A year after deciding to make a graphic novel…

So, at the beginning of 2021 I decided I was going to make a graphic novel and I was going to be serious about it. I was tired of making daily comics that weren’t amounting to anything “big”, and not really sure of what my artist-post-school life was supposed to look like yet.

I found a graphic novel-making class online, and I thought that would give me some accountability/well-placed anxiety and I could make some progress on my incredibly vague idea. All I had at that point were some characters and failed thumbnails and a story that wasn’t thought out at all. After signing up, I felt pretty darn motivated! I was going to WRITE a novel and DRAW the heck out of it. And it was gonna be COOL.

As 2021 wraps up, I’d like to reflect on the progress I made towards this new goal. And try not too look too hard at the timeline I made recently that I am embarrassingly behind in.

graphic novel timeline

An idealistic timeline of my graphic novel in 2022.

For some reason I was first drawn to word bubbles that pointed to eachother endlessly?

And then I tried to write a novel explaining the plot.

After a year of fiddling around with my “epic medieval fantasy story” idea…

what did I have to show for it?

  • A rough outline of the story
  • Cast of pretty cool characters
  • A 16-page mini comic experiment that looks pretty sick (“The Hunt Begins”)
  • ~50 pages of rough thumbnails
  • An established art style

I mean, this seems like a good amount. It is certainly a lot more progress than I made in the year 2020. However, after self-publishing this mini comic, I have had little desire to return to this big big project. In fact, I’m kind of dreading it.

And what is the next step??

My thumbnails feel weighted down with dialogue, and there are many parts I left to “fix later”. At this point I’m wondering how to salvage what I created and do something fresh. I’m questioning my goals, my idea, and my designs.

My thumbnails of the comic done on lined paper, of all things.

At the same time - it feels like I am at a crossroads. This is a time to learn from what I did and to move forward. And to find a better way to organize my ideas instead of stuffing thumbnails and ramblings side by side in one notebook, probably.

I would like to regain that energy I had earlier in the year when the possibilities were endless and exciting! Maybe by thinking it through, I’m not happy with how it’s turning out? Maybe I just need to cut all dialogue entirely a la Mawrth Valliis by EPHK or Haunter by Sam Alden.

Mawrth Valliis by EPHK. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ephk/mawrth-valliis

Writing really is the hardest part of making comics for me. How do I know that the ending I pick is satisfying, or that my dialogue isn’t too ham-fisted? I definitely cringe whenever I let a friend read what I’ve written. But I don’t have that anxiety with my visual art.

I’m very happy with the art and impact of this page in my mini comic, The Hunt Begins.

Here is the original idea, hidden in the thumbnails of my larger Monster Plague plans.

I’m hopeful that 2022 will be a deciding year for Monster Plague - and that it will be chopped up and frankensteined into something better!

If you’d like to view some free pages of The Hunt Begins, click here. And if you’d like a copy, go here!

These are my ramblings-tune in next time.
Shannon Spence

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