Why Do Online Comics by Iain Hamp

Building from the Roof Down

It just occured to me that I feel like making something pretty and warm.

I’ve been in that mood lately. A picture of a cat precariously balanced on something and asleep, near a fire, in a darkened room with maybe a window that showed how cold the world outside is. The cat would have a slight smile on its face.

Or maybe someone driving up to their home. She gets out of her car and her breath is visible, and there is a chill wind blowing as she retracts her hands within her long sweater sleeves. She opens the door to her house. She walks quickly across the scene, and as she goes from the foyer to the living room to the hallway to the bedroom, she is taking off her scarf, her coat, her hat, her gloves. She dives onto her bed, whips all the covers over herself. There’s some movement under the pile of blankets and comforters, then nothing, and then two boots get shoved out from under the mass down onto the floor.

Here’s the problem with all this. I love each of these ideas. Each one would take a decent investment in time to complete. And by the time I get going on them, in a week or a month or a year, I may very likely not be in the mood to make something so warm and pretty. I might want to do drama or comedy.

This is a problem I can see myself facing a lot as a comic artist. Whereas one might be able to paint a picture or finish one drawing or some such in a night’s time, while the mood is fresh and the emotion that sparked the idea is alive and flourishing, a comic worth doing takes time, and I feel like sometimes the creative process gets hurt a bit because my emotion-driven creative side has been tainted with all sorts of new things that have nothing to do with the original concept. It’s hard to filter all that out and get back to what made the piece so powerful and worth doing, to me at least, in the first place. All this makes it very difficult to stay motivated enough to finish a comic, and when you’re trying to be an online comics creator, not being able to create comics is sort of a problem.

So what is there to do about it? Comics do get done, and often done well, so there is obviously an answer of some sort to be had. I think maybe the most important part of the solution may be to just get something done that best captures the mood or emotion you are trying to express. It can be any point in the story, but just some sort of key point at which you can look back and instantly be transported internally to what you were trying to get across. Hopefully, the reader will have a similar reaction to the same part when they come across it later on.

Maybe there is another angle to this problem though. Perhaps it is okay if what you intended to create at the start isn’t what you eventually end up with. Often as I work I discover things about my story I never knew existed until I got there.

During a discussion at a panel in San Diego back in 2002, Will Eisner stated that the way he goes about creating stories is by first coming up with the ending, then going back and writing the rest of the story that leads up to it.

That seems like such a simple idea, but to my linear-thinking brain it seemed revolutionary when I heard it. I haven’t personally tried it yet, but thinking about it, I can certainly see the strengths to that approach. Since the climax is arguably the single most important part of the story, developing it first and then figuring out how to get there seems like a pretty smart way of going about it, and could probably be a heck of a lot of fun for the creator.

Iain Hamp is a contributing columnist for Comixpedia.

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Illustration by R*K*Milholland.