In place of my usual commentary, here’s part 1 of a lengthy Twitter rant on comics technique from last week, reformatted in easier-to-read paragraph form. (No doubt this excerpt will still be “tl; dr” for some of you, but what the hell, here goes…)
A artist friend of mine recently commented that many comics look like they could use more “dev time”—meaning “developmental time,” a term from videogame design. Sounds good in theory, but “dev time” in a comics-creating context can be a wheel-spinning waste of worktime for us undisciplined types. A little extra time for design work is one thing, but too much “prep time” can be disastrous for the easily distracted creator—like myself. Instead of getting any comic pages underway, you can plunge yourself down the rabbit hole of endless, ultimately unproductive preparation.
I had multiple, highly ambitious comics projects come to naught because I wasted time with too much design work and—ughh—“worldbuilding” wankery. Could’ve had a Cliffhanger mini published by Wildstorm—if I hadn’t frittered about with wildly excessive “dev time” for the book, that is. Instead, by the time I was finally ready to start drawing actual pages for the series, the entire Cliffhanger program was shut down. Oops!
(BTW, every “floppy” issue under that 2000-era Cliffhanger contract would’ve paid me as much as my entire advance for an Empowered volume. *bitter sob*)
So I have no comics—or paychecks!—to show for that project, but I sure do have ream upon ream of notes and designs that amounted to nothing! Ah, but I was utterly convinced that these ambitious, sprawling, epic projects required every precious minute of “dev time” I sank into ’em. What was I gonna do, just wing it? No, no, I had spend at LEAST another few days working out this one culture’s transhumanist underpinnings!
Cut to the sprawling ruins of a entire series of overdesigned, overprepped projects, none to ever see the light of print. But what’s this? Hark! The wee sapling of a completely unambitious and wholly spontaneous series—Empowered, natch—sprouts amidst the epics’ tumbled wreckage! No preplanning, no design work, no developmental notes—I just jumped right into writing and drawing the stories that would become Empowered. Of course, nowadays the series really does feature preplanning and design work and developmental notes aplenty, but it didn’t start that way.
Empowered wound up with fairly rich—ughh—“worldbuilding,” but little of it was done ahead of time; I fleshed out the Empverse on the fly. BTW, I put “ughh” before “worldbuilding” b/c the term often heralds a poorly written story slathered down with pointless background detail. “The characters are flat, the prose is clumsy, the narrative’s dull—but, ooh, check out all the effort the writer wasted on worldbuilding!” Vivid characters and a strong story are dramatically—pun unintended!—more important than nattering about with noodly worldbuilding detail.
So, after the experience of overprepped projects failing and heedless spontaneity succeeding, I now err on the side of “JUST GET STARTED.”
Next time, part 2 of this exciting, figuatively spittle-emitting rant!