Learn By Doing

By | Thursday, October 13, 2011 Leave a Comment
With this year's "Revenge of Print" event/challenge, my buddy Matt put put together a revival issue of his college's old Quantum Whatever creative journal. He kindly sent me a copy which I don't think I have yet to actually thank him for. (Thanks, Matt!) Like any good creative journal, it has a mixture of prose, poetry, photography, design... anything that speaks to the creative impulse and can be replicated in a 'zine format. But what I was surprised to see in there was a two page comic by Matt as well, explaining the moment when he lost his agency job and was forced to become his own boss.

I actually know Matt from our way back when we were both hanging out on alan's Fantastic Four message board. We've been friends for years, and I know a bit about his appreciation of comics. But I also know that, like me, he hasn't really had his sights set on drawing his own comics for many years. I think we both realized (and correct me if I'm off base, Matt) that we had some drawing/illustration ability, but not nearly enough to do comics as a profession. So it surprised me a bit to see Matt take a swing at it here.

But I thought about the idea for a bit. I mean, I've done the same thing: put together the occasional comic with as much professionalism as I could, but with no real designs on actually becoming a professional. Why would I do something like that? I think there are several reasons.

First, it seemed like a fun idea. Something different and interesting. A way to exercise my brain in a new way precisely because I don't make comics regularly. Second, I suspect there's some part of my brain held over from when I was 12 that still thinks it would be cool to draw comic books for a living.

But, third, and I think most significantly, is that it's a first-hand lesson in the comic development process. Comic creators have to many hundreds of storytelling decisions every day -- pace, eye flow, visual impact, page and panel layouts, etc. -- and I think it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have a good appreciation of that unless you've actually done it yourself. I don't know that it needs to be particularly long or involved. I don't know that it needs to be well-drawn or expertly written. I just think that going through the experience of producing a comic to the best of your ability is phenomenal learning experience.

And, yeah, I expect a lot of comic fans made their own comics when they were kids, but I'm talking about adults here. When you can actually sit back when you're done, and objectively examine what worked and what didn't, and why. I really enjoy sitting down to study comics and try to figure out what reasons drove a creator's decision-making process, but experiencing that first-hand, even if it's just for your own blog or small-run 'zine, is incredibly enlightening.
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