Jan 29 2010

Some tips on checking your comic book’s art

When your team is putting together the comic book, you need to identify potential problems as soon as possible. If you decide that there’s a problem with the outlines but you’ve already gone to coloring, you’ll have to throw out some coloring work and probably some inking. Here are some problems that you need to spot early.

1. Check for continuity. Are the dimensions of the room consistent? Are the characters consistently portrayed? Are the characters as tall and wide as they’re supposed to be? Also, in the toning and coloring stages, please make sure that the lighting sources are consistent.

2. Character placement. Does the placement of the characters make sense? For example, if two characters are walking somewhere but only one of them knows the way, he should probably be in front. Does each character have enough space to perform his later actions? For example, we once had to redo a page because we were boxed in by the walls–it was impossible to have a superhero drop behind a character that was leaning against a wall.

3. Are the character expressions consistent with their lines of dialogue? One particularly tricky area here is when the character’s emotions change dramatically mid-panel. If your script goes something like this, you’re screwed.

Panel 1.
WIFE, annoyed: Your boss kept you late tonight. What gives?
HUSBAND: I got a promotion!
WIFE, excited: Hooray!

Since it’d be very difficult to show the wife being annoyed and excited at the same time, this panel is pretty much doomed.  This is a problem that you need to solve before the page goes to your artist.  For example, you could break this into two panels so that she can emote her annoyance and excitement separately.

4.  Is the amount of dialogue consistent with the panel’s pacing?  For example, if you’re doing an action panel of someone leaping at an enemy, giving them 25+ words of dialogue will damage the pace.  No one can plausibly say that many words in the span of a jump. Too many words will make the action feel slower and less exciting than it should be.   As a rule of thumb, the more intense and involved the action, the fewer words you should use.

5. If something changes, like a character drawing out a prop or something, is it clear where the change came from? For example, if John is unarmed in panel 1 and wielding a gun in the next, readers might wonder where the gun came from.   You could solve that by adding an intermediate panel of him reaching for the gun, or by using motion lines to show that his hand is moving from where his gun used to be.  Alternately, just show time passing or the scene changing.  For example, if panel 1 shows us a police officer driving with his gun holstered, it’ll make sense if his gun is drawn when he gets out to storm a building in panel 2.  We didn’t see him draw the gun, but the situation has changed–now he’s in a much more dangerous situation.

6. If a character has a prop or accessory, does it appear consistently? It’s really easy to lose track of what each character is holding.  Be careful.

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7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Some tips on checking your comic book’s art”

  1. Lighting Manon 30 Jan 2010 at 10:34 am

    This is a great list, it should be required reading, even for the big shots at DC and Marvel.

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been reading a comic book and someone in skin tight clothing or less has suddenly manifested a pistol and I’ve always been terribly scared of where it came from. The options are all terrible, and even worse, happen to be terrible places to keep a pocket dimension.

  2. B. Macon 30 Jan 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Ehh… the artists at Marvel and DC are generally very, very impressive. They could teach me much more than the other way around. (Even though they sometimes try too hard to make characters look buff and end up giving Captain America breast implants).

  3. Ragged Boyon 30 Jan 2010 at 3:05 pm

    I really like this list. I agree that it should be a required read for any prospective comic book writer. Early on I had quite a bit of trouble with too much dialogue. The best thing to keep in mind is the size of the panel. Smaller panels can only take so much dialogue before they look cramped.

    Also, yesterday was my birthday (Jan 29). I’m officially 18. I wonder if I should change my name to “Ragged Man.” Haha.

  4. B. Macon 30 Jan 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Speaking of name changes, I’m thinking about writing under my given name rather than “B. Mac.” I anticipate that I will begin working as an assistant editor for a comic book publisher this week or next. I’d like to drop the pseudonym at that point, because I think that a professional has more to gain than lose in telling people who he is.

    PS: Congratulations on turning 18. Now you can sign a publishing contract without your parents’ permission. 🙂 Unless Whovian seriously picks up her procrastination, she may have to worry about that later.

  5. Ragged Boyon 30 Jan 2010 at 3:31 pm

    I’d miss “B. Mac,” but as you are moving into a more professional setting I could understand you using your real name.

    I think I’ll leave my name. It doesn’t really have a meaning, but that’s what everyone here knows me as. I don’t see a problem with it.

  6. Dforceon 04 Feb 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Huh. This all should seem like common sense–yet that in itself is a superpower nowadays.

    Congrats, Ragged Man–have you considered using that as a superhero name? lol

  7. B. Macon 04 Feb 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Not common to me. 😉 I consider myself a fairly careful comic book creator and I’ve stumbled through all of these except for possibly #4.

    1: Continuity error. We had to throw out our first sample page because I didn’t notice the changing dimensions of the room before it was too late.

    2: Character placement. We’ve had to redo pencils based on character height and party position–Gary was walking in front of Agent Orange, but they were going to AO’s office and Gary had never been there before. It didn’t make sense for Gary to lead.

    3: Incompatible emotions in a single panel. This happens to me almost every time I give a character two bubbles in a single panel. So I don’t. 😉

    4: Keeping the amount of dialogue consistent with the pacing. This hasn’t been much of a problem because I haven’t tried working much dialogue into an action scene. However, in the pages you’ve seen so far, you can tell that the amount of dialogue rises or falls based on the level of intensity. Gary and AO might each deliver 20 words in a column if the situation is merely awkward (and not angry). But when AO decides that he’s about to eat the resume and end the interview, he screams “YOU NEFARIOUS GATOR-HATER!”

    5: Make it clear where changes/props came from. I’m sort of wondering where the resume came from. I should have written that more clearly. Oops.

    6: Don’t lose track of props and accessories. Agent Orange’s badge is present on page 3 but sort of disappears on page 4.

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