Kav's Tips for Comic Artists - Working With Writers
by A. "Kav" Kaviraj
Comic book artist, A. Kaviraj, continues his op/ed series of providing useful tutorials for comic book artists.
I've worked with nine writers and seen pitches from dozens and I have some information to pass on to artists. It's a nice symmetry-artists are rarer and get to pick. Writers are common, but good writers are rarer than good artists. Much rarer. Think of all the beautifully drawn books you've seen with simply ridiculous, incredibly sucky stories. So you want to, if possible, hook up with a good writer-it triples your chances of getting noticed. I'd rather read a good story with weak art than vice versa.
Okay, so as I've mentioned before, something which tips you off to a good writer is they write character-driven, not plot-driven stories. If the story seems to be about the good guys running around fighting the bad guys and you don't really know much about the characters-their likes and dislikes, personalities, etc.- well then you are dealing with a weak writer. Keep looking. [The good ones] are out there.
I recently had the unfortunate experience of starting a project with a very talented writer who was top-notch at characterization. He wrote dialogue beautifully realistic. Unfortunately, the plot didn't make sense so we parted ways. This is incredible-the plot is the easy part! But it was another experience to chalk up. Unfortunately, the talented guy, instead of listening to my incredible advice about an easy fix to his writing style, chose to dismiss me. Man, if he ever polishes up his plot skills he's gonna be dangerous.
You know you're dealing with a weak writer when the panel descriptions don't make sense or are so elaborate they are impossible to draw and show that the writer has never worked with an artist before. Something like: We see Conan and he is fighting 72 boar hogs and from the sweat coming off his brow we see a reflection of Skeleton, who is holding 28 swords all dripping blood, one drop of which reflects Dorothy on the yellow brick road.
Can you tell why this is impossible to draw? You think Kav is kidding? Here is a panel description I received as a proposal from a writer recently:
This is one panel:
The shot is seen through a slightly fish-eyed lens angled 30 degrees above the horizon 1 foot above ground level. Superimposed over the artwork is the ';scanning module imprint recognizer' of a very high-tech surveillance camera.
There is slight static/noise over the whole page as if an electrical storm has distorted the feed from a satellite link-up.
Three characters are seen in the foreground of a storm threatened horizon on which a post-modern tower can be seen partially silhouetted. They are evidently under the canopy of a huge tree - I mean a green oxygen-tank of a tree.
The tree's foliage across the top of the page serves as the backdrop for the bold bordered capital lettered font which reads the title of the story.
The central character of the shot is the King, the bust shot of him caught in front of the other two is detailed enough to catch the leather thong looped through holes along his ear. He has well groomed luscious dark brown hair and a scar across both cheek bones. His nose has been broken along the same lines as the scarring. Not too handsome, with a bit of stubble, he'd only just be a clothes-horse with the right sort of connections. He exudes an aura of curious concentration; perhaps have his tongue, caught between his teeth or half hanging out the side of his mouth as he is obviously engaged with something at the roots of the tree. A bandolier-like harness holsters lethal looking singing throwing knives.
Behind his predominantly shown left shoulder, stands Johanna with a nonplussed look upon her face facing the focal point of the fish-eye lens. She's a plump well-built warrior skimpily clad in bronze armour which entails an ornately carved titty-armour breast plate [covering only her ample bosom], heavily built right-shoulder armour which extends into a mean looking gauntlet and girdle which serves as pelvis armour -very provocative.
She has a delicately inked intricate tattoo, running the length of her circumference above the girdle, as well as similarly styled inks running down her thighs and blocked from sight by the mid-calf pixie-tickler leather boots which are enhanced for battle by thick bronze straps. Her stance is that of awkwardness and nervousness, maybe her knees are bending slightly towards each other. Other than that subtle play on her composure she is not the type to be taken lightly.
Her left arm has a silver sheen extending from her ornately ringed fingers up to the round, well-built, but not too muscular shoulder and into her left breast.
Johanna is of medium height with a tight bronze skull-cap styled helmet on her head. She has dark almond shaped eyes, no make-up. Her facial features are delicate and smooth even though she is chubby, she is comely nonetheless.
Her very long dirty-blond hair splashes out of the crown of her helmet and is interwoven with bronze to form a strong fortified rope from which hangs [down behind her knees] the sickest mace-head you've ever seen.
Weapons of your choice [the artist] can hang from her girdle, but not too cumbersome as to inhibit her movement in a martial arts style fight. She does have a repetitive-fire crossbow, not too large, strapped to her left thigh which holds a magazine of about 8 short arrows, some of which [magazines] are also attached to her girdle.
Behind the King's slightly tapered right shoulder, and further out to the left of the page, stands the aloof chuckling Godfrey. Nonchalant and cocky, we catch him in a ¾ stance as he is turning away from facing Johanna towards the focal point [centre page].
His hefty arms are folded over a well developed chest covered in chain mail. He has a layered look. Over the mail, a white open jacket with a red goat emblazoned upon each lapel is hidden by the rich dark-green almost black velvet cape which is curling up in the stiff breeze. The jacket sleeves disappear into elbow length black leather gauntlets
He has unkempt long dark copper coloured hair of which a few strands have been blown into his face and he is trying to blow them out of his eyes. He has deep set gray eyes and a hooked nose. A goatee growing off his chin is tied with metallic beads.
Wearing long black leather padded pants tucked into knee high black leather boots fortified with studs and metallic straps, we notice that the left leg below the knee is missing. In its place is attached a Paralympics style running blade which looks as if it could slice through rock like a blender would go through ripe bananas. Dark metallic luster with an evil edge, some sort of carved language is engraved on the lethal prosthetic.
There is no need to colour it, simple penciling will be fine for me to get the fee l of your lines, ink if you like. If you can do the colouring -go for it.
Okay, any artists out there interested in illustrating this book? I'll put you in touch.
The best writers keep it brief-dialogue is king so they focus on that. Unless they have specific things in mind which move the plot forward, they let the artist design stuff. They don't overburden them with panel descriptions. It's very hard to draw while looking back and forth at a 'check list'. You always forget something. It's distractive, restraining-it doesn't allow the artist to fly.
Please don't email me with 'But Alan Moore writes long panel descriptions'-I know that. He is the exception and so talented that everything [in his] scripts is critical. I don't know of any other writers who can claim that.
For more of Kav's Tips at Comic Related: http://www.comicrelated.com/forums/index.php?showforum=602
A. KAVIRAJ: Kav is an artist, teacher, and biologist who lives in Sacramento, California. He is the artist forThe End of Paradise, Rapid City, and Dr Death vs The Zombie. He is the writer and artist for Dr. Death vs. The Vampire. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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