I’m going to be completely honest here—I don’t really like research, I don’t read as much as I “should” (As a once-English major, I’ll forever be plagued with the obligation to read more, in the same way I’m expected to like Scrabble and use words like “penultimate.”), and I’d rather smell old books than labor over them for nuggets of information. Luckily for me, researching for comic books doesn’t have to be laborious and boring.
Remember, you are writing a comic, and comics are a visual medium, so, while “traditional” research is necessary (I’m not going to talk about it here because, really, it’s the same type of research you’d do for any type of fiction. If you’re looking for a good reference about non-visual research, check out Writer’s Digest and Writing Forward), visual due diligence is essential to writing a great comic.
To maximize my visual research, I created a Pinterest board for my comic. Pinterst (a virtual pin board for those who live in a cave and aren’t familiar) allows me to easily collect images and display them in an attractive, socially-connected way. Thus, I can simultaneously gather my research, build my writer’s platform (more on that later), and self-indulge in the cool-factor of physically seeing the essence of my comic before finding an artist.
Visual research is vital to the success of your comic, especially if you’re not going to draw it. Here’s why:
- Images allow your vision to shine (accurately). Your job as a comic writer is to simultaneously craft a story while translating the images banging around in your mind’s eye into readable, concise language so that an artist can pick up your script and draw it—in a way that actually resembles your vision.
- Visual research aids your storytelling. I do visual research (yes, via Pinterest) for my novels as well. Stream-of-consciousness Internet surfing sparks ideas. Gathering together images of the setting, characters, artificial eyes, Jimmy Cho heels, Ducati motorcycles, or whatever helps you identify gaps in your vision. Like, “Oh crap, a flamethrower is way too clunky. There’s no way she’d be able to fire that thing on a moving train.” Or, “I’m glad I didn’t write him wearing an ascot because I totally thought that was a kind of hat.” Visual research is particularly useful for comics set in (or inspired by) a historical context.
- Your visuals are part of your script. Copy and paste those images right into your Word document. I stuck mine at the end of my comic as a “visual appendix” with footnotes throughout the body of the script. Feel free to include it right along with your writing. You’re saving your artist time and grief by making your visuals accessible.
Long story short, do your research—both traditional and visual—before, during, and after writing the first draft of your comic. But! Don’t get too caught up it in….because at some point you’ll actually have to write this thing.