Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So you want to create a graphic novel: A Guest Post by Lee Post


Lee Post's comic strip, "Your Square Life," appeared in the Anchorage Press over seven years, for a total of 300 comic strips. Since then, he has had four books published and distributed locally, including two children's books and a 'best of' compilation of the comic strip. Most recently, Post drew the first chapter of A Native Lad by Sarah Hurst and had a large retrospective of his work on display at the Dorothy G. Page Museum in Wasilla. His blog, www.yoursquarelife.blogspot.com , contains a sample of recent projects.

So you want to create a graphic novel.

Step 1: buy a pencil, a small stack of paper, three erasers, and a comfy chair.

Step 2: Say, “so long for now” to your family and friends.

Step 3: Retreat to a dark room with a lot of coffee.

Step 4: Write and draw whatever you want for pages, pages, and pages.

Step 5: Get some rest and swear you’ll never do that again.

Step 6: Repeat.

What is forgotten when someone, namely me, sits down to create some comic art, is how long everything takes. Just sitting down to a word processor is only a tiny part of the process. There’s the sketching, the writing, the researching, the drawing, the refining of the drawing, and the lettering to worry about. It can be quite the tedious drag.

What I forget even more frequently is the power of that process. There are countless options available to any comic creator. By teeter-tottering between words and pictures and adding in a few word balloons and sound effects, within an instant, any amateur has a finely tuned control over the reader’s focus, perception of time, and mood.

Comics are usually lumped in with memories of kids running around with bathroom towel capes and moody teens, often for good reason. They are the territory of crashing fists, magical elves, and ever-young teen hijinks. The comics of our youth travel in action, melodrama, and slap-stick humor. Because the styles became so familiar over time, like a bad TV sitcom, the narrative power of most comics turned into a pale imitation of themselves.

What gets forgotten is that comics are a direct line into the imagination, giving the artist total control over every bit of information offered to the reader. Putting it into practice, nevertheless, is just a lot of work.

Up for the challenge?  In just a few weeks, Lee Post will be teaching The Graphic Novel:  Telling Stories with Pictures at the 49 Alaska Writing Center in Anchorage.  Lee looks forward to working with students of all ages, and to make it accessible to high school students, we've scheduled the class over the course of four afternoons during Spring Break. 

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