Craft in Comics part 1.5
Monday, June 30, 2008
Hey everyone, the following are some reflections by Jim Rugg on the “Craft in Comics” panel at Heroes with Jaime Hernandez, Jim, and myself. I thought I’d put this up while I was still organizing the second part of my notes. Please enjoy. — Frank
JIM RUGG: Frank and Jaime talked about their education first. So I added that my parents more or less insisted that I go to college so I “had something to fall back on.” Being 18, I thought that was unnecessary, but turns out that there’s a lot I don’t know. So college was very useful. I studied graphic design and worked in the field for 7 years after graduation. I learned a lot about drawing, a little about painting, etc. I didn’t really talk to professors about comics. But in high school I had an art teacher that knew I wanted to draw comics. She was pretty unimpressed with everything I would bring in (a lot of early Image books, a lot of superhero cross-hatching). The only book that I ever showed her that she thought looked okay was Bissette’s Tyrant.
I asked Jaime about his confidence as an artist, especially early on, as it is one of the things I constantly struggle with. He said that when Palomar started, he really felt like he had to raise his game to keep up with Beto. He acknowledged that as he pared down his drawing to fewer lines, those lines had to be better.
Somehow things came back around to me, and I talked about storytelling as something I felt pretty good about in my own work. And it’s something that’s easier for me to check, unlike whether a joke is funny, or a story is interesting. It’s something I can show my wife, and ask her to explain what’s happening to gauge whether it’s clear or not. We all talked a little about clarity of storytelling, something we all value and emphasize in our work. I mentioned how prevalent storytelling was in the interviews with pros that I used to read. Even submission guidelines all focused on storytelling, something I hear less and less these days – possibly a side effect of the diversity of drawing styles that fill comics today as opposed to 20 years ago when the industry was dominated by a couple of “house” styles.
Frank and Jaime discussed turning points they experienced in their own work, sort of like a light bulb going off. I don’t feel like I have experienced that yet. And I talked a little about how, compared to them, I was at the beginning of this process of figuring out how to make comics.
I brought up Jason, and how his graphic formula quickly transitions the reader into his comics, and the consistent style avoids breaking that illusion, like his use of the grid for example. Craig Fischer then asked if this was always good, like for example Kirby did those big 2-page spreads … so we talked about that. It’s not that Jason is the ultimate cartoonist that we should all emulate. But his mastery of his craft is evident, as is Kirby’s. We kicked that around like a soccer ball until it led to comparisons with Steve Rude (great draftsman, occasionally poor page layouts), and eventually Alex Ross compared to Kirby and how Kirby’s fake perspective (foreshortening) is much more effective at creating the illusion of depth than more accurate perspective.
So this is out of order a bit. Unfortunately. Two of the things Jaime talked about that I enjoyed were stories about reading comics when he was young. They had a bunch of comics, but his mother would put them away during the school year. Then each summer, she gave them back. So they would revisit the same books year after year. I thought that was amazing. And Jaime confirmed it, by explaining that one year, he started reading one of the stories for the umpteenth time, and he noticed one of the kids in the story brought along his dog, and the whole time, the dog is running around, chasing kids, playing, etc. And it created a sense of real life. Ditto the Archie story about the same story being told over and over, but it was entertaining in that the character interaction and body language was believable (usually depending on the artist), and often the body language would conflict with the dialogue (like you could tell a character was mad by the way he or she was giving someone the cold shoulder rather than exposition). The second fascinating concept he addressed was writing, and specifically the way he enjoyed conversation among characters and viewed it almost like dancing as characters went back and forth about going to the store, or someone new joins a conversation halfway through and he/she has to catch up to speed while everyone is still conversing. It was great to hear him going through examples of this, and how this quickly leads to a story for him. He didn’t describe it as “realistic” or even “naturalistic”, but hearing him explain it, that’s what I thought of. It was organic, and character-driven. Amazing. I really should have sat in the audience.
PREVIOUSLY: Part one