At the heart of storytelling for comics lies the relationship between language and image. A comic is defined by that particular mix of the two that makes it a comic. But when you try to pin that relationship down, it gets slippery! Comics can morph from Posy Simmonds’ prose-hybrid Gemma Bovery to “silent” stories like Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man without anyone batting an eyelid.
These two examples lie on opposite ends of a huge storytelling spectrum that sometimes feels too broad for one medium to contain comfortably. When we say “comics”, it really encompasses a lot! Despite this amazing diversity of expression, the idea that comics lack cultural or literary merit is still common, and the lack of public understanding about comics is still startling.
They start with a few stones and before you know it, it’s too late… here’s a visual depiction of the aftermath of this re-write in stages!
Here’s another part of the process of making The Firelight Isle that I haven’t discussed much… the editor!
As I’ve mentioned before, the lovely and incredibly experienced David Fickling has been editing The Firelight Isle since very early on in its life. David has had an incredible career and knows story-telling inside out… he’s helped to take The Firelight Isle from a collection of related themes, character sketches and events, to a genuine story, all without directly suggesting what I should do with the writing, or where the plot should go. Here’s a little snippet from his bio:
In his first job at Oxford University Press he signed up Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke, and has published Philip’s books ever since, including the multi-million selling His Dark Materials trilogy. Later he set up Doubleday’s program of original children’s books: the launch list included Philip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson (whom David teamed up with artist Nick Sharratt). David is the man behind both the Goosebumps and Horrible Histories phenomenon, he remembers being told kids don’t like history! In more recent years he published Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (bestseller and award winning play) and John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Jenny Downham’s Before I Die and Andy Mulligan’s Trash – all international bestsellers and big time Hollywood movies.
He’s now publisher at the newly independent David Fickling Books, and I’m hoping that after The Firelight Isle has finished it’s run on the web, that it will eventually be collected by DFB into a lovely printed edition. The details and certainty of that publication are still up in the air though, because the way we’re approaching the creation of this story is as a whole… both David and I are keen that no corners are cut in the writing, and that (although the story is being released episodically) we approach the overall narrative with as much attention and care as any novel receives in editing. There’s no commitment to the book until it’s all top notch from beginning to middle to end, and last time we met, we agreed that the story needed quite a bit of work.
Given that, I’ve gone out on a limb somewhat in even drawing and publishing Chapter 1, but I feel that there are some concessions to be made for the webcomic format. I wanted to get the first part of the story out there so that I could gauge how the story was sitting as a series of stand-alone episodes and chapters, and I’m glad that I did. Having finished these 30 pages has really solidified how I see the characters and world, to the point where I don’t think my re-draft would have been effective if I hadn’t already finished Chapter 1.
The only snag with this method of creation is that webcomics should run to a tight schedule, but editing a 300+ page graphic novel runs to a different kind of time-table. David (having just set up a publishing company) is a pretty busy guy, and handing in a draft for him to look at means waiting until we can discuss it properly. I have a meeting set with him for the end of July, but until then I can’t really do anything more on The Firelight Isle.
This is kinda frustrating, so please bear with me over the next three weeks or so. I’ll be posting news about how things went after the meeting is done!
I’M DONE!!! This re-draft has ended up taking up a massive amount more time than I expected, but it’s fantastic to see it all together. The first third of the story is all in finished pages or thumbnails, the second third is a hybrid of thumbnails and script, and the last third (which has had the most re-working done to it) is all script. I’m pleased with how it’s all gone, I feel like the focus is much tighter and the story more engaging around the end of the second third/beginning of the last third. Now I just gotta run the gauntlet of edits…! More soon.
No new pictures to show this week, but hey, words are exciting too right? And I haven’t talked much about the writing process yet, cause the drawing had been so all-consuming up until now.
Last time I checked in, I mentioned having to redraft chapter 2. The redraft was necessary because actually knuckling down and drawing the first chapter of this story has had a much more profound impact on the way I think about the characters and their environment than I expected. Bringing the little nuances of finished storytelling into being – like contemplating the small, practical details of finished environments – has set all sorts of ideas tumbling in my head, and brought my grasp of the wholeness of the world of The Firelight Isle into sharp focus.
This may sound pretty vague… I mean the story has been written and thumbnailed, already. None-the-less, there are scenes later on in the story that I struggled with whilst writing them, and this nebulous new understanding I’ve arrived at has shed light on why that was the case. I’ve also worried on and off that the middle third of the story lacks focus, and the reasons for that have suddenly become very clear!
In what has been a slightly fevered few weeks of writing, I’ve dragged together all my old notes and put together a comprehensive and organised database of info on the story, updating details that have changed and adding new entries on culture, tradition, character and theme when appropriate.
Having done this means that I’ve been able to dig into the story, tighten up all the loose bolts and restructure the weaker sections… all without running into any frustrations other than the regular interruptions of life!
The rewrite is still in progress… I’ve restructured the whole story in synopsis form, and am now going through each chapter in detail, writing new scenes and editing dialogue on old ones. The final result will be a real Frankenstein’s monster of script, cut-up thumbnails, and notes-to-self, but I can’t wait to have it finished so I can start bringing life to Chapter 2!
So, last week I was at MCM Expo promoting The Firelight Isle! Here’s a quick snap of my table set-up:
I’m especially excited about the table cloth, which I got printed at woven monkey, (who had excellent customer service) and is actually a pattern that appears in the story a little later!
I had a great time, and the comic seemed to be received quite well. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by and chatted, bought a copy or got a sketch! I’m hoping to do October MCM as well, and I’ll be at Lakes and Thought Bubble later this year too!
On the down-side, exhibiting meant that I had to spend the twodays I would normally have spent working on the comic itself on preparation and travel, so no progress to announce for Chapter 2 yet. Watch this space!
Hello all! Progress on the next chapter is coming along – albeit slowly! I’ve had some major re-drafting to do that has had me scratching my head over exactly what’s going to be best for the comic. Originally a LOT happened in the next chapter, but I felt that I wasn’t giving it all enough space, and worried that it would be harder to connect to everything going on. Decompressing it comes with its own issues though, and it means that the shape and length of Chapter 3 has to change to compensate! It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle where putting a piece in changes the shape of all the other pieces… or, for anyone who has ever had the pleasure, tuning a guitar with a floating bridge. Here’s a preview of the thumbnails. I’m having to break the new pages down into tiny annotated sketches to see how they all fit before committing to anything!
Fantastic news! The Firelight Isle is being featured in The British Library’s new exhibition, Comics Unmasked. It opens today, and will be around until August, so there’s loads of time to have a look! It’s a beautifully designed show (supposedly the largest ever exhibition of mainstream and underground comics) and well worth going to see. The Firelight Isle is part of the digital comics display in the final room of the exhibition.
This ribbon wraps up the first chapter, and I’ve got a bit of rewriting to do on the next chapter, so I’ll be posting more about how that goes next week.