We’ve got another Tuesday! And the temperatures are starting to fall here in Tucson. [To be quite honest, I’m thankful for it.]
This week we have another short one. Let’s call it a fastball special, shall we? This week’s question: what is the least you need to know?
Sounds strange, doesn’t it? What’s the least amount of information you need to know in order to create comics?
Usually, I’m the opposite: more is better. More knowledge is best, in my opinion, but not everyone’s. So, when you strip it all away, what’s the least you need to know in order to get a project done?
It really depends on the project and your role in it. Right now, I’m going to talk about “only’s”. If you are “only” a writer or “only” a letterer. We’re going to throw the editor right out of the discussion, because they have to know as much as possible about everything.
I’m also going to kick out the self-publishers. As a self-publisher, you still need to know as much as possible about the process.
Simply put, the least amount you need to know is how to do your job. Very often, this is more than enough.
When doing your job is the only thing you have to do, then you have to do your job to the best of your ability. You have to know as much as possible about your job in order to be an “only.” If you’re only a writer, then you have to know how to write. As many a creator who’s gone through The Proving Grounds will tell you, writing comics is much more difficult than just putting words on paper. You have to know how to tell a story in words that can then be translated into pictures, all while taking the medium into account and playing to its strengths and minimizing its weaknesses.
If you’re only a writer, you have to know the story you’re telling, how to progress the story [move the plot], develop the characters, have realistic dialogue, learn pacing for the panel/page/scene, know where to put a splash page, know how to place a double-page spread, know how many words will fit comfortably in a balloon/panel/page… That’s a lot to know. All of that is on top of telling a good story that’s decently researched.
If you’re only an artist, your knowledge base has to be broad, as well as have a ton of reference materials for everything you can get your hands on. Animals, cars, trucks, guns, architecture, city planning, interior design… All of that is just to heighten the base of anatomy, perspective, costume design, and storytelling. [These are broad strokes. Each of these have a subset of knowledge that needs to be known in order to do the job well.]
What does knowing the least amount get you?
Sometimes, it gets you a dinosaur. As a creator, you can be an “only,” but unless you’re damned good at your job, you’re going to be left behind by a lot of your contemporaries. I’m not talking about being someone like Ray Dillon. Ray can do it all: write, draw, ink, color, and letter, as well as be a businessman and a cheerleader for indie creators. If you’re an “only”, you probably aren’t working hard enough.
Personally, I believe the only ones who can be “only’s” are pencilers who have multiple drawing styles, and colorists who know multiple coloring styles. If you’re a penciler and only know your one style, learn how to ink. If you’re a writer, learn how to letter. Anything that can help you get further than your contemporaries [who, in a lot of ways, are also your competition].
You can be an “only”, but you have to be very good at what you do. You have to throw your all into it. You’ll have to know everything you can about your job.
What’s the least you need to know? Only you can answer that. But, just like they used to say in the television commercials, “The More You Know…”
That’s all I’ve got. See you in seven.