Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Projects, content, and behind the veil looks at things

First off... the sample image today is by Denman Rooke, the artist for my horror mini, which I can't seem to get myself to talk much about... I'll add more details on the book shortly, actually, because there is some info out there on the web, so I might as well... I'm just super secretive with it. The book is written 100% hand has been for months. We're getting ready to send a submission package out to someone...

I was thinking today about content in books and how so many modern comic books frustrate the heck out of me... actually same with a lot of movies, too. It seems to me that a lot of writers want to try to fill a book so beyond letting a book breathe, they seem to stretch out conversations and moments that really should be condensed into fewer pages. Now, I'm known to be wordy and I'll never apologize for that, but when you're thinking of an issue of a comic book, you want something where by the end of the book, something has changed for he characters. Each issue should have a full beginning, middle, and end, even if it's not the resolution to the overall story through multiple issues. We shortchange our readers when we don't do that. In the case of Faction, for example, I have been pouring over the script, trying to make sure I give the story a chance to breathe, and also remembeing some of the early lessons I learned with script writing... If you have a lot of dialog, put it in more panels per page, more action means less panels per page. I follow that naturally most of the time; other times I have to kick myself to remember. With Acker's "voice" in the book, even when there's action, there's often some sort of commentary going on.

I'm not trying to bash on any modern comics in particular, because you don't make any friends that way, but I just have this feeling that creators often forget about the audience when they're telling a story. Personally, if I pay $3 for a comic book that has 22 pages of story and each page has 3 panels, full page splashes, double page splashes, etc, by the end, I'm ticked off. Why? Money is tight for most people... Give them their money's worth! That's one thing I'm proud about with Faction, I packed that sucker full of content. I don't see why it's so hard to do that? If you have a story you CAN tell in four issues, why drag it out to eight? If you have arcs, have some 4, some 6, and some 8 issues, all depending on the story, not concerns about a graphic novel or whatever. We all know that you can technically make a GN with about any even number of pages, so no issue... Basically, though, give them their money's worth. The other side of it (besides the 3 panels, splashes, etc) is dragging a story out for no reason. I've been following some larger indie books for years and realized recently that some of the ongoing series really aren't going anywhere. They're good reads, but after 50-something issues, how far has the story gone? It's like we're looking at a novel and instead of each issue being a chapter in the novel, it's only covering about a paragraph... Get on with it already! Geezzzz....

My other thought today had to do with the "behind the veil" look at comic books... A few months ago, I had the honor of attending a music and art show at Sky High Comics in San Marcos. When I went, I took a ton of sketches, script samples, works in progress, etc, to give people an idea of how a comic goes from concept to the final printed page. The reception was great! Someone recently commented to me that they haven't seen a lot of that in modern comics and it's a shame. The same person referenced the old Ditko issues of Spider-Man from the 60's and how they used to do pictures of how the web shooters were made and such... I can't remember the specifics, but I do remember seeing that in some of the collections of those old issues. Same with books from a few years ago... I love seeing how art goes from script to pencil, ink, and color and I know I'm not alone. With Faction 0, we added a TON of that stuff; everything from the Small Press Idol judges' comments to character bio's, concept art, etc, and the reception has been great. I wish more books did that! I remember seeing a year or so ago when Invincible changed his costume some of the different options they were discussing when it happened. I loved that! Those kinds of things really aren't that hard to put together when you think about it, because it has already been done! Adding a couple of pages to a page count isn't really that big a deal either, so add 'em on!

Bottom line is making the dollar go further. It's not about cutting corners, making page counts go down so you can necessarily print books for cheaper, improve your margins, etc... Sure, if you're printing 10 - 20k copies of a book, every penny counts, but how long do you think it's going to take for the consumers to get tired of it?

Let your artist do their thing in the books, but make sure 3 panel pages are at a minimum in a book and only do like one splash page per issue, if that... If you can, make up for it by making the book a couple more pages! With the story, make sure you're telling one, not dragging the fans through your attempts to stretch out the story for issue requirements or whatever...

Part of this rant is a response to the recent Return to Witch Mountain movie... I didn't love the movie, it was frustrating, but one thing I did appreciate is that although it wasn't done well, they tried to pack as much content as they could in a short period of time. It was like a three hour movie crunched to less than two hours. Personally, I would have liked to see it a little longer, have the story breathe a bit, etc, but I appreciate the intent. Better than other movies and books that are 3.5 hours long and you feel in the end like it could have been accomplished in an hour... I hate that. The ideal is something like the old Star Wars movies and even Revenge of the Sith. Yes, I don't think that George Lucas is the best director there is (no offense George). He's a freaking genius, but he should create and write, but let someone else direct. One thing those movies do masterfully, though, is put enough content in there that you walk out of a two hour movie feeling like it was four hours, but in a good way. Lots of content, action, dialog, and it progresses!

Ok, enough ranting for one day?

Back to the normal request ~ If you haven't already, please check out the Faction web site ~ ~ to read about the book, see the sample pages, read about the characters, factions, etc... I think you'll like what you see. Then pick up a copy of the book!

Thank you!
Erik Hendrix
Writer - Faction and other things

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