The Non-Cartoonist Cartoonist ~ Fast Times

By James Donahue

One of the more challenging aspects of creating something editorial is keeping up with the fast-paced environment of the news cycle. If it’s an article, a cartoon, or even a letter to the editor, by the time the ink is dry or the send button has been pushed, is your point still relevant to the news of the day?

The big news story of the morning might be an afterthought by lunchtime. Did a major event happen on the other side of the country while you slept? It may be a topic on which you have an interesting opinion, but by the time you publish it may hardly seem valid. No matter what form you use to express your opinion, it’s best to move fast.

Write fast, draw fast, and send it to wherever it’s going just as fast. This hardly seems like a problem with the technology we have at our disposal. Most people have access to a computer, a tablet, or at the very least a smartphone, all which can be used for writing and publishing. Handheld technology can also be used to draw. A quick search yields a minimum of 15 drawing apps for the iPad alone, ranging in price from $0.99 to $14.99. The means to express yourself are certainly available; the real question is, do you have enough time to do it before your topic becomes passé?

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April ProntoCast: Andrea Grant

On April 5th Pronto Cast featured our very first female guest for the podcast: writer, poet, and all-around Renaissance woman Andrea Grant.

Andrea is currently continuing work on her self-published comic, “Minx.” Minx (the character) is a half Native American resident of New York City who falls into a coma after a vicious attack and wakes up in an alternate reality called Dreamtime. The story features elements from Andrea’s own Native American heritage, as well as “Greek mythology, Taoist philosophy, and the classic archetypes developed by Joseph Campbell.”

Andrea writes the comic (“I can’t draw,” she says). The first four issues of “Minx” were recently collected into trade paperback format, and can be purchased through her website, or in stores through Diamond Comic Distributors (if you can’t find it, ask your local comic retailer to order it).

If the comic’s title sounds familiar, you may be thinking of DC’s cancelled “Minx” imprint of graphic novels aimed at teen girls. Interestingly, DC actually sent a cease and desist letter to Andrea over the shared name, and a lawsuit resulted. But “Minx” the alias first appeared in 2001 and the planning for DC’s imprint began several years later.

“Minx” is a self-publishing success story. Andrea felt that no publisher would “get it,” and that it was up to her to make the comic the best it could be, instead of relying on a traditional publisher. She found her artists by “walking around a comic con,” and got the work out there by simply pounding the pavement. “People will sense your passion, and value that,” she says.

Now the first three issues are sold out on Andrea’s site, there’s a full-color graphic novel, and the series has been written up in The Village Voice, Newsarama, Examiner.com, and a slew of other publications and websites. It’s an inspiration to all us self-publishers.

Andrea can be followed on Twitter @copiousamounts. The entire podcast will be up on Pronto Wednesday April 25th.

-Leah Hansen

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!