Black Dog is a personal comic project about a pair of dingos trying to save their newly born litter form a puppy devouring monster and her minions. It started out several years ago as a short film script I was going to make into a 3D CGI animated film. But then I realized the shear enormity of the task meant that realistically, as a new dad, I'd be hard pressed to find the time to learn Maya let alone produce a short film of the caliber I'd envisioned. So fed up with having truck loads of good ideas and nothing to show for them I scaled back my ambitions to something more in my comfort zone but still challenging. So I decided to make a comic out of it. It's a 50 page long primer to a much larger story that I hope to tell down the road.
I had to rewrite the script for the comic format. I used celtx which is a great script writing program which has formatting for comic scripts among others. Then I shot the script off to a bunch of trusted friends for their feed back, telling them to tear it apart and be brutally honest. Feedback is useless unless it's brutally honest. Disappointingly most thought it was pretty good and I only got a few notes on dialogue. The best being from the 15 year old daughter of a friend. "Why would a female dog call another female dog a bitch as an insult?" She had a point.
The original short film script had no dialogue and relied heavily on the character acting similar to Wall-e; Something you can't do as well in a comic. So I had to add a bunch of narration and dialogue to make the story comprehensible. Writing dialogue isn't something I'm really good at and I still think some of it is on the nose but I know at this point the story and structure work and dialogue can be refined. I actually found as I roughed the pages I was rewriting and deleting dialogue especially if I found I could show and not tell.
So to the drawing bit. I had an idea of how I wanted the characters to look but I hate drawing things in isolation. It's not how my brain works. If I can draw a character as part of the story I'm good but just drawing unrelated hero poses bores me and it's like pulling teeth. I also don't have a solid personal clean up style. Most of my work is storyboarding which you don't really take to a fully beautiful finished and rendered stage and this is where the real challenge for me lies.
I know myself well enough by now that if I tried the sit down and design the characters and look in a traditional procedural sense that this project would stall, so I decided to play to my strengths and just start roughing out the page layouts and work on the design as I went and got a feel for the characters. Designing this way I felt I had more freedom to experiment with the designs in the actual layouts they'd be in without the constraints of a locked off model. The evolution is most evident in the monster character Mirigung. She started out being very grounded in her anatomy but as I progressed I found I wanted her to be more monstrously, supernatural and other worldly.
So this is what I've just completed using Manga Studio 5EX. The pages are in varying degrees of "roughness" and with some I've revisited with red marker notes to make changes to story beats and panel layout when I come the clean them up. When I started I wanted to have the roughing done in 6 months. It took me a year. If I can get the clean up done in the next year I'll be doing well. That's about 1 page a week in my spare time.....Watch this space.