Evan Dorking on Storytelling

I’ve never done this before but I really should because I think it’s a valuable log for inspiration that sometimes gets lost on the social media ether (or, at least, I do it for myself to keep a constant reminder)

I’ve been a fan of Evan Dorkin’s work (and the man himself) for a while now. I like his art style, his acid and cynical sense of humor that resonates perfectly with me. And, of most recently, following him on Twitter and reading him when he goes at it about the comics business. Not in a bitter way, but as someone who loves it and sometimes feels frustrated or disappointed with it (I think).

Yesterday Mr. Dorkin had a little 26 part Twitter, ramble? rant? “slap you awake if you want to work in comics” session? which I think it’s quite important to preserve for anyone interested in working in this painstaking mistress we call comics.

I present it to you guys almost untouched. Just grouped them into paragraphs, completed words that Mr. Dorkin had to cut due to twitter space constraints and put some parts in bold that I feel need special emphasis (but that might be me thinking as a letterer).

Quick Twitter jump-in. Bear with me here, OK? So, Here’s the thing: (Sarah Dyer) & I are looking at a lot of artists’ work for a project. So many artists out there nowadays, doing so much engaging artwork.

BUT (pro tip time): Amazing art doesn’t necessarily = amazing comics.

Please, please, please, and I say this knowing more good comic artists means more competition for technically unsound guys like me: If you want to be a comic artist, don’t spend all your time doing pin-ups. That isn’t comics. Sounds simple. Many of you don’t get it.

I don’t care how many people out there are getting work without doing storytelling or backgrounds or mood or character or acting or action. If you don’t know how to at least grapple with that stuff, approach it and make it part of your skill set, you will not last in comics.

I say that not just as a person who’s made comics and reads comics, but as a writer — writers, like editors, work with artists (duh). Your pin-up of Dr. Who or Spock or a Game of Thrones character or whoever might look lovely as all get-out & sell well. It isn’t comics.

So many of you young folks out there draw better figures and people than me. I don’t worry about it, because that’s all you draw. No settings, no backgrounds, no differentiation in character, body language, etc — Can’t use you. Too many like you. You’re not drawing comics.

Years ago I was sitting at my fan table sketching at a NYC con. A guy slapped his portfolio down to show everyone he was better than me. He drew very well, in the then-current style. He drew rings around me. My drawing was shit-awful back then. I’m in comics. He is not.┬áSome reasons: He didn’t draw actual comics. He drew pin-ups (Also: He was a complete jackass). I worked to get better. I got better.

Why my not-so-great art doesn’t sink me: I write. I work hard. I tell a story. I know my limitations. I tell a story. I tell a story. Get your act together if you want to make comics for real. Want to sell Adventure Time prints at cons for another fifteen years? Relax then.

I’d rather work with someone good and giving their all to tell a story, than the best artist in the world who doesn’t. Or can’t. It shows. It does show. All the beautifully-drawn standing-around-in-space comics look like crap next to living, breathing personality-driven art. Wonky art by a believer is better than perfect art from a machine, if you follow. Great chops aren’t all that matters in drawing comics.

Hope that helps someone. It should be obvious, but we do without thinking, and we get into grooves, get praise for that one thing we do well. Comics isn’t about doing one thing well, unless you want to be Jim Davis on Garfield. I’d like the money, but fuck the rest of that. Real comics is the package. The people, the place, the time, the clothes, the joke, the timing, the pacing, the mood, EVERYTHING. That’s some hard shit to be in charge of and deal with and carry off. A lot of people can do it, you own their books.

Are you doing it?

Finally, that doesn’t mean you have to be Tezuka, Chaland, Mignola or a Hernandez Brother (or whoever makes you weak in the knees). Charles Schulz was perfection and he didn’t draw muscles or cars. Kate Beaton doesn’t draw vast, detailed cities. But it’s all there.

So lose the pin-ups if you want to draw comics. Seriously. You’re great at it, but it isn’t comics. It’s pin-ups. Go work more better.

Last thing: Think about writing your own work. Why? Because my hand’s in a wrist brace, and I’m still making comics. Also: Control, baby.

Make sure to follow Evan Dorkin on Twitter @evandorkin

Mario A.~