Choice of Moment


We are doing a bunch of story boarding at Moonbot for a feature film that is ramping up, and I've been learning a lot of the process from a new friend and mentor Stanley "Teach" Moore.  I think that there are lots of rules in boarding that really helped clean up my drawings.  I found that they tied my narratives together better, and honed in on action in my sequences.  I'm drawing cleaner.

With that said I think this is an oportunity to tangent onto another sequential art form very dear to my heart...


I was perusing through Jeff Smith's "Bone", and breaking down some of the choices he made.  I wondered what he was thinking when he drew them, and if some of the same things I was learning about boarding could apply to comics too, so I started messing around.  Here is what I came up with.

Let me say that I am a big fan of Jeff Smith's work.  These changes only reflect my personal opinion, and were done purely for the sake of exploration...

I took these two pages and picked a few panels that I thought could have played out differently.

BONE copyright 2004, Jeff Smith

for example:
the first panel,

  • a rat creature is running
  • it is night

These are the things that this drawing tells us, but as far as why the rat creature is running, or how important what he is doing is?  I dont really get any of that from this drawing.  I feel like this moment is somewhere between, epic/ominous/important, but not specifically any of them.  This rat creature could just as easily be running for the bus stop as he is delivering an important message (which is the actual story point in the book)


what if we moved the "camera" down to his feet/hands?

what does that get us? Well for me, it feels faster now, and because I don't get all the information in the frame, I feel a stronger sense of urgency.

what if we pulled the camera further out?

what does that get us?  I feel more removed from him.  Does that make his task more secretive?  Maybe.  I feel like he is traveling farther, and that this mission is on a grander scale, because we see more of the environment.

what if we pushed the camera in?

what does that get us?  Again, I feel like we are traveling faster, we are on this mission with him, and since we are closer, his eye line becomes more important  We know he is looking forward, and off screen.  This makes me ask.  What is he looking at?  Where is he going?

what if we messed with the values (his relationship to the environment)?

This feels more ominous, and secretive.  What if we had a second panel, to imply some motion...

To me, you could stand to push the original drawing in a number of directions, that would clean up the narrative, or at least be more specific.

example two:
panels 4 & 5,

I think there are some successful things going on in this moment to moment action.  It's cool that he left out the dialogue.  We begin to understand more about why the rat creature in panel one was running.  Information is obviously traveling by word of mouth.  It's implied, and I dig that.  But I tried some stuff.

What if the "camera" was rat creature P.O.V.?

what does that get us?  We've taken away the exchange that happens between the panels, but we see him moving faster.  These weren't successful explorations, but w/e they were fun to try.

example three:
panel 7

this drawing has some nice posing for each of the characters, but perhaps we could push the framing to sell the idea with the composition too.

What if King Dok took up more of the frame?

this makes King Dok, a much imposing figure, and even gives us a new layer of information.  This composition tells us that the information traveling through the "word of mouth" pipeline, is NOT good for our rat creatures. 

I know that you can't treat comic panels as finitely as you can storyboards.  There are a lot of large scale sweeping narrative choices in this book that I am only beginning to understand, but I thought it would be fun to break down some stuff and try a few iterations....

again, I'm not saying that these panels are better, just messin' around.

thanks for dropping by,


Del Rey said...

this is cool. there are so many ways you can tell a story! jeez. I need to work on this!and I need a crit from you one of these days...

Orlando Sanchez said...

This is great because you learn so much more of why he did make the choices that he made and how many other variations could have happen but were not chosen for various reasons. In my opinion it is better to explore all the other ways of making the picture/story to come up with the one that in your opinion explains it the best. After these explorations an artistic growth is sure to come and take any person to another level of picture making/story designing just like a graphic designer explores hundreds of variations to end up with the best design which may be the simplest. Would this be craftsmanship?

Adam Tamte Volker said...


maybe craftsmanship maybe process. I think the iteration is good either way.

To me, another thing to keep in mind is the decision behind each iteration. Before recently, I would iterate without direction, and now I have newer tools and questions to ask myself that inform each and every compositional decision I am making.

I agree, it is always benefited my work to explore things before I dive into a final.


Tooninator said...

very insightful post. Wonderful blog.

McLean Kendree said...

Meant to comment on this before! It's a really neat experiment man. Being the fan I am, it'd be hard for me to do this with Bone, but to re-do other comics' panels would be a great exercise. It would probably help loads in terms of figuring out your voice in comics.

Adam Lucas said...

This is dope dude! A good exercise I might try myself. Also made me look closer at these beautiful Bone panels again. Looks like he was doing a left to right montage here and I never thought to notice. Would be sweet animated. Anyways, great post!

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