So, I’m working on this graphic novel thing called The Last Day. I thought you might enjoy seeing how it’s going so far.
It has been a little while since I have created a long-form comic and when it’s done, this will be the longest I have ever finished. When I started drawing comics nearly 20 years ago, I used to plan everything far in advance, as if I was doing all the jobs in a standard Madison Avenue publishing house: write a script, draw the page in pencil, ink with a brush, add lettering and balloons, etc.
I found myself blocked at the script stage, and then I remembered how one of my idols, Jack Kirby, used to work with Stan Lee back in the early 60s on the classic Marvel comics. They would meet in Stan’s office and talk about the story for a given issue of The Hulk or X-Men or Captain America and then Jack would go away and draw the comic based on the outline they came up with. Stan would THEN write the dialogue, sometimes necessitating some redrawing but generally fitting that bombastic prose around Jack’s equally energetic art.
So, I decided to try that, and it was a revelation. I had a general idea in my head of what the story was, but as I started storyboarding, I made discoveries that I simply wouldn’t have otherwise. I wound up with about 80 pages of thumbnails. Here’s the first:
So then I thought about how to create the artwork. I’ve been tinkering with a software application called Manga Studio, and I like it a lot, but I also like drawing on paper. I thought about what style it should be (cartoonish, realistic), what media to draw with, whether or not the final art should be in colour or duotone, etc. etc. etc. I am still pondering some of those questions; but in the meantime I realized I was blocking myself again.
So, this week I just started drawing. Here’s what I came up with for the first page based on that thumbnail.
Again, I am making discoveries, as I realized in drawing this page that I didn’t need to put in dialogue at all, and I decided to change the order of t he panels.
I like how the second panel turned out: the composition, the energy. But I didn’t like the first or third. The perspective is weird in the first and the anatomy is way off in the third. This is a book where facial expressions will be very important, so the giant doll-eyes had to go.
So, I redrew panels one and three on a new piece of bristol. But first, I took a piece of tracing paper and sketched out the correct perspective for panel one. Here it is:
That big rectangle in the middle is the area that would be used in the final drawing. Note how in the correct perspective, the entire bed and the windows don’t fit into the frame. The anatomy is also fixed up in panel three; still not perfect but certainly good enough for now. Here are the final pencils for page 1, combining the original panel 2 with the new panels 1 and 3.
So, that’s a start. I think I will pencil a few more pages like this and then try creating the finished art, either through digital inking or actual inking or both. I’ll keep you posted.