I’ve changed locations, have several physics research tasks to work on, and so my usual work flow is not going to be appropriate for the next couple of weeks, so I thought I’d work on a different aspect of the book project. I’m well into the “one full page per day for the rest of the year to stay on target” part of the calendar and there’s good news and bad news. On the good news side, I’ve refined my workflow a lot, and devised new ways of achieving various technical tasks too numerous (and probably boring) to mention, and so I’ve actually got to the stage where for a moderately complicated page, I can bang out a complete one in a 12 hour day (that means starting from my rough layout work and detailed written script I can make a page with final line art and halftone, all the lettering, all the painting). The bad news is: (1) I can’t do 12 hour days every day, not the least because I still do physics research, have a life beyond work, etc… (2) Several of my pages are way beyond “moderately complicated”. But one carries on, speeding up as best one can.
So what task am I to work on while away from the main base? Well, I have that 24 page prototype story I worked on first for this project, starting in 2010/2011 or so. It is where I taught myself a lot of the things I now do routinely, tried and tested techniques that are now too time-consuming to use, discovered ones that I’ve continued to refine and use now, and so on and so forth. The problem is that I designed and laid out that story in standard “US graphic novel” page ratio (you probably have Sandman, Dark Knight, Preacher or something like that on your shelf somewhere? That page shape). My publisher is going to use a different ratio (wider and shorter), so I have to redesign all the pages in that prototype story. Remember, this is words and images working together, not just words, and so you can’t just expect it to reflow to fit the new format, and shrinking to fit won’t do. I was especially wedded to ambitious big spreads with splash panels and floating panels combined (doing all sorts of clever design things that not a single reader probably would notice…) – Those do not adjust easily to the change of format. So my job is to repurpose all that old material into 24 new pages for the book. The good news here is that I can do this at a much higher rate than 1 page per day (I’ve already done 5 in the last 24 hours) and so this will buy me back some time on the overall calendar, or at the very least not have me get set back too much when I focus on some research ideas I’m working on – I’ve planned for this of course.
Here’s the saddest part. I don’t want to do any new art of these pages unless I have to. I intend to use only existing art, moved around and recombined to give a fair representation of what I intended back when I designed the pages for the original format. What does that mean? I’m going to have to get rid of some elements, break up some of my most favourite pages, and so forth. Some of these pages took a cumulative week or more to do (I was learning a lot then, including how to do the right kind of drawing needed for this sort of task – this learning never stops, btw), but sometimes for the greater good you must “kill your darlings” and so that is what I am going to have to do.
One of my favourite panels from a favourite page from back then is going to have to get heavily cropped. I’ve included it at the top of this post (without dialogue) since it may not ever see the light of day elsewhere. Some of you may recognise the setting. Yes, that overly-detailed tendency I have was in evidence right for the start! I also spent so very much time working out how best to do half tone, shading and so forth for the book, and this meant trying different pitches of cross hatching – too fine and it ends up looking too muddy in the final reduced printed page, too coarse and it just looks like everyone is wearing stripy shirts, has scarred faces, and so forth. I do the bulk of my half tone differently now, so I am going to see how I can preserve some of the older style while getting rid of the stuff that I just can’t stand to look at now. This particular panel still works for me on balance (although I’d not do all that line work on the floor now) others don’t so I’ll have to do some repair work.
Anyway, I’m babbling. I’d better stop. (In this era of social media dominance, I’m pretty sure there’s only about twelve people on the internet who still have the patience to read long blog posts anyway, especially without controversy or name-calling content, and why on earth would any of them happen to be reading my blog? So in fact, I’m probably the only one reading this far down… ? – Maybe some years from now when I look back on all of this adventure. Hi there future me!)
Time to get out the big (virtual) scissors and continue work on these pages…