Sunday, 27 June 2010

Slaying the monster

Here's an early post revisited more than a year down the line. I thought I'd update it just to show the full evolution of a page from my scrappy sketches to the finished work of brilliance as crafted by Leo and Nikos.Like a lot of writers, I spend more time than is healthy musing on (read: fretting over) the whole creative process. And it always helps when you find something that reminds you other writers find that a long, hard road too - at least if they're doing it right. Thank God for a guy like William Goldman, who's always ready to jump into the foxhole and put a supporting arm around your shoulders. Which Lie Did I Tell? - that's my Gideon bible.

While obsessing about dialogue, which in comics has different requirements from both prose and screen, I came across this quote from Deborah Moggach on adapting Pride & Prejudice into a movie script:
'Film acting is all about reacting. It’s about the unsaid, and it relies on tapping into the heart of the story. For instance, in the opening scene, where the Bennet family is aflutter with news of Mr Bingley’s arrival, Elizabeth has little to say on the page. In the film, however, we can’t take our eyes off her because the camera picks up her reactions and holds on her stillness in the middle of a busy room.

'Films are deeply connected to the subconscious, and screenplays reflect this. It’s all subtext, and a good director and actors know what a scene is really saying. When Elizabeth bumps into Darcy at Pemberley they have the most stilted, dull exchange. “I thought you were in London.” “No, I’m not.”

'Watching it is almost unbearable, however, because they’re both in torment. Their faces betray their feelings. We’ve come on a long journey with them by this time, and the scene is poignant with what is not put into words. A novelist is terribly tempted to over-write a scene.'
That's the reason I draw my little sketch layouts before finalizing the dialogue. For us control freaks it's actually better than movie making, because you get to look at how your dialogue is working and you have total freedom to change it.
And then often I change bits of dialogue again when the art comes back from Leo, because he will have put in some nuances of performance that means a line of dialogue isn't needed after all.
Mirabilis is pretty heavy on dialogue compared with some comics. We mean it to be. We want this epic of ours to be a read with plenty of meat to it. A broad canvas kind of story with a big cast of characters and the room to introduce them all. We intend for it to be a series you'll keep and return to many times, each time finding something you didn't notice before. It's not the kind of comic you read once and forget.

And on that note we hope to have some very exciting news for you in the next couple of weeks. Don't go away.


  1. I love this sort of posting Dave - a look under the skin of the creative process. I'm amazed at how closely Leo's artwork remains to your initial layout without Leo sacrificing any of his own inventiveness.

    The results are stupendous it has to be said.

    Meanwhile I'm aorting out a bucket of ice for the celebratory Mirabilis champagne!

  2. I try to save Leo work with my layouts, Peter, being ever-conscious that the pencils and inks put a big enough task as it is onto his shoulders alone. He doesn't follow them slavishly, of course. His switch in panel 3 to a view outside the window is a major improvement, for instance, but I like to think that by doing a detailed first-pass I give him more creative room to consider refinements like that. Martin and I worked in the same way on "A Wrong Turning", the unfortunately still-unfinished Halloween story.

    Truth be told, I wouldn't know how to just deliver a text-only script the way many comics authors do. I need to block out the scenes and get some sense of the characters' surroundings or I can't write their lines. At heart I'm a director :)

    Last week I sent Leo a customized bottle of champagne with the green Big Ben dragon label reading: "Château Mirabilis - l'année de la comète". I hope he remembers to get some photos when we crack that open!

  3. Ohhh definitely Dave!

    3-D photos of raised glasses of Chateau Mirabilis with aromavision thrown in.

  4. Thanks for this posting - I too enjoy the "making of" glimpses behind the scenes, and this is a great one.