Friday, October 25, 2013

Artie and Merlo comic!

I have been meaning to blog about this for about a month, and I am happy that I am finally getting to this. I have made a complete new comic story with Artie and Merlo on my website! It is an eight page story with a story all unto itself.

This is the first complete story in comics that I have done for some time. Probably for a year and a half or two years. Why has this gap been so long? I think a couple contributing factors led to it. One is always being distracted by real life (work, family, job search, etc.). But second and more importantly, I have been going through a work crisis for the past year and a half or so.

Back in 2012, I've been consistently pursuing children's books as much as I am now, but also still doing comics. Then in June at the NJSCBWI conference, after much hard work, my agent Scott Treimel discovered me and loved my artwork enough to represent me. I thought at this point, everything was going to go up from here! Publish that children's book, start my freelance career, then work on my comics more. Great times around!

BUT (and that's a big but), there was something consistently lacking in both my comics and artwork which has been gnawing at my creativity before Scott came along. That was my writing. I didn't know how to write. I didn't know how to do dynamic characters, didn't know how to do plot, create tension, etc. I didn't have a clue.

So when I started working with my agent, this was the first thing he brought up immediately in my picture book with Larry Bear and Mary. There's no story. My writing at best was suited for comic strips (which makes sense since I've pursued that venue too and love them). But beyond writing a three panel story, I was hopelessly lost.  Hence, no published work yet.

This inability to write has caused my artwork to suffer a lot. Ultimately, I want to tell stories in picture form. So it's a big hindrance if I don't know how to tell a story. Sure, I could make it look great, but I don't know how to make it compelling and work.

So for a good year and a half, when I sat down to write a comic story, I would start like I always did and start drawing a story right away, one page at a time. I've known other comic book artists to do this, and it seems to work for them. However, after about 3 pages or 8 pages of doing artwork and beginning a story, I recognized immediately the shortcomings in my story, in my characters, and I became immediately frustrated and abandoned the comics. All I had to show for my nice looking artwork which took a couple weeks or a month was an incomplete story which will never see the light of day.

But THANK GOODNESS for the support from my picture book writing group, my agent, my family, and my girlfriend. They put up with my writing and were able to point out mistakes and keep telling me that it's not working. After a year of this consistent failing in my writing, at some point, I began in earnest to figure out how stories work (this was not an overnight decision, but a slow realization). What makes characters work. What is the structure of the story. How to get from point A to point B to point C. I think what has become most important in writing stories is how much time, dedication, and woodwork needs to go into the story before anyone sees the final product.

So back to Artie and Merlo. I think that is why I am really proud that I accomplished this short 8 page story from scratch and was able to see it through all the way. To me, the story is simple and Artie and Merlo could be better defined, but this comic story is definitely a starting point in my writing for them. I now have a sense of who Artie and Merlo are now. I can write for them, and stories are now springing up in my head. I also now have the capability to craft and write a story with a sound structure. Most importantly, I know how to edit myself now to a degree that I can cut all the parts that don't work, trim the fat, and make the story as strong as possible.

Now I am working on a second version of a story called Gator Scare! I admit too that both the first and second drafts have been much stronger conceptually in its writing, and I am really proud to see how smooth the writing process is and how much less frustrated I am. It gets me excited to come up with stories again.

SOOOOOOO, that was my long story on my short eight page comic. It doesn't seem like a lot, but like an iceberg, there was a good 90% that people will not see when reading the comic. I am proud where I have started my comics again, and I am excited where it will go.

Plus I hope that it's fun to read!