Whether you’re a writer, an artist, or one of the lucky few who are gifted at both, comics are a well-loved, fast growing medium that are able to tell stories and narratives in a unique and complex way.
There has been a massive leap from the three-colour prints of Captain America that first surfaced in 1941. These days, a focus on complex, interesting and visually stimulating artwork, coupled with a gripping plot and multi-layered characters is what makes a comic successful.
For big industry graphic novel publishers, individual novels and issues can have huge teams working on them. Writers generate scripts and an artist creates the graphics – all without even counting in the editors, panellists, colourists, letterers and cover artists. Chances are, your first comic is not going to have the same budget. If you’re creating independently, you’re going to need some know-how. If you live in the capital, there are plenty of courses available to choose from, but here are a few of our top tips…
Plan, plan, plan
The number one thing with comics is planning. When it comes to writing, it is easy to get down character interactions and plot. When drawing, painting or photoshopping, it can be quite simple to get a stunning visual piece without much foreplanning. However, when combining words and images, each page needs to be planned to make sure that panel spacing will work out and that images will fit with the text.
Planning panels can be a matter of meticulous spacing boxes, or a quick scribble in a notepad, but having an idea of what a page is going to look like will really help the writing process.
Learn about scripts
Get an idea on how to write scripts. As the interest in comics picks up, artists are being increasingly open about how they write and some special edition comic books now come with the original scripts. If you’ve never tried script writing before, it might be useful to brush up on some terminology. It’s not essential if you’re planning to make a one-off indie comic, but if you’re putting together a pitch for a big publisher, your script needs to be watertight and to industry standard.
Having some basic knowledge of Photoshop is absolutely essential, and if you have never used it before, there are classes and courses out there to help you out or you can teach yourself online. You may choose to do your entire comic digitally, or you may choose more traditional methods, but all graphic novels will need to be uploaded to a computer somehow. Unless literally every aspect of your comic is handmade, including lettering, cover art, inside cover and chapter/issue pages, you will need to understand some rudimentary principles to digital art.
You may benefit from reading up on creating comics, in fact there are many helpful guides out there to give you a head start. However, following these guides word for word won’t teach you how to be a unique and interesting graphic novelist. Being experimental, using different mediums and techniques and pushing comics to their limit has the potential to teach you more about comics than any pre-written guide.
The final thing to remember is to start small. While your goal may be to write the next Sin City, it’s important to remember that Frank Miller didn’t sit down and start writing a seven volume epic without any practise. Even creating single page comics and cartoon script shorts are a leg-up into writing graphic novels, so pace yourself and remember to take some time to enjoy the process along the way.