Red Wing artist ramps up activist bookCarl Thompson first met comic book writer Sean Michael Wilson while the author was interviewing students and lecturing at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
Carl Thompson first met comic book writer Sean Michael Wilson while the author was interviewing students and lecturing at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Thompson, then a student at the art school, said he didn’t get the job Wilson was interviewing for, but he made an impression nonetheless.
“We stayed in touch,” Thompson said. “He liked my work.”
Now the pair is teaming up to produce “PARECOMIC,” a graphic novel about left-wing activist Michael Albert and his experiences during the student demonstrations during the 1960s, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and other events in United States history.
Thompson, who graduated from Red Wing High School in 2007 and from MCAD in December, will draw all of the book’s illustrations. Wilson is writing the text, with the help of Albert himself.
“I pretty much do everything visual,” Thompson said. “They send me the scripts. I interpret them into pages.”
Thompson began working on the project this past August, just before he started his last semester at MCAD.
“That was very, very busy,” he said. “I worked on it through school.”
Now that he’s graduated, Thompson said he has more time to work and his pace has sped up. He’s also learning to transition his classroom skills to real life.
“This is my first real book with a real publisher. It’s extremely exciting,” he said, adding that producing a comic book has been a “life-long” dream.
“It’s finally coming to fruition,” Thompson, 24, said.
What’s more, Thompson said he feels lucky that “PARECOMIC” and its undercurrent of change through participatory economics is something he believes in.
“You hear stories about artists working with writers just for the sake of having a job,” he said. “With this project, it feels every step of the way that I’m doing something important. It’s really cool, satisfying.”
‘Pretty intense’ work process
Thompson has set up a workspace in the basement of his Red Wing home. Because Wilson currently lives in Japan, the pair communicates through email.
When Wilson sends scripts, he also sends suggestions for what each comic panel should show and ideas for what drawings should accompany the text. And while Thompson doesn’t deviate too much from those instructions, he said he is able to put his creative stamp on each panel.
“(In) interpreting from words to pictures, there’s a million different ways to depict something,” Thompson said. “There’s more freedom than what most people think.”
Still, he said he makes sure the overall feeling of his drawings is consistent.
“Before I even start, there’s a mindset I get into depending on the project. My drawing takes that form,” he said.
Because the subject matter for “PARECOMIC” is serious, Thompson said his work has followed suit, and includes more of what he said is “observational drawing, making things look more rooted in reality.”
Once he gets the scripts, Thompson said he usually draws thumbnails, tiny 2-by-3-inch sketches, just to see how everything will lay out.
He then moves on to the real drawing, first sketching everything out in pencil, before drawing in the final lines in black ink.
“It’s a huge process,” Thompson said. “It’s pretty intense.”
Once all of the drawings are completed, Thompson will scan the drawings into a computer, adjust the coloring and add the text, a process he said can be tricky.
“Sometimes you have to finagle ways to get it right,” he said.
Currently, Thompson said he has just under half of the drawings completed, but said his part of the project should be completed by the end of May.
“PARECOMIC” will be published by Seven Stories Press late this year or early next year.
How you can help
Carl Thompson and Sean Michael Wilson have set up a Kickstarter website to help fund “PARECOMIC” while it is still being made. On the website, people can pledge money to help support creative projects.
“It’s a way to keep feeding ourselves,” Thompson said.
Thompson and Wilson have a goal to raise $8,000. However, if they don’t reach that goal, the website doesn’t collect funds from any of the pledgers, and the artists don’t get paid.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the pair has $3,426 and has until April 23 to raise the rest.
To learn more, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/471898784/parecomic-a-documentary-graphic-novel.