Tag Archives: graphic novels

The Citizens kickstarter week 2

Okay, I said I’d blog about my kickstarter experience…so consider this part 2!

But before I dive in, I thought by now the bundle of nerves would be gone.

They’re not.

And we’ve got an entire week under our belt. But it’s also exciting at the same time. A good friend of mine who’d run a campaign before warned me this would happen. He was right.

So anyway…I mentioned the reward structure last week, but what I didn’t say was that it CHANGED several times. It changed based on the kind of rewards we could get. For instance, I was initially banking on (see what I did there?) convincing Joe to let go of some of the original art to offer as rewards. Problem is that Joe is a 21st century artist and all his work is done digitally! So, no stacks of 11 X 17 bristol board for him (which is the size and paper type comic artists general compose their pages on). That one tossed me for a loop. So we decided to ask some artist pals to help us out. I asked Kyle Hotz and Joe asked Joie Simmons, both of whom agreed to produce an original piece of Citizens art for the kickstarter campaign. That helped to give us two “high end” rewards (both of which I THOUGHT would be gone by now, but are oddly still available).

My last bit of restructuring came the day before launch. Literally. A couple of early feedback responses has suggested I had several reward tiers too close together—and I did. The tough part was figuring out how to move it around to make it work: we had prints, digital graphic novels, print comics all to get in. Ultimately, I had a few of them out of “order,” and when worked around, they actually fell into place quite nicely.

Next was creating the video. And this was probably the most challenging aspect for me. I mean, I’ve always worked in PRINT, even if that “print” is digital. I don’t mind talking or being ON video, but having to make and create it was something different altogether! So I recruited daughter Brittany to help me out. I didn’t want it to just be me sitting there staring at the camera for the entire pitch, so she recorded the audio for me in high quality, and then we added the images in, with me deciding to be “on” screen for the final bit (that image brought about a comment about my comic collection seen behind me! Ha). The final touch was also difficult to add, and that was layering the soundtrack (done by Joe) underneath the entire video. But once I got it figured out, it sounded great—or so I think. While it may sound easy here, trust me, that was the toughest part of the entire thing.

The other bit of imagery I needed—or felt I did—was the pledge images. Not every kickstarter uses them like I did, but I’ve noticed that many comic related campaigns do…so I chose to follow suit.

I created them using InDesign, and then exporting to jpgs.

Okay…run out of space already. More next week. And of course, if you’re reading this and you haven’t PLEDGED to the campaign, what are you waiting on? Kickstarter just gave us a STAFF PICK! So go help us out. Remember, you’re not just tossing money at me, you’re placing an order for a graphic novel!KSbackgroundwithextra

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Smash…book 1?

I recently read the Smash: Trial by Fire graphic novel by Chris and Kyle Bolton (as far as I can tell, no relation to comic great John Bolton). There were a lot of elements that drew me to give it a whirl: It was published by Candlewick Press, a non-traditional comic publisher (they publish more prose than graphic novels); it was listed as a “graphic novel;” and it was an all ages book, something I’ve really found myself drawn to in this age of traditional comic publishers filling their pages with gratuitous violence, blood, boobs and language.

I wanted to like Smash, I really did.

And while it wasn’t terrible, I’m going to have a very hard time recommending it to you…at full price. If you can find a reduced $ copy, pick it up.

Why, Roland, don’t you recommend it?

I’m glad you asked, thanks. Here’s why:

First off, it was too dang slow. It took page after page after page after page after page…well, you get it…for ANYTHING to happen. There are certainly some interesting characters, but there’s a lot of nothing happening.

In a nutshell, Andrew, the story’s protagonist is a big fan of the local hero Defender. Defender dies in a battle with his archenemy Magus. When this happens, his superpower leaves his body and lands in Andrew. Nice and convenient, huh? Andrew wants to become Defender’s sidekick, not realizing Defender is dead. He jumps into action as a superhero and people start calling him Smash. Magus, however, wants the power (no explanation is ever made to explain how “superpowers” can jump from body to body?). So Magus tracks down Smash, captures him, and attempts to take his powers. But, because Andrew/Smash is a small boy, he slips out of the bonds and escapes and to be continued.

WHAT? I buy a 150 page graphic novel and it’s CONTINUED? Who the heck at Candlewick thought that was a good idea? Granted it’s called “book 1,” but that doesn’t mean it has to be CONTINUED. Lord of the Rings is three volumes, but each of those volumes have complete STORY ARC contained in the pages so that there is a feeling of completion when finishing one of the volumes. No “editor” is listed and that may very well be the problem—I dunno.

And it’s not that the content is terrible—it isn’t. It just needed some smart guidance: pick up the pace (lighten the really dark pages because some of the art is difficult to see when the color is too dark), and complete a STORY ARC, leaving it open to complete a larger story arc with additional volumes.

So, there you have it. I’m looking forward to reading Jimmy Palmiotti’s all ages GN Forager, soon! That, and it looks like I’ve got three—count’em: 3—new projects I’m preparing to pitch. I’m working on the blog entry for the first one even now! I look forward to your comments on it.

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Write a love letter to your artist

I wrote about comic writing for a Full Sail blog…thought I’d share it here as well, especially since it is about writing!

Writing for comics and graphic novels requires a ninety degree turn in thinking. In Full Sail Creative Writing programs, we emphasize writing visually, which, boiled down to the very basic idea means to write knowing that what you write will be translated to pictures of some sort, so watch the talking heads. Unlike prose writing, which requires readers to imagine the pictures in their head, Visual Writing means the writer’s words will be interpreted by someone not the writer and brought to life. Screenwriters are taught just to tell the story and to let the director determine what it will look like.

Not so for comics and graphic novels. Graphic novelists are to be specific in the images the artist will put in each panel. And because comics, like all forms of visual entertainment, are such a collaborative effort, and because most writers do not generate their own art, it is imperative the writer communicate not only the images, but the feel of the story.

While directors certainly interpret meaning in a script, it isn’t unusual that he seeks opinion of the brilliant people he’s surrounded himself with (lighting, camera, etc.). Not so for comics. The interpretive art is generally handled by a single artist.

Comic scripts feature two main parts: that part of the script which will be lettered onto the pages and read by the reader (dialogue, captions, and thoughts); and that part of the script which will only be read by the artist (and approved by the editor). Thus, it requires a lot of time and effort creating something that will be read—and is intended to be that way—by one person.

So it is imperative for the writer to communicate exactly what he sees in his mind’s eye. That’s not to say the writer should describe every single detail—only Alan Moore can get away with that. But instead, the writer wants to communicate mood, tone and emotion! It helps if the writer knows the artist, but this isn’t always the case. However, when the artist is known, it is very acceptable for the descriptive part of the script (the panel art descriptions) to be informal. Oh, sure, a lot of writing teachers don’t like this but ultimately they aren’t the audience (correction: they are if you are writing  for them for a grade!). You want the artist to cry on the sad parts and laugh at the funny images you’ve caused to be conjured in their heads. You want the artist to know what to draw, yes, but you also want them to feel what you feel when you’re writing the script.

This is why I always say, that part of the script which describes the art on the page should be a love letter to the artist. The rest is just the details.

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Eric Shanower’s A Thousand Ships

I picked up Eric Shanower’s Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships recently not just because it was on the sale table, but because the interior art (not the cover!) drew me in. Be warned, some spoilers follow (as if you don’t already know the story of the Trojan War.)

I wanted to really like this book. I wanted to be able to finish it and then run here and tell everyone to drop everything and go pick up a copy (likely on the sale table) and then love it. But I can’t really do that. Not because it’s bad because it isn’t…but there are some issues with it that unless you really REALLY like the story of the Trojan War, get in the way of the enjoyment.

Shanower’s art is, of course, very nice. It’s fun to look at in almost a fine art kind of way. Aside from the problems I mention below, it flows nicely and, if you’re not trying to keep up with any sort of story, is easy to read.

Yeah, okay…no it’s not. But I don’t hold Shanower responsible for all Greek names being difficult to pronounce (and thus read) nor do I hold him responsible for all of them looking alike. And they all look like they could be siblings (many are) and if he didn’t do little things like slight modifications to hair, I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart. Many times I found myself stopping to look back at the panels before to try to figure how who was who. Because their Greek, they all have big honkers! (that’s noses!) Even the ladies! And all the dudes have long hair. It can get very frustrating.

Aside from all the names being hard to pronounce and read—which we kind of expect because it’s Greek—the story has very little in the way of captions and often the scenes shift and we don’t know it…or when we do, we don’t have any idea where we’ve shifted to! I mean, he doesn’t have to give us Chris Claremont style captions to let us know, but please tell us where we’ve gone when the camera shifts and different people—who look like the last people—start talking and saying more names we can’t pronounce.

But the most frustrating thing of all…after I’d weathered through all 200 pages…the blamed thing is continued. WHAT? And then I get to browsing around on the internet and find it is part 1 of … (get this) SEVEN. Supposed Shanower started the project in 91…I mean, the internet said it so it must be true! …and if it IS true, he should finish volume 7 around 2025? I don’t think I want to wait that long to finish it.

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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

For those of you who have been following, you know that I’ve been working on a Graphic Novel adaptation of the L. Frank Baum novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I have just completed the draft of my script and await editorial comments, but I thought I’d talk some about the book—which, I’d never read before.

That’s right—I even surprised myself once I started reading it, I realized that I had only ever seen the movie. Wow. But I’d also be willing to bet that most Americans have only ever seen the movie.

For me, however, that error has been corrected. Granted I read it because I had an assignment, but I’m now glad to have done so.

While being very close to the movie in parts, there are quite a few things that the movie leaves out or just flat changes. But y’know, we have to remind ourselves (or I have to remind us for the moment) that the movie was ALSO an adaptation of the same novel I’d just read. And we all know how liberal Hollywood gets with their adaptations.

The company I’m working for is trying to stick very true to the originals—this isn’t one of those “loosely based on” ideas. The goal is to stick very close to the original and get young readers visually interested in the work so that they might actually seek the original out—or something different. Their thoughts (and generally mine, too) are that if the original is good enough to be considered a “classic,” why change it?

What are some of the differences? Well, I’m glad you asked.

The biggest difference for me was that the movie left out the second half of the book completely. After the balloon takes off sans Dorothy with the Wizard, Dorothy and crew take a whole ‘nother trip to the South where they are to see Glinda. Of course, in the movie, Glinda just magically appears.

AND—here’s the biggie, the movie treated it all as an unconscious dream for Dorothy while the book treats it as reality. In the end, when Dorothy returns home, Uncle Henry has built a new house to replace the one taken away by the tornado.

Another odd thing: When Dorothy meets the first good witch in the book, she kisses Dorothy on the forehead before sending her off on the road made of yellow brick. This red “kiss mark” is on her head throughout the entire book. In fact, it gives Dorothy protection because those who see it stay away, or decide to do her no harm.

My last thought is a funny one. Dorothy melts the Witch not to put out a fire, but because she is angry. The Wicked Witch wants the shoes, and thus devises a plan where she trips Dorothy. She succeeds in taking one of the silver shoes, and Dorothy wants it back. She gets so angry, that she grabs a pail of water and throws it on the witch. When the Witch melts, Dorothy takes another bucket of water and just sweeps her out the door—VERY funny.

Good stuff.

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New project!

I’m excited to get to announce that I’ve just signed on to be a freelance Editor for Elfin Kids, a publishing company out of India. I’m very excited about it all.

I first “met” them by bidding on a writing project at one of the freelance writer websites I visit infrequently. I spotted an ad for a company wanting comic scripts…so I bid. After some time, and a few email swaps, we agreed on all the particulars. I was excited, because I was doing a graphic novel (80 pages!) adaptation of a book that I like AND had used in my English 101 classes.

After some time, the publisher asked me about freelance editing. I kinda put her off because we were still in the middle of trying to move and all that. However, after the move we began swapping emails again, primarily about comics in general. Finally, after some time and discussion, I decided–based on what I was hearing from her–that I could put my skills to good use with them. AND–and this is one of the most important things to me now–my kids would be able to see everything I worked on.

So, last week I signed a freelance “Editor in Chief” agreement with them. And they put me right to work! 🙂 I’ll also travel a little with/for them, which should be exciting. One of the most exciting prospects is the idea of traveling to India and working with their staff of newcomer editors to help train them. Hey–that combines two things I really enjoy: teaching and comics! No, it’s not scheduled yet, but I’m already excited about the prospect. If it isn’t too costly, we might even see about bringing the whole family during one of my trips. But I haven’t talked to them about that yet.

So, while I can’t talk alot yet about the particulars, I’m excited to be involved with Elfin Kids. The publisher, Ratna, recently sent out the company’s mission statement to a whole host of creators. It reads: “To entertain and educate young minds by creating unique illustrated books to recount stories of human values, to arouse curiousity in the world around us, and to inspire by tales of great deeds by unforgettable people.”

Looks like I’ll have to get a passport!

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