Friday Fixup: Stephen Ward

It’s friday fixup, this slice of sci-fi silliness is from Stephen Ward who has a whole strip for you to read here.

I took his first page to see if I could pep it up with the story telling, His page then my edits, then notes to follow!

So let’s talk SCALE!!!

You have the vast, endless expanse of space (“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.” the great Douglas Adams) and yet panel one feels super cramped. It’s also got the main characters flying against the direction of the reader (reader is, of course, moving left to right – anything that is on the page attempting to move right to left is gonna feel either very jarring or like it’s not moving at all – a still moment). So panel 1 I pulled the camera right out – since we have two characters the dialogue – in the context of the rest of the page – is actually pretty clear which character is speaking so we don’t need to show them just yet.

I’ve also ramped up the threat – and I think it makes the first line funnier – “he’s gaining” is vaguely worrying when the other guy has a ship the same size as you, but it’s very worrying when his shape is so vast that it’s really gonna pulverise you (plus he’s so close it’s very much an understatement)

Second panel: It’s always a pain to have the first person speaking on the right – it’s not ideal, but sometimes you have no choice (I always blame the writer)  making the second person to speak (on the left) lower down in the panel, and giving the letterer plenty of room to work on in the middle is about the best compromise you can make (ideally you don’t get in the situation, but here we are!)

I’ve added some background, both of the interior of the spaceship – needn’t be too much, just some lines to help us know where we are, and windows to the exterior with stars flashing by – it all helps give us a sense of movement. You could also maybe give the panel a dutch angle which would help give a sense of a spaceship jigging left and right to avoid being shot at and would elevate the character higher on the right so it helps the letterer even further.

I’ve also changed the body language, I think the joke works a little better if the character is one minute deeply lamenting the mistake, then the next sort of “but it was delicious”.  Panel 2 made me go back and change panel 1 a little, I took the reference to the pineapple and decide to give the big spaceship in panel one more of a pineapple look to it – helping to reinforce the silly (the big teeth on it are supposed to be a big docking bay with an crunchy open/close gate thing)

Panel three: BACKGROUND! doesn’t need much, just some moving stars and planets and some odds and ends round the ship, stuff to add personality (I added here a tree car smelly thing – you want to add tchotchkes around and about, things that show the world is wider than the blank walls of the ship)

Panel four:

Show don’t tell! Pulled the panel out, dialogue from inside the ship showing intent, the giant wall of asteroids, bullets flying past – we see a plan, the threat and the possible solution. All better than another shot of our heroes inside the ship which conveys little information that “let’s do this”

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got – ymmv, pick from this what you think works and what doesn’t.

Author: PJ

Belfast based Comic Artist who won’t shut up on twitter.