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The Suicide Artist – Process

Since I’ve been doing comics for a while now, and I haven’t been posting here much (although I have been posting very regularly on the Daily Fiction blog), I thought I’d do a process post how Nitin Veturkar and I create a comic.

Most of our comics before we started on the Kindle magazine gig were adaptations of prose stories I had already written (like this one and this one). There, Nitin did the adaptation, and I only gave him notes on his thumbnails, but left the rest up to him. Then I would edit the story for lettering (removing descriptive passages that were already presented by the artwork). With the Kindle gig, we are using the full-script method which is de rigueur in the comics industry.

This is Page 1 of the 4-page comic we’ve done for the October issue of Kindle Magazine (out in a couple of weeks – pliss to buy, True Believer). It’s called ‘The Suicide Artist’ (part of the basic concept was contributed by Trisha Ray).

Usually, I start with a very informal story-cum-treatment which is more about what happens than about how it happens. There’s very little description, a few bits of dialogue and zero formatting. This is just for me, my zero draft.

And then slowly, it turns into a script, with panel breakdowns, descriptions, dialogue, and after I’m done, I format it into a legible thing with two fonts – one for descriptions, and one for dialogue. It looks more or less thus:

PAGE 1 (5 panels)

Panel 1

The first row of the first page is split into two parts. The first part, covering around one-third of the width, is blank. The first panel covers the rest of the width – two-thirds of the page. The title and credits will go into the blank space.

TITLES: THE SUICIDE ARTIST
by Aditya Bidikar
& Nitin Veturkar
(with thanks to Trisha Ray)

Panel 1 is a wide panel. The top half is empty, except for a wall clock saying 3.30. Under the  clock, covering the rest of the panel, we have a view of a line of office cubicles. There are, let’s say 4 cubicle areas visible in this panel – so there would be eight/six people sitting in them. Four in the foreground, four in the background. Let’s say the cubicle arrangement is as follows:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 – background
5 | 6 | 7 | 8 – foreground
The people in seven of the cubicles are sitting. In this panel, we can only see one character. Basically, the person sitting in the right-most cubicle (cubicle 4) in the panel has gotten up and is trying to look into the cubicle beside him (i.e. the cubicle 8).
This is our hero. Clean-cut young man, around 22-23, works in a call centre. Probably wearing a tie. His name is Manik.

MANIK: Tina, the boss is asking for you.
MANIK (linked): He says you’ve been on a call for nearly 54 hours.

Panel 2

Smaller panel. Everyone else in the cubicles (except for Tina) has heard that and is now standing up and trying to look into Tina’s cubicle (cubicle 8).

MANIK: Tina?

Panel 3

Mostly the same as panel 2, except Manik is now leaning into Tina’s cubicle. He looks a bit shocked.

MANIK: Tina!!

Panel 4

We see a view of what Manik is seeing. A top view of Tina’s cubicle. A cubicle covered from three sides (left, bottom – where Manik is, and right). Sparse desk, a vase with flowers that have withered. The call control system in front, with the headphones on Tina’s head.
And finally Tina – who has been dead for three days. She is slumped on her office chair, with her head thrown back, looking at the ceiling. Her eyes are open, as is her mouth. She is wearing a salwar-kameez. And although she hasn’t started rotting yet, her skin has gone wrinkly and sunken. She looks a bit like an old woman, but she is very clearly dead.

(no dialogue)

Panel 5

This is a shot of a corridor. To the left, there is a set of chairs, and Manik is sitting on one of them. Beside him (on the other side from us) is his boss, who has a hand on Manik’s shoulder. In front of Manik, two ambulance attendants are wheeling out Tina’s body on a stretcher.

BOSS: I’m sorry, Manik. You and Tina were close, weren’t you?

I send this to Nitin, and to my editor and a couple of preliminary readers. By now, Nitin knows that this is less a set of instructions than a set of guidelines, and since I will be lettering the final comic, he can take a bit of freedom to frame and draw the panels while keeping the essence intact. Usually, we have already discussed the visual style he’ll be using. He sends me a set of thumbnails or pencil roughs, which look like this:

I give him my feedback regarding clarity and a few things that I think should be changed (usually very minimal), and then he sends me the actual artwork.

And then I letter it in a vector program, sometimes adjusting the script to fit the artwork. This time, to go with the cartoony style, I decided to use slightly more brushy balloons than usual, and thinner balloon tails to imitate newspaper comic-strip lettering. And then we get the finished page. Like so:

‘The Suicide Artist’ will appear in the October issue of Kindle Magazine.

May 2010 in Books

Trying something new. I forget too much of the stuff I consume, and I think I need to note things down so I can remember them better. Will hopefully be doing this every month for books and films.

Reading this month was sadly light. There are tons of books lying around which I am yet to read. Usually I tend to at least consume a fair number of comics per month, but that didn’t happen this month either. Will be trying to change that in June.

Terry Pratchett – Going Postal: Reread, for the fourth time, if I remember right. Still my favourite Discworld book. By this, the 33rd book, Pratchett is like a well-oiled machine, and Discworld runs pretty much on its own steam, but in this one, he shakes things up properly, introduces a new main character, employing different tricks from his bag, even restructuring the presentation to an extent. Moist von Lipwig is a find, the best new character Pratchett has created in a while, the charming cad who has more depth than just that. In both this book and its sequel, Pratchett essentially compresses the timeframe for a major societal change into a few days and makes the whole book come together better and makes the story flow smoother. I could have said I reread this in anticipation of the upcoming movie, but really, I just love this book to bits.

Warren Ellis – Frankenstein’s Womb: A very short, pleasant read. A history lesson mostly to do with Ellis’s new obsession – the hyperconnective tissue of culture. Much like Do Anything, except further back in the past (and obviously not featuring Jack Kirby’s robot head). With some rather marvellous artwork to boot. Well worth a read, and perhaps a couple of rereads. Beautiful artwork.

Warren Ellis – Two-Step: An old pop favourite. Amazingly fun cyberpunk-ish action thriller/romantic comedy, with Ellis channelling both his inner juvenile and Garth Ennis (one might argue they’re the same). Conner and Palmiotti’s artwork is heavily inspired by the MAD practice of inserting as many background jokes into panels as possible. The combination works out to be a heady kinetic romp with plenty of hidden jokes to go over later. Apart from some unpleasantness with a couple of male rape jokes, this one’s a keeper of a book. Sadly overlooked among Ellis’s more famous creations. Take a look at it here. (Link mildly NSFW. In short, there’z boobies.)

Tomorrow: May 2010 in Movies.

Testing

Just testing the ‘post by email’ feature. Let’s see how this does bold and italics. Here’s a link to get you through the day. A quote from it:

The sources said Helzer apparently tried to kill himself by jamming pens in each of his eyes.

And a picture to look at (a Moon and Ba comic strip):

Daily Fiction

I have launched a Daily Fiction blog yesterday. I will be posting one story every weekday on this blog. The first two stories are already up. You can visit the blog at the following address:

http://dailyfiction.wordpress.com/

What You Don’t Know Can Still Hurt You (Repost)

I’m reposting my first comic for Crossed Genres magazine’s initiative to raise money for the Haiti earthquake relief effort – Post a Story for Haiti. There are many more stories at the link. Go read them, and please click on the links and donate.

what-you-dont-know1

Image credits:
PDClipart.org
OpenClipart.org

Images used under a Creative Commons license:
y mírate y mírate…
Arthur10242-2
Untitled

Lettering font by Blambot.com

Woodwork

I am extremely pleased to announce that one of my short stories – a little fairytale called ‘Woodwork’ – is being published in the print and online editions of Crossed Genres magazine.

You can read the story here.