Stuck (or what it took me a whole day to do and, no, I can’t believe it either)

17 May 2012

It is an inviolable law of nature that whenever I come to break down a story into page layouts there shall be at least one page, and usually more than one, that will be a real bugger to figure out. It matters not if I am working with a full script, where the writer has defined the pages and panels, or, as in this case, a plot outline with dialogue, where the artist defines the pages and panels.
And I can always tell which pages they’ll be from even the most cursory reading of the script, so that throughout the layout process they lurk just out of sight, malevolent entities waiting to destroy me.
My first defence against them is to just press on with the thumbnails and pretend that the problem doesn’t exist – I’ll just bodge something, and tell myself it’ll be okay – but in my heart I know I won’t be able to leave it alone.
The next stage after the thumbnails is to rule up the panels on the artwork, and it is at this point that I have to make a decision about the badness – do I carry on regardless or do I start ‘fixing’, always a dangerous thing to do. Sometimes I manage to shrug and let it go, but usually I have to scratch that itch.
And so it was with this exposition heavy three page sequence:

I’ve nothing against talking heads, but you must draw the line somewhere, and the three miscreants below are well over it. Not only are they doing a disservice to the script, they are also breaking several of my own arbitrary rules, for example the third panel on the first page being followed by three panels in a split tier – appalling. On the second page you can’t see anybody’s feet – shameful. Plus all three are lacking a sense of place – criminal.

Took me hours to figure out how to fix these pages, you can see from the following three scans how cockled the paper has become from the endless erasing. The doodling is a bad sign as well, some instant gratification to counter the frustration.

Finally, at lethal last, some layouts I can live with. There’s no higgledy piggledy panels, there’s feet, and each page now has a panel large enough to give a good idea of the location.

Me and Dave Gibbons shared a studio for a while. Having watched me at work, he noted that ‘a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of tiny minds.’ If only I’d listened…

6 Responses to “Stuck (or what it took me a whole day to do and, no, I can’t believe it either)”


  1. Ha, great post…he says, thinking of the hundreds of pages of thumbnails recently completed…and of the feet that may be missing, the scenes not set….no…oh no…this may not be as easy as it looks….aargh.

  2. Nick Dyer Says:

    ,..reading that made me smile sympathetically..just the other day I was saying how thumbnailing was my least favourite part,..although you’d have to be weird if it was the best thing about doing comics,..loving the doodles and the comment about them too!…so true..:)


  3. My brain resonates with sympathetic recognition.
    Lovely drawings and very elegant solutions too.

  4. Chris Wood Says:

    I LOVE that when Mick McMahon is at a loose end he doodles Judge Dredd, just like I’ve been doing since I first saw his work 30 years ago. There were “Mick McMahon” Judge Dredds scattered throughout every schoolbook I used, and in my current day job as a journalist they now appear in my shorthand notepads…


  5. My thumbnails are always better than the finished pages!!..Can’t seem to get the energy into the pages. Great ideas though. Thanks.


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