Saturday, January 2, 2010

KLAUS CLASS CODA _ Rules and a Resolution

Of all of the "rules" and guidelines conveyed in Klaus Janson's Comic Storytelling class at MoCCA, the one he sought to impress on us the most was:

"Assume Responsibility for the Page"

There is nothing haphazard about the decisions that you make and each decision has meaning.

Similarly, a friend recently shared the list of rules he received in a screenwriting class which included:


OK, so I've taken responsibility and now I'm doing it. From that point on, things get a little fuzzy.

Any list of rules has been codified from the actual, in-practice, experience of its creator. As a result, there can be as many contradictory guidelines as there are artists who lived them.

Within comics, there are two that readily come to mind.

One of the first choices a comic creator must make is: Do you use a grid or non-grid to tell the story?

Comic artist Eddie Campbell has his own set of rules on his blog "The Fate of the Artist," the first being:


The entire drama of a given situation must be contained within each panel of the sequence of that situation.
Get all those cameramen and equipment, and the director and the sound engineer and the continuity girl and the boy with the clapperboard, out of that tight space and focus on the humanity.

And yet many of today's most successful and popular comics employ the film language of cutting and camera angles and "widescreen" action to try and bring the reader into the moment. This is a technique that may feel natural to an audience and creator pool trained to see like a camera and yet it ignores qualities (panels are still images) that make comics unique as a medium.

The second point is a basic technical one that I'm wrestling with right now: Do you draw word balloons first and then design your page around them or draw a page with room for word balloons?

On this, Eddie is of the camp that endorses hand-drawn word balloons and lettering up front and digital lettering foundry Comicraft employs the latter method on many top-selling books.

So far, I'm in the precarious position of finding that ALL of these rules have truth to them.

Of course, there are some that shouldn't be broken. In the above lettered page, whether following the rule of left-right Western reading or basic proximity of balloons, I should have had the first balloon higher and further left than the rest so as not to confuse reading order.

Classes like Klaus' certainly helped in laying out some fundamentals of comic design and reading and listening to comic podcasts has enlightened me in the experiences of other artists.

But, none of it would make any sense if I weren't doing it myself.

And that's my simple resolution. To do it and keep doing it. To continue to make new discoveries and to use the "rules" of others where the story calls for them.

And, eventually, to come back with my own set of rules for someone else to use or cast aside at their discretion.

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