Apropos of not much, time out in today’s commentary for a few words about that ol’ “creative flow” in terms of creating comics.
Presently, I’m grinding through the last third of so of Empowered vol. 10, and I’m happy to report that I’m finally starting to fell like I’m “in the zone,” production-wise. I’ve been writing and drawing a story, “My Dinner with Spookums,” that’s easily the toughest stretch of the volume, thanks to its cityscape-intensive backgrounds. The first 4 or 5 pages of the story were a slow, grueling, depressing slog, as I was intensely displeased by how the urban BGs were working out. The pencil-based art technique I use on Empowered is not without its flaws—and, it seems, one such flaw is an inability to convincingly render contemporary buildings. Ah, but after a while I picked up speed, and eventually pages from “My Dinner” began cranking out smoothly—and, not coincidentally, I figured out a rationale for why the urban backdrop might gradually morph into the familiar, noodly “generic SF” architecture that I can pound out with ease.
So, yeah, feels good to finally be getting some g-d traction on a difficult story. Ah, but I can’t really claim to be sporting the comic creator’s version of the fabled “eye of the tiger” presently—at best, I might be rocking “the eye of the ocelot,” or “the eye of a particularly intense serval,” or, for a local feline reference, “the eye of the bobcat.” What I’m now experiencing is only a pale shadow of the relentless, obsessive, all-consuming momentum that carries me along when I’m racing through the final, convulsive act of a crescendo-bound installment like Empowered vol. 8 or 9. (Empowered vol. 10 is definitely building to a dramatic conclusion, but most of the payoff will take place in vol. 11.)
When you’re truly deep “in the zone,” though, everything else in your life becomes a frustrating distraction, an infuriating, bothersome obstacle breaking up and decohering your laser-like focus. Mundane, everyday activities—or even other, secondary freelance tasks—can feel like insuperable burdens keeping you away from the work, leading to grudging displays of reluctant labor worthy of Paul Rudd cleaning up the cafeteria in Wet Hot American Summer. (As you might guess, comic artists “in the zone” are deeply unpleasant for normal humans to live with, which explains why comics folk so often cohabitate with others of their own kind.)
At peak creative flow, you wake up and go to sleep with the narrative continually burning in your mind, new ideas and possible approaches and potential techniques endlessly rotating in your head like a comic-art Rubik’s cube. For a comics artist as slow as myself, the workday during such a period feels maddeningly short, even when I manage to squeeze a solid 14+ productive hours out of it. The days and nights and weeks—and even months, on some occasions—compress into indistinguishable flashes of light and dark outside your studio window as you orbit ever faster and faster in the work’s Jovian gravity well. (Mixed metaphors ahoy!)
Anyhoo, that’s enough talk about cranking out comic pages; time to get the hell off the treadmill and get back to the actual task of cranking out comic pages! Short-haired, leather-hoodie-clad Spooky ain’t gonna draw herself, after all!