with Graeme McNee
Name: Graeme McNee
City: Kobe, Japan
Comics: Minimal Comics, Coma, Living By The Water, Minotaur, Stories
Websites: www.graememcnee.com, minimalcomics.com
QRD – How old were you when you first got into comics & did you always stick with them or did you come back to them?
Graeme – I’ve been reading comics continuously since I was a kid.
QRD – What was the first comic book you ever bought?
Graeme – It was an issue of The Beano. After that it was either The Crab With The Golden Claws or Asterix The Legionnaire.
QRD – How old were you when you put out your first comic?
Graeme – I was a teenager. I made a few issues of a zine called Lost In Translation, which featured a mix of comics & writing about music, films, & society. There was one comic that was featured each issue called “Nothing Happens”, which was just about two guys sitting on the curb talking about how nothing ever happened.
QRD – What decade do you think produced the best comics?
Graeme – I love the cheap newsprint paper from the 80s that left your hands black after reading. It smelt much better than the glossy stuff too.
QRD – Why comics instead of just writing or drawing?
Graeme – I do also just write & just draw. I choose whichever format matches the idea I want to express.
QRD – Do you see mini-comics & indie comics as paths to mainstream comics or as their own unique media?
Graeme – I think most people see mini-comics as their own unique thing, but hope they will lead to more mainstream recognition.
QRD – How many copies of your comic do you print in your first run?
Graeme – I make 100 copies & number each one by hand.
QRD – How much do you think comics should cost?
Graeme – I set the price according to the content & format. If it is something I want a lot of people to read, I usually give it away for free. If it is something I only want a few people to read, I make it expensive.
QRD – How many books do you produce a year & how many would you like to?
Graeme – I try to do four a year, one for each season. I also try to collect my serialised work once a year.
QRD – Do you think stories should be serialized or delivered as complete works?
Graeme – It depends what the story is. If I do something serialised that is an ongoing story, I prefer to have the whole thing mapped out before even starting the first installment.
QRD – How are comic strips different than comic books & which medium do you prefer?
Graeme – I like both. The difficult thing with comic strips is they tend to follow a structure where readers expect a punchline or conclusion in the last panel & often feel disappointed if there isn’t one. With a book there are less expectations of a particular rhythm & structure. I have learned a lot from doing both.
QRD – How long is it from when you start a comic until it’s printed?
Graeme – The Minimal Comics usually take one hour, from sitting down to think about the idea to publishing the final version on the website. For my longer stories, the ideas sit with me for years. I had the idea for Coma about two or three years before publishing & Living By The Water about one year. I don’t do much drawing in that time, just writing the narrative & dialogue. When I feel the story is ready, the drawing part comes quickly. From thumbnails to finished version in one or two weeks. I only draw stories when I think the writing part is complete.
QRD – What do you do better with your comics now than when you first started?
Graeme – I am much better at the whole scanning-cleaning-aligning-file-formatting thing than I used to be. When I first started it took me about an hour to do each page. Now I’ve got it down to about 15 minutes. That part of the process annoys me more than anything.
QRD – Do you do thumbnails?
Graeme – For the longer stories I use thumbnails to box out the dialogue & page breaks. They don’t actually have drawings in them. When it comes to panel composition I usually trust my instinct & draw freehand.
QRD – At what size do you draw?
Graeme – I draw everything A5 size, which makes it easy to store. I also think my work is tighter when I draw small.
QRD – What kind of pens do you use?
Graeme – I bought a box of 1.0 width Deleter Line 2s which I use for everything. It worked out at ¥100 per pen, which is a good deal. The only other tools I use regularly are a stencil for drawing circles & one for panel layouts.
QRD – What does your workstation look like?
Graeme – It’s simple. A wooden table in front of the window with a desktop easel, a pen, & a stack of paper. I like to look out of the window when I am drawing.
QRD – At what point in the artistic process do you work digitally?
Graeme – I draw everything by hand, then colour & align the page digitally.
QRD – What do you think of digital comics & webcomics?
Graeme – I like both paper & digital comics. I think the iPad is one of the best things to happen to comics in a long time. I love the idea that I can keep complete collections of my favourite series on one small tablet. As a creator, it also means I can get my work into an unlimited number of hands for zero production cost.
QRD – Do you prefer working in color or black & white?
Graeme – My own preference is for simple, flat colours. There is one shade of blue that I use for everything. I like the colouring in the Tintin books; especially Tintin & The Black Island, which is my favourite example of what you can do with a simple palette.
QRD – How many different people should work on a comic & what should their jobs be?
Graeme – It depends what you are doing. In my experience, the key to collaboration is to make it clear from the outset that you respect each other’s work, then agree to a no-holds barred bashing of each other’s suggestions & ideas until only the very best are left standing. Those are the ideas that should go into the final piece & you can make up after it is done.
QRD – How tight do you think a script should be as far as telling
the artist what to draw?
Graeme – I think a good script contains as much information & detail as possible, but the artist is free to interpret it however he sees best.
QRD – What comic book person would you be most flattered to be compared to?
Graeme – It will never happen, but I wish I had the skills to draw as good as Moebius or Winsor McCay.
QRD – What do your friends & family think of your comics?
Graeme – They like them. A lot of my comics started out in letters to friends or family, or birthday presents.
QRD – What do you think of superheroes?
Graeme – The only time I really read superhero comics was when Todd McFarlane & Jim Lee relaunched both the Spider-Man & X-Men series. It was interesting to me at the time, but I quickly discovered Sandman & Akira & forgot all about superheroes. I bought the first round of Image comics, but they quickly went into the trash & The Maxx was the only one I kept reading.
QRD – Marvel or DC?
Graeme – I always preferred Dark Horse.
QRD – What comic characters other than your own would you like to work with?
Graeme – I would love to do something with the Snufkin character from Moomin. The books, the comics, & the animation were a big inspiration on me. I would love to enter the atmosphere of that world & do my own spin on it.
QRD – What conventions do you try to attend & why?
Graeme – I’ve only been to one convention, in Glasgow in 1994.or 1995, I loved it. I met Jeff Smith & he introduced me to Bone & drew a sketch for me. He didn’t mind that I had never heard of Bone before & he was so polite & enthusiastic when he showed me his books & told me about the story. It left a big impression on me about the attitude you should take when meeting people who are discovering your work for the first time.
QRD – What do you do to promote your books?
Graeme – In my local area, I just print flyers & leave them in places that look cool. I hope to get better at promoting online this year, but I think the best approach is just to keep on making good stuff & putting it on my own site.
QRD – Do you think your comics are well suited to comic shops or would sell better elsewhere?
Graeme – I usually sell my books in gallery shops & graphic design bookstores. They seem to be a lot more receptive to self-published work & independent books.
QRD – What other medium would you like to see some of your comics made into (television, film, games, action figures, etc.)?
Graeme – My comics are specifically designed to be comics. If I have an idea for a film or animation, I just make a film or an animation!
QRD – Do you consider yourself a comic collector or a comic reader or both?
Graeme – A reader. I only keep comics I know I will want to read again. Other things I just read & give to friends or throw in the trash.
QRD – What do you see as the most viable mediums for comics distribution 10 years from now?
Graeme – I think it will be a mix of work produced for iPad & beautiful limited edition print books, both ordered directly from the creator. Serialised work through a subscription on the creator’s website would also be something worth exploring.
QRD – What would you like to see more people doing with comics?
Graeme – I like what people are doing now. I hope they just keep doing more of it!