The Carter Comics Method:

In recent podcast and radio show interviews, I've been asked just how I create a comic book from idea to print, as well as where my ideas come from. So I'll be using this week's blog to share my comic creating method with you all.

As with most forms of entertainment, any comic book or graphic novel starts as an idea in your head. I don't do brainstorming for ideas because I feel that is too forceful a method to generate any kind of creativity. Rather, it's best for me to do a completely different activity (preferably outside), so I can relax my brain, and when I come back, I always have at least one idea that pops in my head. My book "Damn Tourists" is the best example of this. I came up with the idea for that story simply doing such a routine activity as riding the bus home from college when a rental car cut the bus off, and the rest is history. The way my mind works, an idea can't be forced, it has to come naturally. The finer details of that idea however, can be brainstormed if need be. 

The next step is the scripting process. The more I've written comic scripts for myself, the more I realized that creating a comic plot in word form is similar to organizing clean laundry. Sound weird? Not sure what I mean by this? I'll explain. Before you start folding your clean clothes that just came out of the dryer, you have to dump them out of the basket and onto your bed first, then you can start folding all your different garments. Well, it's the same with a script. I specifically write a script that's as wordy as possible, that describes every scene in great detail, dialogue that explains each character's motivations to a tee, and so forth. Once this is all done, I'll go back and remove certain lines of dialogue and narration to create a better story flow and to ensure that the dialogue will fit in comic panel word bubbles later on. Another important part of scripting is knowing what lines of dialogue and narration will be included on a certain comic page later on. I determine this by adding page numbers at the beginning, middle, and end of the script pages. These page numbers represent the comic boards I will be using once the writing is complete.

Speaking of comic boards, this is the most interesting and difficult step of them all. Translating words into drawings is just as hard as it sounds, but that's where the first two steps come in. Having already formed a well-thought out story with script page numbers, makes this transformation a little easier. Whereas the comic script writing can be compared to organizing laundry, turning a script into a pencil-and-ink panel comic page illustration is like a jigsaw puzzle. I have a finite amount of space for both the artwork and the written dialogue, which will be digital word bubbles in one of the last steps.

This second to last step, the digital process, is when what I've written and illustrated really comes to life. Following a trip to Kinko's in order to reduce my inked 11" X 17" art boards to a more scanner-friendly 8.5"X 11," is my digital coloring----along with giving the newly scanned line art a smooth vector look thanks to Adobe Illustrator live trace. The rest of the process is Photoshop tools galore: Magic wands, gradients, layers, blur tools, clone stamps, and of course, the paintbrush. The only downside to this step is my necessary but constant use of the color picker tool to maintain consistency on each comic page. Then there is the "jigsaw puzzle" part again for creating word bubbles from my script dialogue, small enough not to use too much space in a panel, but large enough to fit the required character dialogue. All in all: challenging, but fun.

The final step is more of an administrative process, which is prepping all files for an online print order. Each page must be the same size to prevent image clipping (10.5 X 7), and saved in three different file types (psd., jpg, and TIFF). Then the TIFF files (which is one of Ka-Blam Digital Printing's accepted file types), are placed in a zip folder to be uploaded in an online print order. The only thing left to do before the order is placed is to ensure that interior covers for the front and back comic covers are included. After a paypal payment and a few weeks of waiting, my newly printed books arrive in the mail, ready for the next convention.

So, that's my comic process in one really long nutshell. It's a long, challenging, interesting, and sometimes tedious endeavor, but the end result is all worth it. No, not merely holding the finished product in my hands, but having a comic convention attendee holding a newly purchased book of my in their hands.