Comic Books Taught Me to be a Storyteller

[author and artist Madeira Desouza]

When I was a teenager, my father regularly brought me to a local barber shop where I found many comic books to keep me busy before my turn to get my hair cut. My youthful imagination was overtaken completely by the worlds depicted in the comic books I saw at that barber shop.

Of course, I was attracted to the superhero adventures, but I was far more interested in down-to-earth stories about day-to-day heroism in the routine lives of everyday mortal men. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my teenage interest in vintage comic books exploring the lives and adventures of mere mortals taught me how as an adult I should  depict and tell stories about male characters.

An American comic book/magazine series called Classics Illustrated began a long publishing run before I was born but remained prominent through the end of my teenage years. The purpose of this colorful cultural artifact in the English language was to introduce young people to so-called “great literature” stories by the world’s greatest authors presented visually in comic book style to impress younger generations.

I will never forget one particular issue of the comic book, first published in 1943. Pictured here, it was adapted from the Charles Kingsley British historical novel Westward Ho. I am certain no red-blooded teenage boy could resist adventures of 16th century sea pirates.

But actually what won me over was the stunning visual aspects of the comic book storytelling. Something touched me deep inside motivating me to the profession of storytelling combining text and images. I wanted to grow up to create a highly visual impact upon people with my storytelling.

As I look back at the detail in that 1943 comic book cover, I can see what influenced my own visual storytelling of the present day: The two men (main characters) shown in the upper portion of the drawing are highly masculine. This trait is one that I choose to emphasize in my digital illustrations today. The faces and the way they are posed in the comic book cover drawing conveys a high level of emotion from the characters. You can tell by looking into the eyes of characters if you want to grasp right away what they must be feeling at that exact moment. Conveying specific emotions is one essential component of my digital illustrations today.

I recreated the pose of two main characters from the comic book cover in this contemporary digital illustration:

In this second digital illustration I rotate the perspective slightly to give you a different (perhaps more compelling) view of the two guys:

I have chosen to pose the two main characters is this third digital illustration in a new and decidedly sexually explicit way:

I welcome your feedback and opinions below. Thanks.

Author: Madeira Desouza

Leave a Reply