In this second part of our interview with The Wolf author, we discuss the pluses and minus of the panel format, the natural evolution of drawing styles, and the importance of being able to toss away false starts.
The comic book is kind of the ultimate example of structure, versus what you might do on a canvas.
Right. Well, it’s different, too. I think you approach the two things very differently. For The Wolf, when I was originally thumbnailing and plotting it, it had more standard comic book pages and panels and everything. But that didn’t make sense, the story needed to feel for me. I needed each image to hold its own and me more isolated, because I was thinking of them more as individual paintings in their structure and how each panel was constructed.
Whereas, if you’re doing a full page with six or nine panels, you’re thinking about the overall page, so each panel is not quite as important. So, at some point I made the decision that it needed to be one image at a time, and then the story really started to flow. That fixed some of the early problems with my story. The comic book structure was kind of holding me back with this one, and it needed to become something else.
Is it hard to scrap that much work? Did you ever just give up and start over?
No, I never did. I don’t know if it’s noticeable to anyone else, but to me the drawings at the end are so different than they are at the beginning that at one point I thought that maybe I should redraw some pages. But then as I looked at it, I realized that the book is kind of about evolution. So I kind of like seeing the different stages in there. You can kind of see the work evolve.
I never had any trouble cutting anything out, really. The idea was always that the full story was the final piece, so if any individual piece didn’t work, then it just wasn’t used. So it was easy to cut things out. But there were a couple of images that I was able to add in that I had previously cut out. Again, it was always in flux. There was a I drew three years ago, I cut it out a year ago, and then it ended up being the last page that I added before I sent it to the printer.
When I fit that one back in, I was like, “oh yay.” It didn’t really fit before, but now it worked, so I was happy to get it in there. But I don’t really feel that bad about leaving the other out [laughs].
It’s almost like that William Burroughs method of shuffling words around. You’re able to add stuff in and move it around, and it adds to the relatively linear nature of the story?
I think so, yeah. It would be like, if you reach a point in the sequence, and the transition from one image to the next didn’t quite work, then I knew that something had to be added in there. And sometimes that meant drawing a whole new page, and sometimes it meant finding something that had previously been there that worked now. There’s a lot of back and forth and figuring out what needed to go in so that it would flow properly.
I have the book in front of me now—when you’re talking about the differences in styles, the beginning of the book looks a lot more like The Blot than it does by the end.
Right. Yeah. I wanted that to happen, but at the same time it kind of happened naturally, and I was really happy to see it happen. I think the idea of the book from the beginning was kind of about kind of evolving away from The Blot and that style that I was working in. So I’m glad to see that that actually happened.
You’re speaking specifically about the artistic style? The Blot was a lot more influenced by classic cartoonists like EC Segar. Is that what you were moving away from?
Yeah, a little bit, but I still love that stuff. With The Blot, it felt like that story works better in that style. It needed to be that classic cartoon style. The idea was that I was playing with it. This story was totally different. I don’t think it would work in a more cartoony comic book style, so it had to become something else.
For the most part, I’ve always been interested in finding different styles and ways of approaching new ideas. It wasn’t like I ever thought I’d be drawing like that forever I think that’s a difference between me and a lot of cartoonists. A lot of cartoonists develop their signature style, and then they use that to tell a lot of their stories. It’s more in the tradition of cartooning. I like to let the stories tell me how the art should be expressed, maybe more in the tradition of fine arts. Neither is better or worse. I think many people expected me to continue to draw everything like The Blot, and I enjoy drawing that way and may return to it, but I’m more interested in evolving and trying different things. Sometimes It’s comics, sometimes It’s something else.
There are obviously some stylistic differences between The Wolf and The Blot, but there are also some obvious similarities, in terms of storytelling.
Yeah, I think so, too. I think there’s a continuation there—throughout most of my work there’s a continuing thread. I’m always interested in trying out a new style—or not really even trying, as much as seeing what happens. I’m working on a short story right now. It’s the first time that I’m working with a writer, and I’m not sure how it is going to look yet. I’m just sort of doodling away in my sketchbook, trying to figure out what kind of style would best represent that story.
It hasn’t happened yet. I haven’t figure it out yet, so we’ll see what happens.
Is that going to be a little more traditional, in terms of comic book storytelling?
Possibly. That’s a little more up in the air at this point. We’ll see. I just read the script the other day. I think it’s a mostly wordless comic. I think there are a few words, here and there. I think writer is mostly open about what the end result will be. It might be more standard comic book pages.
I definitely want to do more of that. I’ve got several ideas about what I want to do next. But I haven’t figure out what yet [laughs].
[Continued in Part Three]