The Savannah College of Art and Design hosts two unique comics–related events this month. The first, “Storyteller’s Weekend,” happens this weekend and features renowned comic artists Howard Chaykin and Klaus Janson.
The second event, a Mini–Comics Expo, happens Feb. 26, and I actually got a sneak peek into that one.
Chaykin and Janson will lead sessions during “Storyteller’s Weekend” that focus on the theory and mechanics of comic storytelling. These sessions are open exclusively to SCAD students.
John Lowe, dean of Communication Arts at SCAD and the organizer of “Storyteller’s Weekend,” says, “Both of the men that are going to be presenting are preeminent in their field. They have well over 30 years experience within comics, and both of them have done every part of storytelling. While they are mainly known as artists, they also write."
Chaykin and Janson will be doing something very interesting; what they’re doing with their two–day workshop is something that they were asked to prepare about two years ago for the company, Marvel Comics. “Marvel had recruited a lot of young illustrators who where good, but they weren’t necessarily the best storytellers yet,” says Lowe.
The idea was to bring Howard and Klaus in to host this same type of seminar to make their storytelling more effective.
“It was so successful that they’ve been asked to do it multiple times a year with young artists at Marvel Comics. This is the first time that they’ve brought it anywhere outside of working for Marvel,” he says.
The organizers think the appeal is multiple for students who will attend. “It goes beyond just comic book illustrators. It really will be interesting to anybody from the animation world, film world, and maybe even graphic design because it’s really about visual storytelling,” Lowe says. “There’s a natural crossover from illustrators to comic book artists, anyway.”
Howard Chaykin has worked as a freelance artist for both Marvel and DC Comics. He has also worked for Heavy Metal Magazine, proving to be a strong science–fiction author, as well. He is best known for his creation of “American Flagg!” for First Comics.
Chaykin explains the importance of storytelling:
“One of the issues we address — mostly with professionals but in this case with students — is that comics are not just a series of random panels alongside each other. There is a coherent unity, there is a language, there is a vocabulary, and there is a syntax,” he says.
Chaykin will demonstrate a theory which is based on laying out a five-panel sequence which lays out a five-step basic approach to shots and storytelling. “Someone once described comics as illustration with the introduction of time, and I tend to agree,” he says.
The other artist, Klaus Janson, has written “The DC Guide to Penciling Comics” and “The DC Guide to Inking Comics.” He is most famous for his work on “Daredevil” and on DC’s Batman, “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.”
“Generally speaking, what an artist brings to the table is two things: one, the ability to draw and two, the ability to tell a story,” Janson says.
“Between those two, the ability to tell a story is the most important because like any storytelling medium, like comics or film, television or literature, the ability to communicate is the most important thing. Drawing is important because the ability to create a credible environment or a believable world is certainly a big part of the storytelling,” he says.
“But, drawing really well but not understanding the mechanics of a story means your drawing is just a pretty picture, it won’t communicate anything.”
The second event, which takes place on the following Saturday, is the Mini–Comics Expo. David Duncan, chair of Sequential Arts, explains the event:
“In terms of activities, what we have set up is about 20 tables and 40 vendors, mostly students, selling hand made comics. In addition to that, there will be a larger station for grad students and faculty members to work with anyone who comes in and wants to know more about drawing comics or making books, or self–publishing, things of that nature,” says Duncan. “We have demos of things that will answer their questions set up, for people of all ages.”
This is where I come into play. I had the opportunity to sit down with Duncan and get a sneak peek into a demonstration. I got to make my own mini–comic, and the story I chose to tell through my illustrations was “The Little Mermaid.”
Duncan explained to me the importance of outlining your story, keeping the drawings simple, and having the pictures flow smoothly from one to the next, just like in an actual book.
After the lesson, I had a mini–comic book of my own, which he taught me how to fold myself. Duncan explains the term “mini–comic”:
“The name is misleading because it seems to denote size, but it really denotes print run. Ultimately, it is a handmade, do-it-yourself activity. This is where people tell their own stories, go through the whole process of putting love and effort into it, make it, bind it, staple it, and have it for themselves. This allows more creative control.”
Duncan elaborates on the benefits of the students getting a chance to sell their own work:
“Comics is a commercial art form; so, it’s ultimately meant to be purchased by someone, whether it be a major company or by someone who comes to your table at a convention or fair. It can be a very humbling experience to put a lot of work into something and see someone walk up to it, then walk away. I think it’s a very real business experience for the students.”
When: Feb. 26, 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Where: Upstairs at the Pirates’ House, 20 E. Broad St.
Cost: Free and open to the public