anatomy of a comic

names matter

The reason I love toy photography is that it appeals to my desire to tell stories. Sometimes it’s as simple as sticking two figures in a scene, whether they’re dinosaurs fighting or superheroes. There’s enough in the picture that what’s happening is either clear as day or offers enough clues that you can find your own interpretation.

Sometimes, that’s not enough and you have to bring in panels and word balloons. Which is where the real fun begins because now it’s more than just a picture. It combines my favorite parts of writing (I love dialogue, can’t stand writing all the descriptive bits and “he said excitedly” and whatnot), photography, composition and design into one usually quick and dirty project.

So I figured I’d discuss how this comic came together, from concept to completion.

The idea first came together when I saw that there would be a Clock King in the next wave of Lego Batman figures.

That’s how I look at most Lego, as a story telling tool. Whether it inspires on its own or gets filtered through my ever expanding collection, that determines my interest in buying a kit. I mean, as cool as the mondo-uber-deluxe Millennium Falcom is, it doesn’t do much for me. But the Lego book that came with Emperor Palpatine? Oh I can work with that.

Same thing with the Clock King.

I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, so I already had the TARDIS set from a couple years ago, which is all about Time Lords and… well that’s the first glimmer. Throw in the Calendar Man minifig that came out last year and there’s definitely something there. I hit Bricklink for the Calendar Man figure, waited for the new wave to come out and then waited for a semi-nice day to pull something together.

Which happened to be today.

Next up: I have my characters and a rough “setting”. What’s the story?

Two villains, one Doctor. Probably nothing good. Did I want to show that? Have an “unconscious” Doctor in the scene? Not especially. I want these comics to be relatively streamlined, especially when they’re gags.

So they’re driving the TARDIS? I like the interior set, but I’d done something like that recently. And it was a really nice day today.

There’s still a lot of room here. I wanted a narrative so something more than the two of them standing outside the TARDIS with a caption about the “real” time lords. So a walk and talk (sorry Mr. Sorkin!).

What are they walking and talking about? One of them got the TARDIS, the other is impressed and… then… magic?

Calendar Man. Clock King. Such seriously ridiculous names. Nothing cool as the Time Lords I liked… like… there you go.

I do my comics in an iPhone app called Halftone 2. It’s a funky little program that was clearly designed to be used for tourist pictures and wacky captions of your dog. I figured this out when I contacted them about a glitch involving a comic of some twenty odd pages and they responded with mild shock. So there you go. But it’s super easy. Drop in your images, throw in some speech bubble “stickers” and some sound effects and you’re set.

Before I got to the park I threw some speech bubbles on the layout, which established the pictures I’d need. I took a couple pictures against the low angle of the winter sun, pasted them in, adjusted tails, cropped the images and, lo, I was done. A month of spitballing, fifteen minutes of photography, five minutes of editing.

I dig the hell out of this system. There are some serious limitations, beyond the tendency towards smaller file sizes. Most importantly, while the layouts are varied and you can make your own layouts in a related app, this is not really good at making super complex pages like Art Spiegelman or Alan Moore. I mean, there are options in the app, but I’ve never made them work for anything.

The learning curve on this app is less about learning the app itself and more about figuring out how to make it work for your vision. Or, to put it in a more visual form:
"Tutorial"Yep, that’s the long and short of it. You can have a big clear picture or a lot of words, but not both. Not really.

So yeah. My brain and welcome to it. And maybe you should try it yourself? Tell a dad joke in two panels. Recreate a Far Side strip in minifigures. Go nuts!

And, hey, Juicy Bits software? Call me. I’ve got some notes.

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