After a radio interview I had along with My colleague Tinodiwa Makoni on Zifm Stereo (a Zimbabwean radio Station) I took some time to ponder over some of the questions that we were asked. As a comic book creator and a writer I thought that one particular question which I was asked warranted some clarification. In fact I realized that there are an array of misconceptions by the general public (which Is by no means a fault of any kind) regarding the business of creating comic books and animated films. I thought it would be a good idea to highlight and perhaps debunk some of these misconceptions which exist in our continent, about the work carried out by animators and comic book artists.I remember being asked,:
“whats the best type of genre to get into in order to make a successful comic book?”.
This is a particularly interesting question because it suggests that there is some kind of winning formula in the creative writing process or an ever appealing model that is sure to gain an audience. This is a big misconception which doesn’t work for film or books and will never work for comic books or animation. There is no substitute for good writing whether one makes a comic book based on Comedy, horror sci-fi or action it has to be written well and it has to be executed skillfully and creatively.
There is a belief that the best comic books or animated films are for children. This is a personal favorite of mine and it is borne out of unfamiliarity with the medium of comic books altogether. Much like ordinary books or novels can cater for any generation and much like audiences of varying demographics can embrace a title such as The Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter or Alice in wonderland the same can be said about comic books and animated films. Companies such as Warner brothers owned DC comics and Marvel comics which bring us the most popular comic book titles to date have imprints for mature readers such as Marvels Max, Marvel Knights , Icon and DC’S Vertigo which carry themes of an adult or mature nature. This is not to say that they are imbued with scenes depicting violence, strong language, or nudity alone but also they explore challenging philosophies of political, cultural, historic or even spiritual nature. Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli in JAPAN who is considered to be a legendary film maker despite relying on animation as his chosen medium has proven the above fact over and over again.
Another great misconception which comes out of Africa in particular is that which suggests that comic books and animated films need to serve as a vehicle FIRST to spread African folk tales and history to the rest of the world and then perhaps explore creative storytelling after achieving this goal. While we were on air a listener sent in an sms which consolidates this misconception. The listener innocently mentioned the need for the creation of a Tshaka Zulu comic book and said, “You guys should make a Tshaka Zulu comic book”. This is not a bad idea by any means; however there are so many great ideas that are yet to be explored. The creation of African Characters such as Ganyamuto and Nhepfenyuro Man from Zimbabwe demonstrate how much newer ideas that appeal to our audience need as much promotion as the historic figures and the folk tales of old. Good stories are not good because they bolster the ego of one nationality or creed but good stories are good because they have a universal appeal and message.
My favourite misconception about the business of making animated films and comic books is that its EASY. Many a times we the artists have found ourselves in situations where we are asked to take on the mammoth task of creating comic book or feature film quickly ,”because its easy right?” . There are degrees upon degrees of education and training that are required in order to be able to produce the high standard of comic books and animation that the world has now become accustomed to . Animation and comic book illustration requires knowledge of numerous technical subjects such as the fundamentals of design, basics of theater and acting , lighting, film, and all these things come way before the student learns how to manipulate the digital tools which are now almost mandatory for the creation of these products. The creative writing aspect is no easy feat neither since training in the area of creative writing, script development and treatments is also very necessary. The misconception that comics and animation are either cheap or easy is one founded on many uninformed assumptions which cannot be allowed to perpetuate.
In a nutshell the African continent needs to reexamine its perception of animation and comic books both as an artform and as a skill. The animation industry in Japan alone is an example of how a society can be transformed by the creative power that lies in this medium and if Africa can embrace these art forms the benefits may be innumerable.
The views and opinions represented in this article are the authors own and do not represent the Opinions of Youneek studios.
Eugene Ramirez MaponderaIs an entrepreneur, comic book artist and professional illustrator based in Harare Zimbabwe. He has a Bsc in Political Science From the University of Zimbabwe and writes articles for www.sigmadigital-studio.com and www.comexposed.com He also has IMDB film credits for his work on American indie films such as Boston and UK produced film The Secret Princess.
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