Every Wednesday new comic-books, trade reprint collections, and graphic novels arrive in comic shops around the country and every Wednesday comics readers flock to their local stores. Some people have pull-lists with their beloved weekly series marked down for the retailer so they never miss an issue. Some people are trade-waiters, taking a peek at the ‘floppies’ just to see what’s interesting to get an idea of what they want to pick-up in trade-paperback months later. Some people like to peruse the wall of new individual issues and trades just to see what feels right today.

I just read Jonathan Hickman’s “S.H.I.E.L.D.” #1 from Marvel Comics. Literally finished it late last night. I read the first page months and months ago, but I read everything from page two to page thirty-four last night. “S.H.I.E.L.D.” #1 came out over a year ago. I can’t keep up with the amount of comics that drop on any given Wednesday, let alone with the comics from a month or a given year and many comics are released daily as webcomics or released only by creators with small print runs in person at events like tomorrow’s Pete’s Mini/Zine Fest at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn, NY. (Seriously, you should check that out if you can. Let me know how it is, I have to miss it.)

I write an annual ‘Best of the Year’s Comics’ post over on The Long and Shortbox Of It, but that post comes with a big caveat: ‘the best comics I read this year’. NOBODY can read them all.

The question then becomes, if you’re an adult who grew up reading comics and you’re already spending a great deal of time MAKING comics: Should you even try?

I thought I knew the answer, but I’m not sure anymore. When professional creators are asked what they’re reading right now they often can’t answer. They don’t have time to read comics because they’re too busy making their own. And that strikes me as a good thing.

Solutions anybody?


Artistic Exchange

In this particular industry we love so much there’s a heavy and healthy focus on collaboration… Visual storytelling, more often than not, requires conversation and coordination between creators to pull-off the story, the subtext, the moment.

Artists sometimes need writers. Pencilers usually need inkers. Artists almost always need colorists. Colorists need artists. Writers NEED artists. Creators need readers. The odd thing is that these people have trouble getting along despite the fact they so badly need each other!

Within Pronto these things generally occur in an open space because we have a system of editors keeping things civil. But that system isn’t perfect or all-encompasing. A recent inductee to the ranks at Pronto has told me that all the artists he’s submitted his script to have ‘torn it apart’. He showed me the script in question. It hadn’t been formatted with a system to make it easily readable. Problem 1. It also contained a six-panel sequence with no description much more detailed than “fight scene”. Problem 2.

But these are far from insurmountable problems! They require conversation and perhaps a few hours of editing.

I’m collaborating with a fellow Pronto member on a comic project that will probably be published independent of Pronto. I am her consulting editor for something she is both writing AND drawing and she has agreed to reciprocate by drawing a few short pieces from scripts I wrote that will more than likely be published by Pronto. Collaboration is key in this partnership. As her editor, I must always remember (and, yes, even remind her) that the project is in her hands, that she bears the final responsibility and therefore has the right to do whatever she feels is best. I can only advise, recommend, and prod. And that’s the way it should be. As a writer, I must remember that her brain cannot channel mine: that the way she sees characters, designs, or scenes may be different from the way I do even if we are both reading the same script.

If you are a writer? Write your script in such a way so that if you yourself had to be introduced to the story cold you could understand it and you will be more than halfway to being a better script-writer. As long as the script has a beginning, a middle, and an end, it is salvageable.

If you are an artist? Begin with sketches instead of full-blown illustrations and you will be on the road to being a better comics artist. All work you do in design and layout (the comics equivalent of pre-production) will be valuable even if only to see what doesn’t work.

Both parties must be open to different points of view, willing to make changes, and ready to ask (and be asked) an avalanche of questions. I promise things will go smoother later and on the whole as a result!