Making a comic is more than putting together words and images into a book. It takes grit, sound judgement and the ability to identify and collaborate with talents. Neil Gibson, Editor-In-Chief and Publisher, TPub Comics, tells us how it’s done at MCM Comic Con.
Neil Gibson is a master of unexpected twists and surprises. Reading his comics is like watching The Twilight Zone. He is Edgar Allen Poe but his gothic is modern, inspired by reality. Gibson grew up in Qatar as a child. The social inequality he had seen – stranger than fiction, no doubt – motivated him to write.
Through his stories, you get into the mind of an angry migrant worker, a Japanese train staff, a mental health patient and a rich psychopath.
He was at MCM Comic Con to promote the book he authored, Twisted Dark, and to tell us how to put together a comic book. In the session “TPub: How to make comics”, he explained that there are three things to bear in mind when creating a comic: content creation, distribution and marketing.
Does it sound interesting? Ideally, a good story makes you think: “I wish I had written that.”
Pay attention to devices such as dialogue, plot, characters and universe when telling a story. In comics, pacing can be established in the panel arrangement. A good story permits an overlap of creative vision and editors’ guideline – what Gibson called a “happy point”. There is a house style for script writing. Follow that. Remember to structure the story in three parts: beginning, middle part, ending. If you don’t do that, you’ll fly by the seat of your pants.
A choice of shot, quality or style, and clarity. Gibson found that manga can be lacking in clarity in some instances because of its style: too much attention can be paid to a detail in a panel, obscuring the story. Panel by panel art can be too slow for you to get to the point.
A balance of palette, lighting and texture. Palettes are like musical notes: they must be in harmony. Good artists will decide on a palette before starting on a comic book.
“Palettes are like musical notes: they must be in harmony.”
Gibson said his first effort fell flat because he didn’t brief the artists about lighting requirements. Tell them if the tone should be bold or otherwise. Frank Miller offers the best example. He is a master of shadow. He highlights the essential details in the story, with the rest hidden in the shade. The rest of the story is completed in your mind.
Texture makes a difference to the background detail.
Lettering is important. It’s best not to have too many words or grammatical mistakes. Follow the golden rule of the order reading of a story. If it’s manga, the reading is from right to the left. Typically, comic panel is read is read in zig-zag or in L shape. The font types matter. Thor’s speech balloon is done in Celtic script. The Sandman’s Morpheus has his words visualised in white letters against black balloon.
8. Sourcing collaborators
Know thyself. If drawing is not your strong suit, find an artist who does it better. Don’t expect people to work for free. If you can’t afford an artist, you can use apps to convert photos into illustrations.
“Don’t expect people to work for free.”
Print or digital? Webtoon is the biggest publisher of comics in the world. You can use that as a channel of distribution. If you want to go for prints, do realise that they are expensive. First, you need litho printing. Some publishers would be able to facilitate this for you.
Check out your potential audience and plan campaigns via event, digital or print to drive readers to bookshops or online shops.
How do you deal with rejections?
Story Of Books had to ask this question because we think many creators, creative directors, authors, editors and marketers would like to know the answer. We all deal with rejections at many levels.
Gibson said his fans keep him going. He is motivated by encouraging fan mails. That got him through the complaints. Some people like your work, some don’t, he said. Focus on those who love your work.
“Focus on those who love your work.”
Is the comic creator closer to films or novels?
This question was asked because Gibson went into details about the leit motif used in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, in particular the fish tank scene in which the two characters meet for the first time. He found the comic creator to be somewhere in the middle. The difference is the film has 24 frames per second for the director to fill in the action. The comic creator paces it out using panels.
Advice on world building?
People that build worlds aren’t necessarily good at storytelling, Gibson reminded us. It’s a skill on its own. If you write a fantasy, make a checklist of what the characters do so you don’t lose the plot. Gibson is more interested in plots than in world building. “My strength is plot,” he said.
You can check out the video inspired by Twisted Dark on YouTube. This short was directed by Jamie Childs, the director of Doctor Who:
About TPub Comics
- Free presentation: You can request for a free copy of Gibson’s presentation by contacting him at TPubs.com. To sign up, go to https://tpub.co.uk/mcm-london-signup.
- Competition: You can also take a Twisted Dark challenge. For more details, go to https://tpub.co.uk/twisted-dark-challenge.
- Website: https://tpub.co.uk
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/TPubComics
- Kickstarter: The Traveller
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