Here are helpful tips for aspiring artists, writers, colorists, letterers and graphic designers in gearing their portfolio for preparation in breaking in the industry.
WHAT MAKES FOR STIFF POSES?
What makes for stiff poses?
Poses that look unnatural. Even if you draw a pose that seems normal, just like real life, it may come off as stiff — so if you exaggerate the pose — it helps. I’m not talking changing proportions. I’m talking about, for example, if two characters would, in “real life,” be arguing and gesturing five feet apart, in the comiic you pull them in to five INCHES apart, lean bodies inward, maybe have one grab the other by the shirt. If one’s a girl, her hair’s flying out, indicating how quickly she moved in. Never have characters standing around like mannequins; give them something to do. Use every opportunity to indicate movement, life.
- Is “stiff” different from “pasted” faces?
I don’t know what a pasted face is.
- Does the term “stiff” apply to “camera” angles as well?
No. But camera angles can be boring. The “sitcom shot” — long, medium, or close-up that is straight-on — can be dull.
- Is “stiff” different from “pasted” faces?
Besides perspective, how else do I make a big scene – a big scene?
Pull back. Lots of convincing detail.
When would you say a background is “wonky”?
When perspective is off. Or when the people don’t seem to interact with the background because of lack of shadows.
When a character’s pose seems twisted, wrong, unnatural on the page. Or an eye is floating around on the head instead of back in the socket, drawing an accurate consistent face each time.
Same as background.
I would really appreciate whatever visual references you may have in the Manila Office, or in your computer.
They were all in my Seminar. There is no “scientific” method to know what’s wrong. But if you can’t look at a drawing and instinctively know it’s off, you won’t know it in your own work.
POINTERS FOR ASPIRING PENCILLERS
Paranoidvin writes: “If you’re going to ask me what I want to be, I’ll answer, ” I want to be a penciller.” But i would rather like to start first as a pin-up artist because I’m still working on my perspective and panelling. I hope that I’ll have a chance to work in the comic book industry.”
Some comments and suggestions for you:
If you want a job doing pin-ups or covers, then DRAW SOME PIN-UPS OR COVERS! It’s that simple. Show the right samples. Take established characters and design clever covers that have a great design or create a SCENE that is so interesting and compelling that the reader HAS to buy that book to find out what’s going on. If yuor heart is set on simply, designy covers, check out the enclosed X-MEN pin-up/cover by Mike Deodato. Although this .jpg is in color, the artwork I’m showing you is PENCILS ONLY. It was not inked; it was darkened and colored, from pencils, in Photoshop.
If you want to be a comic book penciller, then PENCIL SOME COMIC BOOKS! It’s that simple. You get a script of plot with established characters, or make one up, and draw it. Use photo reference for a starting point, but create good storytelling and a saleable commercial style, and draw in on 11 x 17 paper (10 x 15 image area). Do it in pencil. If you want to be a penciller, then DON’T INK THE WORK. Inkers don’t use ball point pen; that is amateurish. They use brushes and dip pens and Rapidograph technical pens, and create a great finished look that establishes texture and depth. We can select more established inkers to inker for you.
THE STATE OF THE COMICS INDUSTRY TODAY
For much of the past 40 years — since the days Stan Lee and Jack Kirby saw Fantastic Four first hit the stands — writers were usually current or former staff people. At Marvel, for example, the “Marvel Age” roster of scripters were Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Gary Friedrich, and so on. They were all on staff as editors or assistants; the biggest exception was writer/artist Larry Lieber, who was the editor-in-chief’s brother.
Today, the situation has changed.
- Image Comics (Image Central) welcomes comics with “strong personal version” but requires a completed drawn and lettered first issue for consideration.
- Vertigo Press (a division of DC Comics) offers a variety of genres and works with writers all over the world.
- Marvel Comics under new editor-in-chief Joe Quesada is opening its doors to edgier talent.
- Such smaller companies as Oni Press, Caliber Comics, and even internet-based publishers are openly courting fresh talent.
The love and lure of comics.
Writers who understand that comics are a medium, not a genre, are often invigorated by the notion that they can tell stories in a manner that combines the best from text fiction and from screenwriting. Comics offer their own advantages and disadvantages in storytelling.
Thinking visually: Much as with screenplays, comic book scripts describe establishing shots, and all the major and smaller character “theatrical actions” that go on. The writers has to SHOW, not tell. Dialogue is tight, clever, terse…much like a good movie or TV script.
Introspection: Unlike a TV show or movie, where narration and a character’s THOUGHTS can seem hokey or intrusive, they seem natural in a comic book story — even more so, in some instances, than in a short story or novel. In fact, where a text story might appear confusing revealing the innermost thoughts of seven or eight characters plus a narrator in, say, a 20-page story chapter, such revelations are right at home in a comic book story.
Some advice to would-bes:
- Learn the forms for plot format and script format. Some variations exist, but don’t re-invent the wheel here. Editors don’t want to deal with scripts that are hard to decipher.
- Be concise — If you submit a proposal for a new project, some visuals help. But mostly, don’t bog down a proposal with too much text. A brief pitch, some quick character info, an outline where the story goes, and out. Leave editors wanting to know more; if they want to see more, they’ll tell you.
- Don’t give up — It took me 10 years to break in, and I’ve stayed with it for 19 years. It took a while, but it was worth it.
- Don’t compare your work with the worst guy and say, “I can do better than that.” EVERYBODY else they have is better than their worst guy. You don’t want an editor saying, “Congratulations, you don’t suck as badly as my worst guy.” Strive to set your sights for being better than their best guy, because it’s a buyer’s market and you have to bring something to the table the editors can’t get anywhere else.
- Read comics and learn from them. Study the limitations and unique opportunities in storytelling. Watch how pacing differs among creative teams; how wide or narrow panels control a reader’s sense of time; what to put in and what to leave out, to tell a coherent story beginning to end in 22 or so pages, or how to serialize a story over several issues while understanding that every issue is a first issue to somebody.
A comment on any or all of the above, plus whatever else you might have to say.
Never, ever assume comics are “just” a children’s medium. They’re no more so than TV, or film, or novels, or short stories, or audiodrama. Anne Rice, Stephen King, Andrew Vachss, and many other bigtime novelists have had their work appear in comics. Comics have won Pulitzers. This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner was a novel ABOUT comics.
The next time you see some reviewer claim, “This [movie/TV show] is comic book writing,” smile to yourself knowing just how good that CAN be, in the right hands.
— David Campiti
Email David for any questions you may have.