From Video Games to Comics

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From Video Games to Comics

Postby hughferriss » Mon Aug 24, 2009 10:29 pm

Hi everybody!

I recently quit my job at a video game company to try my hand at making a graphic novel. I have been posting my progress to a blog. The book is called Project Waldo (until I can think of a real title). I seem to be doing a lot of things the slow/dumb way, and a few commenters have suggested that I post here for help. Here are the first two pages:

Image

Image

These were drawn in Photoshop using a Cintiq tablet monitor. You can see some other pages at projectwaldo.blogspot.com.

The biggest challenge right now is streamlining my workflow, which is very inefficient. Someone explained flatting to me a few days ago, and that was a big help -- it has probably cut my coloring time in half. I'm still working on reducing layer counts, figuring out what colors work, and learning the basics of formatting for print. Critiques are welcome -- this is the first time I've posted this stuff for professionals, so I'm braced for a drubbing.

Thanks in advance for your help!

-Nate Simpson
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby robbdaman » Mon Aug 24, 2009 11:24 pm

Overall the art looks great and your rendering is nice. One of the biggest things that people will probably get on you about is where your focus is. Sequential art is about storytelling and each panel has to produce a flow and the focus should be on where you want the reader's eye to go. There is a ton of info on the site here for you to soak up including a few long threads that have lot of info from a lot of pros. One thing that you'll hear a lot is converting your pages to grayscale to see only the light and shadow values. Then you'll see where you're leading the reader.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby Winterbourne » Tue Aug 25, 2009 1:23 am

robbdaman wrote:Overall the art looks great and your rendering is nice. One of the biggest things that people will probably get on you about is where your focus is. Sequential art is about storytelling and each panel has to produce a flow and the focus should be on where you want the reader's eye to go.


QFT. The stuff looks great aesthetically as single frames, nice quality of line and colour. But the most difficult and critical part of graphic storytelling is storytelling.

OK, FYI, when I crit I put out a lot of information. I have heard this referred to as "turning on the info-thrower" (it's like a flamethrower, but with info, and you may still end up on fire) and "infosmash." Be warned. ;)

OK, so, if you haven't gotten a hold of Eisner's books on the topic, do. Steal them from a library if necessary. They are Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, and Comics and Sequential Art. Eisner is heavy on theory but has lots of examples. If you have a graphic design background, it shouldn't be difficult to grok.

Also, if you haven't, ditto Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Making Comics. They address the underlying mechanics of graphic narrative, including things like perception of time.

Case in point, the page (#5 I think) depicting the Princess and her brother. You show:

Panel 1. The Princess at the window. She is looking out the window and presumably down at her escort. This panel does multiple things by its framing and focus: it establishes where the Princess' interest lies, where she is, that her brother (well, a dude) is riding alongside her palanquin, that he is some kind of military figure in the chain of command, et cetera.

Also, we are provided that Elloden has concerns about the terrain. It implies that this crossing may actually be unsafe, rather than simply unfamiliar.

See? One panel, and it's doing all of that. It's a good storytelling panel, IMO.

Panel 2. The Princess looking down but saying and doing nothing. Why? Is she reticent? Is she afraid of the dude? Is she simply timid? What's the deal?

Panel 3. Then the dude, now we understand he is her brother, looking up and speaking, giving the Princess (and we the audience) information about where we are, that they are related, and creates the impression that they have been travelling for some time now and with a specific goal in mind (rather than, say, nancing around on their way to some ball or whatever).

Panel 4. The brother looking up and speaking from a different angle. I don't really know if this angle change is necessary. It is a change of view, and thus of visual interest, but why? I don't believe the brother is imparting so much information that it's necessary to break up the dialogue across two panels. The usual rubric I've heard is no more than two typed lines of text of combined dialogue and captions, and he's certainly saying less than that.

Panel 5. The Princess looking down and reaching for the window shutters. She speaks only one line. I get very little sense of character from her so far, other than (from other pages) that perhaps she is hiding something like demonic possession, that she is idle, and that she is physically lovely. She has little facial expression so far, and what she has had are quite mild and not especially expressive. If she's actually hiding something (which she seems to, from previous pages), make it clear. Her body language is limited, as well. An anxious person does not sit the same way as a calm person. They fidget. They wring their hangs, chew their lips, look away. They stammer, change the topic of conversation. They do all kinds of things, but the Princess does very little.

Panel 6. Then the closed window. Why? What is the significance of the closed window? Why does it deserve its own panel? Typically, that is interpreted as a pause, that there is something significant about that panel that we as the audience have to know. But all that's there is the shutter. Is the crest important somehow? Is the shutter not really closed? What's the deal? Evidently, Elloden is looking at the palanquin, but you've already shown that in panel 7. If there is no intended pause, you could very easily combine the Princess closing the shutter with her line and use the space for some other benefit.

Panel 7. Then the brother, close on his face. Why? What's going on there? Is his response important for us to know? Is it merely his face that is important? He certainly seems concerned about something. What? Is it the dead guy mentioned in previous pages? The possible demonic possession? If so, then I'd say leave it.

Panel 8. Then another shot of the brother. This looks like some kind of transition, so I won't comment on it.

The problem with using a lot of lushly-detailed static shots is that, for one, nothing happens, and for another, you place the burden of storytelling on the reader. You are making them pick out the cues, rather than making the cues clear. You make them do the work of deducing what to pay attention to, rather than indicating it through focus, framing, tone, et cetera. But it is your job as the storyteller to make yourself understood, not the audience's job to understand you. They will understand you if you give them the information they need.

I read through the pages you posted on your blog and found the action so far slow, which can work for an ominous story. However, there's the crucial balance between tantalizing the audience and giving them nothing at all. The second one results in boredom and people putting the book down or getting frustrated. I expect reading Eisner and McCloud will be useful in this regard. Those opening shots, though, would be perfect to place captions detailing something the audience needs to know. What place is this? Who are these people? Why are they there? Et cetera. Alternately, perhaps the guards are singing a cadence ("I don't know but I've been told / Navy wings are made of gold"), or maybe the Princess is singing something that will give us more of feeling of who these people are. She seems like she'd be in a good mood, given she's got a bitchin' hookah.

Am I making sense?
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby John Rauch » Tue Aug 25, 2009 4:56 am

I must not know as much as these guys, but I think it looks great! Keep it up!
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby MBirkhofer » Tue Aug 25, 2009 5:17 am

Welcome Nate.
The pages look great. I love the softness of them.

What kind of time frame are we talking about? Repetition will create speed. and it's not likely we have a magic bullet for that. I'm fairly slow myself, tending to spend a good 10 hours on a page, more if you count the time flatting as well.
You mentioned really slow PS zooming, etc on your blog. What resolution are you working at? Most of us work at 600dpi, 12x17.
For the layers, yeah streamlining that will help you alot. Its not uncommon for me to end up with up to 10 or 12 layers on complicated work. FX making up the most of that. Glows, smoke, etc. A page that doesn't have any of that will be 4 layers. Lineart, working layer, flats, and larger form shapes. You can go further and use channels to do the flat and shape layers as well (but I dont).
When actually working however I will often make 4-6 layers when I'm working on an area, then I simply select the layers I made, and merge them into the working layer. If you really feel you need to go back and rework an area, you have the flats to reselect that area, or the lasso tool.

Also, without knowing the exacts on your time issue. comics are done by teams for that reason. Time. If you want to do a project that is fully yours, then I wouldn't worry about it too much. You concerns should simply making the best product you can. If time really is a concern, then delegate!
You also mentioned fiddling with the adjustment layers alot. I am also very guilty of that. And that is very much a cause of wasted time. Pick a color once, apply it and move on. The old adage is measure twice, and cut once. Think about what you want. Plan, then execute. Doing this well and right the first time, is something that comes mostly from experience, but if you want to speed up, you need to do that. My personal opinion on the matter is, I would rather do it right, then do it fast. Speed will come with experience, so I would rather spent the time making the best piece I can, instead of trying to get done asap.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby Eagle » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:00 am

The only specific comment I can make about the actual art is the ribbon of back lighting on the guy's helmet in the last panel. I'm not exactly sure what it is about it that bugs me. Maybe the perfectly uniform width? The colour? Could it be more smoothly blended?

Anyway. You've got tons of stuff to think about already.

Welcome to GutterZombie. :cheers:
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby Soonergriff » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:02 am

Very, very nice stuff Nate. The Knight riding the Dino is especially cool.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby Derek Muthart » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:29 am

I really like what I see here.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby Nathan » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:30 am

John Rauch wrote:I must not know as much as these guys, but I think it looks great! Keep it up!



Yeah, no kidding. I just think this stuff looks awesome.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby Nathan » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:48 am

MBirkhofer wrote:Welcome Nate.
You mentioned really slow PS zooming, etc on your blog. What resolution are you working at? Most of us work at 600dpi, 12x17.


What? Are you kidding? That's the most ridiculously huge file size I've ever heard of! Standard work files for Marvel are 6.875 by 10.438 inches at 400 dpi. I've never worked for DC but I know that Oni and Dark Horse have sent me files as large as 600 dpi (same dimensions as Marvel tho). Oni once sent me a batch of Tek Jansen pages at 11x17 and 600 dpi and I just told them I'd be resizing them to a more workable size and they were fine with it.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby MBirkhofer » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:56 am

Really? I thought 600dpi was pretty much the standard nowadays.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby Soonergriff » Tue Aug 25, 2009 6:59 am

Small nitpick:

Why is the last panel on the first page either not centered, or the same size as the others? It just looks a little off.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby michael-e-w » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:00 am

MBirkhofer wrote:Really? I thought 600dpi was pretty much the standard nowadays.


Cover maybe, but 400 seems normal.

And I have to join John and Nathan in saying these are just kickass. Truly great stuff for me.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby MarkR » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:12 am

This looks amazing. I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
Last edited by MarkR on Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: From Video Games to Comics

Postby Nathan » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:12 am

MBirkhofer wrote:Really? I thought 600dpi was pretty much the standard nowadays.


Well, I can't speak for DC, but covers and interiors for Marvel are the size I said. And I suspect that, even if DC were going to 600dpi for some reason, the page dimensions would be print size (6.875 x 10.438) and not art board size (11 x 17). What size are you working at, Nate?
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