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!

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  1. Josh Cabrera

     /  May 13, 2011

    Good points. I think the key thing here is that the conversation has to be just that: a conversation with give and take. Collaboration = compromising + complementing (and complimenting!)

  2. James Babbo

     /  May 13, 2011

    Very good points. The best piece of advice I’ve gotten from experienced comics pros is “criticism is not personal.” Useful critiques, of course. Too often people throw up walls & get defensive when all you are trying to do is help. Especially when you try to guide someone to the proper procedure whether it’s how to format a script or show proper perspective. Without the basics, how does one hope to break into the pro field?

  3. Jon Gorga

     /  May 27, 2011

    It is absolutely about conversation. And beyond all the practicalities, the best thing anyone can do for their own sanity is to remember that all criticism is (and should be) about the work and not the creator! Thanks for the feedback my fellow Pronto writers!


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