MAKING COMICS: But Does It Have To Be Sequential?*
This week’s article is brought to you by Archie Templar, who takes a look at an alternative work process for creating comics:
I’m a perfectionist. I always have been. I am also a philanderer, a polygamist and a patriarch and so much of my time is taken up looking after the many women in my life and supporting my many legitimate and illegitimate children – all of this while holding down a high impact, stress prone job.
This means that time is a very, very precious commodity to me – invariably on the majority of occasions when I am allowed to indulge my creative passions it is at day’s end when most of my energies and vital juices have been sapped from my frail body.
Sitting down in front of a blank canvas is unsettling at the best of times, but when you are faced with the prospect of creating a flowing piece of sequential art that you are expecting another person to believe in and follow without missing a note then there can be a tendency to overthink it.
Unless you have moved fully into the digital realm for your pencils and inks the majority of people still start with that blank piece of paper and begin to populate it with little boxes of art, starting from the top left and moving sequentially along until you reach the bottom right, and voila, page finished! Easy peasy.
But of course it’s not always that easy; it may be years of substance abuse finally taking their toll but in recent times I found the prospect of having to get panels to follow each other on the same page increasingly claustrophobic. I feel hindered by the preceding panel having to sit right next to the panel I am working on right now; Jesus to even think of this one sandwiched between it and the panel after this one … and so on.
Two years ago I was given the chance to do a guest strip for Bob Byrnes Clamnuts. A little number called “1983”. Apart from being shaken to the core as I envisioned the Tallaght Tyrant’s withering eye gazing over my work and dissecting it – Pride also wanted the piece to look great and not sully his site. As I doodled ideas the thought suddenly came to me that I would do each panel on its own page, completely separate from each other and then mash the whole thing together when scanned in and colouring it up in photoshop (my progressing from colouring with crayons was my first eureka moment).
And guess what, it worked! Drawing each panel became its own little piece, unhindered by my sequential-paralysis – but more importantly, unhindered by the time factor as I could throw together a few panels very quickly late in the evening.
The key was to have the entire piece thumbnailed in rough beforehand, in order to control the flow and layout. This has been covered in an earlier ICN Making Comics article and for me is one of the most important aspects of planning a comic page.
So the patchwork process had worked with 1983, which was more of a snapshot style strip – cut to two years later and after some upheavals in my life I had missed the deadline for the strip I was supposed to be contributing to the Courageous Mayhem! project. I had taken on the task of creating a Deluxe version of the comic and decided that I would include a strip about the “story behind the cover” – I was giving myself a week for seven pages to pencil, scan, ink and colour – and this was to be more of a moving strip rather than just a static snapshot like 1983. Once again the patchwork process allowed for quick execution and the final product was one I was happy enough to present in public.
So there you have it chums. Comic art doesn’t always have to be sequential – at least not when you’re creating it. Happy scribbling!
*Post Script: If you are serious about getting into comics professionally you will ignore everything you have read in this article bar the inclusion of thumbnailing. No portfolio reviewer and potential employer will ever want to see a jumbled stack of random sheets of paper that somehow constitute a body of work. So yes, yes it does have to be sequential.
Archie Templar has been guesting in numerous comic anthologies for the past number of years but has yet to produce anything independent of note. He does not expect this to change anytime soon.
If you would like to talk about your own work process, of any other aspect of creating funny books, get in touch, I would love to hear from you. Email either with a finished piece, or just an idea you have for one;
COLIN AT IRISHCOMICSNEWS.COM