Comix Engine 6
There is a panel—a single panel—in THE SOLAR GRID that has been the source of great agony for me. Since starting the book to this very day, I've only ever had to redraw a panel a handful of times. I'm usually good from the first go, but this panel here... it's been killing me. And if I show it to you now, there's no way you would possibly think a panel this simple could have possibly been reached by a jagged road of pain and suffering.
You see what I mean?
I shit you not, that panel there I'd left blank for the longest time, and would go off and do other pages and scenes, then come back to it, try my hand at it, kind of hate it, go off and do other pages and scenes and things, come back to it, try my hand at it again, fail again, repeat.
The reason being: well I hadn't adequately thought about which bits I really needed to focus on. I knew that I needed to depict the exchange of bags. That was the primary “action” taking place in the panel, but I also wanted to depict some more information. Chiefly, the logos on the back of those trench-coats, and also... the trench-coats themselves. The outfits worn by those two figures needed to be seen in clear juxtaposition to the less stylish, more downtrodden attire worn by the figure on the left (Falak). For the longest time, I was convinced we needed to see Falak from the rear just like the two other guys, to emphasize that—unlike them—his outfit featured no logo, and instead just the word “Earth” haphazardly scrawled on the back of his suit. However, any attempt at depicting him from behind made the the transaction of bags seem less obvious. Which was our primary reason for having this panel at all, remember?
Can't let the secondary purpose get in the way of the primary purpose. Especially given that we already see Falak's backside a couple chapters prior.
Those who will notice will. Those who won't will not, and that's okay; it won't disrupt the narrative. It's just a little detail that makes it better, but what will certainly disrupt the narrative is if they can't tell that there's an exchange of bags taking place.
At the end of the day, each line we put onto the page is an additional piece of information that is relayed to the reader, and it's important to be conscientious about what information we are putting out, especially with such a very finite amount of space to depict information to begin with.
I also wanted to depict that this transaction was taking place in a bar. Now, when you look at the resulting panel, you get that they're in a bar. But, it doesn't really capture the “baryness” of a bar, does it? There's no hustle and bustle, there's no backdrop with a bajillion types of liquour, no bartenders working their magic even, and for the longest time I was greedy about wanting to fit aaaaaalll that in. And in my attempts to do just that, I just failed really miserably.
Here's one very bad example:
This one is such a mess because the hierarchy of relevant information is so jacked up, that neither the primary, secondary, or tertiary purposes at all make it through. We can hardly tell that there's a transaction of bags, we can't really get a good look at the outfits or logos, and yes, we can see they're sat at a bar (that's probably the one thing we really get out of the panel in this case), but it's so zoomed out that its hard to tell what the point of focus ought to be. Is it the teardrop-shaped chandelier things? The hardly eligible signage? The pull-down liquor bottles?
The panel I ended up with does the job of communicating that we're at a bar adequately enough, especially when you take into consideration the context within which the panel exists:
It's sometimes easy to forget that a comix panel doesn't exist in a vacuum. It exists in the context of not just the single page, but actually within the context of the double-page spread. And in this particular case, we can clearly get a sense of the bar and it's rowdy atmosphere without needing to jam it all in that one particular panel.
The page is the unit, not the panel.
Sometimes I just need to remind myself.
Another thing the struggle around this panel brought to the forefront for me was the importance of visual “cyphers”. I'll get to that in a future #ComixEngine.