Well, err that was a bit of an extended break between blog posts. Sorry, for that, it’s been really busy for the last few months. So this update may be a little lengthy, so bear with me 🙂
Most of 2017 has been taken up with completing the artwork for my first graphic novel “The Chimera Factor”. A book was written by Richmond Clements (co-editor of the futurequake range of 2000ad fanzines) edited by Barry Nugent (mastermind behind Unseen Shadows), lettered by Paul McLaren and graphic design by Antony McGarry-Thickitt.
Unseen Shadows is a shared universe created by author Barry Nugent. The Unseen Shadows Universe expands the world and characters created within the pages of Barry’s bestselling Urban Fantasy novel Fallen Heroes. The stories are told across multiple platforms, including books, comics, audio and more. At the heart of Unseen Shadows is a secret war which has waged since the first crusade and still continues to this day. Unseen Shadows provides a broad and action-packed canvas for its diverse creative team to work within. Their standalone tales are 100% canon to the Unseen Shadows universe and can be enjoyed without having to read the novels first.
Given this setup, when Richmond approached me to see if I would be interested in producing the art for the 2nd full-length graphic novel set in this universe, naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. Especially when I then heard the elevator pitch….
When a crashed World War II plane is discovered in the Antarctic a United Nations covert unit, led by Major Stephanie Connisbee, is sent to investigate. Unbeknownst to Steph another team, headed up by ruthless adventuress, Victoria Sullivan has also been dispatched to the crash site. Beneath the snow and ice Steph and Victoria discover a relic of mass destruction that should have stayed buried. Now the two mismatched warriors must work together to stop a shadowy organisation from using the relic to plunge the world into chaos.There’s just one problem; Steph and Victoria want each other dead and the relic for themselves. Saving the world has never been messier.
I knew that this book, given the really strong premise, could be really cool. I was determined to ensure that I did Richmond’s script justice. I also wanted to really push myself with how the pages were laid out.
Around the same time, I came across “Strip Panel Naked” a weekly show (sometimes more) discussing the theory of comics presented by Hassan OstmaneElhaou. Hassan had just posted a new video discussing the use of 9-panel grids in “The Omega Men” and how Tom King and Barnaby Bagenda utilised the 9-panel grid format to tell their story. When taking my portfolios to conventions for review the thing I kept hearing, again and again, was that I needed to improve my pacing in comics, look for the beats in a script and bring that across in my layouts. I had honestly struggled for months to figure out how to do this, until Hassan’s video. Finally, beats in the script and how to use them made much more sense.
Taking what I had learnt from Hassan, Richmond’s great script and the universe that Barry had made I proceeded to work on the book. I set myself the following rules for the book to ensure I fully understood 9-panel layouts:
- All pages had to a basic structure of 9 panels.
- No panels could overlap.
- All actions had to be contained in the panel.
- No fancy layouts, just cause it looked cool.
- The above could only be broken in extreme situations, where it added to the tension or drama.
You can see some pages from The Chimera Factor here that demonstrates how I applied these principles.
The Chimera Factor launched at Thought Bubble 2017 where I shared Barry Nugent’s table. I’d always wanted to go to Thought Bubble but hadn’t been able to make it. So launching my first graphic novel, attending Thought Bubble as an exhibitor and also meeting Barry in person (for the first time) really made it all the more special.
Next time (which will be a lot sooner than 10 months) I’ll be discussing my current projects and what I have coming up, the next book and possibly sharing my attempts at writing scripts.