Just a few years ago, graphic novels were just an often ignored subsection of comics. Today, Book Expo America placed a spotlight on four soon to be released graphic novels. Panel participants Zack Giallongo, Mark Siegel, Raina Telgemeier, and Noah Van Sciver discussed their creative process as well as the industry at large.
Zack Giallongo cited Jim Henson as one of his many sources of inspiration. His graphic novel, Broxo started out as a webcomic before moving to print.
Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain is a 19th century romance. He was afraid of audiences rejecting the slow building story before they even read it. Growing up in France exposed him to many comic influences rarely heard about for American comic book fans.
Memories of school heavily influenced the story of Raina Telgemeier’s Drama. Reading Manga and newspaper comics such as FoxTrot and Calvin and Hobbes cemented her vision as a black and white artist. Telgemeier said Drama’s plot is “funneling backwards my high school experience.” Dealing with adolescence in writing aimed towards middle schoolers is a delicate process. She said Scholastic editors convinced her to remove a passing PMS reference in an earlier graphic novel.
Noah Van Sciver said ”comics is something you do as a kid and you never stop.” He didn’t want his graphic novel The Hypo to be yet another book about Abraham Lincoln. Many elements of the narrative and illustration were designed to set the story apart from the crowd. He opted for black and white rather than the usual sepia tone color work for 19th Century material.
The panelists debated and discussed two main ideas in great detail:
Self Publishing vs. Mainstream Publishing
- Broxo and Sailor Twain started out as webcomics before moving to print. Webcomics are the newest way many artists are gaining fans and publicity for their works. Years ago, artists relied on cheap printing and word of mouth for self publishing.
- Total control of every stage of the process is the main benefit of self publishing.
- All of the panelists agreed that mainstream publishing reduces the hassle of distributing comics and graphic novels.
- Telgemeier likes being published by Scholastic because they are “experts in getting books into kids’ hands”.
- While mainstream editors have a reputation in the comics world for being uncaring or micromanaging, all of the panelists have had the opposite experience.
- Siegel believes a good editor is “a coach from the sidelines”. Giallongo agreed and said he will “not claim to know the best thing for a story at all times.”
- All of the panelists found the constructive criticism from editors and multiple readers of a work invaluable.
Spacing Of Action/How A Graphic Novel Is Made
- Telgemeier finds the process of figuring out which panels get more action than others “challenging and exhilarating”.
- Siegel used cheap notebooks and standard pencils to sketch thumbnails wherever he went.
- Giallongo cited a C.S. Lewis quote about stopping to think about tying a tie in relation to how the creative process works. The process is hard to explain and analyzing it ruins the work.
- Van Sciver, Giallongo and Telgemeier worked from thumbnail sketches to write the script. Siegel on the other hand scripted out his story before drawing thumbnails.
The panel ended fittingly with an audience member asking BEA to give graphic novelists expanded attention at the convention. They envisioned an entire area of exhibits, panels, and other programming devoted to graphic novels in the future.