I currently have three online comics or graphic novels. I don’t currently make any money from them and have not received any awards or job opportunities from them, so why do such a thing?
It’s very simple. I like to keep busy and learn new things. I love to tell stories and do art, and a graphic novel is a wonderful marriage between the two arts. I could never imagine spending my free time sitting around watching TV or playing videos games to pass my life away. While I do like a very limited number of TV programs and enjoy a few video games, I find those pursuits to be lacking in any real substance. What does one have to show for doing that? It’s okay for some mindless fun to de-stress from an awful day, but it is not something I could do happily hour after hour and day after day. So back in 2008 when I lost my job due to a person in the office going insane, I decided I needed something to look forward to while searching for new employment.
The first online comic was for practice and exploration. It is called Landsknechts Gone Wild! My husband had made these wonderful miniature props for plastic toys called Stikfas and I figured it would be fun to place them in comical situations. When one takes on a real life setup that has to create an illusion of an alternate reality, one really learns about photography. I had to select good angles to shoot from, lighting that would allow for the best affect for each scene, I had to be concerned about leaving space for the text bubbles, and then thinking about how the props and furniture would work with the characters. I think my photography skills have greatly improved and I developed a keen appreciation for the people that did stop motion animation. It is so easy for one object to fall over and ruin an entire setup in a matter of seconds.
The second online comic was a major step out of my comfort zone. It is called Order of the Red Cross. This graphic novel is hand drawn. While I love to draw and do what “art circles” would call fine art, I was by no means a commercial artist or one who was capable of drawing the same thing over and over. This was a daunting prospect to me, but I wanted to tell a story that could not be told with the little plastic figures, so I had to make the decision to attempt to draw the same characters and places over and over. I am still no where as good as a commercial graphic artist who draws comics for a living, but my drawings are getting better than when I first started. My husband does the colorization of the line drawings in Photoshop.
This second graphic novel has also been a major learning experience as well. I started with panels that are two to a page in a notebook, which I suspect is not how the professional comic book artists do their drawings. My original art starts out very small, and once I reach a certain stage in the story, I am considering changing this practice. I also bought some small very poseable humanoid figures to help me learn how to draw the characters in various positions since I did not want a dull static set of drawings where the characters are just seen talking to each other in a simplistic setting. For example, the Peanuts cartoon, which is one of my favorites is drawn very simply and the characters will stay in the same setting for several panels at a time being shown in the same point of view. I wanted my scenes to be more dynamic and engaging. After all my story was designed to be a science fiction action adventure, and if I placed my characters in a Charlie Brown and Linus leaning on a brick wall scene talking, then it would not be very adventure like, would it?
I am still learning how to drawing the characters over and over and struggling with poses and angles. Hopefully, the story itself is compelling enough to keep the reader’s interest and the artwork will catch up as time goes on.
The third graphic novel that I am working on is called Jagdgeschwader I. This is my historical project, which has turned out to be tougher than any of the others. The story itself is based upon historical data and past life data and I have merged the two together to present the story of the Germany’s first super flight squadron. In this graphic novel I wanted to have the pictures be as historically accurate as possible, which meant purchasing unusual books that are not commonly available in stores here in the US. The uniforms alone are a major undertaking to get done correctly. Most movies about World War One on the German side do not show the correct uniforms worn by the German fighter pilots. There was no real standard uniform for the airforce or Luftwaffe since the concept of a Luftwaffe was in its beginning stages. The navy and the army had air units within their command structures and not much stock was taken in the new machine called the airplane. Soldiers volunteered to join the flying units or observation units, so the pilots often wore the uniforms from their old regiments. And all the old regiments had distinct attributes that were centered around various types of cavalries, infantry, artillery and so forth with unique attributes to each uniform from the region that the regiments came from. In simple terms, not many of the uniforms matched. It has been a very complicated process, and sometimes I have had to guess on some uniforms because much of the data concerning German World War One history had been destroyed during World War 2.
Needless to say this left me needing to micromanage how my husband colored the pictures for the Jagdgeschwader I series. I had to develop pages in sketch books to develop certain color schemes and uniform styles for certain characters in the novel. At least I did make one improvement to my process for drawing the panels for Jagdgeschwader I, I placed one panel per sheet in the notebook. This has allowed me to draw the images bigger, which is vital since the Jagdgeschwader I panels are more sophisticated than the Order of the Red Cross drawings.
I now know that it will probably take me several years to complete these graphic novels, but I think when I am finally done that I will have something to be proud of and hopefully something that others will enjoy reading for many generations to come.
All three of them are currently shown on ObservationPost42.com, and I hope to have them published someday in paper bound books and in an ebook version as well.
G. Winkler © 2013