On the Verge – The Arrow of Time – Page 276-277

I’ve got some thoughts about how things are going so far in this chapter, but I figure it’s probably best to start out with today’s page. So without further ado, here’s the new stuff for you…

Click the image for a larger view.

Ok, so I’ve purposely kept mum on just what’s been happening in this chapter thus far so that I could just post pages and let the story unfold. I really didn’t want to give too much away and spoil things. The main thing to note is that things should start to explain themselves a little bit over the next couple of weeks and there is a point to all of the stuff that’s going on. But what can I say, I guess everything in this story is a slow burn.

For today’s post though, I really wanted to offer some explanations about the art – both in this chapter and the larger story as well since it’s related. So to me, the big thing that I wanted to say is that everything in this whole story has been structured around this chapter. Now it took me an awful long time to actually get to this point, but I knew from very early on what was going to happen in the story and that we’d end up here in Chapter 9 with the art looking like it does. And since I knew this, I basically made the decision to structure the artwork around this idea and this meant setting up a design system for how the pages were laid out so that they were distinctly different in all the other chapters.

Based on the story that I wanted to tell, I decided that for Chapter 9, I wanted to have a really freeform layout where panels could be different sizes and not necessarily align or conform to any kind of grid. Heck, characters didn’t even need to be in panels. I actually really like this type of layout and would definitely want to do more stuff like this but I’m not sure it’s always the easiest to do and sometimes doesn’t always work with the story. But it definitely works for this chapter! [As a side note, I actually decided that it would be best to test out this type of storytelling and layout before I actually got to this part of the story and you can see this in THE JUMPER. Now I’m not too sure that anyone realized that that was what I was doing (because hopefully the story was good), but that was kind of the genesis of part two of that story.]

In contrast to the freeform layouts in Chapter 9, I decided to set a really strict grid system for the rest of the story (something that at times I’d kick myself for). So all the other pages up until now have really taken the approach of having three rows on a page – top, middle and bottom – and they basically filled the space to the margins. Now I could combine and cut up the space as needed, but for the most part, every page has conformed to this underlying design which is pretty much a “traditional” comic page layout.

So this concept for how to set up the page layouts presented a several of things:

  • Overall, it really freed me up from trying to come up with “interesting” or “cool” layouts and instead just focus on the storytelling.
  • I ended up doing layouts in three steps: 1. choreograph the action that was happening in the story, before 2. cutting that action into logical page breaks, and then 3. piecing those together into page layouts.
  • You can see in spots that I’ve tried to change things up slightly and find new ways to layout pages while still conforming to the “rules” that I’d created. This helped me to better learn how to use the space on the page and move the eye around.
  • When I did break the rules (say when Lucas breaks the panel borders on page 216, for example), it created more impact.

Needless to say, 250+ pages in (plus all the OTV short stories which also conformed to this design system), I was excited to finally reach Chapter 9 and have to really flex my design muscles to figure out these freeform layouts. It’s been a really good challenge over the course of the project to work with these rules and to see if I couldn’t find new and interesting ways of creating new pages – but it’s been fun to break out and do something different after all this time.

The big question you might be asking yourself at this point is why would I go to all this trouble? Well the simple answer is because why not? The cool thing about comics illustration is that you can actually use how a page is structured to help aid in the storytelling and I really wanted to explore this in THE ARROW OF TIME. The story itself (time travel and stuff) really lent itself exploring things visually. Plus, I think it makes the reading experience better overall because the art helps tell the story in more than one way – meaning it’s not just what’s happening in the panels but how the panels are actually arranged aids in telling the story. Most people probably don’t think about this sort of thing when they’re sitting down and reading a comic but it’s such a fundamental part of comics that just doesn’t exist in other mediums like TV or movies (which are really constrained by their physical format).

Anyway, all of this is to say that I hope some of these decisions have enriched the reading experience even though you may not notice them right off the bat. It’s been fun to think this stuff through and see how it plays out. And to be completely honest, I’m kind of glad to have wrapped this storyline so that I can move on to something else and come up with a new set of “rules” to work with because it means that I can explore new ideas and grow in different ways.

Thanks for reading and see you next week!

Source: On the Verge

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