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 – Finding Facebook 2007

I graduated high school and went to Point Loma Nazarene College in 1984. We all knew what college was for, we would train for a job and were promised a higher income because we graduated college. The problem was that I was an art major. Not just any art major, but an art major who graduated in 1988 a full five years before things like the internet were widely used by consumers.

Below is a picture of me with my college buddies after graduation. We’re hiking in a desert, camping, going to the beach, and now we’re middle aged men texting each other all day:

There was no preparing for the computer revolution of the 1990s… imagine going to college and not knowing anything about the industries to come like EBAY, Amazon.com and Facebook! These companies have changed the face of business and all I got was an art degree. My generation learned quickly and bought our cellphones and posted on the internet and bought stuff from Amazon and used our Apple products like good like tech-heads. Most of us still can’t set the clock on the VCR but that console is going in the trash anyways because we stream our video rentals through Amazon.

I can’t remember if I got on Facebook in 2007, but it slowly took over so much of my social life that it scared me. I fasted from Facebook for all of 2010, but all that did was develop my addiction to Twitter. Like so many other Facebook or other social media users, our lives have been changed. I’ve reconnected to long lost friends I grew up with, even the people I graduated with in 1988 found me and we can see each other’s families or send notes of prayer and support.

My Facebook page has become a live studio experience where I can paint and draw in front of my friends. This isn’t exactly putting on a show, I’m not performing, I’m just drawing with the camera on:

https://www.facebook.com/dougtennapel/

Facebook has become how I check in on my mom, my mother-in-law, my wife and the various clubs and groups of friends I’ve grown to love over the years. Still, it’s hard to like Facebook. I sort of resent it, because I want to meet people in reality and I have to settle for an experience of a few well-posed pics and a glance at 5,000 people’s lives.

I recently asked a question to a group about if they were happier before they got a smart phone and nearly everyone responded that they were happier before they had a phone. My question to you is were you happier before you got on Facebook?

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.