My collaborator has graciously allowed me the opportunity to speak up in defence of the drawing constraints that may be imposed and to hopefully dispel some of the misconceptions that might have been created by her previous blog post.
While I may have been be exposed to comics and later graphic novels from an early age the narrative fascinated me. The narrative I am referring to could also be found in the paintings of Hans Holbein, Jacques-Louis David or Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. I don’t ascribe to the artistic or genre snobbery and have had some very humbling lessons to learn from our foray into the graphic novel medium.
Having worked in various forms of fine and graphic art throughout my life it has in fact proven to be a brave new world when starting the process of drawing your story into life and so many of the elements that I had taken for granted or imagined to be relatively easy, have proven to be rather more challenging than merely refining a few sketches.
I had a general idea and about 20 years of drawings, sketches and scribbles with notes stacked to the ceiling but no formalised plot apart from the one in my head and so many smaller scenes and short stories that in a way had defined my idea of the story for a very long time.
Working with Nanieve forced me to consider the various pitfalls and grey areas, my lack of defined plot and issues with continuity. She has also taught me that writing does indeed require a huge amount of research and clarity of vision so that the characters would be able to come alive but also have a plausible world with relationships and values.
The story started one afternoon in the mid eighties at a friend’s house and as usual we had been swopping comics, discussing plots and listening to music. It was somewhere during the conversation that we started imagining a possible scenario with some characters and panels and what it would take to actually create our own comic strip.
There had been a few months to a year of casual conversation and preliminary sketches then my friend left school and started his military service and we lost track of each other and the story. Yet I never seemed to completely forget it and the characters started creeping into my sketches and scribbles with occasional notes and comments in time. It had developed into a whole bunch of short stories that played out in this world that we had created on that lazy afternoon and I started getting very enamoured with the idea of putting it together in a long form story format.
I would feel comfortable to draw or paint but in the graphic novel, format action and consistency are key elements of a narrative, not to mention panels, layout, size and format. Combine all these elements and it becomes a lot more complex than simply refining a few sketches.
I also wanted to stay true to my fine art expressive nature, which means that I have to experiment more with my style in the context of the narrative and hope that my emotive mark translates into a distinguishable vocabulary that compliments the story mood and characters.
So while I have immersed myself in the world of comics and graphic novels most of my life I have only recently started appreciating what a huge undertaking it is. The new insight has forced me to revisit old favourites and to note the finer nuances and deft planning that had gone into some of the works that have been such an inspiration to me. This ranges from the panel layout in the original Killraven or Bill Sienkiewzs expressive style on MoonKnight and New Mutants to the compelling story of Swamp Thing by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s work on Sandman.
A final point I would like to emphasise is that while my puritan collaborator would gladly spend the whole afternoon quoting the Brontë sisters, Sylvia Plath and Oscar Wilde and implying that I only read something if it is printed with pictures or appears on a screen. I have actually spent most of my life immersed in reading any and everything I could find from the moment I gained sentience, I quickly developed a preference for the subject matter of sci-fi and fantasy, Isaac Asimov, René Barjavel, Pierre Boulle, Tonke Dragt, Orson Scott Card, Mary Stewart and Marion Zimmer Bradley, before I ever saw my first comic book. Kilraven, X-men, Swamp Thing and Sandman introduced me to another way of experiencing the story and expressing the narrative. Within each of these stories I ultimately found an expression of humanity and relationships ensconced within the portrayal of the characters and their imaginative worlds.
My hope has always been that one day I would be able to express the same values through my work and that the art of the comic strip would be valued as much as the other forms of expression since each provide a unique insight into the human condition.
Author: Daniel Cornelissen