OK, I know that if you're reading this, you've likely already read Tom Spurgeon's review of this DVD. I mean, let's face it -- he's got a much larger readership than I do. But on the off chance that you haven't seen his review, I'm going to put this out there as well.
The documentary looks at the basic premise of creating comics. Not the typical stuff you see from marvel or DC, but how can you -- as someone not already in the business -- create comics. But rather than take a clinical approach that you may have already seen -- how to draw, how to write, how to publish, etc. -- producer/director Chris Brandt looks at the more esoteric issues in creating a comic. What personality traits do you need? What type of stories should you produce? Why sell your comic to others? Why create a comic in the first place?
Brandt does an excellent job of providing a strong narrative throughout the entire documentary in his editing. There is no narration at all, and only a few scripted comments from Dr. James Kaufman of California State. Most of the video is presented simply as the interviewees responses to Brandt's questions about them and their work. And they're melded together in such a way as to provide a great overall structure, so that viewers are never at a loss for where he's going with it. This means that the story of the DVD is told almost exclusively by the comic creators themselves. And while I do recognize that Brandt, as the editor, clearly could splice things together to say whatever he wanted, one gets the distinct sense that it's still the creators' unfiltered voices that are being heard.
Another great aspect to the DVD is the list of talent Brandt has pulled together. It's distinctly not the typical list of comic creators that are pulled out as experts by NPR or The Colbert Report (with the exception of Scott McCloud) but a lot of big name people nonetheless. Furthermore, it covers a pretty wide range of creators. There's everyone from Robert Williams to Erik Larsen to Shannon Wheeler to Craig Thompson to Dan Vado to Keith Knight to Carla Speed McNeil to Eric Powell to... And they all are speaking very candidly about what they do and what they love. Did I mention Wendy Pini and Kevin Eastman and Batton Lash and Scott Allie and Gary Groth and Tony Millionaire and Jessica Abel and Linda Medley and...?
The documentary, I don't think, ultimately provides viewers with a "How To" on creating comics. But that's not what it set out to do either. It's more of an examination of the creative process among comic book creators. The how and why of one person sitting down for hours at a time, often after working a full day at some drudge job, to draw a story and then spending almost as much, if not more, time trying to get that story into the hands of other people. That, it seems to me, has been an avenue not actually brought up before and it's a fascinating look at what you REALLY need to create your own comics.
And, if you get nothing else out of Independents: A Guide To The Creative Spirit, you will learn: "Carrots are not creative!"