Review: Chrissy Williams and Kieron Gillen ‘DIE’ signing and talk at Big Bang Comics.

So once again, friend of ICN and, now it seems, our roving reporter, James Bacon has provided us with a review of a comics related event he attended. Though the creators are not Irish, I think there is some useful information for all creatives in regards to the process of creating comics. Plus James writes a good review.

Review by James Bacon

I headed out to the Chrissy Williams and Kieron Gillen signing and discussion at Big Bang comics on Saturday, a delightful summer’s day, keen as I was with my DIE comics in hand and accompanied and joined by good pals. I had a browse and the bookplate signed by Stephanie Hans was very attractive, and a real incentive to pick up the collected edition of DIE. I noted that there was also a good supply of Star Wars comics, and later, that the number of comics on the shelves had diminished.  The queue was very acceptable, and there was a good bit of craic in the shade outside, and then comics were signed as writer and editor spent a nice amount of time engaging with the fans.   

A special Book Plate had been produced, which was pretty nice, and signed by artist Stephanie Hans. 

Later the signing area was converted to a talk area and filled up as one world expect. Chrissy William’s offered an incredible insight into the editorial process.  I took some notes, but they are my own, and of course do not come near the experience of being there in person. 

Williams is married to Gillen, thereby a partnership in both personal and professional spheres exists, and that was in itself fascinating to hear about. and so while working in close proximity, they do have  separate rooms to do so. All relationships are unique, but to me, it was clear that the support and empowerment that Williams provides to Gillen is in itself very strong and has its own successful characteristics. Williams is a very serious comic fan and loves the medium, added to her work as an in other literary industries, it obviously creates an optimal dynamic that works well. 

While aware of PHONOGRAM and involved with Über, Williams worked as a free lance editor on Wicked and Divine, shortened to WICDIV by readers and creators alike and on DIE.  

Although it became clear that sometimes a reaction to feedback could be audible, even if the e-mailed reply was more sedate and tempered. While a reader of comics, the mechanics of editing are not always made clear, and soon one realised that in the likes of the big two, the editor who often commissions the writer and artist, is the boss. In the Creators owner space, there are no editors, although the likes of Image do of course give final sign off on work. This is obviously different, and in this environment, the owners, the writer and artist then have responsibility for a considerable amount of co-ordination work, on top of their own tasks, and then are required to self edit. Therefore it is clear that Gillen taking the extra step of hiring an editor, makes great sense, as the editor is a facilitator, administrator, copy editor as well as checking and deploying a creative steer to the team where it can be helpful and useful. 

Gillen and Williams offered some of their funnier moments, mistakes caught, and it ws clear there was much nuance and maturity in the approach to feedback and adjustment. Williams commented that as a woman, she may be conditioned to be nicer and meeker – but it was clear she was not afraid of the difficult questions but not blunt and does not create a defensiveness, but works to enhance the script.  They were then open and happy to talk about how a script is encountered from an editors perspective.  Professionally one needs a first script and a basic shape and it needs to be out of the writers head extracted to view or read.  As Williams said it was about  ‘Annotating your genius’ and Gillen was clear that the job is  ‘Writing not thinking. ‘ 

There is a detailed process, starting with pairing an artists with the writer, a relationship existing is a strong starting point and can see them involved in idea and script level.  The process, well as best I could note, included. Questioning – Does it work. Does it land. Tweaking, close line editing the unpolished script. A Line script and Drawing script.  More details where then offered, as the pair were very comfortable they offered more insight. 

With phases.  The Crazy idea. The Script. The Script read – checking  big picture – does it work – is 4 pages too much, can it be drawn. Then the artists get script, artist replies with questions, chat ensues, pencils roughs are done, some of which can have incredible detail, and then, surprising the hell out of me, a lettering script sent to letterer and to help see how the lettering serves the art or panel, they sometimes letter over pencils, which seems like a gamble, but actually is to allow sufficient time to the letterer, especially when in a comic such as WICDIV, there is considerable variation in colours and a high level intricacy.  Yet at that stage the idea is a lettered comic, which allows for lettering corrections, consideration of whether the  art may not need lettering at all, and whether the words can add clarity.  – subtlety of the adjustments. 

The strength of relationship helps with communication, especially when the complexity of the plot is layered. It was interesting to hear that the favourite argument of this creative partnership was when a question over a silent panel came up, where no words might be needed at all, due to the expression or nuance of the art. This was all great stuff, and it was really nice to hear that Chrissy thought the coolest bit is that she gets to read the scripts first!

Although this also has it’s harder moments, as she has been reduced to tears – although there is obvious pleasure for her as she watches the pencils, lettering and build of the comic, as it is transformed from out of the writers head into something electric. Worst thing – tedious – signing off an issue, to Image, and the time difference is hard and changes can be hard work.  

Kieron was quite strong on one element that resonated with me, and that was that spelling has nothing to do with you being a good writer. Encouraging the idea, cherishing the concept and helping a writers words to become the best representations of what’s in their head to the outside audience – is what Chrissy felt she was about and not a grammar nazi. 

The advice to editors was to find people who want an editor and help them.  Figure out what the team need.  Although I felt that Chrissy was a facilitator, and super administrator as well as editor and there was a support role for both writer and editor to the artists, who seem to be more isolated and indeed trapped in their task. 

It was insightful to heat that a team needed 3 issues completed before you can solicit to Image. That is a lot of work.  Questions came up, and the audience did not falter to engage. Of course, here in Dublin, it’s just normal for Declan Shalvey to be present and then to engage, yet this was another brilliant moment, as this accomplished artist, who is has now worked successfully as a writer, engaged with some questions, and it was good to hear how Chrissy kept her eyes fresh, although the workload and management of it was more varied than I had expected and it was great to hear these questions, as it was from a different perspective. 

The magic of the process, how to phrase your problems without having the artist want to kill you, we were all listening for well past the scheduled hour, and it was excellent. 

A very pleasant way to spend a summers afternoon with comics signed and some variant covers picked up from Big Bang. As a bonus I met 2000AD writer Michael Carroll at the shop and he kindly signed some of his Judge Dredd stories and to top it off, Declan Shalvey was also kind enough to sign some variant covers he had drawn.  Myself and pals moved onto the nearby pub to chat and think and continue to enjoy the day avd talk about comics and fanzines and cons and it was a great day.