Yes, it’s a four blog post kind of day.
I love twitter, but stuff gets buried, and it’s harder to do long form thinking on it.
Anyway, was thinking today (after stumbling across this procedurally generated maps of cities for dungeons and dragons) that it would be cool to do something similiar for comics. Something that could give you a whole bunch of panel layouts generated from a bare minimum of input. You put in the number of panels and it gives you a dozen layouts. You could select one panel and make it an exterior, or another and make it inset, and click you’d get another dozen layouts all keeping that in mind.
I’ve always been fascinated by the grammar of panel layouts. Let’s take the simplest count of panels: 2.
Here’s a bunch of options:
And that’s before you get into bleeding images off the page, circular panels, batman shaped panels or what’s even in the panels.
And some of these I think work better as first pages, and some work better as last pages (notably, the second panel being smaller, or inset below the midline of the page feels like a full stop on a page).
Three panel layouts explode your options, and it just gets wilder and wilder.
And I like nice readable panel layouts, so there’s some rules I’m a real stickler for, I love stacked panels, but stacking order is important:
Stacking on the right of a large panel is perfectly readable, stacking on the right can be illegible (though clever tricks with lettering/art can make it more readable, but really do yourself a favour and don’t do it!)
And here, dear reader is some examples of five panel layouts:
I keep meaning to (though never seem to have the time to) go through some of the great works (Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, er.. probably others) and draw out their panel layouts. I find them fascinating.
Is that a thing? Not sure if that’s a thing. Anyway. Saturday, Andy Luke (long time Norn Iron comic book chum) ran – with Farset labs – an 8hour comic day. Thomas loves things like this, so we went, he’s been busy writing and drawing a Why Not!? Halloween special, and I thought I should do something too.
Before that though, I took the kids to get their hair cut, and spent an hour in the hairdressers with nothing to do, luckily had the ipad, so I ended up doing a colour drawing that inspired the 8 page strip below. (After Tom suggested a title so simple and ingenious it was hard to ignore…)
Hopefully it’s readable (though it is badly drawn, I think you can see me fighting with myself later on where I’m going “it. doesn’t. have. to. be. good. just. draw. NO! MUST. REDRAW.” – not that I could have made it amazing, but it’s still hard to just sketch and show people something rubbish without burying it in caveats, so caveat: this is just me goofing off)[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”7″ display=”basic_thumbnail” thumbnail_crop=”0″]
(More catching up!)
I haven’t missed doing one of these, but I have cocked up on posting them to my blog, so here’s a a few blog posts coming that are a Sunday catch up service!
Chronos was the Ancient Greek word for time, Cronos their sickle carrying God of Agriculture. Romans related Cronos to their own Saturn, and made him an old man. His sickle became a scythe, and Cronos became Old Father Time who, in turn, became The Grim Reaper. #FolkloreThursdayJohn Reppion
As befitting a strip about time, my time has not been my own the past few weeks, so the resulting strip isn’t quite what I wanted, but it’s good enough for government work (as they say)
One thing I like doing is a little bit of research, and panel one, the first sentence was an opportunity to ask yourself some questions – like “wait, what DOES and ancient greek time keeping device look like”. So I googled it and got this odd looking sundial. Now I have a new friend on twitter, Dr Rena, an archeologist and expert in this time period and she pointed out that this isn’t wrong, BUT more common would’ve been a water timer – but I’d already drawn the damn thing, and that at least looked like a thing I’d recognise as a time keeping device, whereas the water timer just looked like two pots.
I wanted, in the strip, to get across how simple and obvious the transition from Cronos, to Saturn to Old Father Time and then the Grim Reaper. I think I did that, but it’s clumsy and not at all subtle, but I am pretty happy with how that last grim reaper panel turned out.
I’m always making decisions about the rhythm of the strip, and these one pagers are interesting exercises in that. The tweet informs the panel layouts, but the panel layouts also inform how I’ll handle the tweet’s breakdown – in a neat little feedback loop.
I’ve always been interested in panel layouts, I used to keep a notebook that had a bunch of interesting panel arrangements, I’ve always preferred simple, straightforward reading experiences, but even with that limit (a zig zag panel layout) there’s a billion ways to slice it. But some panel layouts work great at the start of a book and some work better at the end. Middle is more open, unless there’s a scene transition in there.
It’s a fascinating exercise to open up a favourite book and just draw out the panel layouts. (For a certain level of fascinating, that is…)
Anyway, that’s your lot. Tempus fugit!
“How long does it take you to do a page?”
Every comic artist has had to answer that one at some point (and more often than not, they have to answer that one over and over again, both to fans at conventions, to family and friends who’ve no idea and to other working professionals, and finally, most hauntingly, to editors…)
For me, the answer is and will always be: a page a day. (it’s also reassuringly definite)
I mean, it’s a lie. Sometimes I can do two (sometimes three!) pages per day (3-4 hours of solid work can get a page done depending on what’s on it) and sometimes a page refuses to cooperate and can take a week or more (I mean, only when the deadline has the slack built in, otherwise you’re shooting yourself in the head doing that).
There’s a good blog post here about schedules and working within deadlines. They talk a lot about 200 page graphic novels (longest I’ve ever done is 174 pages, and it took a year – longer than I’d anticipated owing to family illnesses)
To help me work through deadlines and jobs, I sometimes use my “comics calendar” – it has 25 boxes – representing 25 pages for each month.
If I can get through each month and tick each of those 25 pages then I know I’m on schedule.
Sometimes I’ll adjust that up or down, for me 25 pages is doable (I’ve done 50 page months before… they were pretty good pages, but it is hard work)
I’ll combine this comics calendar with a proper big wall chart calendar, so I can keep track of when I’m doing work and how much. Subscribing to the Seinfeld joke writing method – essentially put an X on every day that you draw a page, and keey going til all the Xs join up.
And if you work full time and a page a day is just an absolute impossibility (and I sympathise, I worked part time for the first decade of my professional comic drawing career)-then divide the page down into chunks you know you can do – half a page, a quarter of a page, the pencils – single panels, then everytime you do a chunk put and X and move on to the next. Even if you imagine you can do a quarter of a page everyday with a full time job, and you do that every day, that’s still 90 full pages of comics per year…
Here’s my comic progress chart – I mark each project with a different highlighter colour and mark it off through the month – if I only do pencils, then I’ll mark half the box in that colour, and then fill the box when the page is completed.
Oh, and one last thing, I’ve blogged about it and talked about it before, but the pomodoro method is an incredible useful tool to get stuff done. It breaks work into 25 minute highly focused chunks with a 5 minute break with every fourth 25 minute break followed by a 25 minute break. Even if you can only get two of those 25 minute chunk in a day and you do it every day (al Seinfeld method) then you’ll be amazed at how much work you can get done.
There’s apps to make it easier, but you can do the same with a kitchen timer – the app I use is called focus keeper and it’s on the iphone or ipad.
Anyway, all said and down the big, horribly obvious advice is, knuckle down, do the work, don’t get distracted by writing a massive blog post, like I just did. Keep drawing!
Oh man, we messed up.
Well, we didn’t really, we work from a list in advance of what the next Folklore Thursday is gonna be. The list is pretty far in advance, and, apparently, this week, changed. So instead of whatever-this-weeks-topic was it became insects. BUT THIS WAS THE FIRST WEEK I WAS ACTUALLY AHEAD! so, poop. Instead you’re getting too Folklore strips. Locker, was my new fav.
Davy Jones’ Locker. The deep-sea Hell of the drowned, according to pirate-lore and later nautical-lore. Davy Jones a diabolical figure, sometimes said to be glimpsed among the rigging during a storm. More often than not though, the sea-devil simply waits below.John Reppion via Twitter
I love stuff like this, instantly I could see it all – deep-sear Hell of the drowned. Class! Trying to get something of a narrative in there – the sailer with the red scarf, drowned in the waters. And shifting to a symbolic skull in the water, was fun in the last panel.
I enjoy drawing gruesome faces, so that much is fun for me.
I cobbled my version of dredd together over 15 or so years of lifting and removing the bits of his uniform I liked and didn’t like.
The Stallone movie (*spit*) added a couple of things to my Dredd armour – notably a neat tidy collar and tiny little judicial badges (which I only give to fairly senior judges) and a lip or rim around the red part of the helmet…(and my Dredd helmet probably owes more to Steve Dillon than anyone)
I’m still working on how my eagle looks, but, for the most part it works like this…
Made up of two parts, the lower/inner part acts as the support for the arm, and the eagle – and then the eagle pivots/rests on top of it. Frequently colourists will colour both the same, but my preference is for the inner part to be a dark blue (darker than the uniform even)
I’m still playing with the gloves, but I tend to favour this style (Jock’s design is so strong that even for the brief window he drew Dredd some of his improvements to Dredd’s uniform rippled down through the years)
I imagine they’re velcro fastners. I’ve no idea what the hell they’d keep in those glove pockets -I mean two per glove is a silly size – maybe some bullets?
Belt pouches are fairly classic standard, button with a central ribbing…
Which I think are largely McMahon design.
I don’t think there’s much remarkable about my elbow or knee pads or boots – it’s all big chunky shapes, that look like they’ve been battered about – that’s my preference.
On last thing, and the reason for the blog post… I think – though I may be wrong – I just invented a new way to do one part of the uniform that.. well.. I’ve never been happy about.
The respirator – I’ve seen this done where the badge slides down and covers the mouth and where the entire bulged part where the badge is attached comes down. Which seems marginally more likely (while explaining why it has that bulge)
My new innovation… ta da! is to add pop out fins – now these pop out either side of the respirator when activated, and form a vacum seal around the face (and in fact, possibly they inflate a little – and may – if animated – look like they’re breathing with you).
It looks like this:
I doubt anyone else will ever steal them from me, but even so, I’m happy knowing I adding something totally new to Dredd.