah Simms, Terry Long and others exist: to ground the heroes in some manner of reality and to make the readers believe this could be happening right now around the corner, if only you can get there in time.
Long-running series need to be like roller coasters, with stories that move along faster than a speeding bullet followed by others that slow you down and remind you what you like about the characters even as you are being set up for the next major thrill. If you are constantly being shouted at you will eventually be numbed to everything. You gain perspective and have time for reflection only when there’s some quiet.
—Marv Wolfman, 2004 (from the introduction to The New Teen Titans volume two. DC Comics, 2015). Sadly, this kind of writing style has been ignored for far too long in most ongoing comic series.