(Originally posted on LiveJournal)
Recently, a handful of friends from comic circles decided to pull together an anthology book, to be published print-on-demand. Most of this group were active parts of the original Shooting Star Comics Anthology #1 – a project that was conceived in December 2001 and manifested as a book-in-hand in late July 2002. We were novices at the business side of comics at the time, and didn’t realize that just-over-six months production was exceptional in any way. Ah! the power of dreamers! Anyway, one of those bright minds decided “Why not do a sort-of anniversary anthology?”
The original anthology had 8 page stories, in black and white. This one will have 12 page stories, in color.
I had originally intended to submit a co-owned project that an artist and I had been developing. But his personal life has had a very rough year, and I decided not to push him on this. After all, there’s no sure money to be had from it, and it would be time consuming at a time when he has less available. Our co-owned project can wait.
So, I needed a new 12 page story.
Now, running parallel to this, I’ve had a growing irritation with Vampires! and Zombies! Everywhere I turn it is one or the other. I’m not sure why they are “cool”. Because I certainly would not want to be either one. And I’ve also felt that the true evils behind the mythos of the two states has been buried and/or ignored.
So these two things collided. And I came up with Zoe Alone. “What if,” I thought, “the Angel of Life was manifested in a world with zombies and vampires, and she could make the Undead un-dead? What if she doesn’t remember who and what she is?”
The idea intrigued me. But could I find an artist that would do the project for free, just for the heck of it? And then I thought “Why not do it myself?” I’ve been slowly getting back to doing more artwork again. Why not try this? I’ve done illustrations that have pleased me, I know I have a good sense of design. Why not? Of course, I haven’t tried sequential art before, but….
So, I decided to jump into the deep end feet first.
First there is Zoe herself. The Angel of Life… (All images that follow are photos from the sketch book, so the angle on the pages is a bit wonky. Also they are in pencil, and I often sktech very lightly when trying out ideas.)
A little bit of research turned up the interesting fact that there is not figure in folklore called “the Angel of Life”. Oh, sure, lots about the Angel of Death, but not one about an Angel of Life. That excited me! Oh, goody! I did have to work out the “mythology” for my story, though, and decide just what the nature of these vampires and zombies would be. It’s so tempting to spill all the beans about it here, but I won’t because then you guys wouldn’t bother to read the story when it’s done.
But I thought it would be interesting to post along the way about the work-in-progress. So I figured I’d show you the stages of work for the first four pages of the story. So what follows are photos of my initial pencil sketches, and some explanation of what’s going on and the choices I’m making in the pages.
When I sat down to do the first thumbnails, for the first page of the script, I realized that the page itself had to be dynamic in design. I’ve had artists express appreciation for my scripts, so I hadn’t really thought much deeper than usual. But when I started doing the layout according to the script, I had a shock. It was more challenging than I expected. I needed to think about the story even more deeply than I’d done before, plus I needed to make it clear for the reader. There was a big difference between the choices I’d make for an individual illustration and the choices needed for a comic book page.
The top part of the page is a unified background of a stormy night sky (yes, “It was a dark and story night” !), with stepped down panel frames to highlight (1) a lightning bolt, (2) distant figure of Zoe with a lightning bolt, and (3) an old man, Ted, sneaking along a wall. There will be narrative captions, single lines setting part of the suspense. Then a vampire pounces on Ted. Originally, that was the end of the first page. But when I started working on the sketch for the second page, I realized I needed to have the vampire bite Ted – or try to bite him – here, because the composition for page 2 would work better that way.
And that was another lesson in the difference between scripting and what happens when the artist starts composing the layout. Slightly different perceptions of where the drama gets focused.
First thing I did was a preliminary sketch of the moment when Zoe interferes with the vampire biting Ted. I’d originally intended for the encounter to be seen over Zoe’s shoulder looking down at the vampire, who would have turned her head to look up at Zoe. But I couldn’t figure out how to go from that angle into the next panel when the vampire tries to attack Zoe. At least not in a fluid visual flow.
I liked this composition, Ted on the ground, the vampire over him, startled by Zoe, and Zoe herself standing there calmly. Great! I thought. Good to go.
Except this panel was going to be the upper left corner — and I suddenly realized it leads the eye off the page to the left. Oops, that’s not going to work, when I want the reader to go right. But WHEW! simple solution would be to just flip the composition. I’ll have to change some details like how Zoe’s hair is blowing to fit what will be the angle of wind and rain, but that’s easy peasy. So, I’ve got panel one for page 2.
And then I looked at my script, with it’s bland panel sequence. And my brain said, “These little blocks are NOT going to work.” Because in panel 2, the vampire leaps up to attack Zoe. “Oh, what the heck,” said I to myself, “make the panels suit the action.” And myself thought this was good.
I was so happy with the way the three panels led from one to the other. Then I looked back at the outline description, and realized I’d forgotten the bottom panel, where the now non-vampaire runs away. Yes, it was always intended to be this shape, but I’m really happy that it works.
Ted helps the drained Zoe, taking her to shelter. There, he explains why he was out in the storm. Zoe doesn’t understand what she did, but she agrees to help Ted.
The demon master of vampires feels something has happened (there’s an explanation, but it would be rather long for this post, which is long already), so he sends his minions out into the world to find out what’s going on. The unmade-vampire has taken refuge in an inn, and while she is there, the Angel of Death comes in, looking for “someone”. The unmade-vampire then goes to the demon master, begging to be made a vampire again, telling him about the Angel of Death. The demon then considers obliging the unmade-vampire (but will get a surprise on Page Five).
When I did this preliminary layout sketch I realized a couple of things. Panel one, facing the demon straight on didn’t quite work. It stalled the eye. Also the single panel in the inn didn’t quite flow, story-wise. But I suddenly realized that if I put the unmade-vampire begging before that – and she tells the demon that she saw the Angel of Death, that panel becomes a flashback that does work in the flow. Hence the arrows to switch the sequence.
So, there you have it. The beginning of this project.
These are very rough starting sketches, of course. I need to do more character conceptualizing, practice with figures.
I was unnerving myself once I’d made the choice to do the art myself. I’m really biting off a big bit doing this. But now that I’ve gotten this far on the project, I’m starting to have hopes that I may actually be able to do it!
I’ll certainly be interested in reactions and feedback, though. So, have at it.
wild_patience – Nov. 7th, 2010
I like it. I would be willing to buy this comic.
scribblerworks – Nov. 8th, 2010
That’s always encouraging to hear!
I’m actually enjoying working on this story. For me, at least, it’s something fresh in the vampire/zombie realm. And that appeals to me.
scribblerworks – Nov. 8th, 2010
Thank you! I’m still feeling a bit rusty on the art front. But having a “good concept” helps with the inspiration. It’s making me do the work of planning the art more diligently.
lisa_marli – Nov. 8th, 2010
I think you’ve been talking to James too much. 😉
But good for you! You are a good artist and this will help your art style.
I can’t wait to see more.
scribblerworks – Nov. 8th, 2010
“Talking to James too much”! LOL!
Well, yes. I have been studying at the James A. Owen School of Self Promotion. 🙂
But posting the progress is also a way of nudging myself along. Besides, I am interested in process in and of itself. It’s a way of testing out story concepts.