I was secretly hoping that these files had been lost–that my eraser had been the last thing to see them as it tore them from the bristol that would ultimately become something presentable, but alack, ’tis not my lot for such fortuitous happenstance. I have enough distance from the work now (both temporally and skill-wise) that I feel okay posting it.

I’ve got some friends whose fingers drip finished images making doing anything else with them a ridiculous waste of time, and a few that labor over each line for way too long. Me? I redraw. A lot. I find that the best way to see if a panel works is to draw it (roughly, of course). If it doesn’t, I’ll just erase it then draw something else. If that doesn’t work, rinse and repeat. It’s the brute-force attack of comics, for all you cryptographers out there. It’s slow and a massive waste of time, but when you’re having a bad day, it’s sometimes the only way to work through a problem when you’re not ready to accept giving up.

I hit a massive rough patch with pages four and five. I’d been out of practice drawing comics for months and suddenly I had to draw a freaking polar bear jumping through a doorway at a my character as he scrambles inside, ultimately to defend himself with a mysterious sword while keeping the polar bear safely on the other side of a door? Who writes this stuff? The pages should just be talking heads.

Context first. I drew the first seven pages together in a batch of rough pencils, and then I went back in and added details so they’d all have a similar level of quality. Let’s get into this mess, shall we? On the left you have my original “final” rough and on the right, the finished pencils. Click to embiggen.

Alpha Flag Page 4 Rough to Finish
As you can see, there’s a fairly drastic change here. I only kept one of the original panels, eliminated the head-turn polar bear visual gag, too (this comic is SO serious, you guys), much to my friend’s chagrin, added another panel in the middle to expand the jumping action (Where’s Scott McCloud when you need him? [But seriously folks, buy this book.]), and changed almost all of the angles. Phew, what a mess. Where was I going with this? I guess there’s a lesson to be learnt mixed in here. Sometimes your first ideas are perfect for your vision, and sometimes they’re not. It’s important not to get married to any idea before you can see how it fits into the bigger picture, in this case, each panel individually in a page.

This is especially true when you’re just figuring out what you want your comic (illustration, script, job, life, metaphor) to look like! I think we can all agree that the right is leagues better than the left, and not just because I actually learned how to draw polar bears out of embarrassment before continuing. Doin’ Alex Toth proud.

Alpha Flag Page 5 Rough to Finish

As you can see, this one went through a similar process (man, some of these panels are really bad). At times of artistic crisis like this page, I just glance down at my WWFQD bracelet. What would Frank Quitely do? He’d keep it simple–keep it readable above all else. I think that solved the majority of my compositional problems in the first seven. I made with a pact with myself at that point on to use one point as much as possible/appropriate, so look for that in upcoming pages.

I’m still working out the look of the world and the characters, so you can expect them to change a little bit visually as the story progresses, but know it’s just my continued attempt to erase and redraw it until I’m satisfied with it enough not to erase it again.