Rediscovering the Comic Strip through Johnny Bullet
By Hervé St-Louis
October 4, 2014 - 20:18
These days, I’m excited. I’m also working on Johnny Bullet almost every evening. I never thought that it would be possible to commit to a huge project like Johnny Bullet while pursuing a PhD. I’ve learned to better manage my time and I’m better off! The most important thing that I’m learning is that I should never have stopped drawing in the first place. Comic strips are just fun.
For years, as the publisher and editor in chief at ComicBookBin, I completely refused to take part in any comic book project. I thought I was violating an important rule about media fairness by doing so. I lost all my animation drawings and my comic book collection in the 2012 Calgary Flood, I realized that I had nothing to show. I had some parts of my portfolio but most was gone, washed away in thick mud.
For years I could not finish The German Cousin. But one day, I decided to work on Johnny Bullet and then, just, like someone who hasn’t exercised in years, I just committed. Now, I'm drawing often. I also think a lot about the strip but in simple terms, I think. Yet friends who have seen many of the latest pages keep interpreting them and seeing nuances that I didn’t put on purpose. But what they say just makes sense. I was about to launch the comic strip on October 5. I still don’t have enough pages to create a buffer for when and make sure the strip never lags. So I’m waiting still.
Looking back at the first page, I find it less satisfying but I won’t change much to it. Why? Because I can see progress every new page. I don’t think much about the story behind Johnny Bullet. I’m not that far ahead. I want to keep the comic strip simple. I’m not interested in complicated stories with many layers. But my friends say that will creep in due time without me knowing. I won't know how I managed to add a second or third level of meaning to a comic strip that I wanted to be basic and action-oriented. Looking at the composition and the artwork, they see the complexity creeping in. It’s not in the plot but in the visuals.
And that’s why I’m excited. Comic strips have lost a lot of ground in news papers. Their second coming is through the Web. Yet, many of the Web comics I read and see still approach the medium as a comic book. They don’t think of themselves as comic strips. It’s the same art form – sequential art. But they’re are structural and storytelling differences. In the comic strip, the page itself is a unit. The one page contains part of the story and should stand on its own even when disconnected from the whole. The comic book page can be stand alone or not.
The most dramatic difference is the spatial organization of information. The comic book often is vertical in format. Many Web comics adopt this format. In Johnny Bullet, I favour the horizontal display of information. It makes Johnny Bullet feel like a comic strip as opposed to a comic book. Yeah, I know, Little Nemo and others were a vertical comic strip. Yet, Nemo was a Sunday feature. And it was in colour. Even so, the story structure in Little Nemo favoured the stand alone page over the continuing comic book format.
I don’t recall many strips like Johnny Bullet. That excites me too. I’m not doing another super hero comic like everyone else. Well, who knows? Maybe Johnny will wrestle control from me and declare himself a super hero with a secret identity and a sidekick. I don’t want to draw that story though. I’ve said enough. It’s way more fun creating comics than reviewing them!
Last Updated: January 24, 2022 - 11:00