By Amy Childress
Assistant Editor, The Selective Echo
Multimedia artist Paul Guinan started as a staff artist – back in the days of paste-up – doing corrections and logos for Chicago-based First Comics. Some of his more prominent work for the company included retouching the first manga translation published in the United States: ‘Lone Wolf and Cub.’
Once Guinan saw how freelance artists operated, he left the company to become an independent comic book artist. ‘I didn’t necessarily want to just work on a company owned character,’ he says. ‘I wanted to come up with my own characters and plots.’
In 1989, Guinan with his wife, Anina Bennett, developed their comic books, the first of which was ‘Heartbreakers,’ a science fiction adventure series that explores the personal and political ramifications of cloning. Guinan also co-created the monthly title ‘Chronos’ for DC Comics and was lead background artist on the animated series ‘Stan Lee’s Stripperella.’
Interested in trying new forms of visual storytelling – ‘things that didn’t necessarily rely on the traditions of comic books like panels and word balloons’ – he created the main character in 1999 for the steampunk sensation pop history book ‘Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel.’
Bennett worked as a comic book editor for First Comics during the same time in which Dark Horse Comics started publishing their initial stories of ‘Heartbreakers’ in ‘Dark Horse Presents,’ an anthology that focuses on creator owned works. In 1991, she was offered a job at Dark Horse Comics before the company started producing movies in Portland, Oregon, the couple’s home base for the last 20 years.
Since moving to Portland, Bennett has worked on everything from Nexus (again) to ‘Classic Star Wars’ and Harlan Ellison’s ‘Dream Corridor.’ For a while, she found herself working in Egmont’s Copenhagen office, editing Disney stories featuring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
Now a freelance writer, Bennett says because she has worked on and read so many comic books, writing them is ‘like in my blood.’ Bennett also has maintained separate careers in marketing and business development, working for other companies. She now applies the skills she gained from those careers to the Boilerplate and other projects including their most recent hardcover book ‘Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention’ (see video below).
As part of the Literary Arts venue for this year’s Utah Arts Festival, Guinan and Bennett will share their creative insights about how to create a comic in hour-long workshops that are being conducted today through Saturday at 2 p.m. at the SLCC Community Writing Center on the Library Square festival grounds.
For the festival, the couple has designed the workshops for anyone, regardless of any experience, who is interested in creating comic books or graphic novels, and learning the art of visual storytelling. The workshops will cover fundamentals by providing examples of comic book scripts so that participants can gain a sense of what the basic format of a script is and the art as it might be based upon the story. As with a movie script, a comic book script describes the action and dialogue occurring inside a panel.
Attendees of the workshops also will learn terminology associated with creating comic book pages and how they can represent such elements on the page to tell a story. Depending on their interests and skill levels, participants can engage in exercises focused on illustration and writing. Participants more interested in the artistic side of the enterprise will be given a comic book script and encouraged to interpret the script with a pencil drawing of a comic book page. This parallels the creative process many comic books take and will show participants how different artists could interpret a script in various ways.
Participants mainly interested in writing will be given a page of art in order to develop a script with panel descriptions that describe the image so that the text evokes a similar image for other readers. Individuals are also encouraged to begin creating their original comics, as Guinan and Bennett will provide feedback. Following the workshops, the couple will be at Night Flight Comics on Library Square for further discussions and autographs.
The Boilerplate and Frank Reade books blend the couple’s interests in science fiction and history. Both say that if they could have extra-human powers it would be the ability to travel through time.
The books are designed in the style of late 19th century comic books. ‘Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel’ is about a mechanical soldier invented in 1893 to prevent the deaths of men during combat. Guinan is fascinated with this era, which he regards as a extraordinarily significant.
‘Everything we do today like drive a car, go to the movies, answer the phone – comes from that time period,’ he explains. Boilerplate started as a series of little vignettes which Guinan created and posted to the Web site. He built a 12-inch robot figurine, which he used as a model to ‘photoshop’ into vintage images. Initially seen as an inadvertently occurring hoax, Boilerplate has grown into an amazing book of text, original drawings, photos and maps.
It has been optioned by Paramount Pictures for J.J. Abrams to produce as a feature film. The couple also are developing proposals for the third volume of the hardcover books, which will pick up where the Frank Reade story ended previously – in the 1930s during the great age of combustion engines and diesel fuel. This will make the leap from the steampunk genre to dieselpunk genre. Other examples of dieselpunk include Skycaptain and the World of Tomorrow as well as The Rocketeer.
Bennett and Guinan just finished a tenure as artists-in-residence at The Leonardo on Library Square, leading master classes that focused on the comic book medium from varying perspectives of artists, writers, and other storytellers. The couple’s work also is featured in the museum’s current exhibit: ‘Fantastic Fabrications: Marvels from an Invented Past.’
The couple also will be available at Pixel 2012, an event later today at the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
For all event information about the festival, see here.
Find Today's Daily Deal on the Best in Salt Lake City!