In a couple past posts I discussed Day Camp being based on my real life experiences, and why that can be easier to draw then some of the more outlandish aspects of Black Snow. The expression “Write what you know” is pretty common, but I’d argue it’s equally important to draw what you know, perhaps more so. Try drawing something you’re looking at, that you’ve seen many times, then try drawing something purely from your imagination. Most likely the prior will look somewhat realistic and recognizable, while the latter will look like crap. That’s not to say you should only draw what you can see. If you want to draw a group of zombie sasquatches being attacked by vampiric unicorns on the planet Mars you certainly can, it’s just going to take some extra work to make it look good. For instance, it’s be a good idea to study how all these things had been depicted in the past and figure out what makes each element instantly recognizable. For example, if you don’t emphasize the horns on your unicorns or their fangs since they’re vampires, than it’s just going to look like a bunch of horses. There’s nothing wrong with drawing fantasy, I just think it requires a bit more time to develop and practice. If you draw your own unique space craft your going to want to spend some time planning exactly what it looks like from every angle. It has to become a real object in your mind, especially if you are planning on featuring it a lot in your story/work. As I mentioned in my previous blog many of the objects, locations, and even a few of the people featured in Black Snow are based on real world counter-parts. It’s these things from my life or my research that help make the comic completely unique to me.
Draw what you know can also refer to a theme or overall tone. If you’re a happy teenage girl who spends her time shopping with friends at the mall you probably don’t want to draw a sprawling epic dark traumatic drama about the seedy underbelly of the 1980’s New York drug scene. You’d probably be better off drawing a comedy about teenagers or some fashion design sketches. Previously I claimed that Black Snow more of a work of pure imagination than Day Camp, and while that is true Black Snow does have a lot of myself and Alex in it. Not just explicit moments based on our experiences, but in a larger sense as well. I won’t presume to speak for Alex, so I limit the rest of this to myself. I love comedy, so of course we’ve got a lot of that. I also have a life long fascination with the dark, unsavory side of life that lurks just under the surface of even the most idealistic situations, which I think is also plentiful in the comic. I like to think that Black Snow does a good job of adding a realistic tone to the decidedly unrealistic super hero genre.
To me Black Snow, the character, represents what a real “super hero” would be like. He’s not the hero anyone would want to be, but he’s what we’d likely become. Does gaining super powers suddenly change your personality, eliminate your vices, give you moral guidance, or imbue you with the knowledge to succeed? Of course not. It just gives you powers, and you’d have to figure out what to do with them. And why would ungodly powers beyond the realm of man be easy to control? Black Snow, like most people, can be petty, insecure, rude, ignorant, frustrated, whiny, and just plain pathetic. If you got powers today you’d have no idea what to do with them. How do people know where crimes are happening? In a morally ambiguous world how do you even know who the real criminals are? How do you achieve success in the hero field when there are countless other wanna bes and established greats to contend with? Oh, and don’t forget that vigilantism is illegal. It wouldn’t be easy to succeed, especially if you weren’t particularly smart or well connected, as is the case with our boy Bennett Teach. He’s just a regular Joe, albeit a strange one, who is just struggling to make it in the world. Is it any wonder he’s grown bitter, complains about his job, and turns to alcohol for comfort. Who can’t relate to that? Unless you’re extraordinary you don’t always know what to do to succeed, you get frustrated with your work, and you have vices you turn to in times of sorrow.
This real world approach is not something that Alex and I ever discussed, but I think it’s the driving force behind all our work. Really, I think it is just what our natural inclination leans towards. It is not something we put much thought into. We never really quibble over details or worry much about being entirely accurate with our depictions. For instance, no attempt is made to recreate the real Detroit. I don’t pretend to be the only comic to take this approach, obviously The Watchman famously did this decades ago. I’m just saying, draw what you know.
Check back soon for a follow up post where I’ll discuss in more detail my personal connection to Black Snow (both the character and the comic).