What makes something great?
First off, please note that I didn’t use the word “popular”. There are untold numbers of great pieces of music, art and film that, while will probably never enter into the hallowed halls of popularity, are nonetheless great.
It’s a question that a lot of people wish they knew the answer to, yet at the same time it doesn’t guarantee financial success.
We only have to point out the fact that Vincent Van Gogh died penniless, having sold only one painting in his lifetime.
Greatness is something more than that. Presumably Van Gogh would have loved wealth in his own lifetime, yet today he is considered one of the greats in the art world and his paintings sell for millions of dollars.
As a general rule, I’d like to sum up what makes something great by doing a bit of ad-lib on one of the quotes of my childhood hero Stan Lee. (I can’t find the actual quote unfortunately).
Lee said something along the lines of the great thing about comics is that you have to love comics personally to keep doing it because comics is the kind of medium that demands so much time and energy and eats through so much material in terms of storylines and plot, that someone with low dedication would burn out really quickly.
Ok, so that’s a more elaborate explanation, but in summary, it basically means that to create good comics you need to love with you’re doing.
When I designed most of the characters for King’s Journey, I really loved what I was doing because I had never seen a full story taking place in a tarot deck before. I mean King’s Journey tracks the journey of a young boy who at the end of the deck, is basically a much older, full bearded, long haired man with a wife and child. I had never seen an actual story played out in a Tarot deck like that before.
For Twisted Tarot Tales, each image was a labour of love because I got to draw all the monsters and crazy scenes that, let’s face it, anyone into comic book art would have fun imagining. My co creator Christine has been a fan of horror comics and film since she was a kid growing up in the 70’s.
The Chinese Propaganda Art Tarot is another one of our successful decks thanks to Christine’s love of and knowledge of Chinese Propaganda Art along with the historical background the art is based on.
In short, the best works of art, writing, music or film, almost always comes from a love of the genre which you’re basing your work on.
What makes something…not so great?
Namely, a lack of passion.
I recently found an actual apology from the writer of the movie Dragon Ball: Evolution, Ben Ramsey. The film didn’t do so good, prompting Ramsey to issue the following…
“To have something with my name on it as the writer be so globally reviled is gut wrenching. To receive hate mail from all over the world is heartbreaking. (…) I went into the project chasing after a big payday, not as a fan of the franchise but as a businessman taking on an assignment. I have learned that when you go into a creative endeavor without passion you come out with sub-optimal results, and sometimes flat out garbage. So I’m not blaming anyone for Dragonball but myself.”
Dragon Ball: Evolution was apparently so bad that Akira Toriyama; creator of the original manga, revealed that he felt the Hollywood producers did not listen to him and his ideas and suggestions, and that the final version was not on par with the original Dragon Ball series.
He felt the result was a movie he couldn’t even call “Dragon Ball”. Discussing the film in the 2016 Dragon Ball 30th Anniversary “Super History Book”, Toriyama wrote: “I had put Dragon Ball behind me, but seeing how much that live-action film ticked me off…”
I haven’t seen the movie personally, nor have I ever read or know anything about the manga the movie is based on, but there’s a two things we can take away from what Ramsey said…
1, He went into the project, not as a fan but as a businessman hoping for a big payday.
In other words he believed he would be able to cash in on the Dragonball name itself, ( purely a business like attitude of course, but one that cost him) rather than caring about the content.
2, He learned that when you go into a creative project without any passion about the content you’re working with you come out with much poorer results, and “sometimes flat out garbage”
There you have it readers. If you want to pursue something and make it great, take a word of advice from Ramsey and create something on a subject you’re passionate about!