WonderCon 2011: the second day, part 2

We join our heroine in the midst of her second day at WonderCon 2011, in her quest for knowledge about the artform of graphic novels and how to get one published.

I had just been talking with the students working on the High Tech High Graphic Novel Project.

Near to their table was one for Conjoined Comics, the team that puts out To the Power Against, which they describe as “Buffy for Stephen Hawking.”  The writer, Carrie Smith, was out, but the artist, Stephanie Lantry was there, and she gave me a lot of information.

She said they self-publish, and they use a printer called Ka-Blam.com, which has no minimum for print runs.  She said she zips and uploads files to her site and sends a link to Ka-Blam for the printing.  She told me email is not usually big enough or fast enough for this sort of file.  She also mentioned You Send It, and that there are other places to send large files, that perhaps Drop Box was a possibility, since I don’t have a site of  my own up and running (yet).  She told me Ka-Blam would have their technical specs on their website.   Stephanie mentioned Tiff files and other graphic programs – there might be others that Ka-Blam or other printers could accept.  In terms of cost for publishing, she mentioned Kickstarter as a possible way to get funding.

In the realm of how she works with Carrie, Stephanie showed me a few of her thumbnail sketches, basically small versions of the page layouts.  They were very rough, and about 3×5″ in her little sketchbook.  They showed the panels, their shapes and proportions, and maybe a few stick figures within them.  She said she shows this to Carrie before she gets started on the actual artwork.

I asked her what graphic novels she would recommend to further my understanding of the art, and she suggested Scott Pilgrim, that it was very much influenced by video games and manga.  It’s very kinetic and has lots of energy packed into the pages.

Later in the day, I looped back to talk with Carrie Smith, the writer for To the Power Against, but in the interest of keeping things together, I’ll write about that here.

We talked more about how to do the writing.  She said to think in frames – about 4-6 per page, and to break the story into chunks that could be told in about 23 pages each.  She has written screenplays, too, and said a typical screenplay would probably come out to 6-12 issues.  (I’m finding people use the term issues, to mean a smaller, soft-cover section of an on-going story – what used to be called a comic book.)

Carrie was really strong on self-publishing, because of the freedom.  She said nobody can tell you what you can and cannot do, and that I should tell the stories from my heart that I wanted to tell.  Stephanie also mentioned that there is such a low barrier to entry into the field that you can do whatever you want.   There are no budget limitations to consider:  you can depict other worlds, alternate realities, and special effects without the tremendous costs these would require in film.

In addition, apparently these days publishers frequently want to see what you can do on your own in the realm of self-publishing before they will consider your work.

Both Stephanie and Carrie were very encouraging.  In general, I have found everyone I have encountered in the comics/graphic novel field to be very helpful, generous, and supportive.

When I asked Carrie which graphic novels she would recommend, she put Y: the Last Man, by Brian K. Vaughan,  at the top of her list (I put two stars by it as she spoke, so I know she praised it highly).  She also mentioned these as very cinematic: Runaways (Created by Brian K. Vaughan),  Ex Machina (created by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris) , and The Unwritten (by Mike Carey).

There was more to this day, but it will have to wait for another post.


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