Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Process Part 2

Having finally committed to the idea of doing the comic, with just a little over a month in which to do so, I attempted to take at least a semi-organized approach, by setting to work on page one.
I had drawn a few random images that could be used in the comic on various pages, but I knew I couldn’t take an entirely haphazard approach.
I also knew that completing the first page would be a big deal, as it would mark the first time I had ever produced a complete comic page.
I had spent some time working on character design, but hadn’t had much luck beyond developing a vague notion of what I wanted the characters to look like.
The main character’s look was already set, of course, given that she was based on the (Former) Boss Lady, and between the pictures of her that I had taken and her Facebook photos, I had plenty of reference material.
Plus, given how many times I’ve drawn her you would think that I could draw her with my eyes closed.  You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.  They say that practice makes perfect, but for me it often seems that practice rarely even enters into it, and every time I draw something it’s as if I’m drawing it for the first time.
In any case, apart from the main character, there was really only one other character who would appear frequently throughout the comic, the main POV character.  I did manage to settle on a design for him ahead of time, but that didn’t really matter, as it wasn’t as though I could actually draw him with a wholly consistent appearance anyway, as I just don’t seem to be able to do that.
But once I set to work on page one I actually managed to complete it relatively quickly.
I was, naturally, very pleased with myself.
Page two would have gone even faster, but I kind of wandered down a blind alley by trying to get “fancy” and include a panel in which there was a rather detailed background.  That didn’t work out so well, and ultimately I scrapped it and pared the page down.
It was just as well – initially I had planned to do a full eight pages of art and story, but somewhere along the line it occurred to me that I should throw in a fake “letter page,” which I could use to include a special birthday message.  If I did eight pages of story that would have meant having to put the letter page on one of the inside covers, and I didn’t want to do that, as I’d intended to use one inside cover for a credits and title page, and the other for either the fake ad or the bonus cover.
I decided that there were some superfluous scenes that I could cut, and that the last two pages could be condensed down to one, and so I pared it back to seven pages of story.
That was probably a mistake – in order for the story to actually make sense, that meant that I had to just load up several pages with captions and dialogue, and also try to cram in as many panels in as possible.  The last page actually has 14 panels, which is kind of unheard of.
There was no “decompression” in this comic.
I really do think that paring it down was a mistake, though, not just because of the pages jam-packed with word balloons, but because some of what I had to cut really would have added depth to the story.
And that’s the thing to keep in mind – I knew that regardless of how it turned out she would love it anyway just because of the effort involved and the general coolness of it, and, I would like to think, because it was from me, but I didn’t want to rely on that.  I wanted to make something that was actually good, and while there was only so much I could do in that regard as far as the art goes, I could do a lot more in terms of the writing.
Still, more pages would have meant more drawing, and…well, that was the biggest obstacle already.
I did consider making it longer than eight pages, but by that time I was too far into it to add any pages, as doing so would have meant that the double-page spread I had done for pages four and five would no longer be the centerpiece, and I really wanted it to be in the center, because those pages were probably my crowning achievement.  I came up with a really creative layout for the center spread that just works really well.  I’m certainly not J.H. Williams III, who is amazing, but…it’s really cool, and definitely needs to be at the center of it all.
(The version that exists only in my head is much cooler, but all things considered, I can’t complain about how the actual pages turned out.)
Initially I had been drawing each panel as its own separate file in Manga Studio, then bringing them all together to form the final page in Photoshop.  Ultimately, I decided that wasn’t the best approach, and began drawing complete pages in MS.
I still think that doing the complete page as one file is the best approach, but it did cause me some headaches when I started putting the pages onto an actual template and had to resize and rearrange the panels.  That was easier on the pages where the panels were separate files, and much more of a hassle on the pages that were a single file.
The other hardship that accompanied my layout blunder was that I had to re-letter the whole thing.  I’d been lettering each page as I went along before moving on the next one, but once I had to reduce the size of some of the pages to fit in the “safe” area there was no easy way to get the captions and balloons to fit without just starting over again, especially as I had to trim some of the dialogue even further.
That was probably just as well, though, as I was able to pick up the book about lettering before I got to that point, which definitely helped.
Ultimately, obviously, I finished it, and I forced myself to remember a concept that Jack “King” Kirby lived by:  sometimes done is better than perfect.
Because while it was definitely done, it was very, very far from perfect.
In my final installment I’ll tell you about putting the whole thing together and creating the final finished product (and all of the attendant headaches).

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