Monday, May 9, 2011

The evolution of a comic page!

As a special treat to all our readers I wanted to share with you the process of completing a page of Bella! This is our new page, #20.

Of coarse we start with the script. We work from a full script. This helps Tiina quite a bit in getting the ideas she needs to draw the page.


PANEL 1 – The Golem is all alone in the exhibit room. He hears some footsteps of someone in the next room.

Sound effect – TOCK TOCK TOCK

PANEL 2 – We see the guard consciously enter the room with his gun in his hand.

PANEL 3 – The Golem sees the guard in front of the picture of the clock tower.

PANEL 4 – This image triggers a memory of the time he was at the clock tower of Prague attacking the anti-Semites. This memory should have the wavy lines around it indicating that it is a memory. This scene should have lots of angry villagers with torches and lots of people fighting with make shift weapons like clubs and fireplace pokers. There may be a well dressed man on a horse and a sword in hand.

PANEL 5 – the Golem's eyes grow big with rage.

PANEL 6 – the guard sees the broken automaton on the ground which spooks him terribly.

PANEL 7 – The guard runs out of the room. 

Tiina reads the script, draws up the page, and then sends it to me for approval. Being the picky guy that I am, I usually have some changes for her to make.

As you can see, Tiina's rough sketches are pretty detailed!  I always love to receive new pages from Tiina! They're so beautiful. Alas as beautiful as this page is, I didn't think it conveyed the information that I wanted it to say adequately.

This is the e-mail I sent back to her -

The pictures are a little disjointed making it a little difficult to read. I would like to suggest some changes.

Panel 1 - have the Golem faced forward, in the middle of the panel. This establishes the Golem as the subject of the page, the one whos point of view we are looking from. As it is, panels 1 and 2 blend together visually connecting them mentally and making it confusing.

Panel 2 is good but it would be nice to see the subject (the guard) smaller in the panel to lessen his importance, and distance the viewer from him. On this page he is just a prop not a subject of this page.

I really like panel 3. It would be nice to visually connect panel 4 to it by mimicking the scene only change the guard with a villager of Prague and make the picture of the tower the real tower. You could even play with the composition of this page. Put the Golem in the center of the page with the guard, scared, on the right, and on the left put the same scene only it is in Prague with a villager  in place of the guard, the tower behind him and other villagers running around with pitch forks and things.

The last 3 panels are a little confusing. The Golem should be more angry looking. It's not obvious that it's a automaton on the floor. You should make this shot a distant shot giving a sense of the room around him and  the Golem behind him. And the last panel should show some of the room as well to help us understand that he is running out of it.

Tiina sent this back -

 I wrote back -

Some things that would make this page easier to read -
panel 3 is good but put the Golem in the middle of panel 3 and 4 and separate at the same time. Leave him as we see him, of his back.  If you put the Golem in the middle of the page, on the one side can be what he sees (the Guard) and on the other what he imagines (the fight in Prague. And take him out of this scene). I think if you make the Golem the center of the page it's understood that the Golem is the subject and the scenes are what he is perceiving.

Can you have the Golem behind the guard in the 6th panel? The interest of this scene is to create tension by making the viewer think the Golem is going to get the guard and at the last minute the guard is saved. To create tension you could put the Golem's face in heavy shadow in the first panel, and in the second panel show the Golem really big behind the guard. First panel is of the Golem's face, the 2nd panel is of the guard looking at the statue (with the Golem behind him) and 3rd panel is of the guard running scared. the 2nd panel should be bigger than the others, and I would show it from the automaton looking up. Foreground, the automaton, middle, the guard with fear in his eyes, and behind him the Golem. We need to see the fear in the eyes of the Guard to make this work and we need to see why he's afraid (the broken automaton).

One more thing. There will be a lot of running around in the museum so it would be good to get an idea about how the museum is laid out. There is the Golem's room, the jewel room, an animal room (with stuffed African animals  and dinosaur bones), a armory room with suits of armor, and a Greek statue room. The armor room and the animal room don't connect directly but are both connected to the Greek statue room. The Golem room and the Jewel room has at least one room in between. I imagine that the Golem room has 3 doors. One that goes to the outside where Dooley and DeAngelo came in, one that goes to the animal exhibit and one that goes to the jewel room. A key scene is when Bruiser walks in and Bella knocks the Golem through the door to the animal exhibit, and it's a different door than the onw Bruiser came from.

With all that said, have the guard come in from the door on the Golem's left, and have him exit from the far door on the Golem's right (toward the jewel room). The door behind the automatons is the animal room.

It's a little complex but will make a great comic!

Tiina sent this back -

While this is better there were still a few things that I thought needed changing.

Would you mind having the guard come in the door to the Golem's left and leave through the far right door. There are 3 doors in this room, 1 on the wall left of the Golem, 2 on the wall behind the Golem and 3 on the wall far right of the Golem. Bella, Dooley and the guard will enter from the left door. Bruiser will enter from the right door and the door behind the Golem will be one Bella and the Golem to go through on page 32.
Show the broken automaton more prominently in panels 2 and 6. I suggest you draw those panels from a low angle with the automaton in the foreground. You could show the broken automaton from a normal strait on angle in the establishing shot of panel 1.
Panel 5 can be smaller giving more room for panel 6 allowing it to be more dramatic and the Golem much more scary. Also it would be cool to show the rage in his eyes.
Panel 2 and 3 are not clear. I think if you put the Golem right in the middle of these panels and show him from behind it would help. Also show a figure in the right that corresponds to the guard on the left.

I also sent a rough drawing of what I was saying to make it clear.

Tiina really liked this. It made everything clear for her. This is what she sent back. -
This is pretty close to what we ended up with. We just did a few minor changes. Here's what I said about it -

I'm really happy with what you did on panel 6 because I was having problems with it as well. If you want to try a birds eye view, go ahead.

Looking back on the other versions of this page, they were really not bad. On 19.2 you've made a page that looks really nice. Most of the information that we need to convey is there. The one thing about it was that I thought that the middle panel wasn't clear that it was a flashback.
19.4 is really good, it's just that I thought it would be better to have the Golem in the middle of the panel.
I really like how on panel 6 you show the inside gears of the automaton, letting the viewer know it's not a person.
Maybe in panel 1 you can put the sign above the door the African Hall. The door that the guard leaves from can be the Prague exhibit room 2. The door he enters in can be an exit sign.
I always love seeing your work!

And here is the inked page -

I think we went through more changes with this page than previous pages for whatever reason. I guess one reason is that there is a lot of information to be conveyed with the drawings and we were getting a feel for how best to convey it. I'm still not sure if we got across all of the ideas effectively. For example is it clear that the guard is unaware of the Golem, and is running away to hide from the robbers who knocked over the automaton, or even that the Golem is about to grab him from behind. All we can do is use our best judgement and hope for the best. I guess that's where the "Art" is involved. Am I too picky? Are our wordless pages effectively communicating the story? Let us know what you think.
In any case it's a pleasure working with Tiina. I think she's a super artist and it's always exciting to get new art from her!

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