Wednesday, October 16, 2019


The Masters in Comics program at University of Dundee is rolling right along! We are doing a ton of mind-bending reading, covering metafiction and formalism, structuralism and comics systems, semiotics and sci-fi, Cronenberg and King (ok, those last two are personal choices!) My head is crammed with new inspiration and insights, and getting to explore some of these in comic form has been quite thrilling.

My personal project for Creating Comics is coming along nicely. Above, you can see my first crack at character designs. I am keeping the style quite simple, pretty cartooney, so that I can really exaggerate the emotion and the form of the character throughout The Silo Run. He definitely undergoes a transformation through the story so I've been playing with how his body reacts and how I can mess with the style and colour process of the book to reinforce this transformation.

But let's dig into the thumbs...

As I stated last week, things start nice and simple with the 9-panel grid, assuring the audience that everything is going to be nice and safe....until I pull the rug out from under them later!

Things are still quite conservative in the panelling here. I'm really focused on creating a sense of rhythm with the panels, like quick editing cuts, Edgar Wright style, to match the preparation of the runner, then follow them through the first gruelling run around the silo.

You can see sound-fx starting to peek in here, and I really want to make them a solid visual presence throughout.

I'm starting to drop some text in here and there as it occurs to me. The tough part right now is thinking about how much text I really need. If you can successfully tell a story visually, without being confusing, and it resonates emotionally, then you have to be sure that you add text that further strengthens these ideas without getting redundant.

You'll notice here our first break from the 9-panel grid, as things jump to the 6-panel. I'm also playing with time here as we see the seasons begin to change around our character. Also, we gradually notice that the character is further and further out of the panel, suggesting his speed is increasing, like "the camera" is having trouble keeping up.

And BOOM, things really start to break open here. As our character's speed increases and the comic begin to lean into its more fantastical concepts, the page layout begins to get more experimental: the character is breaking the border, we have a panel without borders, a panel that shatters and of course, we are now in a double-page spread. The wide panels are ideal for conveying the idea of speed.

Haha, ok, now we are cooking, as our page layout breaks into three full-bleed, widescreen panels. Our character is now trying to break the speed of light and a series of inset panels are giving us the inside scoop on the physical, mental and emotional barriers that are being crossed here. Not all of these panels will be explained as I'd like to leave their translation up to the audience (i.e. the character vomiting, the character hunched over while looking into a mirror.)

Our angle on the character changes as well: at first we are looking at the front 3/4 view, then the character seems to run in front and then pass us, as we see his rear 3/4 view.

Now this. Was fun. As our character races towards their next reality-smashing goal, all of the panels themselves get caught up in his wake, a page absolutely inspired by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's WE3. Once again we have panels featuring various objects and moments of physical and emotional strain, implying all of the ways this journey has tested our character, all of the trials and challenges that are being overcome and the toll it is taking. This is the page where I plan to get experimental with the CMYK values and off-register colours.

And finally, we wrap up here, back in our cozy, quiet 9-panel grid, as our character gets a chance to impart a few words to themselves. It is a quiet, introspective ending to a madcap story so I tried a few different layouts to see which would be the most emotionally affecting. There is actually a third one as well that is not pictured. In the end, I will probably go with the one on the right, as those close-ups really sell the emotion. And that shady panel on the top right of the left page is just too damn spooky for the story!

We were very fortunate to have a visiting artist this week, Anna Morozova, a recent grad of the MDes program at Dundee and an artist with 2000AD! While she did enjoy the layout for the story, she really encouraged me to explore different media and styles throughout. This would act as a challenge for myself, a way to learn some new techniques and could also push the emotional level of the story to new heights.

So with that advice, I move on to the next stage of the project:
  • penciling all 12 pages
  • inking all 12 pages on Procreate (to have them finished and ready to rock if need be)
  • experimenting with various styles on several test pages to see how they integrate with the inks
Lots of work to be done...

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