I had tea not long ago with the writer of a very nice article about Asheville blogs. I didn’t realize he was such a comics aficionado. Over tea, he presented me with the idea of illustrating non-fiction narratives and personal memoir. I illustrated a 14-panel story about our meeting. The drawings are quick suggestions of setting and characters. I didn’t want to get too realistic.
Brian commented: “Such an exercise cannot help but broaden and deepen your writing… This is really fascinating. Taking everyday situations, finding the drama, illustrating them – you’re developing a wealth of back-story. I could see one of these scenes popping up under a bigger story… I don’t think you’re wasting time on this project.”
I hope he’s right in regards to the exercise assisting my writing.
Narrative Non-Fiction Comics is not new. Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor was famously made into a movie. Jessica Abel’s journalistic comic Radio: An Illustrated Guide records the making of a This American Life show. Joe Sacco’s books “Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95″ and “Palestine: In The Gaza Strip” are journalistic graphic novels.
Eddie Campbell’s Alec McGarry stories offer extensive inspiration in the genre of autobiographical comics/graphic novels. Alec McGarry is Eddie Campbell’s stage name (or rather comic page name). That is like Samuel Clemens writing an autobiography in which Mark Twain was the main character.
I must confess I’m enamored by that idea, but not as a narcissist. In the arena of stories, the most compelling tales are true, personal accounts–narrative non-fiction. Also, persuasive arguments are often won by personal example/experience. That’s what makes Elie Wiesel’s book, Night, so riveting–he was there. He survived Auschwitz, Buna, Buchenwald and Gleiwitz. He has first hand experience.
I know, I know–I’ve just sprinkled a lot of names throughout this post like confetti. Mark Twain I am not. Nor have I the life experiences of Elie Wiesel. I don’t know if I really want to follow in Eddie Campbell’s footsteps, either (he reveals all areas of his life–i.e. no trouble drawing himself nude which unnerves me–but maybe that helps him gain perspective on his own life).
I have a sketch of an idea of where I want to go with narrative non-fiction comics. This is what they call in Corporate America the development stage. It’s what I call drawing 1000 black lines before presenting a finished drawing.
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