Seeking its Sequential Art Solution: the case of page 108

thumbnail sketch for page 108

On approach to the end of my long-in-the-works graphic novel Tiger’s Tale I have recently found myself caught between two writer identities, that of the Planner (or Plotter) and the Pants-er. As described to me by an accomplished NaNoWriMo participating friend, The Pants-er writes “by the seat of their pants” letting the story flow and unfold of its own accord, while The Planner works from an outline or even writes their script in advance. As an illustrator who occasionally delves into writing (as opposed to Story Telling which plays a significant role in all illustration) I find it difficult to imagine attempting to write a script for a story that I will allow draw, as so much of the story reveals itself in the choice of imagery and panel-to-panel action. In setting out to solve the layout for page 108 the dichotomy between planning and pantsing leads to unexpected solutions.

The Dilemma

Page 108 is a left side page that sets up what I will call the “Death Star Reveal,” a couple of full-splash pages which depict the villain’s lair.  The Planner in me has already ready worked out what events need to occur on a given page to get to the story’s end and its epilogue. With-in that frame-work there is also the need to heighten drama and action as well offer information the reader while find useful as the plot of the story moves forward. The plot for this page is simple, previously one of our protagonists was depicted taking the high road on the way to his vantage point, page 108 depicts his arrival at said point.

128 pages of Tiger's Tale
A screen capture of the pages window reveals completed artwork as well as some thumbnail sketchs (in color) and general notations for plot-points which occur on future pages.

The Process

Outside the need to make the page interesting there remains an informal list of loose-ends which await resolution. With each page that brings us closer to the book’s end, pages like 108 become extremely valuable for the opportunity to tie up loose ends or provide clues necessary to the story’s resolution.
The above thumbnail sketch provides the bare minimum in plot; Our hero arrives at his perch.

The serviceable 4-5 panel sequence get’s our character to where he needs to be but does little more. Looking back at where the story had left out character, is was clear smoke-stacks should be replaced with power lines and towers. Along with that realization the opportunity arose to answer a question about antagonists I had left unanswered earlier. The resulting series of thumbnail sketches made for a more exciting layout, though I found myself nearing a visual gag I had used already.

As work on the action sequences progressed I was able to make use of artwork generated for a previous scene in the story. Once the decision was made to have our hero perch on an electrical tower it was more important that have a closer look at our hero. The towers were introduced earlier in z series of tall panels, it was safe to assume the reader understood the heights and would be better off with a closer look. Printing out an enlarged version of that electrical tower I was able to work out the heroic shot on velium before digitizing and creating the final piece; panel 7 page 108.

Working out some movement sequences on a Vellum Pad I just excavated.

A photo posted by P Lugo (@plugoarts) on

Fast and loose ink on vellum. #inktober #fabercastell #micronpen

A photo posted by P Lugo (@plugoarts) on

Page 108 now had it’s final image. It also had a much stronger sense of place and action that continued to grow interesting. The dilemma now facing this was was now pointed in the other direction. Rather than be boring, the page was now faced with being over-crowded. Our hero would be faced with clearing the setting of three antaonists on his way to the final panel. SPOILER: one of them gets away!

A printout of page 108 allows for detailed sketching of the as-yet-to-be-filled comic panels.

It’s a fun sequence, which came to mind in a dream. Chased by three winged foes, our hero catches the thrusting spearhead flipping over to strike the spear wielder with a devastating kick. Landing on the power line he then uses the spear pole-vault away from the second foe’s Kusari-Kama which accidentally cuts into one of the power lines. The result is an explosive electrical feed-back along the weapon’s chain shocking that foe. The third pursuer, the wily Raven flies off. Great fun, but at the potential sacrifice of clarity.

Reduced to its essence, the sequence had the following priorities:

  1. Establish the high-wire chase.
  2. Our hero escapes the attack.
  3. The attacker’s failure is also Karma for previous villainy.
  4. Demonstrate the effects of those power lines.
  5. Our hero arrives at his perch.

What follows is that distillation on paper.

The Solution

Once digitized, the CGI atmosphere is added in photoshop. The four individual image files are then imported into Adobe InDesign where page 108 is assembled and awaits lettering.