Ok. So it’s no news to anyone that the comic book world was something of a novelty for me when I arrived at Outland Entertainment. Yes, I was a comic book fan all along and I didn’t know, but being conscious and actively looking for out of the ordinary titles and cult classics to read was a long way coming.
Right now, I’ve finally started reading one that was on the top of my list: Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.
Here’s the thing: I’m already a Gaiman fan. His collection of short stories Fragile Things grabbed my attention with its lyrically beautiful stories and completely wacky tales. It clearly shows the range of tone and narrative style this author has to offer.
I was enthralled by the radio version of Neverwhere. Yes, it had to do with the talented performances and the whole production value of the piece. However, the metaphorical London I was introduced to, the one where the streets I know and love get a whole new and mysterious meaning was mesmerizing.
But I digress.
With Gaiman, we have an author that writes novels, graphic novels and non-fiction essays. Let’s stick to the fiction so we can try and establish some comparisons.
You can point out how the tone is similar. How Gaiman intertwines complex and bizarre characters and intricately woven narratives the same way, be it in novel or graphic novels.
You get the same satirical incisive critic over the human pettiness. The whole impact is there.
Nonetheless, it’s impossible to deny that the format dominates, I won’t go as far as to say the outcome of the story, but definitely the way it progresses and the freedom you have to imagine those worlds.
Let’s get Sandman’s example back on the table. You can’t avoid the way each character is seared into your brain with each stroke of the artwork that has breathed life into them. The illustrations, the way the panels are laid out on each single page… it all boils down to a specific experience—not too different from, say, watching a movie. You have a visual presence that guides you and influences the way you perceive the story. For better or worse, it has the power to limit your imagination.
When reading a novel, you are forced to construct that unique world on your mind. You devour the descriptions, the actions, the little details about each character or setting and build your own vision of what the narrative is. For even the more detailed and thoroughly descriptive author cannot control the mind of every single reader. The result:
intrinsically unique versions of each narrative.
Graphic novels give you visual inspiration, while novels give you more freedom to reinvent that world written in front of you.
Does that make one better than the other? You decide. For me, they are different experiences. Pure and simple, they’re alternative ways to consume a story.
Maybe there are stories that benefit more or are more adequate to one specific format than others. Even though I think that the potential in both formats is pretty much interchangeable.
Going back to my personal experience of reading Neil Gaiman’s tales, I like to be able to fabricate the look of the characters, the overall settings—maybe even add my personal details into the mix. However, it’s an enriching experience to devour the illustrations with all their colours and characteristic design traits of each artist. Yes, it’s the artist’s vision, not mine. But isn’t it remarkable how you can be deeply moved by the sheer beauty of a simple panel? Having said that, this can also happen with a plain sentence in the midst of a sea of letters.
So as you can see, I have yet to be converted to only one type of format. Better yet, I don’t want to! I do not want to be confined to one way of consuming stories. Give me freedom to create my own visions, yes, but also share your beautifully crafted ones.
We’re talking about sharing, about experiences, about taking the most out of a story. Milk a novel till it’s dry. Create all you can in your head. But don’t forget the pleaser it is to be guided panel after panel by streaks of colour, insightful lettering and overall awe worth layouts.
There. Novels vs. Graphic novels: you can compare them, you can have a favorite format, but you shouldn’t confine yourself to only one.
P.S.: Check out the previous posts of this series: I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know, How OE changed my perception of Comic Books, Diversity of Graphic Novel Genres: From Biographies to Philosophical Essays and Couture & High Fashion in Comics.
When you join the words fashion and comics I’m willing to bet that the result that assaults your head is pretty much the one where superheroes dominate the stories. This means a picture full of glaring colors and capes.
And no, not just the men. Zooming into some feminine characters, what we see is tight Lycra, nearly invisible shorts or skirts, curve fitting leather attire, sparkly bralets and the occasional high heel. It looks comfy and practical to go after or actually being one of the bad girls in this garments, doesn’t it?
Women fashion has been always stereotyped, even when it’s not filtered by fantasy or superhero settings. In narratives passed on the real world we jump from the “off-the-rack” bookworms, to the “funny/graphic t-shirts” geeks and the occasional “hot and preppy” cheerleaders. In other words an over simplified typification. That’s the problem: we’re not talking about types of things, we’re talking about characters that represent people with deep, ever evolving personalities.
But I’m not going to get all fussy about the way women are (sometimes brutally) stereotyped on most comic books. After all, we’re not short of examples (mainly from indie publishers, but nonetheless worthy for that!) of strong idiosyncratic female characters! Hurray for that!
No, I’m going to tell you how happily surprise I was when I found out an example not only of fashion in comics, but of couture: delicate, swoon worthy high fashion.
“Girl in Dior”, by Annie Goetzinger , shows us the creative buzz behind the beginnings of the Dior house of fashion, through the story of new chronicler Clara, rapidly turned model. Following this fictional character leads us deep into Dior’s fashion world. Flowing gowns are flaunt on delicate characters and water colored realistic backgrounds.
We are given a front row seat in Christian Dior’s adventure in high fashion, between 1947 and 1957.
This book alone is reason to bring a whole group of fashionistas to the world of comics. The accurate biography with its beautiful illustrations, allows for a healthy voyeuristic peek into the high fashion universe.
I’m not saying this is the best book ever. But if you know someone who loves fashion and might not be into comics yet, get them a copy. I’ve tried and it worked: a fashion blogger has recently been converted into a comic junkie!
Of course that if you yourself are a fashion addict, odds are you’ve already heard about Goetzinger venture through Vogue or a comic review somewhere else.
This shows the importance of the variety of themes, genres and artwork on graphic novels. There’s one for every subject in our life and they’ll be featured on the right news outlet – even if you have to dig a little bit for an over simplified two-liner piece of news, but hey, it’s better than seeing these works being constantly ignored. Sometimes you just haven’t found the right artist or the narrative that will resonate with you and suck you into the rich universe comic books.
P.S.: Check out the previous posts of this series: I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know, How OE changed my perception of Comic Books and Diversity of Graphic Novel Genres: From Biographies to Philosophical Essays.
Over the past few posts I’ve talked about how surprised I was when I discovered the wide range of genres addressed within the comic book format.
From deep psychological thrillers to political essays, passing through (auto)biographies, comics have lend themselves to become nearly factual accounts like any novel. However, the plasticity this medium has to offer allows for strong metaphorical approaches. Our world is visually distorted, real people morph into animal creatures, their actions mirrored by funny or weird/odd/outlandish behaviors.
When talking about political comic books, the first title that comes to mind is “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” by Art Spiegelman. The hard critique enlaced in irony while approaching such a dark and delicate subject is known by its stark crisp visual style and incisive/scathing/sharp narrative. I know it is majorly considered a biographical work, but for me the theme of anti-Semitism prods my bleak political consciousness.
The story sparks a strong emotional response and is an obvious example of the resort to anthropomorphism to highlight the different ethnical groups and how they were treated.
And let’s not forget that Maus was the first graphic novel to be awarded a Pulitzer, in 1992. This achievement is proof of not only the high quality of this specific work but also the powerful reach a graphic novel can have.
Another example that crosses the lines between the political and coming-of-age genres is “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. As an autobiographical graphic novel, “Persepolis” it has a delves into Satrapi’s childhood and her life as a young adult in Iran. This means dealing with all the political commotion of Iran after the Islamic revolution.
Besides winning multiple awards, like the Angoulême Coup de Coeur Award, in 2001, this narrative was adapted into a 2D animation film with the same name. Satrapi wrote and directed the film. As a movie, it was recognize in multiple festivals which in turn helped solidify the comics recognition as one of the most well-known stories of its format and genre.
There are also a specific themed series like SelfMadeHero’s “Art Masters series“.. So far, you can immerse yourself in Pablo Picasso’s early years with “Pablo“ or explore the creative turmoil of Munch, Rembrandt and Vincent. These graphic biographies use the artists’ unique styles as the visual matrix of each book, so you experience their story not only through the narrative but also by the intrinsic characteristics of the illustrations. Whether you’re an art buff or just curious about one of these characters, these graphic novels are a wonderfully immersive way to delve into these unusual personas’ lives.
Memoirs, (auto)biographies, historic, fiction or in a mix of genres, graphic novels reach us through many different angles. This dynamic format allows us to delve into fantastic superhero filled worlds, but more and more comics offer us the opportunity to explore relevant current subjects of our own very real world.
P.S.: Check out the previous posts of this series: I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know and How OE changed my perception of Comic Books.
As I told you on the first article of this new segment, I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and I Didn’t Know it for quite a while.
Things sort of slowly became clearer during my college days, but it wasn’t until starting to work in the biz that I truly began to dip my toes back in the dynamic comic book waters.
I still remember the moment of opening the folder with all the projects in the pipeline and flying through them all. One of the stories that was more developed at the time was Ithaca. I read it all in one go and was hungry for more.
At Outland Entertainment, I was presented a huge array of creatives each one with a very unique voice, be it as a writer or an illustrator. Mars 2577, Nightfell, Blacklands, Aegisteel, these are all projects that showed me the different facets of comic book creation.
It wasn’t just sci-fi or violence: no, there was room for a multiplicity of genres and visual styles of every kind.
When some of our IPs started coming out as webcomics on a weekly basis, I had to do some market research of what was going on in this field. That led me to multiple webpages like HiveWorks. And there I was baffled by the choice! So many artists, so many genres and styles of writing and artwork.
It was a big turning point: no longer did I had to rely solely on my friends reviews, but I had first-hand overview of so many projects! I got to interview all the creators from O.E., here for the blog. I have always loved the backstage! How someone became who he is professionally? Where did the idea of the story come from? And I was lucky enough to ask all these questions. In return I dare to say that my knowledge of the comic book universe increased exponentially!
And where has that lead me? To a huge appetite for reading more and more comics, of course! It wasn’t instantaneously, but I found myself perusing the comics section of the bookstores not only “out of professional interest” but because I found them inspiring.
This must be obvious for most of you , but before starting at Outland Entertainment, I didn’t know how similar the cinematographic language was to the one used in comics. They remind me of a really fancy and detailed storyboard. I know, I know! They’re much more than that! They’re an artistic medium of their own. But through the eyes of someone who came from an audiovisual production background they really hit home.
I suppose that being a transmedia creative producer also feeds this need. I’m now itching to work up a universe where a comic book will help explore things even further. And if you ever attended a book fair, you’ll see that all of these artistic forms are connected nowadays. Take the London Book Fair, for example. They run the London Book and Screen Week simultaneously. You have professionals from game studios at the actual fair and lots of extra events that join this two worlds, once so further apart, of pages and screens. Comics are finally being increasingly recognized for the dynamic and expressive format they are.
But I’ll talk about these changes further along the line!
Now, take a moment and check out the interviews I mentioned! There are a lot of creatives: authors, illustrators, designers…whose stories will inspire you.
And if you haven’t read the first post of this series give it a go and learn how I Was a Comic Book Fan All Along and Didn’t Know .
If you asked me, I wouldn’t probably say I was a hardcore fan of comic strips or comic books…but I was. No, I wasn’t ashamed of my hobby, I just had the wrong assumption that only the people who read those big famous names like “Superman”, “Spiderman” or “X-Men (the ones I saw as animated cartoons every weekend on the clock!) were worthy of being called “comic book fans”. Only now I hear how ridiculous this sounds.
Although I did not read the mainstream superheroes or indie obscure comic books, I started by devouring one series: “Turma de Mônica” by Brazilian cartoonist Maurício de Sousa. I loved those simple stories about a small group of kids: Mônica with her anger management issues, Cebolinha always trying to take her iconic blue bunny away and failing miserably, Cascão with his fear from water, Magali eating a watermelon with two bites and all the pastries she could, and of course the other characters that came in comics from the same author. Penadinho, a nice ghost not too different from Casper, Bidu the intelligent and slightly sarcastic dog or Chico Bento from the inner state area who was written with the distinct Caipira accent – which means “bush cutter” accent.
“Mônica” reading “Turma da Mônica” – It’s inception!
Yes, you get it: I was deep in Brazilian kids’ lingo, knowing what their words meant back in Portuguese from Portugal – it might seem all the same too you, but believe me, there’s quite a difference. Think American vs British English.
I then started reading the strips launched online, so I guess one might say that was the first time I dwelled the webcomics world as well.
I also read (even though I wasn’t mad about them) the Disney Adventures: pure Portuguese, pure classical Disney characters from Mickey to Donald Duck, and, of course, Scrooge McDuck and the quests of his three grandnephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.
“Scrooge McDuck” and his famous pile of money.
After a while I upgraded and started reading “Garfield” by Jim Davis . After tons of books about the conundrums of the fatty cat and lasagna in landscape format, square format, A6 format…the stories all started to sound pretty much the same.
The different sizes of “Garfield”.
So it was time to read about the universal questioning “Mafalda” written and drawn by the Argentinean cartoonist Quino. The comic strips count with the scathing tone of a precocious 6-year-old girl talking to her parents and her friends about Global problems and, why not, the big issue of having to eat soup.
The dilemmas of “Mafalda”.
It was only when I got to college and made new friends that I truly saw another side of the comic book universe. “V for Vendetta”, “Cat Woman”, Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman”: a world of adaptations and expansions of TV and film sagas as well as original stories, in such a more dynamic way than a novel. I discovered the shops and little bit of the collector’s culture. You know? The one where each issue is carefully stored in a specially-for-this-purpose-only plastic folder? No sweaty fingers allowed in the vicinity.
And when I got into the Outland Entertainment team THEN it all expanded multiple times. The work our artists had already done, the works (some still under wraps I’m afraid) we were going to be a part of and be involved in their development. The webcomics, the awesome gripping, eccentric, fantastic characters. And, when attending a book fair I’d be more open to hear talking about comics and you know what? I love them! It’s an amazingly dynamic and expressive format for narratives.
“Nightfell” by Nicolás Giacondino and Jeremy Tolbert.
“Aegisteel” by Mat Nastos and Jeremy Mohler.
So please, do join me in this new path of discovery. I’ll be pouring my “Newbie” views on the comic book Universe right here every fortnight.
How about you? What was the first comic strip/book you read? Is it still your favorite?
Let us know in the comments below or via our social media channels (Twitter or Facebook).
P.S.: Featured image from this page.
AEGISTEEL is the first wholly original property published by Outland Entertainment, written by Mat Nastos, illustrated by Alan Gallo and myself (Jeremy Mohler), and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.
I can’t begin to express how excited I am to have Outland publishing this beast and to have helped design and bring Mat’s world to life. It’s been a lot of fun having the chance to play in this world and I’m looking forward to sitting down and digging into the actual main series. I’m just now getting started on layouts for the first issue and man, it’s going to be fun!
AEGISTEEL has had something of an interesting course to life. I talk a lot about it over here, actually. I also share a lot of the character designs and concepts that I worked on with the writer, Mat Nastos, so be sure to check out that blog post.
A little bit about the world –
AEGISTEEL is a spellpunk adventure set in the world of the Aegisteel Empire, a society of steel and magic built on the backs of its soldiers and terrible war machines. Think of it as DIRTY DOZEN meets SMOKING ACES set in a war-torn SPELLPUNK world.
When the Theln Empire captures the ancient Aegisteel forges at Nelvynnal, veteran marksman Broderick Longbarrel is released from Blackgate Prison and given one last chance for redemption. Tasked with infiltrating the ancient and impenetrable fortress, Longbarrel ans five former death row inmates must succeed before the Theln can begin production of the giant war-golems that could shift the balance of the war.
Below are the layouts and some additional designs I did for the project –
And below are the first eleven pages, fully colored and lettered!
The book is also now available digitally over here!
You can also purchase the limited edition Amazing Las Vegas Convention cover in print here!
And you can also get a 14″x20″ poster over here!
Hope you like it!