Doing a comic book, as it turns out, is hard. Nowadays there are a lot of resources for the burgeoning artist, but when I was starting out there were like, three books. One of them was ‘How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way,’ which I avoided because of the style. Most of what I learned was from pulling together scraps of info from the Internet, which can be suspect at times (keep that in mind as you read on!).
I started out by getting a packet of 11x17 Bristol board paper, a vial of black ink, some drawing nibs for my quill, and a blue non-photocopy pencil. I had a sketchbook for layouts and a bottle of artist’s white for corrections. Yay. Now I needed to figure out what to draw. My story was set in ‘medieval times’ but I had no real firm grasp on the time period. In a fantasy setting there can be many things in the same story that wouldn’t have existed together at the same time, like King Arthur wearing a suit of plate armor and living in a great stone castle. Those are called anachronisms and they bug me.
I decided to set the story in an earlier part of my fantasy world’s medieval time, simply for reasons of being lazy. I didn’t want to draw complex architecture, clothing or settings. I also set it ‘on the road’ in the countryside so I didn’t have to draw cities and people. My character was wandering the land like David Carradine’s Caine in ‘Kung Fu’ running into trouble and helping people with her hidden skills, but I planned to have flashbacks to the really interesting parts of her life that would explain who she had been and how she became this bad-ass warrior.
I slogged through one and a half issues before getting bored. I hated penciling a picture, then inking over it, essentially drawing it twice. I was using what would today be considered very old school techniques like cutting out the word bubbles and rubber cementing them to the artwork before photocopying. After I bought a scanner things became easier, but something was still wrong. I wasn’t telling the part of the story that initially interested me. I always wanted the ‘Kung Fu’ TV show to spend more time in the Shaolin monastery and less time in the flea-bitten Old West.
Life was happening too and that has its own challenges. I got married, raised several furry and/or scaly children, and was trying to figure out how to make that all work out. Remember that depression thing? It was still untreated. It’s hard to be steady if you fall into a dark pit for no reason at all. Creative things ground to a halt as I reconsidered every aspect of my comic book. I hated doing the artwork. The story bored me. This wasn’t what I wanted to make. Hrrmm.
Well, that was all fixed by the divorce. I didn’t care anymore about the book, because the rug had been pulled out from under me. I put all my artwork and supplies away for two years and didn’t think about them.
Then one day, like a bolt from the blue, I got my inspiration back. I would write the story I wanted to read, I would do all the artwork as finished pencil drawings, something only a few comics had tried. I began to write about the grand city of Portshia and envisioned a sweeping cityscape that I could create, filled with complex architecture and people wearing complex fashions. I brought the time period forward to include all the cool stuff about the Middle Ages like huge castles and siege weapons and early gunpowder cannons and large sailing ships. I wrote certain bits in iambic pentameter and poetry, I wrote about the homes of the gods and the world at large, and put little details into every page that had meaning to me. I soon found myself creating a sweeping epic story arc that would take the reader from Cindra Corrina’s early beginnings along her warrior path and finally to face her destiny.
That was my first big mistake.