Comic-Con 2011: Graphic Novel Project Schools You
I’ve written previously about High Tech High’s Graphic Novel Project, based here in San Diego, and about how remarkable it is that this group of dedicated high school students have learned how to create their own comics from start to finish, and then market them and reach out to the community to sell and discuss both their books and the creative process of comic making in general. Graphic Novel Project wants you to know too.
The group took a couple of big, next steps at this year’s San Diego Comic Con International. Starting with Preview Night (taking place the Wednesday evening before the convention officially starts on Thursday) GNP had a booth set up in the Small Press section of the convention floor. They manned it for the duration, selling their comics, talking with professionals, and discussing their approach and love of comics. Then on Sunday, the final day of the convention, the Graphic Novel Project added another notch to their collective belt as they hosted their first Comic-Con panel, on the process of making and distributing collaborative comics. The panel attracted a healthy amount of interest, and I walked into the panel to find the room about about half full, which is no small feat given the wealth of other panels, stars, and last-day sales that the group was competing with.
The panel itself consisted of eight members of the Graphic Novel Project and their advisor Patrick Yurick. Not treating this as any kind of victory lap or reward in its own right, GNP was very well-prepared; their Power Point presentation, with key information about creative steps, sample graphics, links, and resources was incredibly impressive. I’ve attended Comic-Con since 1991 (yes dear reader, that was a long time ago) and many larger and more heavily-attended panels and discussions have been much less prepared then GNP was.
The panel was focused almost entirely on the process of making comics—specifically collaborative comics, and how to efficiently share your information, work, process and resources. The information, which is very useful if you’re interested in creating comics or even in the process behind it, will be up shortly on the GNP website. There was stuff that I know I’ll be using and referencing.
The emphasis on software was on “open-source” and “free”, which points to another important aspect, perhaps the most important, of the GNP “Collaborative Comics” panel. In a convention as large, important, and influential as Comic-Con, it was striking to notice the divide between the professionals, or aspiring professionals, and the fans and spectators. Roughly speaking, there often seems to be a veil of secrecy around the process of making comics, for fear of competition or losing some sort of uniqueness. If not an active guarding of one’s process and resources, there at least does not exist an easy means to find out these things. I was impressed by how much GNP is working to throw the doors open, to make the tools and process available to everyone (and for free!) to make their own comics, by themselves or in collaboration. Mixing technology and digital communication with the traditional methods of comic production is still a bit of a brave new world, but Graphic Novel Project is putting in the hard work to insure that the information is out there and that as many people as possible are making comics. And there’s no way that can be a bad thing.