Comic Non-Sans: “Well, you said go nuts …”

I’ve worked with multiple writers in a webcomic context for the last ten years, and I brag about all of them.  Because each of them constructs a completely different writer/artist relationship with me.  The one I still work with on a regular basis (as opposed to solely direct-to-print content with the other two) is someone I’ve known for about ten years, who has very clear images of what he wants panel to panel, and who — especially considering he’s a 36-year-old biker — writes surprisingly believable sorority girl dialogue.

When he tells me to “go nuts” on a page, therefore, I tend to.

I’ll admit I was not always about this.  I think it’s the fact that I’ve written on my own (and still do) that makes me cautious when working with other writers.  If I have a “vision,” surely they do, too.  So I always second-guess myself when I’m interpreting someone else’s words.

The first time I broke free of that, I was running a fever of 103.  I was at my grandparents’ house being the horrible patient I always am, and remembered I was meant to finish an installment the next day.  The page in question was to be the beginning of a thousands-of-years-old flashback and I hadn’t particularly been given any instructions on how to make it looks.  All I’d been told was “be creative.”  So I was.  And while stylistically it was on the feverishly zany side (and put me in the position of trying to mimic it years after the fact when there’s more flashback), at least I had my wits about me enough to omit the spiders and ninjas I thought were hiding in my grandparents’ den waiting to kill me.

I’m not sure what prompting an artist to use their best (or worst) judgment means when it comes to that sort of thing, as I’ve never worked as a writer with a different artist.  I could talk a flowery talk about writer/artist trust, about knowing your collaborator so well that you can sense where the inner workings of their mind will take your creation, but probably not.  In my mind, were I ever to swap out for one project, there’s only one major reason I’d wash my hands of any description and tell my artist to do whatever they like: to see what the hell comes out of that brain.

All right, that sort of morbid curiosity might not sound like it’s for the greater good of a project, so I shouldn’t admit to considering working that way.  Thing is, I know as an artist that it can become easy to think what you do is secondary — like your art is the tortilla chip whose sole purpose is to transport the salsa that is your partner’s writing.

Let’s pretend that sounded like genius and move on.

But when I’ve commissioned art and/or done trades with people in the past, there have been plenty of times when I’ve said “I don’t care how you go about it” not out of laziness, but out of trust and curiosity.  Perhaps that’s what my writers are getting out of it.  Me?  I’m getting crazy-go-nuts time out of it, but also a mild bit of pressure as I try to draw something that won’t let said writers down.  Clearly they’re expecting something wild if they’ve given me artistic license.

I’ve yet to meet a writer (that I respect) who gives an artist free rein out of laziness.  And sometimes some pretty fantastic stuff can happen when you leave an artistic mind to its own devices.  I’ve gotten over a bit of my phobia of Doin’ It Wrong, personally … though I probably won’t draw with a fever ever again.

Posted on April 19, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, Webcomics · Tagged with: , ,