Hicks Discusses Emotion and Action in “Friends With Boys”

friends-with-boys-coverRecently, comics writer/artist Faith Erin Hicks joined the Creators Workshop Book Club to discuss Friends With Boys, her original graphic novel from First Second Books.

Based in Halifax, Canada, Hicks’ work includes Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere for SLG Publishing, The Adventures of Superhero Girl for Dark Horse Comics, and the forthcoming Nothing Could Possibly Go Wrong for First Second Books, which is serializing now online.

Topics discussed during the session included…

Conveying Emotion Visually

Hicks said that in her comics work, it’s very important for the emotional core of the story to be conveyed through characters’ actions, body language and facial expression, rather than through words.

“I always want the reader to be feeling what the character is feeling.”

If characters simply say how they’re feeling, Hicks said, “I feel like that’s not utilizing the comics format. But if you can draw a picture and convey what that person is feeling through their body language, through their facial expressions, through their emotion, I feel like that’s what’s awesome about comics.”

Manga Influence on Hicks’ Layouts

When asked about the Manga influence on her work, Hicks noted that she started to read manga late in her career, after her visual vocabulary was largely developed. But, she said, the influence does often come out “in the paneling, and in the way I compose my stories.”

She noted that Boys’ Manga is often very action-oriented in its layouts, and “composed to drive the story forward. That’s something I’m very attracted to.”

She noted that mainstream superhero comics can often be extremely detailed, and a bit overwhelming.

“I admire the work that goes into it, but sometimes I literally don’t know how to read it,” Hicks said.

By contrast, Manga can often be a little simpler, using a variety of techniques such as bleeds, square panels and tilted panels, all designed to create clarity and keep the story moving.

friends-with-boys-pageCapturing Facial Expressions

Hicks has been praised for her excellent use of emotion and facial expressions, and she provided some tips on how to achieve this.

“It’s really important to be able to observe people, and observe how they convey their emotions,” Hicks said. “Everyone conveys emotions differently. Some people are very repressed and quash their emotions and push them deep inside, and other people are very open with their emotions. I think if you observe people and understand how they emote, then it’s a lot easier to put that down on the page.”

Hicks also shared which facial feature she often turns to when crafting a character’s expression.

“My really stupid tip is: eyebrows,” Hicks said. “I’m constantly thinking about eyebrows — and eyes as well — when I’m trying to convey a certain emotion on the page. I will literally spend like half an hour just drawing a character’s eyebrows, to get that slight tilt, ever so perfect. I feel like that can really put an exclamation point on the emotion that you’re trying to convey.”

Hicks also discussed:

* How she broke into comics;
* The development and pitch process for Friends With Boys;
* The experience of serializing Friends With Boys, and how it helped Hicks’ career;
* Hicks’ scripting process;
* Working on stories that are partially autobiographical;
* Advice for creating young adult comics;
* Incorporating sound effects into comics art;
* Breaking a story around the emotional beats;

Creators Workshop sessions take place every month, streaming live online, giving members real-world knowledge that will help them succeed in their comics career.

– Posted by Paul Allor