Storytelling Is Not Dead: Interview Two – Dan Dougherty

Here it is: the second interview of my journey into Storytelling.  Please check out my previous Storytelling posts here.  And my 365 Reviews here.

Last winter, I was running a Pop Culture Classroom fundraiser at a local Barnes & Noble to raise some money for books.  The event was a large success, mainly because I was able to borrow the talents of some great local artists: Gene Ha, Jim McClain, Sean Dove, and Zach Lehner.  These guys are amazing, and it was dope that they came to help us raise some funds!

While we were hustling gift-wrapping at the front door to make even more bucks, I met a dude that I had followed on social media.  Dan Dougherty introduced himself to me, said that he heard about the event through Gene Ha, and he would be happy to help out with our events in the future.  Yet another great moment from that day.

Since then, I’ve followed Dan closely on social media, and we became social media friends, until a faithful encounter about a week ago.

I swear to you this is true: one morning last week, I was drinking my coffee, scrolling through Instagram when I saw a couple really fun Beardo comics scroll through my feed, and I thought, “Man, I need to finally hit up Dan.  Maybe I can get him to do an interview for the blog and catch up.”  Later that day, my wife and I were out for pizza, and he walked into the same restaurant.  No joke!

We said what up, and I told him I was going to hit him up the next day.  I did, we met for coffee, and we chatted about all things education and comics.  It was a blast!  What I did than was take our conversation and I crafted three questions that I then sent him to answer based on our discussions.  Here is what followed:

Me: You have told stories through your music, your longer form comics, and web comics.  What would you say is the most important thing to keep in mind as you craft a story?  What, in your mind, makes a story engaging?

DD: What I try to keep in mind first and foremost is intent, as in “what was the point of what I’m making and is what I’m doing helping or muddling that up?” I really enjoy playing with all kinds of mediums and approaches, and I don’t mind “writing through” an idea without knowing exactly where I’m going, but I consider that to be prep work that hopefully leads to finding a good motivation/intent that I can develop and present to my audience.

What makes a story engaging? That’s a big question! At the core of it, I’d ideally like to have some small relatable aspect to get me engaged, but then I want it to take me to new ideas and places I’ve never been. You know a story is good when you wished you had thought of it first.

Me: Since you teach at a school designed to help students create comics, what brief advice would you give to youngsters out there looking to create their own stories?
DD: Learn to take feedback! Some of it comes with the best of intentions whether it’s well informed or otherwise, and some of it may indeed be mean-spirited or petty. But the more of it you take, the more you can learn to separate your feedback into it’s appropriate category. While you’re at it, take a hard look at the feedback that really gets under your skin and ask yourself, “is it mean or have they just struck a chord on something that deep down I know I could be better at?”
Me: We briefly discussed this yesterday, but I’m not sure if I got your answer since we got off topic a bit.  The art of storytelling in comics is more often than not, a team effort.  If you could write for any artist to tell your story, who would it be?  Living or dead, and why?  Also, if you are so inspired, what writer would you like to work with as an artist?
DD: Tough question, as I have so many to choose from! Let’s go big and go to the guy who inspired me (and who knows how many others) as a kid to make comics: Bill Watterson. And if I’m drawing for a writer? Also tough, but perhaps a tie between Ed Brubaker and Brian K. Vaughan? I’m sure they’re dying to arm wrestle it out for my art, hahaha!
I want to thank Dan so much for sitting down with me, chatting, and allowing me to pick his brain.  I totally love the advice on taking feedback, and I think that will be our takeaway from interview two: learn to constructively take feedback!
I encourage you to check out Dan’s website here to see what he is creating and see where you can catch him at an event.  And I also encourage you to check out the International School of Comics in Chicago if you are interested in a career in comics…or if you just want to learn comics from some amazing people!  I am a fan, and if you are not, you will be too!

Happy storytelling!


Twitter: @comics_teacher

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