I had always intended to make a movie as my proof of concept for my final major project. My comic book room is a very difficult concept to grasp without concise explanation and even better, stuff to look at to make it real. The problem with video editing is that its quite complicated and time-consuming, and the more imaginative you are, the more problems you cause for yourself down the line when you have to figure out how to do that one really cool thing.
This year I’ve made three movies. In total I’ve probably produced 2-3 minutes of content? I’m hardly an expert but you do the best with what you know. I storyboarded a rough premise and then went about producing visual assets to apply to my sound files. It’s the first time this year I’ve actually had a soundtrack for a movie. It raises all sorts of issues specifically about copyright. It’s not difficult for me to create my own imagery or use my voice to say things, but I’m not a part-time Hans Zimmerman. I found what I could from Creative Commons offerings, and found that I didn’t want to adhere too closely to the stereotype of jazz music, really, because the Jazz I found was decidedly elevator music-y and and most decidedly not grim and cynical, which is what film noir is all about, really.
My movie is vague and evocative. I hope this comes across as a selling point, because that’s how it’s intended. It’s a risky strategy playing on the curiosity of your customers instead of offering them something that you know they can’t refuse. Whether it’s a better idea to be upfront or vague and mysterious is really something some focus group testing could resolve later, I mean if this ever went that far.
Since my FMP is more about the user experience of my comic book detective room, then simply the art direction of it, it seems appropriate to think about the promotional material one would use to well, promote the experience. I looked at a lot of old film noir posters and found a great deal of them were in colour, and not particularly well constructed and wouldn’t really help me get across what I was trying to do if I was to emulate them.
I did come across a fantastic poster for the Big Sleep which played to my preconceptions of what a good film noir poster should look like. After using film noir actors as the basis of my characters, using this poster to borrow the semiotics of it seems like a good idea. I created two versions. One with the text on the wall in the background, And one were the text was just text, in it’s own plane of existence. 1001 fonts had a pretty good noir font which again played to stereotype, since plenty of fonts used for film noir title cards and posters where not particularly evocative of the time period, or maybe what I mean to say is that they weren’t stereotypical enough. Is this what it means to join the dark side? Shouldn’t I be able to move the furniture with my thoughts or something?
Anyway, I applied some of the knowledge I picked up from reading a book from the library about typography dos and don’ts and applied a grid, hierarchy in the size of the font relative to the importance of the information and restricted my use of fonts to no more than two.
As I was assembling the elements to construct the poster, I was struck by how much I liked the black text on a white background. This was in no small part due to the fact I decided that my comic book room should be known as the white room. It’s a very cool name I think. Cool enough, in fact, to make up for the fact that my white room is black and white. I mean come on, it’s just not proper marketing if there isn’t an exaggeration or a pertinent omission somewhere right?
The second final outcome for this project was to create a movie to accompany the boxed sets of six prints the capture the experience of location. When I went on the Jack the Ripper tour, I recorded a great deal of audio. It was incredibly interesting, Firstly that people would pay money to walk around London and it Have some guy’s point at the floor and say this is where jack the ripper killed this person. On top of that, there was a surprising amount of humour, albeit gallows humour, throughout the walk.
In trying to capture the experience of the place, I tried to avoid making Jack the Ripper the Central theme of the video. It’s more about the relationship between the people who are going on the walk and the place itself. There were almost constant police and ambulance sirens being heard in the background. I’m not sure how successful this is, because it’s difficult for me to look at it objectively, but the very least, you can expect to have a chuckle, and I will say, making people laugh is very high on my priority list in life in general, and if my work is making people chuckle, then that is part of my unique selling point and bodes well for my future professional endeavours
As a result of both the medium and my lack of experience with it, My lino cuts were always going to be somewhat crude. At some point I had the idea of taking my lino prints and adding finishing touches to them after-the-fact. Just because the brief says I have to use a certain medium doesn’t mean I have to be held back by my inability to do it justice. To that end, I’ve taken my prints into photo shop to help tell my story in more understandable way. I think this is very much in example of understanding what’s going on in my head but maybe not necessarily representing it purely through the work I’ve created. Which is to say: I know exactly what this is, but who says you do?
I added green to the scarf of the Jack the Ripper tour guide an added certain elements that would’ve been too difficult to render with the lino cutting tools like the chain link fence and one of the pictures. Did I mention this is based on a Jack the Ripper tour I took and the experience of it, the place and the people? I probably should’ve said that earlier shouldn’t I? But that’s the great thing about art: now you know what it is, but you might prefer your version from when you have no idea what it was. Just like Batman, there’s a version for everybody.
Somehow or another, it turns out there was a final outcome for the Southampton project no one knew about. Until now! Simply known as ‘printed sequential narrative’ in the student check list for the end of year portfolio hand-in, I decided to do something thematically similar to my other outcomes.
I took the first two lines of John Taylor’s poem about his journey from London to Southampton and made a comic book page out of them. I would have liked to have fully illustrated it, but really, this sort of photo-bashing is all I have time for. I definitely think strong graphic images of the characters like a montage sequence for a heist set up or something could be very striking visually.
The designer must always meet the specifications of the brief. There are usually technical reasons something needs to be a certain size or format. It was with horror and confusion when I found somewhere in the mountains of text applicants were expected to read, that all entries should be created to be viewed on laptop: landscape format with an average ratio of 16:9. That is not the format of the comic book.
It was literally as I was preparing to upload images to the D&AD website that I found this out. I considered simply calling it a day and saving the £15 I would have to pay to enter the competition in the first place, but decided to take all three of my portrait pages and put them side to side. This satisfied the landscape requirements of the brief, and made my pages understandable in the process. Debrief never specified whether the posters should be stand-alone or a collective. I opted to make them a sequential narrative because I felt it was the only way to get across the significance of the wisdom being offered. I mean, if you just tell people stuff, it’s just a marketing tagline isn’t it? ‘Be yourself’, ‘think outside the box’, ‘just do it’. See what I mean?
I explained the reasons most of the comic is in black-and-white in the last post, and I stand by them, but one thing became very obvious while I was checking out last years winners. All entries were full-colour and usually quite bold. It’s hardly surprising. When you think of graphic design or illustration, you think of MasterCard adverts or some sort of pop-art portrait derivative. You know exactly what I mean when you see it. Black-and-white comics, from what little I know, were a fad in the 1980s. They gave us the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,Usagi Yojimbo and lots of other titles I don’t know about, but really should.
Perhaps the most educational thing about the process is the entrance fee. It is normal to pay to enter a competition. You pay for your lottery tickets, to enter any phone-in competitions or anything like that. But those competitions are a matter of chance: sure you pick your numbers for the lottery, but a machine picks some other numbers you have to try and match. Say what you want, but it’s not about the skills or talents of the competition entrants. With the D&AD competition, not only do you have to pay, but you also have to be objectively better (subjectively, really) than the other entrants. And while it doesn’t seem like it to me, since I’ve been spending other people’s money for the last four years, I’ve been reliably informed that £15 is a lot of money (it’s actually £20 because they add VAT when you pay).
It reminds me of people complaining about journalism being only open to those of sufficient economic means because poor people were priced out of the unpaid internships that were required for students to become professionals. I don’t want to go on a rant about the disproportionate representation of certain demographics in the design industry, but when I look at the faces on my design course, both at the students and staff, and of all of the professionals we’ve had speak to us over the years, I see it wouldn’t be difficult to if I wanted. And you thought I was here to talk about cartoon cats. Lol, joke’s on you.
The final page was always going to be the hardest. Not only did I have to bring the story to a powerful conclusion, emphasising my message, but it needed to be somehow better than the previous two pages, to simulate growth and success. I toyed with various ways of going about achieving this. One idea was to simply pencil the first page, ink the second and have the third be full-colour. Another idea was to have the first page be simplistic, either in terms of complexity of line work or in terms of composition. The third page, yet again, would show dramatic improvement. I decided to do the first two pages in black-and-white and have the artwork be the only thing in colour. The significance is obvious, I’m sure, but all of these ideas share the same problem: the first page effectively has to be worse. This wouldn’t be a problem if I had enough skill to do one element well, say, the pencil work, but, I’m sort of making all of this up as I go.Ironically, when I look at the first page, I feel like it’s the best. I think I just like that tie the doctor’s wearing.
I’ve definitely enjoyed my time doing this brief. Making a comic book well requires and understanding several different forms of perspective, architecture, anatomy, body language and all sorts of other things. Not to mention the technical skills required to render all of those things in the style most befitting the subject. I have a lot to learn about every element and every stage of the process.
Over the three pages, there is a sort of grid system going on: main character in the top left, what he should do next, top right, and how it turns out, as big image for the rest of the page. It is representative of the trial and error nature of the main character’s actions and how he ends up back where he started. Graphic design is as much a part of making comics as illustration is. It’s goes to show there are many ways to make your point and good design is about combining the obvious with the subtle, sort of like a magician and slight of hand.
My police-pigs are not meant as an overtly political jibe at the police, merely an obvious joke in keeping with long-standing tradition. Actually, I’m not sure there’s a difference. Unfortunately, right before the deadline for the competition, a police officer was killed in the terrorist attack at Westminster. And while my little joke is surely harmless enough, a designer should always be aware of the context surrounding the work they produce. I toyed with the idea of simply not entering the competition for fear of potential backlash, but ultimately decided to enter.
The brief explicitly said not to use words, and I have used them on both the first and second page. I don’t think I give the game away by having a police van that says ‘police’ and the ‘no beds’ joke, is a joke. the designer conforms to the brief where it is necessary, but bends the rules to enhance the end result. The hard earned wisdom, I believe, is entirely inferred through the imagery.
I spent much of my development process trying to create my characters, but on both this page and the first, the landscape did need to be considered. You can tell the rabbit, fox and mole are being addressed at the side of the road from the van being parked and the pavement nearby, but I found I couldn’t just leave the ground they’re actually standing on blank and white. I added wavy lines to simulate texture. It goes back to my earlier attempts to ensure that white space was about the composition of the images and not indicative of incompletion of the images.
I’ve always wanted to make contemporary statements through illustration like David Foldvari and all the caricaturists and the like who’ve worked for things like Punch Magazine or Mad Magazine. I feel like the work I want to make should contain elements of wit, parody or satire, humour and just a touch of class. Showing the police as aggressive, domineering bullies is not going to set the world on fire any more than it’s going to surprise anyone, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Once I figured out where everything should go, it’s became an issue of how to render it well. It’s a very difficult thing to tell a story with no words. And looking at the first page, you really do have to hit the ground running. I think I did a decent job of filling the white space with details that enhance the scenes. I did cheat a little and use crosshatching to create a sense of texture in the first and last panel, but I’ve seen it done in the comic book industry, so it’s only adds to my sense of professional conduct.
The bottom panel has the main character’s hair extend out of the panel. This is a technique regularly employed in comic books, usually to enhance some sort of action scene by having the characters come out of the panel and towards the reader, like some sort of bar-room brawl. Even though I don’t use it for that purpose, I am very much using the vernacular of comic books yet again.
One thing I picked up from Blacksad was how to put animals in human clothes. The way the fur goes over the collar of the dog doctor, I owe entirely to Juanjo Guarnido. I think you can tell its hospital, but more research and development would’ve been nice. The incidental characters definitely help. I’m encouraged that, with enough time and dedication, I will be able to achieve a level of skill and competence to become a full time comic book artist.
Final year students were asked to create an extra outcome for the Southampton project: either a film or publication to show the processes involved throughout the project. I chose to do a full-on comic book, as it seemed the best way to present ultimately not-that-interesting information in an entertaining way. And I came on an illustration course to do comic books.
Having a nice guy (Smile-e) explaining everything in a positive light and a cynical bastard co-host (Vegeta) gave me the room to explore all my opinions on what we’ve done, while allowing the reader to keep their own counsel.
I had a ready made a team that I just couldn’t get around. I thought about alternatives, but ultimately resolved to do what I had to do. I walk into very murky copyright waters now, as I’m using an existing character from a popular franchise (which shall remain nameless even though you know what it is) as my co-host.
I believe US and now UK law supports fair use of copyrighted material for several purposes, the one which I should theoretically fall under is parody. This is a contentious issue, but ultimately, I suspect I’ll always fly too low under the radar for this to ever be a real problem. On top of that, the university retain the rights to any work created by their students, but I also doubt I’m going to get a strongly worded email from London Met telling me to cease and desist from creating the Smile-e Show ‘cos it’s theirs now.
So what is the Smile-e show? It’s a comedy comic I’ve been making for years and I even mentioned it in my UCAS application when I applied for my course. Here’s a video I did about it, showing some examples and what not.
It goes without saying that I underestimated the amount of work it takes to make what turned out to be a 30+ page comic book all by myself with little to no knowledge of how to do it properly, but really, this is one of the core pillars of what I want to be known for.
I was inspired by Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, which is a comic book about comic books. I can’t recommend reading it enough. If you think comics=Batman, this book will help you realise comics= Batman+Maus+ Persepolis+ alternative comics, etc,etc. There’s an artform waiting to be discovered. You shouldn’t assume the only vehicles out there are buses and trucks because they’re the biggest and loudest, there are also ice cream vans, super cars and Robin Reliants. It’s the same with comics, but that’s enough about that for now.
I haven’t finished the book. The artwork needs touching up, the lettering isn’t finished, I haven’t written the foreword, the panels need resizing… It’s endless, but for the first time on the course, I can’t be dissuaded by the work required for success, because this is a big deal and whatever happens in the future, I’m only going to end up doing more of these.
I’m in two minds about the comic being fully coloured. As it stands now, the only colour content is my university art work, which supports its position as the central focus of the book. I think I’ll leave it like that. Colouring is another area of comic book design I’m woefully under-skilled at.
This book is a lot of fun, but very hard work. I look forward to finishing it, but it’s going to be on hold for a while…