Well, it’s finally happened. My comic updating has outstripped my livejournal updating.
I was trying to force myself to practice my perspective and so forth for awhile, on the principle that it was good for me, damnit, and I don’t do it nearly often enough. Then I realized “Look, you’re drawing the comics ANYWAY, just do it there!” So, killing two birds with one rutabega, I’ve been doing the occasional panel with more extreme perspective shots, just for the practice. It’s not that I don’t know how to do perspective, but like life drawing, it’s the artistic equivalent of doing sit-ups. And how easy is it to make excuses not to do sit-ups today?
Had a conversation with a friend of mine about comics last night–he knows way more about comics than I do, having read them for many years when I still thought comics all involved guys in tights–and he pointed out what I always suspected in my heart of hearts–most people don’t care that much about the art. The art is nice, people like good art, but the story is what kicks it along, and people will buy any ‘ol crappily drawn thing to find out What Happens Next, where they won’t buy a gorgeously rendered snorefest. (He then ranted for a minute or two about the Golden Age of comics being crappily drawn, but since my knowledge of the Golden Age begins and ends with a few fragments of Stan Lee, I can’t vouch for the general accuracy.)
This sort of revelation makes me twitchy, largely because I know art. I understand where I stand with the art. Writing–well, I dunno. It’s not that I don’t think I can do it, but I am conscious of being in much more uncharted territory. I don’t really think of myself as a writer, A) because I don’t write that much (one cheesy fantasy novel, one half-finished cheesy samurai novel, and a handful of comics–it’s not my life, like painting is) but also B) because I plan very little in advance. Plot? You mean you can decide the plot before it happens? Wow, what a concept. For example, I knew Digger was going to pop up in a temple to Ganesh less than a page before anyone else did. The story is not so much afterthought as not under my conscious control–I don’t really influence the direction it goes, I just slap down whatever seems to logically happen next, or what would be interesting next, if logic is boring, and usually I’m as surprised as the next person. (I’m not fishing for reassurance that the story is okay, here–it seems to be working so far, and the amount of positive comments I’ve gotten on it is a bit overwhelming! I feel humbled! I’m not worthy!) But I sort’ve feel like I slack on the story end–I see all these elaborate, elaborate universes and cosmologies and backstories and planned out dynasties that people write up prepatory to writing a single line of dialogue on a comic (or a novel, for that matter) and it daunts me. I don’t do that. Maybe I couldn’t handle that. If I know what happens too far in advance, I lose the thrill of finding out, and a lot of the spark goes–I’d find myself wanting to tell the stories at the end of the universe, instead of more properly at the beginning.
At the same time, I also don’t know if those big structures are really neccessary. As soon as you draw a wombat in a frame, (or a capybara or a cardboard box or a guy in a mask) people will assume there’s a world outside the frame to match it. If you just sweep along and act as if of-course-there’s-an-internally-consistent-world-here-and-I-knew-what-I-was-doing-all-along it seems as if people will be willing to go along with it–so says Ursula K. Leguin, anyway, who claimed to have written her Earthsea books in a similiar bootstrap fashion. (And if it’s good enough for that Ursula, it oughta be more than good enough for this one, right?) Possibly it’s a confidence issue. I have the stupid confidence of the completely untried, so I assume that if anyone asks me about Digger’s great-great-great-great-grandmother, I will be able to make something up on the spot. (She was an engineer. Her name was Designer-of-Elegantly-Efficient-Mineshafts, although of course it sounded better in the original wombat. She lived to the ripe age of eighty-seven, having invented a number of minor, highly technical inventions relating to drill bits and ventilations shafts. There, I knew that.) Of course, once I fail to do that a few times, or find myself plotted into a corner, maybe I’ll see the wisdom of constructing an elaborate dynasty to refer back to. Maybe it’s like the X-Files, and it’s all fun and games to skip along without an overarching plot line until suddenly it’s the fifth season and you realize that no amount of aliens, Bigfoots, and black helicopters will make sense out of the tangle you’ve created. Or maybe it’s just what you do for actual professional published comics, since I doubt most editors will take “I dunno how long this story arc will go, I’m not sure how it will end, but I have total faith in my hindbrain to sort it out!” Hmmm…yeah, that makes a certain sense.
On second thought, maybe I should just go back to not worrying about it too much. Shut up and paint, or shut up and write, or whatever. Shut up and art. Yeah.