Making a graphic novel the Logicomix way

Last Spring, I embarked on a graphic novel... and went about it completely the wrong way. At the beginning, I was keen to produce some completed pages as fast as possible, mostly so I would have something to show to people; it's pretty embarrassing to work on a graphic novel for three months and then someone asks to see your progress and all you've got is a pile of sketches and a dull-sounding script. Unfortunately, the 'produce some slick, colourful pages as fast as possible' was a disaster and I gave up after two months. Here's a list of some of the mistakes I made with that approach:

1) I didn't have a complete script before I started drawing. As a result, ten pages of full illustrations into the story, I developed the next stage in the story and realised that parts of the existing story, now fully illustrated, would have to be rewritten to fit the new developments. Argh!

2) One chapter in, I sketched out the rest of the tale and realised that it was petering into nothing. The story idea seemed good at the beginning but it now had no heart, no power and no future. All the existing pages may as well be thrown away. Argh!

3) I hadn't done illustration for a while and was therefore rusty. If I had sketched the whole story first, it would have been a great way to gain practice and develop a consistent style. Instead, I was drawing a page, inking it, colouring it, laying it out and writing the next section, all before I'd sketched another page. As a result, my drawings were rusty and inconsistent, causing endless re-drawing of existing work as I progressed. Argh!

That's probably enough 'Arghs!' for now. But if that's not the way to create a graphic novel, what is? Does someone write the script, hone the script, then illustrate it? Should the creator write and draw together so that the visuals are always meshed with the text?

Fortunately, the creators of Logicomix - an excellent graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and the quest for the foundations of logic and mathematics - made a short documentary on how they created their graphic novel. As the documentary shows, they began by writing the script, honing the scripts, then adding visual notes to the script as part of its migration into a visual story. Once they were happy with that stage, the main artist drew a simple visual version of the story, then a full pencil illustration. When they were happy with the full pencil version, ink lines were added to the pictures along with dialogue bubbles. Finally, colour was added and the book was complete.


Here's part 1 of the short documentary:



Here's part 2:


Here's part 3:



The Logicomix creators seem to have developed a professional and sensible approach, but it's a little daunting. They created the graphic novel with a team of two writers, a pencil artist, two inkers, a colourist and a researcher/letterer. Seven people! Then again, Logicomix is 350 pages long, so that was probably a sensible idea all round.

The reason I'm thinking about all this now is because I'm currently planning a new graphic novel. It's likely to be in a similar artistic style to Logicomix, using the ligne clair or 'clear line' style made most famous by Herge and his creation Tintin. I'm busy producing a full script as we speak.

As an example of how the style might look in the graphic novel, here's a sketch I produced during the Arvon graphic novel course I attended in 2010:



There won't be a frog in this new story, well, at least not a talking one. I'm hoping I can take a few production short-cuts. I'm going to create the graphic novel by myself and I'm happy to use the latest technology such as a Cintiq tablet for direct digital drawing so that may streamline the process significantly.That's about all I can say about it for now. I don't want to get everyone's hopes up too high in case it all comes to naught. Look what happened last year! Hopefully though, this time I'll be able to go the distance. I would be immensely pleased if I could become the author of a published graphic novel.

Enjoy the day!

p.s. I've just read my blog entry again from 2010, detailing how I would approach doing my graphic novel in 2011. I had planned its creation in a sensible way! To quote:

"The first stage will be to write a detailed plot description. I'll then write the script. After that, I'll put together a pencil sketch version of the story. Finally, when all that's done, I'll produce the artwork."

Doh!