I have been making digital collage for the better part of a decade, long enough that I am comfortable and confident in my abilities – almost to the point of complacency. In the Spring of 2009, I decided that I wanted to try something different; I wanted to try making art with my own two hands. Something analog.
At first, the intention was to find out what I could do – what I could do well and what I couldn’t. As the pile of pieces grew, I made the mistake of thinking that I could take those pieces and turn them into comic pages (they were drawn on comic book backing boards, after all).
I envisioned a narrative set in a world where random colors and shapes in the background were commonplace and created a set of characters to populate that world. I came up with a story structure that I’ve always wanted to try and I pulled the whole thing together.
I’m not going to say that it was an unqualified disaster, but it certainly wasn’t my best effort. The most important thing I can say about the Lungs of the World was that it taught me a number of things.
First, I learned that I have to start with a story. This was probably what got me into the most trouble. The pages were just random doodles that I built up until they fit into the story that I was putting together as I went along. This is not an optimal way to make sequential art. Lesson learned.
Second, I learned with kinds of effects work and what don’t. I expect I’ll be exploring this in the months and years to come, but I don’t know how much of that will be for public consumption.
Third, I learned that I have some small ability to create characters that pop, visually. This is not insignificant. Good design can make a character iconic, which allows it to live beyond the timespan allotted by the pages that it starts on. This is absolutely something that I will be working to improve upon; it’s a skill worth cultivating.
Today, on Christmas, the last four pages go live. The story hangs together, after a fashion, but it’s closer to a heavily roughed in sketch of a narrative than a polished piece destined for retail sales. I am deeply grateful that webcomics allows creators like myself to present experiments to the reading audience with no real financial commitment, but my intention was not to fall flat on my face; but then again, it never is.
More than anything, the Lungs of the World is a cautionary tale, a reminder to myself that it’s okay to try new things, but that not everything I try has to go live.