Monday, April 30, 2012

Page 1 and The Art of Storytelling

So for the past 5 years, a friend of mine and I came up with the idea to start a graphic novel, and for the past 4 years or so, life has gotten in the way of actually doing anything tangible toward that end. However, this move to Dubai has afforded me the opportunity to actually put in a real effort and for the last 4 months, I've completely invested myself into learning about how comics are made. The hardest part to grasp is also the most essential: how to tell a story visually.

Perhaps one of the greatest comic storytellers of all-time was Jack Kirby. Stan Lee was recently quoted in an interview, "Jack Kirby, the great thing about him was, every panel was dramatic. He wasn’t the greatest artist in the world — I mean, he wasn’t da Vinci — but he could make panels look so interesting that you couldn’t wait to turn the page and see the next one." Unlike the wooden characters in comics of that time,  no page was wasted with Kirby, every panel was overflowing with energy and drama. It's safe to say that, comics (and perhaps action movies) are what they are today, because of Kirby.  Take a look at the below fight sequence to understand what I mean:

Even by today's standards, this sequence is impeccable. The action floes from one panel to the next. The reader is drawn in and captivated by the action on the page. Let me remind you that no one was doing anything like this at the time! For readers, it must have been mind blowing. As an artist, I am still in awe of this ability. I share this because I have recently completed the first of our graphic novel and I can tell you from experience that visual storytelling is hard goddamn work! So when you go out and enjoy the Avengers movie this weekend, take a moment to thank Jack Kirby and all of his awesomeness!

Before I show you page one, let me give you some background on this graphic novel entitled Smiley and Grim. My friend who write the script describes the comic as this:  

"This is Pulp Fiction meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. On a daily basis the average person can run afoul of angels, leprechauns, elementals, the avatars of gods, demons, vampires, and the rest of the lot. Smiley and Grim get paid absurd amounts of money to deal with these and everything in between. They live and work by a code - a strange, mysterious code - which serves to make them the best there is in a world where good is relative to everything. 

Smiley and Grim may very well be the linchpin holding together a world where the gods live in luxury penthouses and floating mansions, serving as the storm that sweeps down whenever the atmosphere between godly factions become strained or deific pressures get out of hand. As respected as they are feared, they tread lines of reality even the greatest powers cannot always see clearly."

Now for page 1:
 Script for Page 1:

Page 1 – Two demons arrive at the Arena to meet a friend, who is not so pleased to see one of them.

Panel 1- Exterior -A Warehouse District. We are on the roof of a building. Across the street is a pair of limos parked on the street on either side of the entrance to an alleyway. The alleyway divides a factory on the left from a warehouse on the right. in the distance we see the towers of a city. The alleyway itself is full of limos and cars. There are two men walking up the alleyway wearing suits.

2- Inside the alleyway, the two men are approaching the entrance to one of the warehouses. Another man, smaller, stands beside the guard at the entrance. The guard wears black pants and a black tank top, he is covered in tattoos, thick black mutton-chop sideburns and some wild black hair.

3-The two men have reached the entrance, the smaller man is there to greet them. The two men are demons, Tergemot (a lizard demon, mostly human features with scale patterns around his eyes) and Linus (a pain demon). The smaller man is Esaia an efreet, a fire spirit, and the guard is a Maori-warrior spirit. Linus is really coked up, and should be looking haggard. This is the person Smiley and Grim are looking for.

ESAIA- Tergemot, NICE to see you. Linus, I’d ask you how you are doing but I doubt I have the TIME. 

4- The guard pulls open the large, thick, graffiti-ed  door to allow them in.

ESAIA - Why don’t you come inside and buy us a drink.

5-The three men step through a curtain into a lounge. This is the anterior space to a large arena. The place is filled with all kinds of people and beings: fish-people, a pair of devi (Hindu goddesses), some insect-spirit guys from South America with dragon-fly wings, etc. They are all very well-to-do, the cream of nouveau riche society as it were.

ESAIA- So you being here means something, yes? Besides just absolute fucking stupidity?

LINUS- My being here is hopefully to forget why you think I shouldn’t.

Part of my self education these last 4 months has been learning how to draw digitally on a Wacom board using Manga Studio EX4 (amazing program BTW). The only time I use paper is when I'm doing brainstorming work for page layouts and character concepts. Anyway, creating this page was a ton of fun...hard work but a ton of fun. 

HARDEST PART: The hardest panel to draw was the first one. I absolutely abhor doing landscape art...more specifically, urban landscapes! It's a necessary evil that every comic artist must become proficient at doing. IT'S SO TEDIOUS!!! 

MOST ENJOYABLE: I had the most fun on panels 2 and 5 because I felt I could use my full imagination in creating the characters. 

That's it for this week. I'll be back next week with character sketches of Smiley and Grim and maybe some other concept art.

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