So the first issue of “Uptown Chronicles” has been met with success. Hopefully as the months go by more people will enjoy it and a fan-base will develop. But in the meantime I wanted to show the evolution of the art that takes place once the script has been finished.
The importance of the script cannot be underestimated and there will be plenty of posts that will focus on my script-writing process (and scripts in general) at a later date, but for now I merely want to bask in the amazing feeling that comes from the artistic process. The feeling that accompanies watching words – which at their most fundamental are nothing more than individual shapes that we as humans place next to each other to convey meaning – manifest into visual scenes of sequential art is truly amazing.
I make much of the artist/writer relationship and rightly so. The artwork “Geokon” (the alias of Georgios Konstantopoulos) produces has all the style and depth of the great bande dessinée comics. And so this post is really to celebrate his work and our colourist Alkis “Rithinor”.
Below is a section from the original script used. Our protagonist has come to the horrific realisation about his profession and is dealing with the emotional fallout.
PAGE THREE (FOUR PANELS)
This panel should be quite large. In the centre will be the head and shoulders of ZT facing us, though he is looking down with his face in his hands. We can see the handcuffs on his wrists. Around him the panel will be divided into segments to show his previous “targets” and how they died.
Segment one will show a car from the side on a dirt road. It is riddled with bullets, the windows smashed and the tyres punctured. It has hit a tree so the front of the car has imploded somewhat though we cannot tell if this was before or after the bullets started flying. A small fire has started under the hood and smoke is seeping out in thick black wisps. The driver’s seat door is open slightly but all we can see is a hand and wrist that has fallen out as if the driver has slumped down so that we cannot see anyone through the windows. The hand sits palm up in a pool of blood.
Segment two will be a man lying in bed wearing pyjamas, the sheets covering his lower half, a book on his lap and a bullet hole where his eye used to be. Next to him a woman dressed in nightwear has pulled back the sheets and is on her knees screaming. The red laser pointer is still on the man’s chest.
Segment three will show a young woman lying on her bathroom floor. She is wearing a short white bathrobe and the towel around her head has come loose to cover her face. Blood is smeared across the wall and mirror but there is no obvious cause of death, this will serve as a slightly more sinister kill. Essentially someone strangled her.
Segment 4 will show the victim from the previous page, lying face down on all the books and papers, the bullet hole on the back of his head still smoking with blood and chunks covering a great deal of the desk.
Our Intel said they were terrorists trying to bring down the government and instil anarchy.
But they were just ordinary people trying to expose a corrupt government.
And I hunted each one of them down.
This panel will be less a panel and more a view of ZT’s personal military file. So have a photo of his face when he was younger and next to it have things like DOB, Name, Address, military posts but every answer has been blacked out. Across the bulk of the file a big red “DISSAVOWED” has been stamped down.
They couldn’t send me to jail, too public. But they were afraid I might talk.
So they branded me a “terrorist sympathiser”. No one would believe what I had to say then. Clever bastards.
We are looking across a rainy street. There is a nail salon on one side and a tattoo parlour on the other. Nestled between them is a door that leads up to the flats above them. Graffiti is present and litter can be seen being washed along in the overflowing gutters. A taxi is driving off the side of the panel, kicking up water. Standing on the pavement is ZT with his back to us looking up at the windows. He is wearing a short brown coat, jeans and dirty trainers. He has a tan duffel bag slung over one shoulder. He is looking up at the windows.
My long service history was the only thing that saved me from a body bag.
Close up of ZT’s face. He is looking straight at us, breaking the 4th wall even. The rain has plastered his hair back and droplets are running off his face. He looks grim. This is the man who will become Zero Tolerance.
The group were publishing leaflets that exposed corruption in almost every sector, every ministry and every government department.
Yes. Once I would have died for my country.
POV shot. ZT is looking down at what he has in his hand. It is a manila folder filled with papers. The words “Zero Tolerance” are written across the front of the folder. It is starting to darken with rain spots.
Now, to save it, I must kill it.
THE ORIGINAL LAYOUT
This is the stage with the most dialogue between us. Sometimes when writing the script an image or scene can be so clear in my head but upon seeing it in front of me I realise it could be done better. In this case, the 3rd and 5th panels were swapped and panel 4 was reduced to a small overlapping panel. Now had panel 4 been a page wide panel as I imagined it when writing the script then I would have preferred the original order. But by minimising the impact of panel 4 we can focus on our protagonist’s face for the final dramatic shot. It also means that more space can be given to the more interesting panels.
The change I must admit benefits the flow of the story. And that is why I give the artist free reign over the panel placement 99% of the time. So here we discuss how the panels should be laid out and where the dialogue boxes will be, taking into account the amount of text that must be put into each individual speech bubble or cap box.
Now here is where something really interesting happened.
Notice how the incidents which float around the guilt ridden head of our protagonist in panel 1 were described as “segments” in the script and were represented as such in the outline. Now however it has evolved by being represented as shards of broken glass. Suddenly, we can read a lot more into it. Does the glass represent our protagonist’s shattered perception of reality? His broken conscious? Or is he breaking through the facade that the government built to mask the reality of his job? It could be all or none. Interpretation could throw up more theories.
What truly makes this wonderful is this a prime example of artistic expression building on the script. From the perspective of the writer, the script is still represented adequately here but the artist has added depth to the story through his interpretation.
At this point the work is handed over to Alkis who masterfully transforms the world of the comic with colour.
Everything seems more intense once the colour goes in. I’ve always been a fan of black and white art but the professional manner in which the tones and shades are applied take it to a whole new level. I particularly like the red background in the final segment on panel 1. The colour scheme starts off very wide ranging, the red of the blood, the colour of the bathroom and even a hint of lilac at the top left. Then as we move down the page, the colour scheme darkens, broken by occasional flashes of colour, the white of the headlights.
Finally at the bottom the world is practically devoid of any real colour. The puddles in the final panel look like black creeping shapes that are swallowing up the world, mirroring the feelings of depression and hate the protagonist is feeling. The final dialogue panel is almost enveloped in black, casting doubt on the message it contains. Can our protagonist live with himself knowing what he has done, or has he spiraled too deep into this colourless world?
These are questions for down the line. But the colour scheme subtly draws us down into that dark place with our protagonist.
So there you have it, the stages of evolution of the art. Proof that a script should guide but never stifle the creative influences that build on top of the foundations the writer leaves.