Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For Any Rotarians Out There...

The "Illustrated Biography" (AKA: comic book) of Rotary International founder, Paul Harris, made it's debut within the pages of the Rotarian magazine in December. Now available as a stand-alone comic at their website.

It's an interesting story, even for those of us who are not active Rotary Club members. I am very proud of how my artwork turned out, and it has piqued my interest in exploring more ways to use comic book art to reach different audiences. The world of "graphic nonfiction" has really seemed to take off since I worked on the Ronald Reagan graphic novel back in 2006. The glut of last year's Obama related titles and comics like the Female Force series from Bluewater Productions seem to back that up.

I have some definite ideas about what works and what doesn't with these books. What do you think, my friends?


Don Hudson said...

I think that the best "Illustrated Biographies" would come from popular entertainers. Lot's of drama involved there. The political figures have drama, but their stories are not finished. I think that Sara Palin's story is not yet done.

Congrats on the Rotarian story! Looks EXCELLENT!

Scott Davis said...

I have worked on 2 bios for Bluewater...Al Gore and Anne Rice and I think the key element is to pick one dramatic theme (especially in short form fiction). With Gore it is his duality of personality and Rice is personal tragedy shaping creative output...otherwise it ends up being a pictoral Wikipedia.

Scott Davis said...

or should I say "short form NON-fiction!!!

Steve Buccellato said...

One problem I have with most comic book non-fiction is that they almost never take full advantage of comic book storytelling. Usually the images simply accompany the text in the same way as a traditional illustrated book, the only difference being that the pages are laid out with multiple panels so it resembles a comic.

I compare this to a standard PBS documentary where a voice-over narration accompanies different visuals. There's nothing wrong with this, but it can be a bit dry.

Now, to continue the television/movie analogy, compare one of those documentaries to an historical reenactment or bio-pic. Like the HBO series, John Adams for example. The documentary may have more historical fact crammed in, but the dramatizations are more entertaining. And they have more potential for interesting storytelling techniques. More drama, more action, more character development.

To create a non-fiction comic book like this would be much more work than simply arranging and researching facts & images. It would require the writer/artist to take more liberties; inventing dialogue between characters, reconstructing scenes from historical text and inventing plausible scenes to fill in any gaps. Just like screenwriters do when they write any movie or show "based on a true story."

I think this type of comic book has not really been explored, but it may have the most potential for entertainment. And it would do what comics do best: depicting scenes with panel-to-panel continuity, expanding (or contracting) time & action, getting involved with characters.

Again, a book like this would be more difficult to write, and would need a delicate approach because of the liberties taken with the facts, but in the end, you'd have a much more readable story that better suits the "sequential arts!"

What do you think? Do you know of any books that have already taken this approach?