Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Independents: A Guide for the Creative Spirit (2007)

Why make comics? Especially as an independent creator? While comics have become much more respectable in recent years, you're going to spend too much time explaining the art form to people. You're unlikely to make much money doing so (and, in fact, it's much more likely you're going to lose money). You can't really expect to get famous, although if you're lucky, you'll get the respect and admiration of a group of fans and of your peers.

Why make comics? You make comics because you love it. You make comics because you can't imagine not making comics.

Now, I personally do not make comics (I did once, with a friend, when we were 17, but that was it). I read enough of them, though, and I've met enough creators to know that these people have stories to tell and they can't tell them any other way. Many are great writers and many are great artists, but it's through the unique combination of words and artwork that something completely new happens -- it's intimate, immediate and affecting in ways other media can never be.

Chris Brandt's 2007 documentary talks with a diverse group of creators -- everyone from Wendy Pini (Elfquest) and Kevin Eastman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) to Craig Thompson (Blankets and the upcoming Habibi) and Jessica Abel (La Perdida) as well as behind-the-scenes people like Scott Allie of Dark Horse Comics, Dan Vado of Slave Labor Graphics (SLG Publishing) as Gary Groth of Fantagraphics and even San Francisco comic book retailer James Sime of Isotope Comics.

It's not the most exciting documentary you'll ever see, no. It's framed by unnecessary sequences with Yale Ph.D. James Kaufman giving some psychological background into the creative impulse, but mostly, it's just a documentary of people talking to the camera. Everyone, for the most part, has intelligent things to say, though, and it is edited extremely well -- segments are neither too long or too short and lead into each other thematically. Of course knowing who these creators are (even in passing) probably makes it more interesting, but at less than 80 minutes, it goes by very quickly.

This is a small movie -- in production values, in subject matter -- and it's clearly not going to change anyone's life. But it may change someone's mind about comics. And for those of us still needing ways to explain all of this to people, I think this documentary is a good starting point.

(The website for this movie is selling it as Comic Book Independents: The Creative Power of the Graphic Novel. As far as I can tell, it's the same movie. I went with this title because it's the version I have.)

No comments:

Post a Comment