Thursday 9 May 2013

Evolution of a Graphic Novel Page

Keeping to a schedule means I have a limited amount of time to spend on each page. Once the first draft is done, however, I have the luxury of going back and embellishing. Like George Lucas but less reckless.

Or so I like to think.

Working digitally has many drawbacks, but the ability to alter and update pages as you go is a big positive. Everything is in a state of flux until the last 'i' is dotted, the last 't' crossed.

This page is a case in point.

Below is the first draft version of the City of Dis. I wanted to create a very detailed cityscape, with unique architectural details that rose out of the circumstances of the inhabitants. Many of the buildings, for example, have no doors and few windows; the entrance is at the top, so wingless demons have a harder time breaking in. Many are fortified due to the high crime rate and frequent fighting between ornery clans. Towers are ringed by broad round plates, giant versions of what we use to keep squirrels off of bird feeders. Spikes on the roofs keep away the giant demon pigeons. Those can be messy and who want loiterers on their roof?


Most buildings are heated by the River Phlegethon, which burns below; there are smokestacks because many demons smoke (profusely and literally) and they need to let it out somewhere. Houses have appeared on the bridge as the population has expanded.

Civic building in the foreground (a bit of a cheat, that; covers over a lot of city detail) has both windows and doors because it's heavily garrisoned. Watchtowers to keep an eye on the denizens of Dis. Fortifications are adjacent to the North side of the bridge to control crossings.

The bridge support struts have spikes facing downward to keep the gigantic amphibian infestation from climbing up and making a mess. 

That was the first version. It was time intensive to set up and organize, but never really had as much character as it needed. There weren't enough points of interest for the eye to linger over. With the second iteration, I set out to correct this deficiency.

Here's the updated version:


Building on the framework of the first draft, I've gone back and added a lot of personality. Statues now adorn towers next to the bridge, which is a common feature in Europe (The Palace Bridge being a great example). Loud speakers spew propaganda at travelers as they cross, and cannons and bunkers have been added to the defenses on the South side. A fast food restaurant chain sign now rises above the city, along with a prominent statue.

More elaborate decorations, gargoyles, and artistic flourishes have been added. As the city is thousands of years old, I wanted to hint that buildings were built in different eras.

The former civic building has been updated to include a casino for demon gamblers. Every sin is a ministry: Ministry of Wrath, Ministry of Envy, etc. Not necessarily always situated in the appropriate ledge. Sorry about that. A great tomb sits out front, for the deceased (or imprisoned within) casino founder. Beneath that is an anti-aircraft gun to frighten off pesky pooping dragons. They're worse than pigeons. Ten ton lizards leave awful large droppings.

Sewer exits have been added above (and in) the river.

A great, hideous spider-like monstrosity has been incorporated into the city. Shelob Shopping Centre? Probably spins web material in exchange for food, stayed too long, and is now partially encased by buildings.

Power lines have been strung over the bridge haphazardly. Technology is slowly seeping into Hell's urban centres and in the next book heavy industrialization will begin.

A suicide (or masochist?) dangles from the bridge. Beneath that is a subway rail line. In an even later update, I added in a train.

Before it was purer, more united, less chaotic. The ideal. Now the city looks more lived in, like a real place. Messier. You can almost smell the stink of it.

You can see the rest of the book here.

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