BIO – Choosing to be a Graphic Novelist

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I have a letter written to myself from the 6th grade where I wanted to work as an animator for Walt Disney Studios. I got close by becoming a TV animator for the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes animated series. But something I’ve always found frustrating about animation is that I’m not so in love with making things move. Oh, sure, there is immense satisfaction in creating what Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson call “The Illusion of Life”, but I realized I was far more interested in the story of why the character was moving.

It took a decade of working in television animation and video games before I realized that comics was the perfect medium to combine my writing with my art. That’s when I became a dedicated long form comic book writer, or, a graphic novelist. Today, I’m starting my eighteenth book and there is an energy (and a great deal of frustration!) with cracking a new story. It can go any direction, and as I write the words my mind goes to how difficult some moments are going to be to draw.

If your interested, you can buy a ton of my books on Amazon or your local bookstore can order them:
https://www.amazon.com/Doug-TenNapel/e/B001K7Z214

I’m starting this new book with an outline, written out long hand but based on a pile of notecards. The outline will be about sixteen pages of pullet-points and scratched out lines, and I’ll go to script from that. It is hard to believe that this is the most important part of the process because everything seems so… thin. Before a story gets more gravity and meat hung on it, the words aren’t very convincing. The story isn’t thickened with rich characters and I find it bad to put too much writing into a bullet point because a bad moment could look like it’s going to stay when I might just as well need to draw a line through and go in another direction.

With any luck, I’ll start writing the script next week.

BIO – Writing Earthboy Jacobus

The first graphic novel I ever made was GEAR. Nickelodeon picked it up and we made it into the TV series Catscratch. That seemed easy. My next graphic novel was Creature Tech, a personal, idiosyncratic, strange journey of Dr. Ong, a man with an alien attached to his chest trying to bring him back to God. I sold those movie rights to Fox/New Regency. The next book I made took me just three or four months to write and illustrate and it was called Tommysaurus Rex. I sold the movie rights to Universal for the most I’ve ever sold anything to anyone. This seemed easy! I decided to write my masterpiece, Earthboy Jacobus.

I spent over two years pouring over that book, writing and sketching everything to perfection.

Earthboy Jacobus
(above) A heavily edited script page with corresponding thumbnails for Earthboy Jacobus

Nobody wanted what I still consider one of the best stories I’ve ever told. It remains unsold today, and I kind of like it that way. It keeps me humble, hungry and has lowered my expectations on all of my books since then. It’s important to not just make books to be sold, but to tell stories just so they can be told.