Maybe it's because I'm a (self proclaimed) comic artist, but sometimes people come to me to ask for advice about how to make good comics.
Aaaaand to be honest, I have absolutely no idea.
That doesn't stop me from trying to! My brain has a bit of an excitement rush right now since I'm going to leave for an almost-week-long road trip tomorrow with some friends which really makes me want to do something completely irrelevant to anything ever, so have some of my typical rambling again! Been a while, huh?
I bet many of those who ask how to do good comics want to become great comic artists as soon as possible, but actually, I think that one of the best things to do to become a good comic maker is failing. Yeah. Failing is something everyone wants to avoid, as if failing meant instant death or something, but it's something that really isn't all that easy to avoid. (Yeah, failing is embarrassing, which is why people who look like they're good don't show their fails.) And actually I dare say that maybe you shouldn't try so hard to avoid it.
You know, we all fail. Sometimes spectacularly. And it's actually just part of growing up. At least when you're young you have an excuse to fail horrendously, kids are forgiven way easier than adults. (Human brains aren't fully developed until when they're something around 23 years old anyway.) Art is kind of like martial arts, you go to the lessons to learn how to kick guys bigger than you into submission and the first thing you're actually taught is how to fall. It's the same thing, once you know how to fail, and specially what to think of it, it doesn't hurt as much.
The best way to learn to do something is by doing it. Learning the hard way is hard (obviously) but it does teach the lessons better when you stumble across them yourself. I've done martial arts before. I have green belt in Han Moo Do, yellow belt in bot Judo and Aikido and I've tried my hand (and leg) in Capoeira too, and I can say that IT'S NOT EASY. Plus, most of my martial arts history comes from my time at Raahe, where I was the only female in a group of men much stronger and bigger than myself, and I got the unforgiving treatment of being treated as one of the guys. Which meant a fair share of bruises. But on the other hand I've never been nor felt as fit as I was back then. And it felt goooooood. It goes for art too. (Afterwards I've been to Aikido lessons with girls in them, which obviously meant that I got to fight with girls, and it was absolutely frustrating to do any of the moves with them because they went so easy. "Sorry I'm almost touching your arm, I'll go down nicely now" does not teach how to do it for real. Oh, hello off-topic)
It's okay to make absolute crap. It's a teaching experience to know you have done crap, and recognize the crappiness. (You might not want to show it to anyone, though.) I've always wanted to make comics, and I've done loads and loads of absolutely horrible crap before I ever even started Wurr, it's just that you have never seen it since I grew up without internet. I was already in the Finnish equivalent of high school by the time I discovered the magical lands of inturwebs, so when I was making majority of my fails there was no-one who would have been interested, so my stories were for my own amusement only. It taught me a lot, I learned to tell the difference between what sucked and what was good, I became my own worst critic (if YOU aren't your own worst critic, how can you take the critique of the internet?) which is pretty important for being an artist and most importantly I learned to make. Just make stuff. I don't make comics for validation, I don't make them to be praised (on the contrary, I have a bad habit of getting baffled when I get compliments). I make stories because I just can't NOT make them. I have made storytelling part of what I am.
You know, those people you look up to who are doing great comics when you aren't doesn't mean that only you suck. The difference is that they have done their sucking already and have learned their lesson by now. I know. I've done some spectacular suckings.
Actually... This is going to hurt me big time, but the last time I visited home I actually found my second most successful comic ever (as measured by page count) only defeated by Wurr (oh, sorry! Third most successful, I almost forgot the Pokémon thing), and I think this could be a good context to... show it. For all of you. ALL MY SHAME!
Okay, here goes. Egads.
The cover. Already promising. The title is "The land of eight titans" (notice how "kahdeksan" meaning "eight" couldn't fit on the paper so it had to be written twice instead). I think this was a combination of Pokémon (elemental cotta-catch-them-all monsters) and Dragonlance (OMGthebestthingevertherearedragons). The pictures show "the eight titans of Titania" (which is totally original (snort) name for a world ruled by elemental titans). From left to right, the titans are listed as air (oh, hi unicorn pony), fire (totally not Dragonlance at all. I never had red dragons before reading the books...) sand, fog, storm (the design is yoinked from a thunderbird in a Disney comic series by Ferioli that I really liked back then), water, forest and earth (ripping off the Mystics from the movie Dark Crystal).
"The story begins... A dog called Rick is reading Donald Duck magazine" I was big Disney kid back in the day.
"This "Sword of Shambor" is good." Shambor stories were a series of comics published in the Disney's Donald Duck comic books, by the artist Ferioli.
"Ah. I wish the same thing that happened to Micky would happen to me."
"Heroes, battles, flying ships and adventures."
"But what's me, just an ordinary sloth."
Notice the quality paper and everything. Ow, my skill back then.
"What on Earth was that anyway?"
"There's text at the bottom." Knees? What knees?
"Whoever opens this box, will fall into another world" Note: originally this panel's text was written in really stupid attempt at sounding poetic.
"Better examine this indoors."</sub></i>
"At night" "Wonder what's inside this." That chair is copied from Garfield, by the way
"Huh? Well, wonder where am I now?"
"At the peak of the highest mountain of Titania." Funny how he tells the name of the world here instead of the name of the mountain. You know, because when you're mountain climbing and get lost, you really want to know you're on Earth more than which mountain you're climbing.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Raba. Who are you, and what are you doing here without proper clothes or snowshoes?" Because ragged T-shirt is obviously a great winter wear.
"Oh, no! Emperor's soldiers!" Why are emperors always evil? Just wondering...
"Oh! Is this where I'll die?" "Calm down, Rick. This isn't that bad." Why were you afraid of the soldiers couple of panels ago then?
"We're stuck here maybe for the rest of our lives. And you're just daydreaming!"
"I still have these."
"Those stupids didn't even search me." wait, where were you keeping those, then? "How do you get out with those?"
"The wall is bone dry clay, you can scratch it away." ............... I'm not gonna even........ Again, why were you so afraid of the guards, if only thing they do is to put you into a cell made of stuff you can SCRATCH away!?
"And then we just wait." So that kinda like a pokedex looking thing can be used to call blobmons. Original. Did you know that both Pokémon and Digimon were aired on TV back when this was made?
"What is that?"
"My first weemi" Because I really needed to plagiarise Pokémon.
*"viili" according to an online dictionary translates into "processed sour whole milk".
"Weemi rushes on." Because you couldn't tell that yourselves by just looking. Oh, hey, look, two moons. I'm not sure if that was because "omg! moon is cool and more than one moon is totally must for fantasy", or a ripoff of either Dragonlance or ElfQuest. Maybe it's a combination.
"Do I have to rescue the tuft ear again!"
And no, I really couldn't do that without snarking at it. This story never got anywhere since... there was no story to tell. I ran out of material to copy (the idea from the Shambor stories) and all I has was that "omg, i need to show all these titans somehow" but, you know, you kind of need a story for that.
Failing is a part of the path to learn how to not suck. Or at least suck less. I don't know if it's possible to avoid suck completely. But at least once you have failed, you have all the room in the world to improve!
Giving advice on how to make good stories is really a hard thing anyway, and I'm afraid there really isn't many ways around it, before you can make good you have to find out what IS good. I myself have been to a couple of dramaturgy courses at different schools, but what I personally recommend is to read and watch tons and tons of stories. Try out different styles and genres, even those genres you wouldn't normally read/watch since there's always a chance you'll find something interesting that you never thought of before that you can use somewhere yourself. (I personally like to watch anime and analyze the crap out of their storytelling. Man I need to find more good series. How do you find good series anyway?) Everything you consume contributes to your brain's storytelling storage, even those godawful horrible cliché piles help in teaching what to avoid (I personally have couple of things that I keep returning to just to remind myself never to go there myself) and when you find stories that you really, really enjoy, you'll have to analyze them into tiny peaces untill you find the tiny nuggets that together make you feel the tingling feeling of "I really like this", since in the end it's YOU who you're writing for. Don't do it for praise, don't do it for popularity, do it because you want to do it. It took me 22 years untill I figured how I liked to make my comic feel (I started Wurr when I was 20 and it took me two more years before I really got how to make story structures) and I'm still learning. And I hope I never stop learning! Storytelling is something I really want to do, and what I really enjoy.
Good luck to all of you fellow someday-I'll-make-good-stories people! May your table drawers be full of glorious failings and your learning fun! And may those annoying story bugs bother the crap out of you untill they make your story muscles iron hard! Never give up! Bruised ego will heal in time if you just keep moving.
Yes it's past midnight in here. And I'll have to wake up early tomorrow to catch a train. My brain went to bed ahead of me. No, I don't know if I can ever write anything without rambling the crap out of it.
Road trip ahoy! See ya in a week, peeps!