Drawing comics is a tough job, especially when writers expect just that their artists can — as the saying goes from those that who aren’t artists — draw anything and everything the story demands, with no budget constraints whatsoever. At this year's San Diego Comic-Con “Between Two Toms” panels, hosts Tom Taylor and Tom King got the lowdown on the reality of being a comic book artist from guests Mitch Gerads and Nicola Scott.
Asked what the longest amount of time he’s spent continuously working was, Gerads surprised the crowd by saying that it was 36 hours. “I’ve done all-nighters and you feel terrible after,” he continued, “[but] the weird thing about 36 hours is that it circles back, and you think, 'I’m fine.' That’s when you realize you’re an hour away from death.”
Scott said that she “refused” to work similar hours without a break. “I spent two weeks drawing a double-page spread on [Wonder Woman: Historia] and you lose perspective on life,” she explained. “I can’t see anymore because I’m hyper focusing on a tiny corner of this spread. That just sends you into another dimension that you need to recover from.” She joked about her husband having to check in on her when she’s working, to make sure that she’s gone outside at some point recently; on one occasion, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d left the house, prompting an emergency walk away from the drawing board.
King asked both artists if they’d ever refused to draw a script they’d received, going on to add, “It’s happened to me; I sent a script to an artist and he sent it back and said, this is three months of my life and I’m not doing it.” (The script was later drawn by Gerads, he revealed, with the artist expressing confusion about why its original recipient had turned it down; no, we never learned what script it was.)
Scott said that she’s certainly received scripts where she was confused what the writer was trying to achieve. “It’s usually a one-shot by a writer you don’t know, and it’s certainly, ‘What are you trying to do here, what is the story you’re trying to tell?’” she explained. “I just try to grab onto something that’s interesting for me to draw.”
Gerads, meanwhile, joked that he couldn’t answer the question because King was right next to him, prompting the writer to say that of their recent collaboration on Batman: One Bad Day - The Riddler, “When I gave you that script, I thought you’d hate it.” The artist sought to reassure him of the opposite, saying, “That was my dream book! In my head, [I had] this idea and it’s not actually an idea. I got that script and you nailed it.”
As discussion turned to examples of the writers feeling guilty for making the artists do so much work, both Scott and Gerads admitted that they tend to build on pages they think feel too easy to draw. “I’ve gotten pages from Tom, and I can tell he’s trying to help me out,” Gerads said. “It’s so simple, and the first thing in my head is, how can I complicate this? Turn this half-day page into four days?” Taylor made fun of Nicola Scott for adding characters to already packed Titans pages, prompting Scott to exclaim, “I need the readers to know where the characters are, so that when they show up on the next page, they know why!”
“You know that saying that a script is basically a letter to the artist?” Taylor asked the crowd. “I apologize often. Most of my scripts are apologies.”