Yet These Hands Will Never Hold Anything … Except For Paper and a Pen

I was fully intending to let you all know that I was going to attend–and this time participate in–the 12 Hour Marathon Comic Book Marathon at the Comic Book Lounge and Gallery. However I ended up re-blogging–and blogging–about Pollychromatic’s Be Brave, Be Heard article instead, which was more than worth it seeing as it attempts to create a powerful visual symbol of female identity, voice and survival in the social and cultural climate of this particular era. So at this point, I have already participated in the Marathon and I want to talk about that, and my weekend.

I woke up early Saturday to gather some supplies together and check my email. When I came online, I saw that Julian Darius and Cody Walker published the first part to my article Yet Those Hands Will Never Hold Anything: Emiya Shirou as the Interactive Superhero of Fate/Stay Night on Sequart. You can look up Sequart through the link I just made or on my Blogroll: there are many interesting scholarly articles on themes, character analyses, and the history and influences in and of the comics medium. I have to say that this made my bright hot summer day before trekking out to the TTC and getting to the Lounge.

On the subway ride there, I spent some time writing out some notes as to what kind of story I wanted to sketch out. I am not much of a visual artist, as I’ve probably said before, but I was resolved to make something come from this Marathon. This was not the first time I’d attended, as I recounted in another entry of mine, but I actually made it earlier and prepared to get some work done.

The organizer of this event, Keiren Smith, met me as I came up the stairs and introduced me to the other creators already in attendance and heavily at work. I settled onto the black leather couch next to the washroom, took my shoes off, and took out the lined paper on my clipboard that I was writing stuff on earlier on the subway. I proceeded to make a few notes and create my captions and dialogue before my crude attempts at drawing the images and the panels around them.

Of course, it didn’t work completely as I planned. I was pretty tired from the heat and the fact that I’m not so used to being up and about as early as I had been. I also kept losing my pens. I got to socialize with some people from time to time and met new faces along with a few old ones. I took my entire box of business cards for Mythic Bios with me just in case as well. At first I was torn between socializing and getting this comic done. The comic itself evolved from an idea I came up with in another work not too long ago. Basically, this mo-fo–and I say this fondly–was going to be a first-person comic: where we as readers get to see the protagonist interact with other people and surroundings from his own perspective along with some helpful dialogue and captions along the way.

Yeah. My first comic in ages and I have to be experimental about it: just as the story was intended to be. It is the extension of a world that I began working on four or five years ago and it amazing to realize the point where you centralize a world of your creation so much that it actually extends itself outward: when it becomes the core of a growing reality.

Okay, so after clicking on the Creative Process Category part of this Blog entry just now, I’m going to go into more of what actually happened. Well, it fought me: naturally. I sat there and despite the snippets of quotes and ideas I had on the margins, I was stuck for a little while. I knew I had to make something at least twelve pages and that this would determine what story I would be able to tell. I was also a bit hot and I wanted to talk to people when I wasn’t pleasantly drowsy on the couch.

Finally, an artist I was sitting next to and chatting with, Megan Kearney, suggested the obvious that I was missing: that I should just create thumbnail sketches.

And that was when I began to draw my comic. I thought about my panels and, aside from the occasional rectangular ones, I did mostly three columns of two large square panels. Sometimes they were arranged differently, but most of the time they were just side-by-side patterns. I had to also think of how a first-person perspective would work. I mean, I had seen one before such as in the zombie apocalyptic graphic novel known as Daybreak, but I could only see the complications that my former Master’s thesis supervisor and I once talked about when he was comparing book narratives to comics and film.

But I did show my protagonist in a mirror and came up with a good line there. I also showed his … hands occasionally. Mostly, I was focusing on the narrative in the captions. I already accepted that my drawing would be basic at best, so I focused on the writing and the graphic pauses between visuals and that writing. It’s like what is said about Jeff Smith: in that he wrote and drew Bone as though he were telling a joke.

I also got to watch other artists and some of their creative processes at work. I saw some people with reference books and sketches. Megan herself was doing some water colouring of the project she brought with her. I saw a few people looking at books from the Lounge whom I didn’t get the chance to speak with. And I saw some people doing some very intricate work with paints and small inked cells on paper. Hell, some people were even inking their comics. It was insane and intense: in a lot of good ways.

The number twelve was both intimidating and painfully doable to me. Just twelve pages, I kept telling myself. Eventually, my thumb-sketching became my drawing and I just focused on telling a story. My concentration wasn’t all that great the entire time. Sometimes my mind wandered and I got tired. It became painfully apparent to me after a while, even after I ate the food that I brought akin to breakfast, that I needed to get something to eat or the only thing I would be writing would be ellipses. Sometimes I can power through creating something and then dealing with my body afterwards, but on that summer day on Saturday it was a bad idea.

At one point, at about the beginning of page five, I walked out of the Lounge and down Little Italy to find some more food. It was beautiful out. People were dressed in colourful light clothing and talking and holding hands at outdoor cafes. I admit I’d been watching them outside the window above the couch anyway when I needed to get up. I even walked past Euclid Avenue and realized that the Dragon Lady that I visited with some friends a few years ago had been here. By the time I got past Sneaky Dees, I was feeling nostalgic in this familiar summer setting of everything. Then I ate some food as I came back and talked a bit more with people.

Of course, by then it was too late and I began to realize that I had the beginnings of a headache. Luckily, I brought my regular strength Tylenol with me: just to be sure. Of course, now–for me–I was going to be working with a handicap. My mind was really drifting and I vowed to myself that I was going to at least get to page six of my work before doing anything else: to get halfway done. Neil Gaiman did not succeed in finishing his 24-hour comic, but I could succeed in drawing and writing twelve bloody pages!

Then I somehow got to seven and at that point I had gotten fed up, took some more business cards, talked to some people, and gave them out. Then I browsed the comics because, after all, this was a bloody comics store and it was my duty to do so. At this point, my Second Wind kicked in in a terrifying sort of way. So I sat down and after telling someone else I was going to do this, I did.

The thing is: this story had been in my head for a while that day–with other elements of it being in there for much longer–and I wanted it out. I wanted to finish what I started and have, in my hands, something to be proud of. And then seven pages became eight, and nine … by the time I got to the double digits, I knew I was going to do it. I just began drawing as basically as possible, not really caring about too many inaccuracies such as who was on the left or right, but just getting it out.

It was only after a while, after doing this all on my writing paper, instead of the white blank paper I brought for the purposes of drawing on, that I realized I was actually going to go over twelve pages.

And I did.

I finished my comic with about two minutes to spare before the deadline of 11. I felt … a good kind of tired. I did it. I finished the first part of an entire chapter of a fictional book I created in another world and I finished it more or less how I wanted to. So I talked with Keiren and some other people, and then I walked from College and Clinton in the summer night of Toronto back to Bathurst Station where I took a long ride back to Thornhill.

There was no way I was going to write the full story of that comic in just that night and maybe one day I will continue it, but I did what I set out to do: I drew it up to the point where I mentioned the very last sentence that it possessed in another narrative of mine. That night, I basically went to sleep in my clothes and on top of my blankets. I don’t remember even going to sleep, but I actually woke up pretty well rested all things considered.

The Marathon was a good, constructive day and I’m glad I did this. Oh, and for those who might say “Pictures or it didn’t happen,” I don’t have a scanner and just a camera. Also, my pictures are insanely crude and my writing … somewhat legible. Maybe one day I will show it, but right now I will just leave you with the message that I went out, took an idea with me, fleshed it, and finished it strong.

But I lied. There is actually one more thing I want to say. Aside from thanking Keiren Smith and the Comic Book Lounge for organizing and hosting this event respectively, and all my fellow awesome creators for attending it, I want to add a little tidbit about storytelling. A long time ago, a Creative Writing teacher of mine asked me which story-line of a meta-narrative I was making was either true or false. Nowadays, and after working on this comic–with its own meta-narrative sense–I realized something.

Something that parodies another thing, or subverts it and yet has its own intrinsic world-rules–or writing continuity and rhythm–can be more than just one thing: or one thing or the other. The fact is, for me, I like the idea of a multiplicity of different things happening one space and different dimensions. I like that dynamism. The truth is that all of my stories, even the stories within stories, are real. They are real to me.

And I think that is the thought out of all of this excellence that I am going to leave you all with.

ETA: Towards the end of the night, at the other end of the room people started singing this song parody. And as I worked, I sang along with them.

This is what happens when you put a group of geeky creators together in one space for an extended period of time.

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