The Medium of ‘In-between’: Five Things I Learned from a Comics Veteran

The Medium of ‘In-between’: Five Things I Learned from a Comics Veteran

Mr. Jamie Bautista, an established writer, illustrator, and publisher of comics in the Philippines, prefaced The Write Side of Bookshelf’s workshop titled ‘Ink and Ideas: How to Turn Your Comic Ideas to Life’ with a simple question.

Why comics?

The author offered a clear answer. “Comics is an accessible, universal language,” says Mr. Bautista. It’s a language as old as cavemen’s drawings and it’s a language that translates into many different cultures.

The workshop provided its attendees with the foundational knowledge to build appreciation for the medium. But more importantly, it taught aspiring comic creators and enthusiasts why it matters to make comics.


Comics is in between movies and prose.

Movies leave little to the imagination of the viewers. Everything is right there on the screen as the director intended for you to see and interpret. On the other hand, prose leaves everything to the imagination of the readers. Each word can be interpreted differently by different people.

Comics is somewhere in between the two. It balances the fine line of “give-and-take,” as Mr. Bautista puts it. The magic of the medium happens when it asks its audience to imagine what happens in the margins between every panel.

But at the same time, it offers ‘closure’, or an understanding of the whole event represented by its visual parts. Comics have the power to make the audience fill in the gap of what’s in between images. In other words, closure is the magic of comics which conjures events in the minds of its readers.


Comics is innately innovative.

Creativity is the heart of making comics. The best works that the medium has to offer share the tendency to push the limits of the medium and exhaust the possibilities beyond set boundaries.

“As a comic book creator… I always try to find [new] applications for comics,” adds Mr. Bautista. The comics veteran encourages us to do the same as well. If you love the medium, you will find ways to think outside the box.

Or in this case, outside the panels.

“Space is time in comics,” remarks the comic veteran. Do you want to subvert expectations? Or do you convey your narrative in a recognizable flow? Maybe you want to make comics upside-down. It doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do with your tools to bend space and time in comics, because as a comic creator, innovation is your leverage. The sequential space that makes your comics come alive is your blank canvas. You fill it in with something special, new, and unique.

The speaker reminds all aspiring comic creators to find stories that make use of the things that make comics unique. Simply, stories that call for innovative storytelling.


Comics reward personality and originality.

Mr. Bautista shared an inspiring anecdote when it was time to talk about style. He recounted encountering “brilliant” comics that presented their story with a stick-figure art style. The lesson here is that the images are only a part of what makes a comic great.

Every comic creator has their own style and voice. What matters most is that they use the medium to the best of their advantage and they tell their stories the way they want to.

It may be hard to escape the mentality that you have to draw using a certain style or that you have to copy somebody else’s voice to get your comics the attention they deserve, but recognizing the importance of originality and personality can get you farther than you might expect.


Comics can be things we don’t expect.

But wait. What makes a comic a comic? Well, the speaker tells us that comics can be things we wouldn’t think are comics. They just need to have four properties: images, sequence, deliberate, and juxtaposed.

Rethinking the way we define comics can help us change our perspective about the medium. If even manuals for building furniture can be considered comics, then there’s a plethora of possibilities out there for the form.

This new perspective can free us from the counterproductive thinking that you have to draw as good as Marvel or DC artists to make your own comics. Or that you have to be as good of a writer as Alan Moore to write the next comic masterpiece.

Remember, comics is a language. And like language, there’s more than one way to use it beautifully.


Comics asks its audience to imagine.

The world needs superheroes. And funny four-panels, short-form stories, wordless masterpieces, visual representations of the real world but with zombies/robots/aliens, relatable experiences from childhood, social commentary using caricatures, and much, much more. To list a few doesn’t even scratch the surface of what comics makes possible.

The last and most important lesson I learned from the comics workshop is that it is a medium that calls for imagination, heart, and passion for telling stories from unique perspectives.

“We have to make things that are invisible, visible,” says Mr. Bautista.

Some stories are too big for the big screen, or too hard to be put into words. Some stories need something in between. That’s why — comics.

Written by Edrian M. Nabong

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