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Spot the Changes

Even after I publish a comic book, my author’s choices aren’t done! I like the model of songwriter Woody Guthrie, who wrote “This Land Is Your Land” in 1940 and then revised and added verses to the song for the NEXT 20 YEARS of his life! I revise my comic books every time I reprint them because I’m learning new things all the time — new historical facts and new ways to tell comic adventure stories. Most of the changes I make are so small that the average reader doesn’t notice them. But those changes make a big difference to me, the author — I want my stories to be the best they can be. And since you guys are not the average reader, I’d like to see if your eagle eyes can spot the changes I make!

First, find my author’s signature on the page on the left. After my name you’ll see the last two numbers on the year I first made that page. This should give you a sense of how loooooooooooong the writing process can stretch out! This fall I am revising my Jamestown Journey comic for its third printing. The first time I printed the book was in 2004. But you see that some of these stories I drew in 2000!!! I’ve gotten a LOT better as a writer and artist in the decade since 2000. Some of these pages are painful to look at because I did them so fast to get them into the daily newspaper, and they’re a bit sloppy.

And flabby. Authors sometimes use too many words. I’ve learned that it takes more skill to use fewer words — to say exactly what you mean and no more. Word choice is really important to storytelling, so that’s the second thing I want you to look for. What words changed between the early version on the left and the latest version of the page on the right of this printout? I try to cut as many words as I can when I revise a story!

Word choice is a typical author problem, but because I’m an author of comic books, my word choices lead to changes in the pictures. In fact, I get to treat each word as a picture itself! So, thirdly, ask yourself: Did I make any words on this page do new, weird things? Did I put a word in bold? Did I make a word BIGGER to get more attention? In my storytelling, the style of the letters is almost as important as the word itself!

Cutting words also allows me to change the size of the word balloons in the comic. That leaves more room for the picture. Notice that when I take away information in word form, I can add information that is visual! Can you notice what the changes in the word balloons do to the pictures? (I spell the word “comix” because it’s a mix of words and pictures, and keeping the balance between the two is a key to my storytelling. Some of these old episodes just got too bogged down by words! My mix was off-balance.)

Finally, one of my favorite parts of comic book storytelling is the color choice. I didn’t focus much on color when I was practicing my drawing as a kid or as a college student. I did a lot of black and white cartoons for newspapers. Drawing Chester the Crab adventures for five school years gave me a chance to make a LOT of author’s choices about color. But again, when I look back now those choices don’t seem very good. They seem simple and sloppy. The colors on some of these stories look flat and boring to me now. So I’m adding and tweaking color on these pages as well. Can you spot any of that?

Thanks! I hope that this exercise in training your eye to catch my changes will help YOU make more specific author choices on the next thing you write. . .

Can YOU Spot the Changes?

Click on a preview below to open the comics side-by-side.

Click to Open (PDF)
When did Jamestown Almost End? (PDF)
Click to Open (PDF)
When Did the House of Burgesses Begin? (PDF)

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