Auteurship and Graphic Novels

Passion fuels the most compelling creations.  An Auteur is a creator with control over most, if not all aspects of their creation.  For a graphic novel, this means the artist and writer are very close collaborators, but never step on each others’ toes.  A disadvantage of auteurship is starting in obscurity, however, the proliferation of the internet as an accessible arena of creation has allowed for auteurs to share their work.  For the graphic novelist auteur, the interactions with the audience before the completion of the entire story can aid in its creation through the formation of a support network (creating a graphic novel is a time-consuming undertaking) and later through financial support (the purchasing of related goods, or print copies especially).

There are many auteur webcomic creations in the wide web.  Nearly a decade ago, the first auteured graphic novel I came across was Inverloch.  Its first volume was in print at my local library, but Sarah Ellerton had not yet obtained funding for the next volumes, which were available free online.  I read /Inverloch/ to the end and started on the Pheonix Requiem, which showed her artistic and literary development from her first endeavor.  The characters were deeper and more consistent, the plot showed planning, and the artistic style moved farther from manga towards realism-style digital painting.  The two most incredible discoveries for my middle-school-aged self were the easter-eggs from Inverloch in the Pheonix Requiem, and the realization, when I caught up to the most recent pages, that there was a living, working artist making and sharing this compelling story asking for nothing in return.  On both pages there was an unobtrusive ‘Donate’ button I realized.  I resolved to buy copies of the books when possible.

But auteurship is not fueled by profit, but by passion.  Some auteurs are picked up by publishers – the incredible Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy Bastian is now available at a bookstore near you.  Others channel their passion into self-publishing, as Jason Brubaker of reMIND does, soon to release the conclusion volume, funded on Kickstarter, as was Volume 1 of reMIND.   One of the most incredible examples of auteurship and digital storytelling is unquestionably the Wormworld Saga.  Created in Germany by Daniel Lieske, now translated by volunteers into dozens of languages, this epic story makes use of Scott McCloud’s Infinite Canvas.  McCloud coined this term twelve years ago in his second of three comic-books-on-comics Reinventing Comics, and it refers to a format of internet-based comic literature that is reader-friendly and without page breaks.  The Wormworld Saga makes use of chapter breaks, and is released in chapter increments.

The terrible downside to auteur creation is its a one-man show, and an incredible amount of writing, planning, drafting, and drawing.  And it doesn’t pay, especially not in the beginning.  And if a wrench gets thrown in the works of a frustrated creator’s life, the creative hobby is very likely to fall by the wayside.  Many intriguing webcomics end after the intrigue and before the conclusion because the creator has dropped off the face of the internet or lost interest in the project, Tessa Stone’s Hanna is Not A Boy’s Name a beautiful example.  The more skilled the storyteller, the more depressing the lack of closure.



  4 comments for “Auteurship and Graphic Novels

  1. dylanlederleensign
    February 1, 2013 at 9:55 am

    I think you brush over an important aspect of independent art production, the economics. You mention that auteurship is fueled by passion not profit, but everyone has a bottom line of basic needs that must be met to live. And in order to live comfortably enough to have access to the internet and the time to devote to crafting a comic you need some disposable income and time. While it’s romantic to imagine the lone auteur, as you note, they are real living breathing people. Who need food. Webcomic business models are not always adequate.

    • cmccrzy
      February 2, 2013 at 11:10 pm

      That’s true. I’ve read too many webcomics people have given up because it just wasn’t making money and they had to devote their time to things that did. The problem with this is that I see webcomics as similar to poetry: you really can’t go into them looking to make money. If you get a fan community and people want to buy stuff from you and a nice background or some commissions turns into “we want hardcovers” and “we want t-shirts” and “we want stuffed animals” and so on, well that’s good and awesome. You get to do what you love for a living (unless you discover that everyone likes what you do EXCEPT you, which also happens).

      But, as you said, webcomic business models are not always adequate. More often than not, they aren’t at all adequate. You don’t just “become a webcomic creator” for profit. You don’t just become a poet for profit or an author for profit. There’s simply too much material out there to think that you can be the next J.K. Rowling or the creator of the next “Homestuck”. Plus, if you look at it as a way to make money and NOT as just something you want to try for fun or something you’re interesting in, and it doesn’t work out, it’s a very long and painful road, and the drop is steep. Which is true for any job. Do something you love – not something you hate, just because it makes money.

      And just like normal jobs, people need money, so sometimes you have to leave behind what you love and do what makes money until (if ever) you get to a point where you have time to work on what you love.

      For the general article, I think your first link (Auteur) is broken. I’m also glad to find more Inverloch/Pheonix Requiem fans (hey!). Have you checked out “Dreamless”? She also did the art for that and it’s relatively short (at least in comparison to the other two) and really nice. And god, I haven’t looked back at “Hanna is Not a Boy’s Name” in ages! That comic was so beautiful and fun and had so much potential! I was so sad that it never continued 🙁 I don’t know what’s worse – finding a good comic and coming to the end, only to discover it’s on hiatus, or finding a comic that’s kinda eh, sticking with it because the story is good, watching the art and other craft blossom, and then watching it go onto hiatus. Oh, “Emergency Exit”… Ah well. I’ve tried buying merchandise when I can and spreading the word about these artists to find other fans, to keep hope alive! It’s all I can do.

  2. February 4, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Excellent article! Thanks for the shout out, Watkins.

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