So for the past few weeks I’ve been doing this Friday Fixup thing. I needed a hashtag, #fridayfixup sounded good but it’s now painfully obvious to me that I really needed to call it something like #PJ-bodges-around-with-your-page-and-/maybe/-makes-it-stronger-but-maybe-not-your-call. But that didn’t scan. So here we are.
So if you’d like to take part simply reply to my tweet stream with the hashtag #fridayfixup with a single b&w unlettered page (why? cus it’s easier for me to fiddle with it if it contains no lettering and no colours, but I can work around it…) and I’ll pass my somewhat experienced eye over it and see if I can’t pump up the jam on the story telling. With the caveat that it’s entirely in the eye of the beholder this, I’m very much an action comic artist so if your page is calling for something poetic or emotive I may be well out of my depth.
Now … speaking of which… here’s a page by Nick Shingler...
And here’s my edits with annotations:
Ok, I have a few thoughts, this is going for mood/theme/etc, one of my many-many weak areas, so caveat emptor.
First things first: the original file looks to be a colour scan – there’s all sorts of colours going on in this image that aren’t meant to be there. I can understand greyscans, but colour is madness! You’ll want to scan it in greyscale, and if you’re me, you’d probably be happier scanning it in pure b&w. I converted the colour image to pure b&w for this edit, you can see how clean the blacks are and how pure the whites. Ok, now on to business…
Panel one, I thought long and hard about this, my instinct is to add caption borders – but it was clear Nick was going for something else, so I started thinking about ways to avoid caption borders. So panel on I ended up truncating the panel, now it felt truncated anyway the lack of border on the panel meant it was just eating up a big chunk of space and it felt empty, this way though it feels deliberate.
I also added a shadow of the tree. Without it there’s nothing linking the geography of the girl and the man until panel three and that doesn’t have the tree in it so it could be anywhere or anyone. I’m always trying to figure out ways to link one panel to the next – visual chain links, things I can point to and say “see panel 2 has this, so panel 1 has this little clue about it” confusing a reader about geography is only good when it’s the intent, if that’s NOT the intent then you’ve got to really nail down where people are in relation to each other and in relation to any large ‘hero’ object (hero object here means any prop or set element that is a fixture).
I removed all of the panel border and pushed the guys into silhoutte and cleaned it up less scratchy lines and then pushed the tree over to the right.
I think in compositions of paintings or photographs it’s OK to put a big important element dead centre of the frame, in comics, where lettering tends to be on the left it always feels weirdly unbalanced having them dead centre. Plus the reader has to travel from the caption text across the people to end with her in white-silhouette in front of the tree (a marvellous idea that felt a little wasted without that considered distance). I was a little tempted to add dappled shade over her in this panel :
There’s something very Klimt about it, but in ultimetly, the text ends with “a vision all in white” and I felt like I had to hold true to that (though by having the dapples peter out from heavy shadow to pure white, it has a lovely mirror to the contents of the text… YMMV)
So much dead space beside her face! I moved the text, to right beside her, I also cleaned up her face a little – the rule for drawing beautiful is: remove a line – does it still look good? remove another and keep going until it stops looking good.
Oh I erased his word balloon and forget to put text in to it, the balloon was butting up against the frame in an ugly way – don’t do that! Good lettering is incredibly important and can really really increase the perceived quality and value of the work. There’s loads of free resources online too for it.
People talk about writing being more important in comics, others that it’s the art. Here’s something that’ll blow your mind: it’s neither. It’s lettering.
Lettering on its own can make or break a comic.
And finally, I removed the scritchy scratchy greys in favour of a bolder solid black / white mix on the guys suit because that felt right.
I split that caption up – it felt like it was two captions that were just bunched together. The gap now makes the experience of reading it a little better. I wasn’t terribly happy leaving her dead centre again but that mysterious (and I’m hoping, metaphysical) bull adds weight to the right side of the page, keeping the composition from feeling overbalanced by the lettering.
I also cleaned up the edges of the lettering box – I realise it’s borderless, but I still think a neat tidy invisible border is better than a messy one. Ugh. Just realised I should’ve deleted the panel border on the bottom of the panel, I think that’d really make it feel very open.
And there we go, I’ve done what I’ve done, it is JUST my opinion, if you feel it’s improved stuff then awesome, I’m very happy. If you feel it’s made stuff worse, well, that’s even better because it means I’m just some eejit with an opinion and like all opinions you can happily ignore mine!