THE SOURCE: How do you write the first line of a new series?
JH WILLIAMS: It can be tough. You want the first line to grab, but it can’t be overloaded with information either. You want to set a tone, but also lead the reader into the story with ease, not overwhelm too much. It’s a very fine line to walk. But the goal is to write a simple captivating line that has weight and meaning, but it’s full understanding requires you to read the next line, and then the next, and so on. This concern occurs when writing prose work as well.
How do you draw a first panel of a first issue?
For me, first panels of a story need to function much in the same way as what I say about the first written line. I like to place focus on something in a way that when you first look at it, you don’t know what the context is, or it raises questions as to what is happening. By doing this, you provoke the reader to want to learn more.
How do you introduce a new hero?
The goal for any new protagonist in a new story is to get at what makes them tick within the first chapter or issue. But to do so in a form that doesn’t give away all there is to know about them. If a first appearance gives away everything about the lead character, then you’ve created an information bust, and the reader isn’t going to be as compelled to return. You have to keep some mystery, or use complicated motivations for the character’s behavior or actions.
How do you introduce characters?
I find that the best way to introduce new characters into a story is to try finding high points in the plot that could relate to them, giving them a key moment to present themselves. Another way is by use of a scene that defines the new character’s motivations or mission in the story. Sometimes it can seen through the eyes of another character, and if done properly you briefly learn something about 2 characters at the same time.
How do you draw a first appearance?
This relates to how the character is introduced within the written plot. If the plot is showing the character at a relevant point, or at a high point, its easy to set the character within that visually. The scene informing how dynamic or emotionally positioned the character is visually. What does the scene mean to this particular character can inform how to handle them visually.
How do you introduce a new villain?
Villain introduction for me, works best if its revealed at a high point of tension, either related or unrelated to the scene at hand. A villain’s first scene should also always leave questions to the reader on what is their deeper motivations.
What was the first comic you ever worked on?
I believe my first professional paying job was when I was 15 or 16. I did 2 pin-ups for something called Alternate Existence. It was very independently produced. And I was certainly not very good then
Who was the first character you followed?
Spider-Man, Batman, Kamandi, Micronauts.
Who was the first writer you followed?
Who was the first artist you followed?
What was the first convention you attended as a fan?
Probably some small local one in the Bay Area, California.
What was the first convention you attended as a professional?
San Diego Comic Con.
What was your first job in the comic book industry?
My first full issue for a major publisher was a fill-in for Milestone’s Blood Syndicate, which came out okay. Before that I did things like Twilight Zone, Hero Alliance, Demonic Toys, none of it very good, my work on those is pretty unrecognizable to what I do now.
What was the first piece of original art you bought?
I’ve always shied away from buying original art, because I was afraid I’d lose my mind and spend too much money I didn’t really have. So I stayed away from it for a very long time. Until I finally met Michael Golden a few years ago, we actually shared booth space at a couple cons. Of course I drooled unsavorily over his original art for sale. But couldn’t bring my self to make a purchase. I fretted over it so much that I was telling Grant (Morrison) about it, he said I had to have it, as a totem piece for my artistic soul. The piece I kept eyeing all show was a cover to World’s Greatest Comics Magazine: Fantastic Four. I remember having to go off for a panel or something for an hour or so. As I approached the booth, Bruce Timm, another booth mate who sat next to me and my wife Wendy, plops that cover art down on the table saying, “Hey, look what Michael just gave me!” I think my voice rapidly hit 4 octaves higher. I went on and on “HE GAVE THAT YOU?!!” I kept repeating that, I was so thrown off I really wasn’t able to say anything else. It had to be at least a minute thirty seconds but felt like forever, before Bruce finally says “Wendy, I can’t do it anymore, the poor guy is losing it! Jim, look at the bottom of the cover.” And there in bold black ink, causing me to squeal loudly “NO WAY!”, like a kid, it was signed with a personal note from Michael, to me. I literally got weak in the knees, I was shaking. I think that was my geekiest moment ever. So while I was away from the booth, Wendy, the sneak that she can be, bought the art for me, knowing how much Michael’s work meant to me. She managed to pull Bruce into her scheming, I’m sure they found it quite amusing watching me squirm! But I love them to death for it! When growing up, if I had never been exposed to Michael Golden’s art back then, I don’t think I’d be a comics creator today. So its all his fault, hah! I proudly look at it everyday hanging framed in my studio.
Skitch Commentary: I actually remember his work on Blood Syndicate and Deathwish (I was a huge Milestone fan). I definitely remember liking it at the time, and his work just keeps getting better.