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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