After our psychogeography excursion which I will write up this evening (I feel it is going to require a more potent libation than the trailer park coffee I currently have available to me), I attended a Waterstone’s Ian Rankin Special Event during which he discussed his foray into the graphic novel world with ‘Dark Entries’.

I had missed the Ian-Rankin-is-writing-a-graphic-novel memo so turned up last night not really sure why I was there but eager to hear anything the creator of Rebus had to say on pretty much anything.  Luckily there was a really useful Waterstone’s Geekzine to explain all.

Turns out that Ian wrote for an existing character called John Constantine who was a “recurring supporting character in the DC comic series The Saga Of The Swamp Thing” who then featured in his own DC comic Hellblazer.  Well I never.  And it IS the same character in the movie with Keanu Reeves, Constantine.  You live and learn.  I really liked that movie but it was pretty slated by die hard DC fans last night.  Apparently John Constantine is a chain-smoking bisexual Scouser paranormal Private Investigator based on the coolness that is Sting and not Keanu Reeves at all.  I would have been disappointed as well had I previous knowledge of the character, but then apart from Sting who did they think was going to play that part?

Mr Rankin talked a bit about the process of the graphic novel which was very interesting.  He explained that each frame had to be described for the illustrator and the example he gave was a man entering a bar.  As the author, he wanted the frame to show the back of a man’s hand pushing open the door to a pub.  The reader should be able to see about 8 feet in through the open doorway, the chap polishing glasses behind the bar, the back of the blond woman standing at the bar etc.  I was struck by how much an illustrator could change the nuances and interpretation of an intended piece without such detailed description, rendering the work almost his own.   I think IR said that Dark Entries had about 1000 frames and each frame had about a page of description – a lengthy piece of work indeed.

Ian Rankin had been approached by Vertigo to write a novel for them after they had realised he was such a huge comic fan.

I have to include a sidebar here.  I am at work and have just taken a chap round a couple of show flats and although he left about 15 minutes ago, I am still choking on his aftershave.  It is stuck in my throat which is still very sore as I am suffering from an infection, it is on my clothes, it is on my hand after shaking his, and is in the very air I am breathing.   I left home in a rush this morning so forgot to bring water with me.  All I have is a couple of mouldy polo’s I found in my make up bag.  Ugghhh! I need to go wash my hands…I smell like a boys night out.

OK.  I am back.  Yes Ian Rankin was approached for a new series of graphic novels called Vertigo Crime.  In view of the learning curve I am currently dangling from with my course, I was very gratified to hear such an established and talented author openly say that he found writing a graphic novel challenging.  He had never undertaken a project like this and freely admitted that he had a lot of help:

“I had never written for comics before, so there was a steep learning curve.  I asked writers such as Denise Mina and Alan Grant for advice, and bought a book called ‘Understanding Comics’.  I was lucky that my editor at Vertigo, Will Dennis, was patient and willing to work a bit harder with me than would normally be the case.  He was the one who decided how many frames went on each page – that should have been the writers job!”

(taken from Geekzine October 2009 Event Special interview with Ian Rankin, Andy Jamieson)

Ian Rankin mentioned the book ‘Understanding Comics’ again last night but I have forgotten who he said was the author.  Apparently it is a comic book which details how to write comics and is very worthwhile if that is your bag.  Hang on let me see if I can…yup here you have it.  There was a couple of ‘comic-book-guys’ in the audience who nodded fervently when this was mentioned so presumably it is an industry star.

So in conclusion, Ian Rankin can walk unaided holding his jacket over his shoulder with one hand whilst the other expertly manages a bottle of wine and half full wine glass; Sting cool, Keanu not so much (unless you just like Keanu);  comic book guys want to be taken seriously and dousing yourself in aftershave will mean you are never taken seriously as a housebuyer.

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