Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Friday, November 30, 2007

Built To L:ast: Characters

The real challenge of the graphic novelist is to create something that's "built to last." What does that mean?

Because putting together a graphic novel takes a lot of work, you wouldn't want your masterpiece to sit on the shelves for six months to a year then disappear into oblivion. To make your efforts worth it, your graphic novel has to possess the qualities that merit its longevity. Graphic novels like Persepolis, Jimmy Corrigan, Stuck Rubber Baby, and Ghost World have survived long after their original publication date, and are currently part of some kind of academic curriculum.

When you look through the lot of web and independent comics, most of them are either superhero or manga. But manga and superhero comics are already being dominated by large publishing companies. The only chance these comics have to possess some kind of longevity is to go under the corporate wing.

This is not to say, of course, that you shouldn't do manga or superheroes. What it does say is that you have to prepare yourself for a major uphill climb, if not major disappointment. Still, if you just want to get a comic book out with no expectations of fame and fortune, then do so. It's all part of the process.

If you want something that's potentially built to last, you need to focus on two elements: your lead character and that character's journey. While theme, dialogue, art style, production quality, and all the other good stuff do demand attention, who your lead character is and how the journey turns out are what directly connects to the reader.

Psychologically, a reader needs representation in the story. That's how readers "get into" the story. That's why romance novels have women as protagonists and spy thrillers have men as protagonists. Lead characters are the portals through which readers allow themselves to be immersed in the tale.

Or, a reader needs their fantasy feathers stroked. An action thriller featuring Lara Croft would sit very well with men because of the sex element. Likewise, an action thriller featuring a ridiculously handsome, hunky AND senstive man who's in touch with his feminine side may pull at women's heartstrings.

The journey of the character is likewise important because readers want to know how the character's going to turn out. When you're telling a story to a friend about your mother climbing Mount Everest, your friend would most likely ask, "So is she okay?" The key word here is transformation, the result. And if the result isn't powerful enough to justify the journey, then you may end up with a dud.

Why am I telling you this?

When you're starting out, you need a "claim to fame," or at least something that will help get you attention. A cool and flashy art style can help, but if your story sucks you may just end up being a creator known for art and nothing else. Notice that a lot of the more respected graphic novels do not use the superhero comics style or the manga style in their artwork (unless you're Tezuka).

So focus on what really counts at the end of the day. Story. Character. The transformative journey. Get that nailed, and you'll have a better chance.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home