Friday, July 4, 2014

Comic Page Creation Part 1: Writing and Thumbnailing

To mark the 150th page of The Wayward Queen, I thought it would be fun to show how I make my comic pages. So! Here's a step-by-step of page 124! (I guess that's old enough to avoid spoilers for anyone who's not caught up.) This is going to be pretty long, so I'll make it a series.

For reference, here's the page I'm talking about.

COMIC PAGE CREATION PART 1: Writing and Thumbnailing

Part 2 is here| Part 3 is here

The first step is writing, of course. This step is more madness than method and mostly involves scribbling incoherent things in my Big Messy Notebook, crossing things out and scribbling some more.

When some sort of plot outline starts to emerge from the scribbly notes, then I add it to this nifty "Index Card" app (most cards pixelated due to spoilers.) This becomes my official outline. I like using the app because it's easy to shuffle things around and try different sequences. Plus I can group cards into sub-outlines if I need to go into detail on certain scenes (like the Giant Fight Scene I'm in the middle of right now. It's complicated. It needs its own outline. It may even need a few sub-sub-outlines.)

THEN I go back to the Big Messy Notebook to flesh out specific scenes and dialogue. Since this is an ongoing comic, so is the writing - I try to have the outline for a given chapter pretty clear before I start it (and some idea of what happens in subsequent chapters so I know where I'm going,) but specific scenes are handled more or less on the fly.

Once I have a scene written, it's time figure out how what it looks like! This is where the all-important thumbnails come in. In spite of how simple they look, this is the hardest part. The thumbnail is where I figure everything out - what's the action, how to break it down in a sequence, how to show it clearly and expressively, how each panel is composed and how the whole page is composed, what are the actual poses/setting/props/etc, and approximately where will the dialogue go...This is hard! But once the thumbnail is nailed down, everything else goes comparatively smoothly.

Here's a batch of thumbnails for page 124 and adjacent pages... (Around this point I started using pre-printed thumbnail boxes to speed things up.) I often start with the panel layout before going into the content, because page layout is important to me - I want it to be as expressive as the content. (But hopefully not confusing.) Dialogue gets written out around the thumbnail; I tend to do a lot of dialogue edits at this stage, especially if I find bits that flow weird or are too long to fit. Some pages take a lot of thumbnails to figure out, some take less. Page 124 was kinda tricky.*

*Actually, now I have a two-step approach to thumbnails: I start with VERY rough tiny doodles breaking down a sequence into beats or shots, just to wrap my head around how the sequence goes. Then I use these tiny brain-dump doodles to determine how to organize it into panels and pages, and do full thumbnails like these examples. Unfortunately I can't yet show any examples of the two-step process yet because they're all spoilerific. Maybe I'll show that later, because I think it's giving me better results.

Coming up next: Part 2: Drawing the Page

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