Grid Talk 4

These are collected ongoing conversations via the interwebs about work experience, professional opinion, and unabashed foolishness.  Here are excerpts from a talk with one of my local heroes and long-time comics vet Gerry Alanguilan.

Grid Talk monks

Continued from Grid Talk 3.

Amor: It’s interesting that you brought up Watchmen though because though I do still feel that it’s essentially unfilmable, the movie did seem like a decent enough adaptation. But yeah, I see your point about the crazy special effects… I’ve come to accept that it’s only a matter of time before the limitations of CGI will become so miniscule that even Sinestro Corps-level space battles will be no challenge. That being said, Moore was onto something when he didn’t just play with the story and his characters, but even the format of the medium itself — in reference of course to Watchmen #5, Fearful Symmetry.

Gerry: I thought Watchmen was a terrific film. The opening montage alone was one of the most awesome things I’ve seen in film for quite a long time. I wouldn’t say it’s Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but rather an alternate reality version of Watchmen that was good on its own. I felt it suffered from some weak acting and some over exposition though. Rorschach droning on about dog carcasses as he went to investigate Blake’s apartment got a bit tedious. It works in the comics, but in film it just didn’t translate well. Much of that would go over the heads of the audiences. In comics, you can at least slow it down and ponder the words. In film where pacing is fixed, all you get is Rorschach rambling on about nonsense because you don’t get the time to think about what he’s saying.

Amor: Pacing issues.  Relating that to our original talk on discipline, I sometimes find myself feeling a bit bored with my pace on a certain page I’m working on that I skip to another page in the book and distract myself by cutting loose over there. Know what I mean? And sure it’s possible that the page was just horribly laid out or whatever and that I’m a total hack (ah crap), but I’m mostly alluding to just creative ADD, y’know? Like a conversation between Peter and Aunt May on page 5 is just so boring that every few panels you finish, you skip to page 10 where Spidey is fighting Venom.  I don’t know if that counts as a discipline issue as much as a problem with focus, but I just wanna put it out there.  It certainly doesn’t bode well for my wanting to make pages interesting enough to grab attention and keep it.

Gerry: I remember reading the original Spiderman issues of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko many years ago, and the strange thing is I was so fascinated by all the personal stuff. You know, those bits about Peter and the girls and the relationships he had. I was so fascinated by it that I skipped the bits with Spiderman fighting the baddies. I wanted to know if he’s going to go out with Betty or not. Yes, I’m kind of a freak that way. I’m not sure if it’s a discipline thing rather than “I’ll read what I want” thing. As comic book creators, it is perhaps part of our job to keep things like this from happening. I know how difficult that can be, so I’m always amazed when I see such storytelling problems solved spectacularly well by other artists.  I would see how David Mazzucchelli or Alex Niño solve those problems and I’m always scratching my head. “So THAT’s how you do it!” I’d think to myself. And then I would try it myself and I still have a hard time doing it. It’s a skill that I have yet to learn..

Amor: Well I gotta say it’s refreshing to hear a veteran like yourself saying that some things are still a challenge to pull off.  I like to think my storytelling and pacing skills are decent, or at least passable, but my biggest flaw is really the inability to pay attention to just one thing for too long… which brings us full circle to what this talk is really about… discipline.  Any closing remarks, gems of wisdom, or verbal bitch slaps for a fledgling artist trying to make it in the field?

Gerry: Storytelling is actually one of the most underdeveloped talents that our artists have, even the popular established ones. I look at their comics and I go, “What the fuck is going on in this page?” More often than not, storytelling is sacrificed for flash, but I believe you can achieve both. In fact, if storytelling is done right, flash becomes an important tool for telling the story.  For others, storytelling means a whole bunch of words, which defeats the purpose of the medium..  I think all of us doing comics here in the Philippines need a serious seminar on storytelling from someone like say, Wally Wood or Alex Toth, but they’re dead. But you get my point.

Discipline really just takes a lot of will power. You really just have to find ways to make yourself sit and finish that page. Make little deadlines for yourself. You promise not to go and do stuff until you finished that panel. And when you come back, you make a deal with yourself not to get up until you finish that panel. And you have to stick to that.

But keep in mind if you have to keep forcing yourself to work on these pages all the time, you really have to start thinking if this is what you really want to do. Believe me, you don’t want to be stuck in a job that you have to force yourself to do.

Amor: I sorta live by this saying a heard a long time ago: “Find a job that you love, and you won’t have to work a single day of your life.”  Now more than ever, it is exceedingly relevant and has almost taken on a weight of it’s own.  I definitely love what I do.  I love the process of taking a script and visually composing scenes.  I love playing with character expression and body language and making them relate to one another.  I love controlling the pace of a story with panel design.  I love tweaking the effect of a scene with camera placement and lighting. I can’t imagine myself being happy doing anything else.  But I’ve also added like, an addendum to that mantra… “but stop ignoring deadlines or it’ll be cup ramen for the next few months, you dumb fuck.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sure you’re an artist if you can draw, but you ain’t a comic artist till you can learn to churn out pages and hit deadlines.  I love this thing Kelley Jones mentioned in a podcast once, and it was told to him by a past Batman artist, Marshal Rogers I believe, one of the old guard… he said, “The last issue of your run, without missing your deadline, that’s how good a comic artist you are.”  And when I heard that a couple of weeks ago it sank its teeth so deep into my jugular and made me wish so bad that I had heard it much sooner.  That saying is getting tossed into the train’s furnace for sure. Now it’s a matter of working… and living by it.

OGN

Everyone tries to write Watchmen the first time around. Cop to it, kids. We all want our first foray into the world of comics to be loud. To be a hit. And I don’t blame you. Who doesn’t want to be the guy who came out of nowhere and just punched everyone in the face with something awesome? It’s not wrong to want that, but it is harmful to hope for it and, by extension, pin your tragically fragile comic creator self-esteem on what may very well be a shitty Original Graphic Novel.

My friend Matt and I are currently bringing a year’s worth of scripts for INSTRUMENTS to a close. The process is done via skype… with beers… so it’s not the smoothest of creative processes. I currently have about 90% of the first issue completely drawn and toned (we’re planning to release it black and white), so all that’s needed for a proper pitch is the clean script for the first year’s worth of monthly issues. You read that right: the first year. And therein lies the rub — What are the odds of a coupla nobodies getting a publisher to commit to an entire year’s worth of monthlies? Granted of course that our story is mind-numbingly awesome (Who else is gonna say it, asshole?), our operation can’t exactly hinge on the script alone when Image, Boom, Avatar, or whoever else can’t tell us apart from a dead dog’s cock now can it? They don’t know who the hell we are.

So I start small.

I’ve got a bunch of solos I’ve been meaning to start fleshing out, script-wise. I can’t pull off ICELANDER with less than eight issues, so that’s out. JOHNNY BEASTLING only needs six for the first arc, but I really really really don’t want to have to use it until I know I can write it well. THREE BLIND MICE needs more research. So that just leaves the pirate story…

Let’s call it ALL HANDS for now. And let’s say it’s what Lovecraft wanted to see when he watched Pirates of the Caribbean, and Harryhausen was right beside him, stealing his popcorn. (I draw comics, were you really looking for a profound metaphor there?)  But the best part is it works as a one-shot.  An oversized one-shot, sure, but much easier to sell than a twelve-issue maxi-series written by two drunken nerds.

So that’s going on. I wish I could say I arrived at this decision to write a pirate story via logical reasoning, but the fact is it’s nothing but what I’m calling a resultant… I don’t know… mental state? Gestalt?… of a series of strange coincidences. Take from that what you will.

::: ::: ::: Keeping it Relevant Department ::: ::: :::

MASK of MANOLO #2 is experiencing logistical hitches. More on that as I get news.

Page layouts for HORROR PROJECT are coming along nicely. Thumbnails are being a bit of a challenge, but live and learn I suppose.

Tomorrow will be about reading JENNY STRANGE scripts for Zuda.

OVERTHROW #1 is done and done. All that’s left is the cover concepts before we take it to pitch. Justin suggested I study some old posters and go all Soviet Propaganda on everyone’s asses, so that should be fun. See?

soviet31 soviet2 soviet11

Trades vs Monthlies

Am slightly stricken by the fact that there’s an actual discussion about trade paperbacks replacing monthlies. What’s even more disturbing is that some people think that the trades actually are a better way to go. Been visiting www.pulpsecret.com a lot lately, coz their live reviews and the fact that it always takes about five minutes to make a point is always amusing.

Pete LePage is a leader of men.

But anyway.

The argument is that trades would be better because it will increase the chances of only good stories coming out, as opposed to monthlies, which are a primarily deadline-driven medium. I admit that’s a fair point, but it sucks coz it decreases the chances of new creators getting the attention they need to grow. Someone even asked, if I remember correctly, “Do you think DC would have let the team that started this new volume of Blue Beetle get straight into TPBs?” Of course not.

One thing I feel was overlooked is the role of the 30-day waiting period that comes with comic book fandom. The cliffhanger syndrome. Anyone will tell you that half the fun (if you can call it that) is reading an awesome last page and wanting the next issue so bad. An only-trades market would totally destroy that, because everything will be done in one. An admittedly LONG done in one, but you know what I mean.
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I’m not working as fast as I want to on these Nextwave pages that I mentioned I’d do as samples… mainly due to obligations on other sites… and there’s work, of course; but I already am piping down to page 3. I’d say I’m rolling along nicely. Not as nicely as I’d initially hoped speed-wise, but I’m definitely happy with the look of the pages so far.
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The gang doesn’t get to hang in the usual pub Sunday. The place apparently ran fresh out of potatoes the day before, and a brew session with the boys just doesn’t work without our mojos. Okay, that didn’t sound right. I sign copies of Wonderlost 2 for a couple of friends. My signature is an indecisive rooster’s tap dance after he’s stepped in a bottle of India ink.

Speaking of ink, I got some new pens and crap for my day job today. Decided to break them in with a return to inking. I quite literally have not inked a piece in years, since I’ve made a conscious decision to focus on my pencils and try to bring it to a certain level I’ll be happy with. Videos of Jim Lee’s gelatometti Iron Chef challenges replay in my head as I think about what he said about inks being the best quick sketch tools. Ironic, I know. But it tends to lend a look of… I don’t know… completeness… I’m tempted to say “weight”…to a five-minute piece.

These were obviously touched up a bit with Photoshop. Heh.

But yeah… I’m definitely a pencils guy.