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My first week of summer is going extremely well and I'm ahead of my schedule by all accounts. It's great to see my progress from day to day as the stories I work on get more and more ironed out and fine tuned and my layouts get stronger and stronger.  Speaking to that point I wanted to show you the differences between an initial concept page for Maps and where the pencils are now for the actual page in the book.

I showed this page to some guys on the 11 o'clock comic forums and got some great advice on how to make my page stronger.  Some of the best tips came from Kyle Latino.  I really enjoy his work and recommend everyone go check out his project Go Git Em Funnies which is available for in PDF for free!

I'm going to post Kyle's critiques verbatim because they're spot on and I'm really greatful for everything he had to say:

Panel 1: Good, it sets up the status quo and setting well enough.  Every story, EVERY PAGE, a comic artist must establish the status quo, upset the status quo, and establish a new status quo.  Those are the three acts that must be communicated to make sure that "something" happens on every page.  Every panel is in service to this end.  Anything that does not affect the story or mood is fat that needs to be trimmed, which leads to the second panel.

Panel 2: There isn't enough of a change from panel one to distinguish how the story moves forward or the status quo is upset.  This can be fixed with a closer reaction shot with a more telling expression.  Maybe overlap the face with the bubble, perhaps magnifying the eye in the bubble too.  Almost all of the action on this page takes place in a 2D fashion, there is no depth of axis.  You want to shoot into the action whenever possible, the illusion of depth is all you have in comics.

Panel 3: A wide shot doesn't work here.  It distracts the action with information about the setting, which should really be at the top of the page.  Even if it was a wide shot, make sure the feet are WELL INSIDE the panel.  Also, remember, space equals time in comics.  A large panel indicated more time is taking place in that panel, so why is this a large panel that is pulled back from the action.  The hesitation of poking the bubble is what this panel seems to be about, so define that action in the panel with a mid range shot.  Add an inset or a smaller tight close-up panel to showcase the instant that a delicate touch causes the bubble to pop, upsetting the status quo.  Really figure out how to communicate what causes all the action on the page, as it is now, the panel is ambiguous a cluttered with information on the setting, not the action.

Panel 4: Again, the 2D view of this action downplays the depth and dynamics of the action.  Pull the figure into the foreground with a silhouette, and have some overlapping curlycues to show the bubble moving into the background.

Panel 5: Not a bad panel.  It would be better it pushed the depth with something more substantial in the foreground.  It establishes the new status quo and goal of the character: to chase that bubble thing.

 I tried to pull back some in panel 1 to show his full body, I also put the light slightly in front of Elwood to prevent any weird tangents and to add an illusion of depth.  By pulling back some I also hopefully help establish his location right from the beginning.

I loved the idea of the light augmenting his face as it hovered in front of it.  I didn't go over the top with it magnifying his face, but I like the effect a lot.  Also there is a bigger transition from panel 1 to panel 2 since I set panel 1 to a wide shot.

I used the bigger panel to show that he is hesitant to touch the bubble but used the inset at the moment he does commit.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to repace that panel, and I'm pretty happy how it turned out.  I'm especially pleased with Elwood's pose as he's reaching towards the bubble.

I went from top down to behind the action for this shot.  Not sure that the balloon really effectively travels into the background, but I do feel like the panel is less flat feeling than it was from directly above.

My last panel is almost identical but I did bring the bubble into the foreground to try and deepen the panel and make sure the action that Elwood is following would be clear.  He's also a little farther back in the panel which was unintentional, but I like that it gives the impression that he needs to hustle to keep up.

As you can see I'm being pretty meticulous over my work this summer.  I'm aiming for quality and quanity and as of week one of the summer I'm feeling pretty great about it.  Let's see what else I can accomplish.

- Jon O

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