Below is a reflection written on the 2000AD sample viewable under the comics tab.
For the 2000AD assignment, the first step was reading the script. I found the script to be very flawed – it was obvious from reading that the writer hadn’t ever really drawn a comic before as the panels were completely overpacked. On top of this, there was very little visual flavour to the story; lots of men in suits fighting each other in an action story we’ve seen thousands of times before. I realised from the beginning that the script would require me to pace it out slightly differently with some additional panels and an atmosphere and setting that would be unique to my work.
In order to keep the story progression as simple and clear as possible, I decided to retain a 4 row panel structure across all the pages. This was inspired by Sean Phillip’s work with Ed Brubaker, particularly in the Criminal series – as the plots of those stories are quite complex this panel structure allowed for Sean to have a constructed and easy to digest page structure. I decided on 4 rows over 3 rows not only for the large amount of panels already in the script, but so I’d have room to divide them into more panels. I also decided that, unlike Criminal, I wanted some panels to extend beyond the row structure to make more use of the impact of some of the violence and to add detail to some of the backgrounds.
My immediate idea was to make use of some medieval backgrounds and to make the work anachronistic to some extent. I decided the opening setting would be a modern business office that was built into an old medieval church – glass walls, metal cabinets / tables etc but built into this medieval ruin. I also decided (since I often dislike the look of / drawing science fiction weaponry) that the Nullifier that the Tooth uses would be based off of an old 18th century duelling pistol that I saw in the V&A in Dundee. In addition, I based Axel Lott’s suit off of a 50s fashion suit that I saw in the same museum.
On the first page the panel I struggled with the most was the first; there were six elements that had to be shown and still look dynamic. My initial idea was to make it a distance long view of the fight with the Tooth and Axel Lott, with the animals and guards in the foreground and have an inset panel on the right with the tooth flying out of Axel’s mouth. However upon trying to draw this the image lost all of the dynamism it was supposed to have. As much as a grand view of the medieval architecture would have been great, it didn’t capture the vibe the story was going for. I redrew the image as a more dynamic closeup of the fight, with emphasis on Axel loosing his tooth.
I also decided to split the panel in which Axel looms over Axel; when I read the dialogue “The right person can make a difference, Tooth,” as much as it is terrible dialogue, I thought this moment should have a panel of it’s own, to show Axel’s heroism even in defeat – his ideals needed to be displayed against the murky morals of the rest of the story (is Lance really a good man when he makes bio-weapons for a living? REALLY?)
The other panel that took a lot of reworking was the panel in which Axel is stabbed through the back with the rhino’s horn. My initial sketch I was happy with, but again I wanted to emphasise the violence of the scene, not show off Axel’s suit. I redrew it with a medium close up to show as much gore as possible.
Page 2 wasn’t as successful for me; whilst I was generally happy with the first and fourth rows, which I felt illuminated the atmosphere and violence well, the middle two I considered more of a failure. I felt the second row failed to establish the setting very well, and the third suffered from my strict four row policy on the story; given the chance, I feel the regrowth sequence would have worked much better with about half a page dedicated to it. I also started using gradients in my digital grey tones which I felt added more flavour to the flavourless backgrounds. On the whole though I feel very happy with the last panel particularly as it has a definite air of mystery as Axel considers gouging out his own teeth to beat the Tooth. This was also the page that I stared to use more photo reference, which in retrospect I think I was too slavishly faithful too; I would have preferred to use it for posing for accuracy, but in the end making Axel look like me was a mistake that created inconsistencies throughout the comic.
Page 3 I felt was more successful; I feel it successfully builds up the atmosphere, and I’m especially proud of the facial expressions on this page, as I felt they offered a real way into the interior of these characters. The closeups in panel 2 and panel 5 were especially well executed for me. I continued using gradients on this page to further effect, as I felt it gave more dimension especially to panels 3 and 4. This page also improved on the previous in more clearly establishing the backgrounds of the setting.
Page 4 is arguably my favourite of the pages; the script opened up at this stage as there was less to include in each panel, and it afforded me the opportunity to combine the middle two rows of the 4 row structure for a near splash image affect. The page also allowed me to draw many close ups, to get across the emotional turmoil on the page. The first row was very successful for me in showing Lott’s disintegration (a better disintegration visually than his one on page 2- had I had the time I would have gone back and redrawn that panel). I struggled on how I was going to draw the central panel – in the end I felt a big close up on the Tooth’s face as he realises he has lost was an emotional payoff for the rest of the story, so I juxtaposed him in the foreground to the many new Axels in the background. I feel it successfully takes us into the Tooth’s emotional state.