Posts tagged graphic novel

The Art of Hybrid Novels, Part Two

In part one I talked about the things I love in comics and graphic novels, but also some of their failings. So now I’ve set myself up for great expectations with my hybrid illustrated novel “Monkey Boy” – which I would describe as “Blackadder” meets “Hornblower” with pictures.

Like any book, “Monkey Boy” came together from a whole bunch of influences and ideas, but largely a lot of my books are formed by the desire to draw pictures of a certain subject. In the case of “Monkey Boy” this is was my desire to illustrate something from the era of the Napoleonic Wars. I’m really attracted to the late 18th and early 19th century because it was a time of huge social change in the Western World and formed a lot of the basis of modern society – but I also love the style and fashions. Like my work on “Faithfully Mozart”, this would include wonderful clothes and ornate architecture, but unlike Mozart, “Monkey Boy” would also include lots of blood and guts and gore and veins in yer teeth. I wanted to wow young readers with the amazing and thrilling world of 19thC naval warfare that I love so much. Apart from fun for me – the comic sections were also intended to make the book less daunting for young boys (especially the reluctant readers), who might discover a lifetime of enjoyment in reading and history if it were presented in a more exciting style.

From the start “Monkey Boy” was intended as a hybrid illustrated novel – but, as mentioned in part one, I didn’t even know such a genre existed. Most junior fiction or teen novels, (if they have illustrations at all) have roughly 10-15 images. I had imagined that “Monkey Boy” would have a HUGE 40 pages of illustrations! (That’s me being sarcastic, as the project has blossomed since then …). But as an illustrator and author – I had very specific requirements for my pics in this book. They were not to be evenly spread throughout the book, one per chapter. Instead they would appear only when and where they were needed and would do things that pictures did better than words. Let me explain …

You see, as  kid I loved “The Lord of the Rings”. I had it read to me when I was 7 and I read it 3 more times before I was 18 (and a few times since). But what I could never understand where Tolkien’s descriptions … a wall such-and-such long by so-and-so high, with flying buttresses and crenelations and god knows what else … As an boy (and even as an ex-boy) I cannot picture all that stuff without getting out a book of building terms to find out what all these things mean. From an entertainment point of view I personally find detailed environment descriptions hard to follow (it depends if the writer can clearly explain it). For me they stop the flow of the story and I just turn off as soon as I start reading super detailed descriptions (especially of architecture). What I prefer is the evocative hazy impression given by writers such as Katherine Kerr (I love her descriptions in the “Devery” series). What I prefer even more is pictures, like John Howe’s brilliant visions of Middle Earth.

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ENVIRONMENTS IN “MONKEY BOY” DO AWAY WITH LENGTHY DESCRIPTIONS

 

So, with my 10 year old self in mind, I wanted to “Monkey Boy” to do away with descriptions. There’s a lot of technical stuff on a Napoleonic warship that no one is going to understand on first reading – so away with them all! I would do it all in pictures. In “Monkey Boy” the words deal with emotions, character development, dialogue and plot. Meanwhile I let the pictures handle all the descriptions, the environment, the action scenes and the gory dead (oh, did I forget to mention “Monkey Boy” is populated with revolting ghosts lurking about – another thing I really wanted to draw – ha ha). The use of comic sections is also great for those ‘then suddenly…’ moments. The book also features maps and technical diagrams, but, as mentioned above, they only appear in the story when you need to know them – not something that you discover in the appendices and say “ohhh I wish I’d known this diagram was here when I was reading that chapter about masts and sails”.

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AN EARLY VERSION OF ONE OF THE GHOSTS – ADMIRAL MELMOTH FURY

I had originally envisioned “Monkey Boy” to be like Brain Selzneck’s “Hugo Cabret” with big sections of individual page illustrations that you had to ‘read’ to follow the story. However I soon realized that “Hugo” was a fairly high-brow format for my type of audience and unfortunately deadlines and production budgets wouldn’t cover a 700 page book. I still wanted to retain the wordless images so that you didn’t rush through the comic pages, but again I have discovered that for the age and audience of a junior fiction book I really needed sections of text in my comics to have a nice flow joining novel to comic sections. I have still tried to keep my pictures as free of text as possible – and most importantly that each artform compliments the other. When our half-sized hero first comes aboard his new home (a great warship) the scene is told in 7 pages of comic as we descend into the darkness of the lower gun decks.

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WHERE POSSIBLE COMIC SECTIONS APPEAR WITHOUT WORDS

I’ve learnt a huge amount as an illustrator and writer as the project has developed over the last 5 years and the final version will be 288 pages with over 160 pages of illustrations – a bit of a development from the original 40. I’ve particularly enjoyed showing action and battle scenes in comic form – there’s a lot you can say in pictures that you’d never be allowed to say in words. Of course I’ve enjoyed writing a junior fiction novel and all the fun of plot, pace and character and emotion – writing the type of junior fiction that I would want to read – but that’s another story…

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THINGS THAT CAN’T BE SAID IN POLITE SOCIETY

Scholastic have been brilliant in accommodating my original vision and have allowed me to run with it. Hopefully you’ll all like “Monkey Boy” too. With commercial success I’d love to complete a second hybrid novel to go with it. “Monkey Boy” is out July 2014.

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Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

I went to the very cool new Central South City Library last weekend and amongst the shiny new books that I borrowed was a fantastic new graphic novel called Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel.  It’s about a boy called Garth Hale who gets accidentally zapped into the ghost world by Frank Gallows, an agent for the Supernatural Immigration Task Force.  Frank has messed up big time and gets fired from his job, but he promises Garth’s mum that he’ll find him in the ghost world and bring him home.  Meanwhile, in the ghost world Garth makes friends with Skinny, a skeleton horse, and a ghost boy who just happens to be his grandpa.   They meet all of the groups that inhabit Ghostopolis, including the Mummies, the Wisps, the Specters, the Zombies, the Boogeymen and the Bone People.  Soon they’re on the run from Vaugner the evil ruler of Ghostopolis, who wants to use Garth’s newly discovered abilities to increase his control of the spirit world.  Will Garth find a way home and will Frank Gallows keep his promise?  Find out in Ghostopolis.

Ghostopolis is a spooky, adventure-filled story with plenty of laughs thrown in.  I really liked Doug TenNapel’s style of illustration because it’s colourful and the panels are not overcrowded with detail.  I particularly like how Doug has presented his characters (Frank Gallows looks worried alot of the time, Vaugner just looks plain evil with his blank eyes and spiky hair, and Garth just looks like an ordinary kid).  If you like graphic novels like Tintin, Asterix or The Rainbow Orchid and want something a little different, you’ll love Ghostopolis.

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Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Smile is a graphic novel about an eleven-year-old girl called Raina, who trips over one night after Girl Scouts, and knocks out her front teeth.  She gets a cast to help them mend, but her teeth just get pushed up further than the rest, resulting in Raina looking like a vampire. After that, Raina sees numerous dentists, orthodontists, and other dentists that she had never even heard of, and gets a heap of casts, braces, retainers, and embarrassing headgear. As if that wasn’t enough, Raina has to endure not-so friendly friends, confusing boys, high school horrors, and a major earthquake! Eventually, Raina makes a whole heap of friends, and discovers her inner artist, but will she be able to smile again? I found it very interesting, reading about Raina being in a huge earthquake. It was very accurate! I thought that the pictures were very good, and that the book was very funny. My favourite part is when Raina gets her ears pierced, and I also like the bit where she has the sleepover. This is definitely a book for girls, from about 10 to 13.  I usually don’t like graphic novels, but Smile is a huge exception.

By Tierney, 11.

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Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z is a great book series and a very good storyline is included.  I think Dragon Ball Z is one of the best book series in the world.

It is written by Akiri Toryami.

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Rainbow Orchid – from start to finish

Step 1: script notes

Step 2: full script

Step 3: thumbnails

Step 4: rough sketches with lettering

Step 5: pencil images

Step 6: ink images

Step 7: add colour

Step 8: Add lettering

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‘How to make a graphic novel’ with Garen Ewing

Hi again!  Yesterday I told you a little about my comic, The Rainbow Orchid, and why I love comics.  One question I get asked a lot is ‘how do you make a comic?’ You could ask almost any comic creator this question and you probably wouldn’t get the same answer twice, but here is a brief guide to how I make comics…

Once I have my plot worked out and written in note form, I start by breaking the story down into one-page chunks – detailing what has to happen on each page of the comic. The next thing to do is write the script, which is rather similar to what you might imagine a film script to be – I describe the scene in each panel and write out the dialogue said by the characters. At the same time as writing the script I’ll sketch some very rough page layouts which are called ‘thumbnails’, because they’re so small, just to give me an idea of how the panels will fit on the page, with perhaps some loose composition for the actual drawing in there too.

With the script written and the thumbnails as a guide, the next thing I do is draw larger rough versions of the page so I can work out how the drawings will look and where the characters need to be in each panel so they can talk in the correct order (speech balloons generally need to be read from left to right) and also to make sure their actions and the visual aspect of the storytelling is clear.

Those rough drawings help a lot when it comes time for the next stage – pencilling the actual artwork. I’ve already worked out, in rough form, the poses and composition, so now it’s just a case of spending a lot more time on the drawings to get them looking good. After pencilling (and lots of rubbing out along the way) I need to ink the drawings. This involves using a dip pen and a pot of Indian ink and drawing over the pencils to end up with a nice clean finished drawing.

This is the point I turn to modern technology and scan my black and white line art into the computer at high resolution. Using Adobe Photoshop I colour the artwork and also make up the speech balloons. Although I do the lettering in the balloons to make sure they’re the correct size, my publisher sets the actual final lettering onto the page so it is as crisp and clear as possible for the printer. The font used for the lettering is one I created myself based on my own hand-lettering.

When all this comes together you have a finished page! Depending on how detailed the page is, a single page can take me anywhere from two to four days of solid work. Making comics is a lot of hard work, but you get to play the part of writer, director, set designer, special effects wizard and actor, and it’s always rewarding when you see the finished book finally come together.

Tomorrow on the blog, you can see images of the process from start to finish.

Enjoy your comics!

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Kitchen Princess

Kitchen Princess is a comic book acually it is a japanese story so you read the book backwards.  It is about a girl called Najika Kazami – she is an exellent cook.  Her dream is to become the worlds greatest chef – like her parents, but unfortunatly her parents are dead.  She is willing to find her flan prince, Sora  Senpai, but he was killed in a car crash! I really enjoy this book.

Thanks

Cammrar

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