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Monday August 31, 2009 8:14 pm

The Punk Rock Way to Start Making Comics

Posted by Kris Madden Categories: Editorials,

Punk Rock Your Way To Create A Comic

It takes a lot of talented and creative people to bring a finalized comic book to your local comic book store. Like the movie business, a comic book passes through a series of edits, rewritings, re imaginings, etc. before it even makes it our the door of the production company.

If you think you can’t make comics because you’re not in same league as those big companies, STOP! Just cause the Rolling Stones made hit records, that shouldn’t stop you from writing your own “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

Think about the comic books you’ve picked up over the years and I bet you can pick out a handful (maybe more) that were awful. After reading them, you said to yourself, “That was definitely not worth (insert price here)!  I could have written a better ending than that.” Or “I could have drawn that shot better.” All the best writers and artists don’t guarantee success. Some of the worst bands are made up of great musicians, and conversely some of the greatest bands are made up of the worst musicians. That being said you should be encouraged by the likes The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Minor Threat, etc. They took a fistful of chords, put together their band, toured the world, wrote great songs and made unforgettable records that have outlasted many a polished and pristine corporate trash tracks. You can do the same… except with comic books.

1. Put Your Band Together

Unless you’re Bob Dylan, and can get away with doing some folksy cartoons before going electric and getting The Band to back you up, you need to put together a band. Start by taking inventory of what you can offer a band. Are you good at telling stories, drawing, inking, leading a team, about average on everything. If you’re going to be the writer, don’t look for a bunch of writers, look for people who can draw, but can’t come up with stories to save their life.  If you’re a guitar player, you don’t look for other guitar players to be in your band. Sure, it’s fun to jam together, but if you want to go anywhere you’ve got to find a drummer, a bassist, and a singer to get the act on the road.

Who’s In Your Band:

Singer/Songwriter – Writer/Artist
The dynamic duo. The two essential ingredients to bringing your bands own brand of comics to life.

Power Trio – Writer/Artist/Production (Digital Work)
This setup is great because the third part is someone who can make the comic look great in web, print, or any other medium desired.

Fab Four – Writer/Artist/Production/Web Savant
Ideal setup, with each person playing to their strengths, along with the added bonus of web strategists to make sure the comic sees the highest number of people.

2. Start Learning Your Covers

You have your band and you’ve set a date for the first meeting. You’ll be tempted to come up with names for your band, titles for your comics, acronyms for your superhero groups, DON’T! This is the death of many bands that never got off the ground. Instead, start working and stop dreaming. Get going on your first production by using some tried and true characters. Do a mature Garfield cartoon strip or a retired old-man Dennis The Menace. Keep it to one page and set a date to finish the panel work. If things go well, start working on something a little bigger. If things don’t go well, then you’re probably in need of a line-up change. 

Every band builds up their repertoire by learning other bands popular hits, your band is no different. Grab comic book scripts from the Comic Book Script Archive, read about how other writers write for comics like Kurt Busiek. Artists should make use of tutorial sites like Why Comics?, Comic Tools, or Famous Artist Cartoon Course to get started. Be sure to take a look at Dark Horse’s production workflow.

NOTE: On group dynamics and keeping your band together:
I’ve played in several bands before and my advice is to do it with friends. If there’s a jerk you know who can draw really well, don’t ask him to draw for your band. Trust me, he’s going to be a jerk later, and long after as well. Get people you get along with to be in your band. Remember, some of the greatest bands in history were made up of the worst musicians.

3. Gig, Gig, Take A Short Rest, and Then Gig Some More

When you’ve started making your own comics, slowly phase out the “covers” you were doing. And for God’s sake, don’t show your first drafts to anyone. If people are excited, you’re going to get too excited and strangle your creativity with anxiety. If people don’t like them, then the temptation to give up will increase exponentially. So I stress: Don’t show anyone your first drafts!

Get together a solid portfolio: strips, cartoons, panel collections, maybe even a full-length trade paperback. Start showing people your stuff when you no longer care whether they like it or not. In case you forget at this point, remember, you started a band to make music, not for the groupies. Great bands make great music because they like playing music. Great artist like drawing and painting. Great writers write constantly. And Great-Would-Be’s and Has-Beens, are in it for the money. You are not one of them, so don’t even pretend to act like one. Be a disciplined band. Get it together, because it only gets better.

4. Record Your Record and Start Promoting Your Band

You’ve made some headway locally, now it’s time to take the show on the road. Start out with the internet, your world-wide stage. Start posting on forums, blogs, multimedia, social media, and social networks. Put together your website.  Start networking in real life. Go to Comic Con. Go to local comic shops.  Plaster your comic books everywhere. Make people know who your characters are. Anywhere you can post a comment about your band, and your comics do it. Comment on this post. Get the word out.

5. Rinse and Repeat

After the tour in the trusty school bus that served as your band’s chariot, when you’ve lived out of your suitcase for months and decided a beard really does suit you. Take a shower. Shave the beard. Trim the nose hairs. Put on clean clothes. Watch one of your favorite movies you haven’t seen in a long time. Then pick up a book you’ve been meaning to read. Not a comic book. A book with pages and print and no illustrations, and start reading.

You’re going to be so fried and drained, you won’t be able to imagine doing the whole thing again. But I guarantee somewhere in the reading of that book, you’re going to daydream. It’ll be during a lengthy description of the main character’s homeland when you’ll come up with your next idea. Call your band mates up and start up the next run, because the band is on the run again.

See you in the trenches.



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