For the last installment of Form is Function: Postscripts, John Barber is back with the conclusion of his conversation with Justine Shaw, creator of the acclaimedâ€”and wonderfulâ€”Nowhere Girl.
One more little conversation with a webcomics creator, this time Justine Shaw of Nowhere Girl. When Nowhere Girl first appeared, as a fully-formed, smartly written, and beautifully drawn 40-page comic, it obviously created a sensation.
Justine was the firstâ€”and so far onlyâ€”comics creator to be nominated for an Eisner award without ever having any work in print. And sheâ€™s great to talk to, as youâ€™ll see here:
Hi Justine. When and why did you start putting comics on the web?
My first webcomic was Nowhere Girl issue 1, which was October of 2001. The Web, for good or ill, lets anyone, including yours truly, put their stuff out there, no editor (more than likely), no compromises in the way you want to do what you do.
Weâ€™re back, continuing our conversation with Brendan Cahill, my old friend and collaborator and creator and writer/artist/programmer of Outside the Box at ModernTales. You can read the first part of the interview here.
Well, the column ended last month and yet here we are again. Back. Still here. Whatever. Dragging it out for that last paycheck.
But seriously. Welcome to the first of a two part interview/conversation with Brendan Cahill, where we talk about a whole range of subjects, from webcomics to things tangentially related to webcomics.
Brendan is an old friend an collaborator of mine, and is best known (in the webcomics world) as the creator/writer/artist of the slightly mystical individualist Flash noir comic Outside the Box, at ModernTales.
This column was meant to be an examination of the form and aesthetic qualities of comics from a theoretical yet practical point of view. This had been, really, the idea of pretty much anything I've ever written about comics.
I've always been more interested in the practical side of "comics theory". My philosophy has been that in understanding how something works, I can better use that something to make comics.
There just aren't any rules for creating comics. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't, and you can figure out principles to guide you in the use of these things, but there's never any rule that always works.
Collaboration of One?
The Comics medium is often a collaborative medium. This is particularly true in "mainstream" American and European comics, but a lot of independent or alternative comics are also produced in a collaborative setting.
I've been writing the last couple of these columns about comics scriptwriting, with the implication that I'm talking about comics created by several hands. I've been referring to the writer and the artist as though these are two separate entities, but the things I've been writing about hold true (in as much as they hold true at all) for a single creator, as well.
Mean What You Say, but Never Say What You Mean
Continuing down last month's David Mamet trek towards an aesthetic of creating comics....
Brian Michael Bendis is a big Mamet fan. When I read a Bendis script a little while back, I was really impressed; I liked it because it read like a script to a comic, not like he was trying to impress anybody. It wasn't full of witticisms and fancy descriptions, it was bare-bones writing that provided a structure which could be turned into a comic.
What I liked about Bendis' script was that it was made up of panel descriptions like: "Shot of guy's face." And "Same as 2." "Same as 2, closer."
At first, every growing-up-thinking-comics-scripts-should-look-like-Alan-Moore-scripts bone in my body reacted against this. Wait, I thought, shouldn't Bendis be saying what the face looks like?
Taking a look at my bookshelf, I find the two best books ever on the subjects of writing and drawing comics. Both are written by director/screenwriter/playwright David Mamet.
The books are On Directing Film (which is about writing comics) and True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor (which is about drawing comics). I donâ€™t know why the titles make them sound like theyâ€™re about directing films and acting in plays; maybe the publishers figured they could sell more copies that way. Whatever. Theyâ€™re about making comics.
One of the interesting things about webcomics is that people come into the medium from different places, both physically and psychologically.
Presumably, all of the first people to make comics for the web had an interest (of some kind) in printed comics (of some kind). Nowadays, that isn't necessarily the case – a creator's interest in comics could be purely digital.