Stronger and harder than a bad girl's dream. (lost_angel) wrote,
Stronger and harder than a bad girl's dream.

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My Comic Book Journey - Ex Machina - Wow!

I just finished reading "The First Hundred Days" compilation of Ex Machina. I actually put it down three or four times with weeks in between readings, thinking, "This is really good; I've gotta get back to this." I can't believe I set it down so often; that is no reflection on the quality of this graphic serial.

It has everything I could ask for in a comic series. It'll be easier for me to describe my affection in theatrical/film terms (and occasionally, overstretched culinary metaphors), and later you'll understand why. Each of the characters is so interesting, even the ones who have just a few "lines". The supernatural/super-hero aspect is only a portion of the story, and it often acts as just supernatural spice to the flavor of the "character soup". Mmmmm, characters. The dialogue is sharp and punchy and, in this television-perfected world, believable. The issues or sub-plots of the administration are totally believable, too.

But the artwork, oh my, the artwork, is incredible. It's not just that the drawings are beautifully rendered and perfectly saturated (because they are). It's the "direction" of the action within the artwork that is equally amazing. Since so much of the action and story are carried in the dialogue, those conversations had to do everything - provide exposition, create conflict, develop character, build to a climax, convey emotion, and conclude the plot. That's hard to do in moving pictures, much less still ones. But they did it; they did it so well that the even the most seemingly mundane of conversations was a page-turner.

The authors/artists included a few "behind the scenes" pictures at the end of the compilation, which gave me one of those " THAT'S why it works" epiphanies. The artists storyboarded this whole series with real models and took photographs. They then used those photographs as "studies" for each scene. They regularly used the same models for the same corresponding characters. In essence, they did a photo-based comic first before they drew it. And that's why characters look so much like real people; it's because they are based on them. The same poses, the same crooked noses, the same gestures of each person - that's why the rendered imagery is so believable, and ultimately beautiful. Sure, everything is a little stylized, but you get real body types and sneers and movements.

And that's SO FREAKIN' SMART. Most artists working on long-term pieces use a studies (sketches or photographs) to keep them on track, to make sure that their renderings don't get distorted during the course of all that manipulation of line and color and movement. In my mind, comic books are more closely kin to movies than to single pieces of artwork, so it makes sense that their studies would be serial. And why not storyboard it with real people? It is so much quicker to pose a model and click a photograph than to sit and sketch each panel before doing the real rendering. Plus, you have a nearly complete proof of concept to make sure you're getting what you want.

Not only will I (hopefully, if spiderknight has the rest) be finishing the series, I am also encouraged to try this myself. It means that working with an artist will be much easier (whether this artist is local or hundreds of miles away) should I decide to use this medium to tell one of my stories. It also means that I can probably block whole segments of the story work with several friends in just a day. Sure there will be hours upon hours of dialogue and story to write, but it means that I can put the action together quickly and convey instantly to the artist what I want my audience to see.

I am really blown away by this. If this is some kind of industry standard in the development process, it probably seems mundane to the rest of you. But to me, it removes one of the big obstacles to working with this medium.
Tags: art, comic books, fiction, writing

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