Making Comics The IRRATIONAL WAY: TALKING HEADS REDUX

Talking Heads syndrome is a topic that I discussed in an earlier post. Incidentally, as time passed, I reached a point with the comic project I am working on where lengthy dialogue between 2 characters was involved. It was a perfect opportunity to put the tips into practice and use the pages as examples to illustrate the points raised in the earlier post. Let’s get down to it.

This few pages depict a scene between Orcus, the horned dude, and Jupiter, the other guy. It is mostly exposition and dialogue-heavy, the kind of trap that might cause an unsuspecting creator to commit the mistake of “talking heads”. Using the tips in the earlier post, I attempt to circumvent this difficult part of the story and try to keep the reader entertained and interested.

In the first page, the reader is introduced to Orcus. For maximum impact, I decided to allocate majority of the page to featuring him. He occupies the entire left portion of the page and his cape cuts into the other panels stacked on the side. Visually, he is arresting and imposing. His presence is “invading” the space on the page.

Pantheon's End_OS_26 copy

Tips wise, here we see Orcusfeet. The head sizes on the page also vary in size, from very small in the 2nd panel to more medium sized in the last 2 panels. The dialogue is distributed throughout the panels in order to cut them down to size when translated visually on the page. For example, the dialogue from Orcus is split into 2 between panel 1 and panel 2.

On page 2, the heavy dialogue continues. Orcus really has a lot to say.

Pantheon's End_OS_27 copy

The head sizes continues to vary throughout the page, implying changes in the camera between medium shots and close-ups. Working through page 2, I realized I am falling into the trap of repeating my camera shots.

Notice that the side view in panel 3 of page 2 is similar to panel 4 of page 1. Same with the last panels of page 1 and 2. They are too similar! This is starting to turn into “talking heads”!ths_redux.png

I needed to switch it up immediately. Using the tips, I quickly determined that we haven’t seen the feet of the characters yet. Therefore, in the first panel of the 3rd page, I pulled the camera further away so as to accommodate the full figures of the 2 characters into the shot. This forces me to re-position the camera as well as reintroduce the setting/background. Look at panel 1 of page 3. Isn’t it a breath of fresh air after seeing so many heads talking from before?

 

Pantheon's End_OS_28 copy.png

With the crisis of talking heads syndrome avoided, I can continue with using closeups again without tiring the reader visually.

Bonus tip: Besides varying head sizes, showing feet and cutting dialogue, we can also avoid talking heads through closeups of other elements such as props, background or body part that pertains to the storytelling. In panel 3 of page 3, we see the hand of Orcus passing a note to Jupiter, instead of a head talking to another head again.

Sometimes exposition through lengthy dialogue is inevitable. From the examples above, hopefully you can see how the tips put forth help you as the creator to avoid repetitive talking head shots and keep the reader engaged with your comic.

-Derek

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PANTHEON’S END Behind the scenes: Orcus Joins the Party!

Back with an update on the digital one-shot comic we are in the midst of producing, Pantheon’s End, adapted from Dane MatthewsPITCH 2018 submission.

We are excited to show recently completed lineart pages, featuring one of the heroes of the superhuman group known as The Pantheon.

Pantheon's End_OS_26 copy

Pantheon's End_OS_27 copy

We are steadily finishing pages as we truck along, with 27 pages of lineart completed thus far. It should take us about 2 more months before this title is ready for release. You can scroll down the news to check out our past updates on this title. Thank you for your support and interest in our work.

Making Comics The IRRATIONAL WAY: EXPERIMENTAL PANEL LAYOUTS

Making comics can be a lot of fun and one of the most enjoyable process for me is exploring experimental panel layouts for visual storytelling. In this post, I would like to share a selection of pages from our catalog of comic titles that feature some unconventional paneling for comics. I believe checking these pages out will inspire and motivate you with your comic creation process. Let’s get down to it!

First up, from Warbunnies: Make War, Not Love #1, here we have a scene where the protagonist, Ray, and his wife are caught in a missile barrage fire from hostile aliens. The ensuing chaos results in the death of Ray‘s wife, causing an emotional breakdown at the end.

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In the above page, the missiles drop and immediately causes a huge explosion. So great is the impact that it literally breaks the gutters of the comic! Notice the cracks in the vertical gutters. The whole page structure is falling apart! We see so much destruction, even the last word balloon is cut, mimicking the distortion in hearing after one gets caught in a blast.

The inspiration of this experimental layout is one that stems from the creation process. While placing the vertical gutters, I had to rotate them and an eureka moment occurred when I over-did one and thought ” hey… what if I snap the gutters to show the impact of the blast?” This is the result of what is often attributed as “happy accident“.

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In the above page, the protagonist regains consciousness after the attack. Confused and distraught, this emotional state is captured in the scattering of small panels across the top of the page.

The inspiration of this layout came from seeing a stack of photos scattered across a table. It is messy and makes it really difficult for me to sort and find the one particular photo I was looking for. A small episode in life sparked the creation of this layout. Experiencing life and doing things out of your usual routine can lead to new discoveries.

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The layout in the above page is a literal representation of the term, “shattered memories”. Literature is a source of inspiration for many visual storytellers. The same words can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Use it to inspire your visuals.

Moving on to another title, here are 2 pages from our on-going series, Kitsune: Assassin For Hire #8. Our protagonist, Takara, enters a new town and is unable to find a place to stay for the night. For context, as a mixed blood, she regularly experiences discrimination from people. The main idea is to show her facing rejection at every turn.

Kitsune_08_05 copyKitsune_08_06 copyAnd what better way to show this than to literally show her the “door”? Japanese doors or shōji inspired this layout. The door frame forms the page above and all the panels depicting the townsfolk rejecting her. Seeing the huge door frame also reinforces the idea of the huge rejection Takara is getting. In a way, the reader also feels the rejection from having to stare at a closed door that fills the page. Inspiration can come from gaining knowledge of history and cultures.

CaptureJapanese sliding door – Screenshot capture from pakutaso.com

And here, we have a page from #3 of the same title. To clarify, issues 1 to 5 of the series is black and white.Kitsune_02_07 copyThe second panel of the page is inspired by this image:

swift_styleScreenshot capture of Taylor Swift’s Style MV

The character on the page is recounting past events and visually seeing images coming from his cranium harkens to the idea that he is thinking about those past events in his mind. Inspiration can come from other media, be it games, movies, music etc.

In summary, these are the sources that inspired all the above experimental page layouts.

  • the practice of craft leading to happy accidents
  • breaking daily routine
  • literature
  • learning about history and cultures
  • other media

Are the pages above effective in conveying the story? Would it have been better to stick to a regular panel layout for clear visual storytelling? Hard to say but that is not the point I want to make here. The main point I am trying to make is that none of these new alternative ways of visual storytelling in comics came from comics. They were all sourced from outside influence.

It is good to be knowledgeable about comics but to grow the medium, I believe that we as creators have to bring something new to the table. Every creator of note brought something new to the table, whether it be Jack Kirby’s energetic flow, Jim Steranko’s exciting unconventional panels, Todd McFarlane’s outrageously dynamic poses, Jim Lee’s heroic proportions and Frank Miller’s serious overtones, they all defied the norm of their time and cemented their place in comic book history with their strong, bold, unique vision and voice.

To bring something new, it is important to source it from places outside of comics. Live life. Gain experience and knowledge. Explore unknown frontiers. Be open to new ideas and go on adventures. Novelty is something all humans crave. Don’t let it be just the next comic issue that is coming out. Go bigger. Go irrational.

-Derek

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PANTHEON’S END Behind the scenes: Character Designs CUT

As you might already know, the title that we are currently producing, Pantheon’s End, is an adaptation from Dane MatthewsPITCH 2018 submission. As an adaptation, there are edits and cuts to the original story and here, we want to share 2 of the superhuman characters that did not make it into the final cut of the 40 page one shot comic.

Pantheon's End_CD_Mercury copyMercury is the speedster of the team of super humans. His costume incorporates some iconic elements of the Roman god as well as elements of a 21st century athletic tracksuit. Unlike the other super humans on the Pantheon, Mercury‘s willingness to embrace modern day apparels is a sign of his great empathy and passion for the people he strives to defend and protect.

Pantheon's End_CD_Salacia copy

Salacia‘s domain is the waters. She commands the creatures of the seas and defend humanity from the oceans. You will notice that this character is not fully rendered.

When it became clear that Salacia was not going to make it into the final cut of the story, we stopped working on her design mid-production and left her as you see here. Unfortunately, this is the reality of making comics on a tight budget and schedule. We have to be strategic with our resources and time. Nevertheless, we still hope you enjoy the art.

If you’ve missed our earlier posts, you can check out the first few pages of Pantheon’s End from the links below:
Pages 1 to 5
Pages 6 to 8

As well as the character designs of characters that made it it into the one-shot:
Character designs 1
Character Designs 2

Thank you for your interest and support! Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to work on producing the comic for your reading pleasure.

Making Comics The IRRATIONAL WAY: TALKING HEADS SYNDROME

Talking heads syndrome is a mistake that beginning comic creators are often guilty of. It is manifested in the form of a page or pages with multiple panels of character head closeups and heavy dialogue.

The root cause of this problem stems from a lack of drawing skills, visual storytelling techniques and inadequate writing on the part of the aspiring comic creator. To circumvent drawing the full figure, tricky anatomy such as hands and feet, the creator chooses to focus on heads/faces, an area where most beginners are more adept at. Coupled with poorly written dialogue across a few pages, this ultimately results in a comic that can bore the reader and take them out of the story.

Throughout the years, many professionals have given great help and advice on this matter. One popular solution to counter the visual repetitiveness of talking heads is Wally Wood’s 22 Panels that always work. Utilizing a variety of panels can break the monotony of seeing only talking heads and make the page more interesting to look at.

Here, I would like to share 3 other tips that I use in my comic creation process to avoid or eliminate the problem of talking heads syndrome in my work.

1. Head Size

Borrowing from Todd Mcfarlane’s technique, a good gauge to determine whether your page is suffering from talking heads syndrome is to check if you have a variety of head sizes on a page.

Small heads indicate a long shot. Medium sized heads probably indicate a medium shot. Big heads indicate a closeup. Having a mixture of heads of varied sizes is a good way to tell that you have integrated a variety of different camera shots into your comic.

If all the head sizes on your page are similar, it means your camera has not moved very much and that is a sign that your page may be suffering from talking heads syndrome, especially if the camera shots are all closeups.

2. Feet

Check to see if you have included feet across your pages. The feet is a way to tell if you have included a full figure into one of your panels. No feet probably means half-body medium shots or closeups. Too many pages without seeing the feet probably means you are recycling and repeating similar camera shots.

As a guideline, try to include feet in one of your panels across every 2 to 3 pages. This forces you to introduce a different camera somewhere every 2 to 3 pages that is likely to be a long shot or a camera that pulls away far enough for a character’s feet to be seen. It results in a higher chance that you will have a panel that includes the environment/background to place your characters and reinforce the world/setting to readers.

3. Dialogue

A frequent precursor to talking heads syndrome is heavy dialogue. Usually, this comes in the form of lengthy exposition that the creator has to relate to the reader in order to progress the plot.

A straightforward way to avoid this is to cut the dialogue down to size. Instead of relying on your characters engaging one another in conversation to advance the story, use the age old method of show, don’t tell. Find opportunities to convey exposition through meaningful and purposeful scenes that allow you to entertain the reader.

 

Understand that these tips serve as guidelines to help you catch moments or lapses in your comic creation process that may result in the mistake of talking heads syndrome. You can use it as a quick checklist just as I do when I go through multiple page layouts in the rough thumbnails stage. Who would have thought feet would be something to look out for on a comic page? Perhaps only for the irrational ones.

-Derek

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PANTHEON’S END Behind The Scenes: What makes a hero?

Posting a panel from the one shot, Pantheon’s End, that we are currently in the midst of producing. The title is adapted from Dane Matthew‘s PITCH 2018 entry. This is definitely one of our favorite key moments in the story.

Pantheon's End_OS_12_1 copy

We hope you enjoy this small little update. We’ll have more updates to come as we push on to produce this 40 page one-shot. You can check out the earlier pages via the links below:
Pages 1 to 5
Pages 6 to 8

Thank you for your interest and support!

Making Comics The IRRATIONAL WAY: LEADING THE EYE

The concept of flow in comic panel layout is a huge subject among comic creators. Understanding how to lead the reader’s eye from panel to panel, across the page in the intended reading order requires experience and intimate knowledge of the craft of making comics.

There are numerous studies and theories surrounding how people read comics and how our brains process reading order, depending on how the panels are presented. The one biggest takeaway that I’ve gotten from these studies is the realization that our eyes do not follow guiding lines on a page as we read a comic page. Instead, our eyes dart from point to point, with intermediate blinks every now and then.

This means that readers are quite likely to disregard the guiding lines that point to an important element on a page, especially when they are reading fast. It is more likely that the readers’ eyes  jump from element to element on a page, criss-crossing between two elements before moving on to the third for example, instead of following a guiding line down to the next element.

This realization caused a marked change in my understanding of traditional composition where perspective lines or guiding lines were heavily utilized to direct the viewer’s eye to a subject of interest. Instead, it led me to reconsider other ways to direct and lead the reader’s eye. In principle, reading from left to right, we want to make the eyes follow a “Z” trajectory across the page.

Here, I want to share 3 elements of note to help in leading the eye that I believe will help you to plan your panel layouts and flow. Like before, I will use the most recent comic pages we have worked on as examples.

1. Faces

We are biologically programmed to recognize faces. When looking at an unidentified creature, our eyes immediately look to find the head of the creature. It is a survival instinct, to need to know where the face of the creature is. Specifically, we are looking for the creature’s eyes, the main reason being that if the creature appears to be a threat, we want to know if it is looking at us.

Throughout history, the greatest threat that humans face on a daily basis is not animals, aliens, orcs, monsters or the like. It is other humans. So, we have developed the ability to quickly recognize human faces and more importantly, facial expressions in order to determine if the other human is friendly or antagonistic.

The key point here is we are drawn to faces. Placing your characters’ faces strategically on a page can help direct the reader’s eye in the desired reading order.

Characters facing the reader will draw more attention than characters who are facing away. Where the characters are looking towards can also help direct the reader’s eye towards what to look at next.

pantheons-end_os_06_face

pantheons-end_os_07_face

 

2. Text

The text elements are one of the most looked at elements on a comic page. It is true that some readers do not read text but skim through images but for the most part, readers rely on the dialogue, the captions and graphical text to gain a more complete understanding of what is going on in the story.

For this reason, most readers, after being drawn by the images on a comic page, instinctively look for the word balloons, caption boxes etc. to comprehend the story. This is especially true when the visuals are not clear and the reader has no choice but to rely on the text to make sense of what is happening on the comic page.

Strategic placement of your text elements such as captions, word balloons, signboards etc can help you to direct the reader’s eye.

pantheons-end_os_06_text

pantheons-end_os_07_text

 

3. Contrast

Gentle gradations are usually soothing and attract less attention. Contrast, on the other hand, draws the eyes. It can be in the form of using strong bright colors against a duller background color. Or in the case of black and white comic art, it can be the use of sharp definitions of light and dark values. Use contrast as a tool to arrest the reader’s eye when you need him or her to be looking at an important element that they will likely miss on a quick glance.

pantheons-end_os_07_contrast.png

Putting everything together, the elements work to hopefully direct the readers’ eye in the intended trajectory.

pantheons-end_os_06-eyepantheons-end_os_07-eye

Are these elements working successfully to create this intended trajectory of the reader’s eye? Not always. Some are more effective than others. It is difficult to account for all scenarios but hopefully, these elements help to nudge and direct the reader towards the correct reading order, at least on a subconscious level.

You can check out the comic pages above here.

Lastly, it is important to understand that learning composition is still paramount and fundamental to becoming a good comic creator. What I am saying is that you can supplement your fundamental understanding of composition with these tips to aid you on your irrational creative process.

If you think the tips in this post are valuable and helpful, do share it with a fellow aspiring comic creator who you believe can benefit from it.

-Derek

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Making Comics The IRRATIONAL WAY: Panel Breaks

Panel break/breakout is a common technique employed by comic creators. It entails having an element or elements within a comic panel, extending beyond the borders of the panels. Here, I discuss my thought process behind using panel breaks and share 3 ways I use them in my comic creation process.

First and foremost, a panel break is just a technique that you can use in making comics. It is not necessary for you to make good comics nor is it a must-have for your work. Having no panel breaks in your comic will not hurt your story. On the contrary, having too much or having unnecessary panel breaks may end up souring the reading experience of your comic.

That being said, I am of the opinion that the panel break technique should be employed as emphasis for storytelling moments or to make your panel to panel layouts more visually interesting in a meaningful way. Using pages from our most recent project, Pantheon’s End, here are 3 ways for your consideration:

1.Varying panel layouts

pantheons-end_os_03_pb

As you can see, this page is composed of a simple panel layout. Introducing a panel break at the bottom of the page serves to break the monotony of the layout, making the page more visually interesting. It is important, especially when the scene is mostly just “boring” dialogue, to have something visually cool to arrest the readers’ attention.

 

2.Entering/Exiting a scene

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There are 2 panel breaks in this scene.

The most obvious being the one at the top where the protagonist is being flung away by the villain. Here, this storytelling moment is emphasized with the panel breaks, to show visually how the protagonist is thrown out of the panel, cutting into other panels of the page. It adds to the action and dynamism of what’s going on in the story.

The second less obvious one occurs on the last panel of the page. It shows a spear piercing the villain. The panel break is a subtle suggestion that the spear appears from outside of the page. Where did it come from? Perhaps the other page? Well, move on to the next page to find out! This panel break functions as a storytelling device and also helps to guide the reader to the next page. Notice how the angle of the spear directs the eye upwards to the top right, where you will find the first panel of the next page. Very subtle but intentional use of the panel break.

 

3. Composing the page

pantheons-end_os_05_pb

Finally, here we have 3 panel breaks. One is highlighted while the others are not because they are not the focus of this point.

The third way a panel break can be used is as a way to compose the page. As you can see, this page is designed to have the entire character as the centerpiece. On a primary level, the panel break highlights the character running towards the protagonist, almost as though she is speeding out of the panel towards us. On a secondary level, the character also functions as vertical gutters of the page, for panels 1 and 2, as well as 4 and 5.

Can you spot the other 2 panel breaks? More importantly, can you deduce the reasons as to why the panel break technique was applied for these 2? If you do, perhaps you too, are starting to think in an irrational manner?

-Derek

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PANTHEON’S END Behind the scenes: Colors Pages 1 to 5

Back with another update on Pantheon’s End, a digital one shot comic, adapted from Dane Matthews‘ original script from PITCH 2018. This time, we are super excited to present the fully colored pages from the last post.

Pantheon's End_OS_01 copyPantheon's End_OS_02 copyPantheon's End_OS_03 copyPantheon's End_OS_04 copyPantheon's End_OS_05 copy

Share this if you like what we are doing with this project. There will be more updates to come as we produce the comic so do stay tuned! Thank you for your interest and support!