Inside the Mind of a Comic Writer
Australian comic writer Christian Read, creator of the comic titles Eldritch Kid, The Witch King and The Watch, has spent his years dedicating himself to creating stories for comic fans around the globe.
Christian first discovered a liking for comic book writing through his constant childhood comic collecting and reading of comics. Now a successful comic writer, he enjoys life writing for Australian comic publishing company Gestalt Comics. He disturbingly describes his method of working for them as follows:
"It’s great! I can do what I want and work in my underpants! However, if you miss a deadline they beat you with a sack full of doorknobs. All the editorial staff are monsters. Violent monsters. If you read this, send me help!"
In most comic book storylines, it’s usually a single event in a hero’s life that leads them to follow the correct path, discover their true potential and find where they stand in the world. Here's Christian's origin story:
"I did the classic thing of chasing girls for a while. That didn’t work out too well. So I got back into comics and in the early nineties the stuff I was reading was really exciting. I was getting into independent comics, so one day I thought, you know what? I have Ideas. I want to be a Writer. Let’s give it a go."
"A few years later a friend of mine wanted to publish and became a publisher, and so it went on from there."
Christian went on to publish the comics Dunwich: A Tale of the Cthulu Mythos, Witch King, The Watch and a few short pieces.
His experience also landed him at US publisher Dark Horse Comics, where he wrote stories for the Star Wars Tales comic.
In 2011 Christian's second Graphic Novel Eldritch Kid: Whiskey and Hate was released, as well as the first issue of his new supervillain noir comic, Unmasked.
His upcoming titles Karnak, which is a story about a supernatural investigator, and Legio Ex Mortis, which is kind of like if Asterix comics were invaded by flesh-hungry ghouls, are due to be released in late 2012.
Why Gestalt? Why not Marvel or DC?
You would think most comic writers would fantasise about or set out to go write for the two big dominant American comic companies DC (publishers of Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman comics) and Marvel (publishers of Spider-Man, Iron Man and Avengers comics). However, this proud Gestalt writer prefers to leave things the way they are and keep the bigger comic companies in the rear-view mirror.
"If you work for the big American companies, you’re pretty much doing what someone else tells you and you rarely own your own work. Did you know, legally, working for Marvel or DC you don’t count as an author? With Gestalt, I have the freedom to write what I want. I’m not told what to do, so the work is my own."
The Secret of Writing Comics (Precious...)
It’s weird to hear interviewees talk about the codes of secrecy they abide by to protect their working methods, however Christian has no problem breaking those codes when it comes to revealing how he creates his comic script.
Like Gollum from The Lord of The Rings, Christian tends to take a moment before explaining.
Christian: Precious, My sweet precious.
Christian: YOU CANNOT HAVE PRECIOUS! Oh - the interview...
"So I open the word processor then shout abuse at it and weep until the script is finished. Other than that, I work out a very detailed script with shots, comic terms, panels, all that stuff. The trick is getting the pacing right: the beats on the page, the rhythm of it all. That’s what comics do better than anything."
What a Good Comic Must Have
It’s always wise to ask for advice from people who have succeeded in the industry. They can offer insights into what to expect while pursing your dream. Christian finishes the interview by giving pointers about what a good comic should have.
"Great art, great story. Obviously. But to really succeed as a comic, you’ve got to use the tools of comics - not films, not prose. You’ve got to make it visually rich and exciting. But most importantly, you’ve got to have interesting characters, visually and emotionally."
"And I dunno… stick in a giant robot and a zombie. They never hurt."
Advice for Aspiring Comic Writers
Finally, Christian has some general advice for those who want to pursue a career in comic writing.
"Work hard. Make your deadlines. Read widely in the medium. Not just superheroes. Love comics. Take your medication. Make friends with artists. Once you have an artist, work closely with your artist. They’re an equal partner. Read the books about comic scripting and storytelling. Read professional scripts and find your own methods of storytelling."
"And then prepare for years of no money!"
Christian is a clear example that everything isn’t going to be always placed at your feet, and that you do have to work hard to achieve your dreams. It might take days, weeks, months or even years, but the more you work hard and the more you slave away, the closer you'll be to cracking jokes in an interview like this, and be proud to see your successes on display.
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Articles Written by Anthony G
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