Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Mouse Guard : Legends of the Guard Part II
David made a comment about the earlier post, reminding me that when I called to see if I can be part of the "Legends" project, he already had my name on the list of possible contributors, but the project was still in the early stages of development so it was too early to start calling people...but inspiration struck and I am very glad I called ahead because that gave me an opportunity to spend a little bit more time on my story, by working it in a "classic" one-step-at-a-time fashion and not worry about the deadline. This in it's own way is interesting, because I usually do not like to call, or otherwise bother, people about jobs. I am more comfortable just sitting in my room drawing and hoping that somehow the jobs will come in...I mostly make a fool out of myself when I talk to editors. But in this case, I felt very comfortable talking to David (and Julia) and I also felt that I was not bothering him in anyway, if he wanted to have me be part of the project he would tell me so, if not, he would be just as straight with me and tell me "no".
Anyway...my first step was to lay-out the story that I had in my head to figure out exactly how many pages I needed to tell it right. This is critical in an anthology situation because everybody needs to know how long each story is and then try to figure out how to compose each issue.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a very clear idea what I wanted to do. This was actually kind of surprising, because (for the first time in my comic book adventures) I was writing about a universe not of my own creation. I believe there were a few reasons that contributed to this clear "vision". First of all, David and I talked a few times at conventions about stories and fairy tales and myths and how all the different lore relates to his ideas about Mouse Guard as a story. Secondly, I did read all of the Mouse Guard published material (a few times), so I felt that on the illustration side of things I had a pretty good idea of how I would handle the rendering. And lastly, I had a story that I have been wanting to do for over a year, but I just could not picture how to approach it...but putting it into the Mouse Guard universe made all sorts of sense and "bam" I had the panels dancing in front of my eyes.
So I sat down and did lay-out for the story. I drew a grid of 2x3 inch rectangles in my sketchbook (6 per page) and filled them up with stick figures scribbling notes and parts of dialogue either in the panels or on the borders. If things did not work right away, I would erase and keep penciling until I got the pages looking like I wanted them to. After I got the story down, I got a pen and spotted the blacks to make sure the storytelling flowed right.
When I was done I scanned the sketchbook pages and e-mailed the layouts to David. This was so early in the project that the editor has not been brought on board yet and David has agreed to act as my editor for the time being. Over the phone we went over the layouts and this is where things started getting fun. David totally understood what I was trying to do with the story and the storytelling. Based on that he suggested two scenes in which the certain angles did not work right. The first was an establishing shot that I laid out in a very confusing way (it looked fine when I was laying it out, but after talking to David I could see that it would not work), and the second that the panel on the last page and David suggested changing that in a way that would highlight the ending. I scribbled both changes into the questionable panels as we were talking and when I got off the phone I was even more excited about doing the story...here was something I could really sink my teeth into and because the story and storytelling were done, I just had to focus on the art. It's all about problem solving and this is the sweet spot that I love being in.
But it was going to get even better, because now I had to figure out how to design characters that lived in Mouse Guard Legends universe!
Next: Character design and pencils
P.S. Amazon just announced that they are taking pre-orders for a collection of reprints of Archie Goodwin/ Al Williamson's "Secret Agent X-9" Volume 1 (1967-1969). I am becoming a big Al Willaimson fan based on the work that has been recently reprinted (like the great Flash Gordon strips that he did) and I am very much looking forward to seeing this X-9 book.