Questions To Ask When You Are Choosing The Style For Your Graphic Novel 5

The following image does not only impress my thoughts about choosing a particular style for the graphic novel I’m probably up to draw. It also shows the final result of the Hayabusa I implemented two days ago.

Let’s have a look first:


If you plan to write and draw a graphic novel you probably have the same problematic and confusing questions:

  1. What style should you choose for?
  2. Fit’s it to your story?
  3. Is it fast and easy to draw?
  4. Do you still like this style after you’ve drawn 100 pages and have a couple of hundred pages more to go?

You see, what this does to you and me? It holds us back. It prevents us from just starting, but isn’t it important to consider?

I don’t know if you have planned to make a graphic novel, but secretly I considering adapting one of the two books I wrote into a graphic novel.

The first thing I have to consider is which one of the two. My my first considerations have to do with the amount of work that is involved. Let’s find a winner for this:

  1. ‘Het Orderboek’ (Translated: ‘The Order Book’) has 316 pages and assuming that a graphic version would have at least 3 time the amount, this would mean that I had to draw 900 pages. Gosh, this is a bunch of work!
  2. ‘Loser – Director’s Cut’ has 572 pages. Applying the same math here would mean that I have to draw easily 1700 pages. Did I say the first one was a bunch of work?

The winner would be ‘Het Orderboek’, what of course would need a more catchy title once it is translated and adapted into an English graphic novel.

The second thing to consider is (I know this sounds a little outlandish): Would it be possible to make a movie of the book. Let’s find a winner for this.

  1. ‘Het Orderboek’ is a thriller that takes place in the financial world and nightclubs. Easy to adapt as while I was writing it I saw it as a movie on the big screen in front of my imaginary eye.
  2. As ‘Loser – Director’s Cut’ is a literary thriller it would be much less easy to make a movie of it. Not impossible but sure not the thing you would start with. It’s comparable with the work of a film director. Sergio Leoné wouldn’t have made ‘Once Upon A Time In America’ his first movie, neither would Stephen Spielberg have started his career with ‘Schindler’s List’. No, he waited until he has matured as a director and producer.

Again the winner would be ‘Het Orderboek’.

Back to our questions:

Now we know that in this example a thriller would be the choice, it’s hard enough to make a decision for the style. With style I don’t mean a own style within a genre but a style to start with as a direction for the artwork.


I have to admit that I saw very many Manga drawings on the Internet and I even purchased a copy of one of the Death Note books. The reason for this was quite simple and it’s in fact prejudging the style. I always associated Manga with exaggerated big eyes, pointy chins and small noses.

Of course there are different styles within the Manga style. Maybe you read my article on the funny thing about Manga.

My first concern was if Manga wouldn’t just be too sweet and funny and make it impossible to use for a mature story. Besides this: doesn’t looks every Manga character the same in some way? 
Though the Death Note story didn’t really touched me, it proved that my concerns are unnecessary. It’s definitively possible to tell an serious grown up story with Manga drawings.

Western Style?

This would be my first choice, though we have a lot of exaggerations here as well. Nonetheless, personally I feel that I’m more able to distinguish western Style Comic characters than Manga characters. How about you?

Exaggeration isn’t bad

After thinking about if for a while I guess that at least the exaggeration part shouldn’t be a problem. Let’s face it: even if you call it a graphic novel it stays a comic book. Exaggeration makes emotions and behavior easier to draw. If we wanted to stay as close to reality as possible we also could make a photo novel.

By the way, I can’t really remember when I saw a movie where no exaggeration was involved.

But OK, it is still a kind of a dilemma and I think the only way to come over it is just to start with a few pages and have fun with the creative process. Please forgive me if you read this so far and I couldn’t come with real answers and a real solution for your problem when it comes to choosing the right style for your graphic novel project. Maybe it’s a good idea to browse through the Graphic Novel genres on to get the picture.

However, have fun with your artwork.

After WATCHMEN - What's Next? Great ideas at!

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5 thoughts on “Questions To Ask When You Are Choosing The Style For Your Graphic Novel

  • ZuzannaM

    Hi Mario, just give yourself a little time.
    Think this project over, and then decide.
    At times the project needs time to settle,
    in your mind, no need to hurry.

    Just a friendly advise,

  • Piledriver

    On “style.”

    Something I have struggled against may whole career — no… my whole life… is “style.”

    In the formative years it was simply the effort to emulate what I liked. As a child, not only did I pester local artists I admired (mostly Kelly Haney) for information, I even corresponded with famous artists whose work I only knew through print (notably Joe Kubert, Berni Wrightson, Richard Corben). All my thoughts were on learning to produce work that was like theirs, because I liked it.

    Then I wound up doing commercial art (advertising). Creative freedom in this field is very limited, and it became clear that I had to learn different techniques to produce work that pleased my employers. It was, for the most part, and effort to suppress the personal style I had previously concentrated to develop…!

    Advertising work of that sort was all that I got for a long time, and I never liked it. Doing that kind of work you are not anything like an artist, but more of a “draw monkey.” In the process I have wound up with difficulty finding my own style again, even all these years later.

    The high end comic-book industry can be the same. When you are working for a publisher who has specific needs or a house style, artists are often expected to adapt. It makes sense, clearly, that a franchise property should not be altered by every artist that comes to it (although that is becoming more common, it works against brand loyalty in most cases). That is the high end of the business, though — work-for-hire at rates comparable to other commercial art.

    If that is not your situation, and a good paycheck is not your first goal in becoming a cartoonist (if you are doing your own project rather than seeking work-for-hire, I suspect that must be the case)… then nothing should dictate your “style” other than your personal passion!

    If you are passionate about the ‘manga style’ and want to make it your own (like Adam Warren, Ben Dunn, or Tommy Yune), then that’s great — those honestly passionate guys have become superstars doing what they love. Speed might be a good justification (Fred Perry’s simplified manga style allows him to produce up to ten pages a day), but any simplified style could accomplish the same goal. I say: don’t worry about the expectations of the audience, or trying to wedge yourself into a trend… that’s just treating yourself like a ‘draw monkey.’

    If you really feel that each project needs a different approach, you don’t have to abandon your own style for that. Take a look at the variety of Kyle Baker’s work between his run on Plastic Man (volume 3), the Dexter flash cartoons, and his current work on Deadpool Max. Each project has a unique look, but they are all recognizably “Kyle Baker style.”