Making A Comic Book Out Of The Movies

Posted by July 31, 2015 Comment

Multiplex: The Revenge Kickstarter project by Gordon McAlpin. Funding End Date: a couple of hours. Publishing Date: September, 2016 (tentative)

Gordon McAlpin writes,

Whether you create a webcomic or an ongoing comic book series, making print collections isn’t just a keepsake for existing fans, but it is a valuable way to attract new readers to your series. Some comics readers simply prefer print to reading on screens are likely to wait for the trades and will never even visit your website. And archive binging several year’s worth of comics isn’t the most enjoyable reading experience for many people, so books can help them get caught up. And, of course, it just helps to have something physical to sell and show to people at comic book conventions.

With webcomics and other episodic series, though, the first book is often not your greatest work. My own comic strip, Multiplex, a sitcom-style humor comic about the staff of a movie theater, has been running for ten years. The first year of the strip… let me just say it looked a little rough around the edges. While many of the earliest Multiplex strips are funny, the characters hadn’t come into their own yet, and I hadn’t found my sea legs yet as a storyteller. Most obviously, I had never drawn a comic strip in Adobe Illustrator before, either, which was like re-learning how to draw.


The art got better eventually. This is from four years into the strip:


I think most readers will forgive a little roughness in early days of a long-running series — as long as it gets better quickly — but it also makes the strip harder for some readers to get into.

Since Multiplex is very much written as a comic strip, not a serialized graphic novel, I have the ability to add new comics that can flesh out some of the characters or plot points that weren’t handled as successfully as I’d have liked, or to touch on movies that I didn’t get to the first time around. This is a luxury that creators collecting 22-page comics into a book likely don’t have, because adding “deleted scenes” can mess up your pacing. (It’s also why it will the publication date for Multiplex: The Revenge is a year off; the Kickstarter project isn’t just for the print run. There is about 35 pages of new material in this third book that the project is also funding. My books are like an “Extended Edition Director’s Cut.”)

In a review of my first book, Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show (Book One), one reviewer posed the question of whether starting at the beginning of a comic strip like mine is always the best thing. Because of that review, when I was laying out Multiplex: There and Back Again (Book Two), I knew that I wanted to make it as easy to access for new readers as possible — so they could skip the first book entirely, after the storytelling had improved a bit, and then go back to the beginning later to fill in the gaps if they were curious about the backstory.

But a text introduction or simple pictures of the cast didn’t seem appropriate for a comic strip collection; I’ve always preferred to tell the story with the art more than with words. So I included this four-page “The Story So Far” sequence at the beginning of Multiplex: There and Back Again (Book Two):


The sequence give new readers a feeling for the tone of the strip, introduces the major characters, and sets up the major plot points that will come into play in the book — just like the opening “Previously on…” segments of a TV show. It’s not only beneficial for new readers, either: it’s helpful for existing fans who haven’t archive binged in a long time and need a little refresher on where the characters’ relationships are at this point in the series.

Also important for me as the cartoonist, it’s easy, too: by using mostly existing artwork, this sequence got readers up to speed for Book Two with very little effort. The Avengers books have done the same thing for the last few years: one- or two-page sequences at the beginning of each trade paperback explaining the most pertinent plot points of its years-long narrative leading up to Secret Wars.

Multiplex: There and Back Again won the Gold Medal for Graphic Novel—Humor/Cartoon in the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and I’d like to think that effort spent making the book accessible to new readers played a part in that.

Making these books accessible to new readers is especially important right now, because I’m running the Kickstarter project for the third book, Multiplex: The Revenge. And to make things even more complicated, my first book has, after five years, finally sold out of its initial print run. (You can still pick up copies of the first book from Amazon or a few fine bookstores and comics shops. The eBook editions of its contents are still available, of course, and the website still exists, too.)

What it all comes down to is giving readers options: let them start wherever they want and read your work in whatever format they want, and they’ll be more likely to stick around.

(Last Updated July 31, 2015 4:57 pm )

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