Sunnyville, Editing, and Auteur Theory

Today, I thought I’d talk shop about the deeper processes behind my work.

For much of Sunnyville Stories, I was drawing on my own personal experiences and taking influences from the medium of comics itself. Newspaper comics, as you all know, have been my primary influence. Much of my artwork is quite simple. But lately, I started to take an interest in art films. The art film is a type of film that is meant to be more artistic, expressive, and personal as opposed to the commercial mainstream cinema. Sunnyville is an alternative comic, which is to mainstream comics (superheroes) what art film is to mainstream film. So I see Sunnyville as being on par with various art films like My Dinner with Andre, Blade Runner, Barton Fink, and so on.

Art films heavily subscribe to auteur theory and I feel that auteur theory is a key part of the Sunnyville saga. In film terms, auteur theory defines the director as being the “author” of a film; the work is essentially his creative vision.

Sunnyville Stories is MY creative vision. It reflects me, my personality and my view of the world. (But you already knew that.) That ties in to my desire to protect the work. Before I founded my own company, I originally sought to have Sunnyville published elsewhere. Those publishers passed on the project. To be honest, I’m glad that happened. I feared that any editors would demand changes – such as update the retro style setting, put in contemporary pop culture references, have the kids be into rap/hip hop, and so on. Changes are something I will not do.

This is quite a contrast from the traditional assembly line mentality of DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Those have separate positions who all contribute to the final product – writer, penciller, letterer, inker, colorist, and editor. In that mechanical process, it’s trick (if not impossible) to be an auteur and have the work reflect one single unified vision.

I’m following Dave Sim and his train of thought there. I refuse to compromise my artistic vision just because some editor says so. If the work is changed, then it changes as a whole. It just simply wouldn’t be Sunnyville anymore. When I started this work, I wanted COMPLETE creative control over it. Having to submit to an editor who says “no, you can’t draw that” interferes with my creation and compromises the work as a whole.

I refuse to change my style just to suit popular tastes and ride on whatever trend is popular at the moment.

Charles Schulz did this. As one of my idols, you can learn from him. His influential work Peanuts was NOT popular early on. At its inception on October 2, 1950, only seven newspapers carried it. Six months later, two of those newspaper dropped Peanuts entirely. Anyone else might have decided to give the comic strip a complete overhaul, trying to make it have mass market appeal. But Schulz didn’t do this. He stayed true to his vision and in time, he made the readers adapt to him.

Ultimately, this is what I aim to do with Sunnyville Stories.

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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