Monday, October 08, 2012

Why Illustrators are prima donnas.

Before we get too far into this, understand that I mean no disrespect to illustrators. I appreciate how much work they put into projects, that it takes a full day to create a page, on average, and that is a day of work and stress. However....

There's two parts to this rant. The first is that writers are every bit an artist as an illustrator. The problem is that somewhere along the line illustrators got called "artists" and the name stuck. I'm obviously not saying that illustrators do not deserve to be called artists by any stretch, just that so do writers. Writers are usually the ones that are responsible for what you read, as we establish a lot of the rules that a universe is based, from the rules of science (or magic, depending) as well as the various relationships between characters and organizations. The twists and turns that you enjoy are because the writing, not because of the illustrator.

As an illustrator, you need to keep in mind that comics, like film, are truly best when everyone is collaborating. This is not to say that the jobs need be kept separate; there needs to be some overflow between the two. An illustrator with a cool costume design should be able to con the writer into including the character, just as the writer should be able to suggest a cool idea for the artwork. There needs to be a certain flow between the two. This includes the inker and letterer, to some degree, where they are present, but in general the majority of decisions should be between the illustrator and writer.

[This is not to say that there are not a lot of great of writer/illustrators, especially when it comes to webcomics. I'm just trying to point out there are differences between the two crafts, and that a writer/illustrator who does an incredible job really deserves a pat on the back.]

I am also starting to really hate that writers are basically considered second-class citizens when it comes to the art community. It's just weird to me that the reason that most comics succeed or fail is because of the writing, and yet I'm willing to bet that people can name more illustrators than they can writers. I understand why, especially when you realize that writers tend to be introverted and illustrators tend to be extroverts; guess who's more fun at conventions? Worse is that you get the occasional illustrator that forgets that everyone serious about their craft goes to school, tries out new things, and gets degrees; not saying that writers don't brag as well, it just seems more obnoxious from an illustrator, or that a writer has to show that they've taken a class or two. The problem is that people can only judge by what they see, and writers tend to be ducks versus the swans that are illustrators.

By ducks I mean that there is a lot going on that you simply don't see. When you see a page of written script, you don't see the reams that a writer has done as for as figuring out how things work in the universe, and setting things up so that things work. If the illustrator has done research so that he can pull some really cool stuff off, imagine the research that a writer has done; odds are that some of the research that the writer has done gets shown to the illustrator. The writing process is entirely different than the drawing process; it's most research, make notes, and then decide how you want all of that information to manifest as script. Sure, any writer can do more pages of script in a day than an illustrator can, but that doesn't mean that I'm doing less work.

Put in a slightly different way, an illustrator needs to know what Captain America's appearance is and what he represents to get it right. A writer needs to know his entire history, his friends and enemies, hist rogue gallery, and a lot of trivia about Cap. This is not to say that an illustrator gets off easy in this, just that the information required to do the job right is entirely different, and I'm not sure how many people realize that.

The bottom line is that sometimes it gets irritating to be a writer because we get no respect. I keep seeing people that think that there is no room in comics for people who write because comics are visual; they apparently have no clue how much writing is needed to make a great comic great, and only look to the artwork. To those morons I would humble submit that they really have no clue how much the two crafts influence their enjoyment of a great comic, and that each requires respect for their contribution to the comic. I just wish some illustrators wouldn't forget that...

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