Seeing How It’s Done

Since I will be writing a Wild Card graphic novel for Bantam books I have begun to really study this art form.  Lucky for me I have an outstanding coach in this endeavor — I’ve got Len Wein the creator of Wolverine and Swamp Thing among many other memorable characters.

First some background.  I tend not to buy individual issues of a comic.  Partly because I don’t have a comic shop anywhere near me, and I don’t think to mail order them.  They were also not part of my youth.  My parents forbid me to read comics so I had to sneak them when I visited at friends houses.  Books were fine, but not “funny books” as a result they are a form of entertainment that is somewhat unfamiliar to me.  As with video games I’m working hard to catch up.  🙂

I’ve found that I really enjoy this form once they are gathered into a graphic novel maybe because it feels more like a traditional novel.  Anyway, I asked Len for the location of a comic shop so I could buy his Before Watchman — Ozymandias.  Instead he gave me a copy and autographed it which was awesome!

So I settled down to read the next day and damn the man is good.  🙂  Not to mention the artist Jae Lee whose art is astonishing.  Len’s nuanced writing paired with the art makes this book extraordinary.

I had Len as a captive audience last Thursday when I drove us down to San Diego for Comic_Con so I was able to ask him questions about how he writes, and I got not only his philosophy of writing but a history of the industry.  Why the use of so many exclamation points?  It had to do with typesetters mistaking periods for imperfections on the plates and knocking them off.

I noticed that Len emphasized a lot of words in Adrian Veidt’s dialogue.  He explained to me that there is no norm — you use the emphasis to suggest the speech patterns of the character.  That’s one of the things I’m loving about taking my first tentative steps into this new form — there is so much latitude for the writer to create their story.

I’ve dipped in and out of comics, and one of the things that usually bounced me back out was confusing panels.  Some writers don’t seem to design the page to make it easy to follow the action and the conversation.  Not with Len.  The panels are very complex, but he pulls the eye easily from conversation to conversation.  That will be my next question to Len.  How does he design that?  It’s almost more like a painter laying out a canvas or an architect then how a writer works.

Anyway, I’m excited and scared to be attempting this leap into a new form, but I have something to which I can aspire — Len Wein’s and Jae Lee’s Before Watchman — Ozymandias.

3 Responses to Seeing How It’s Done

  • Erik Parrent says:

    Ms. Snodgrass –

    I’m excited you’re doing a Wild Cards graphic novel. I’m already looking forward to it. And I’d like to add that I loved Mr. Wein’s work on Ozymandias, as well. (Jae Lee is 100% awesome.) You might check out Darwyn Cooke’s Minutemen and Silk Spectre, too. They are what my art professor aunt might call “formally innovative.”

  • Melinda Snodgrass says:

    Thanks, Erik, and Melinda, please. I’m excited (though nervous). My comic will feature my cop character from Fort Freak and Lowball (due out next year). I love the round panels — which sounds strange, but I don’t know how else to put it — that were used by Jae Lee.

    What does your aunt mean by formally innovative? That’s a very cool phrase.

  • Erik Parrent says:

    Melinda – I think my aunt would say that it means the artists on these works took the structures of a comics page – panels, word balloons, the basic elements, the lego of a page, if you will – and uses them in new and different ways.

    I haven’t read Fort Freak yet. I’ll make sure to read that one before Lowball comes out.

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