Making Comics with Graphic Novelist Nate Powell (MARCH, COME AGAIN) | [Indi]android Ep. 18

Making Comics with Graphic Novelist Nate Powell (MARCH, COME AGAIN) | [Indi]android Ep. 18


NATE: I’m gonna Rob Liefeld this foot a little
bit. Which is a comics dig. (rock music) PAYTON: We at [Indi]android love comics enough
to know that they’re… really hard to make. Most monthly series have teams that split
up the work load to make sure Spider-Man keeps on Spidering and Manning. But today on [Indi]android, we’re talking
to a writer and artist who often handles those duties solo to find out how a comic page comes
together. (rock music) NATE: I’m a cartoonist. I write and draw comics. I also work with other writers. I started drawing comics in 1990, when I was
12. And I started self-publishing, just photocopying
comics, in 1992 when I started 9th grade. And I’ve been doing this as a full-time living
since 2009. PAYTON: This is former punk rocker and current
Eisner Award-winning graphic Novelist Nate Powell, known for books like the MARCH trilogy,
SWALLOW ME WHOLE and 2019’s TWO DEAD. NATE: My own solo work, which sort of falls
under “magical realism,” usually involves a mix of personal and worldly and political
concerns that are filtered through some kind of weird suspense-horror relationship. I’m still in a lot of ways primarily influenced
by a lot of the 70s, 80s superhero artists: Arthur Adams, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Mignola,
Michael Golden. These are some of the creators who really
got me excited about making comics. PAYTON: Nate works out of his home studio
in Bloomington, where he writes and draws graphic novels. Where serialized comics are released month-to-month,
his books, like ANY EMPIRE and COME AGAIN, are pitched as singular stories. In a serialized book, every 20 or 22 pages,
in addition to this larger narrative arc, you have to have a smaller narrative arc that
opens and closes and carries over every 20 pages. It’s much more highly regimented and disciplined
than I ever respected. It’s not really my cup of tea. But I really respect the limitations that
creators have to work in. PAYTON: We could happily talk comics for hours. But lucky for you, instead Nate offered to
show us how he brings a page to life. NATE: For today, basically I just felt like
drawing some characters from COME AGAIN. To do a thumbnail version of the page, you’ve
already written enough or you know where your story is headed. So the thumbnail is intended to make sure
you have enough space for everything in your page. Spoiler alert – we’re gonna have one of the
kids in the book being found in this dark cave. We have a hand coming out towards this weird
kid whose mind has been wiped, or whatever. It’s just enough detail to know what’s going
to be on your panels. We have stalagmites and stalactites, and we’re
going to use those compositionally. I’m not thinking about anything other than
what they’re adding to the flow on the page. And that’s it. I try to knock out a complete page of pencils
in like 20 minutes, if possible. And I do most of my thinking with the ink. We’re gonna get our characters rendered just
enough. A minority of cartoonists might do things
strictly physically, like I do. But there’s a lot of sort of a process hybrid,
I think. Eighty percent of the work happens before
a pencil ever touches the paper on the drawing table. So, doing a graphic novel might require a
couple of years of part-time writing and letting things naturally emerge, then slowly getting
a little more focus. Then basically doing very rough sketches of
every page in the entire book to get a feel of the scope, the scale, the size. Each page you’re reading is actually about
five pages worth of work. I don’t write scripts, at all, for myself. I have a stack of index cards. And a lot of that is just taking little scenes
and snippets, and I won’t work out my actual script of dialogue and stuff until it’s on
the finished, penciled page. However, I love working with a script because
of the kinds of limitations it gives. With each particular writer, I know where
I do and don’t have leeway into the narrative. And I know to kind of stay in my lane in certain
parts. And there are other parts where I know it’s
kind of play time for me, and I’m able to have a lot more say in the way that a scene
is flowed. (rock music) Making comics, it’s like – obviously, it’s not manual labor. But it’s literally manual labor. That involves concerns like – I’ve got
some emerging arthritis problems and joint problems in both of my hands. And I think a lot of that has to do with posture. I spend a long time barely hunched over, but
it takes a toll on your muscles and your nerves. I’m 41 now, and it’s a weird thing to
be like, ‘This hand is my livelihood. If something really goes wrong with this hand,
it requires a major life change.’ PAYTON: As he finishes up the piece, Nate’s
going to give it a grimy, dirt-spattered look that’s recommended by four out of five dentists. NATE: We’re gonna go to Toothbrush Town. Toothpaste-wise, I’m Crest all the way. But yeah, Oral-B is the splatter toothbrush
of choice. (1920s mobster noises) (rock music) NATE: So here’s what we’re gonna do: With
the white ink, we’re gonna put some in this little thing, and we have to water it down
just enough so that it can flow through my nib. (more rock music) I would say that’s a, that’s about a page
right there. PAYTON: For more of Nate’s work, check out
his social media or his website. Or, you can listen to our conversation on
WFIU’s Profiles. Links to all that are in the description. And if you enjoyed this, don’t forget to like,
follow, subscribe, share – all those things. Thanks for watching. But that also means there’s less accountability,
uh – hello, Bruce. There we go. See, that’s his little spot. Hey, buddy.

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