How to convert great writing into a great vision.
I’ve been itching to do something like this here at StoryboardArt for some time now and with Tom King’s work as an excellent example, let’s dive right in!
Tom king is the writer / co-creator of the comic series, The Sheriff of Babylon (formerly, The Sheriff of Baghdad) from Vertigo Comics, writer of The Vision from Marvel Comics and Mister Miracle from DC Comics.
As cool as his comics are, he’s an interesting person in his own right! King interned at both Marvel and DC Comics, as well as being a Counter-terrorism officer for the CIA!
He has done a lot of comic writing (mostly DC), but The Vision from Marvel Comics, which won The 2017 Eisner award for best limited series, really catapulted him into the limelight and into my view.
The Vision Director’s Cut, is 6(!) double sized issues that contains two regular issues each of The Vision by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire from Marvel Comics. The books also include a bunch of cool stuff in the back, such as script excerpts, layouts, thumbnails, sketches, color layouts, final art, letters by fans answered by the creative team, King’s original pitch for the comic and even an essay analysis about the visual storytelling of the book!
King does an incredible job of taking a much loved, third string character, the Vision, and making him a star in his own book. The story reads something like Desperate Housewives, American Beauty and The Stepford Wives meets superheroes.
Using the long, convoluted history of the Vision, King crafts a Suburban Horror Nightmare. No detail gets left behind, no panel is unimportant, every character is fully realized. Love, lust, murder, betrayal, blackmail, all of it, every trick in the book!
The landscape of this futurist quasi dystopian world is that of mass population in the multi provincial Los Angeles. In this world exist two creatures at the top of the world’s food chain; humans and replicants.
The comic is great and without going into the actual story too much, I want to talk to you about the bonus content in the Director’s Cut and how it relates to making comics.
I’m going to start with the script, which is pretty straight forward and can be done on writing software like Final Draft, which is pretty much industry standard.
The price for Final Draft is $205 or a little cheaper for students. There’s also a much cheaper mobile version that works amazingly well for the $9.99 price. (Final Draft)
Personally, I’m an artist first and usually break my story’s down like storyboards, before a script (that’s just me, you may be different). King’s script is very straight forward with Walta being a master storyteller in his own right.
With the example above, you can see very little has changed from the first step to the last of the process. Besides being experts of their craft, a lot of work has already gone into the story making process.
King knew from the beginning, where his story was going, which makes everyone’s job easier.
Okay, back to script.
Looking over the scripts in the back of the Director’s Cut #2 of The Vision, there’s an excerpt from chapter 3. From the script to the layout (or storyboards as we would probably call them here at StoryboardArt) very little has changed.
While King is a great writer, Gabriel Walta is also professional enough to parse the important parts of King’s script and make small, subtle changes to make the overall story better.
In page 1 of chapter 3, King writes the 2nd and 3rd panels of the page as a cut from one character to another. Nowhere does the script say the characters appear together in either panel, but Walta, instinctively places them together in both panels to give a sense of character placement in relation to each other.
From the layouts, Walta goes on to the finished art. Again, as a professional that plans ahead, a lot of value choices, camera angles and other visual decisions have been made to make his work ahead easier.
With the final art done and a lot of the value work done, Jordie Bellaire adds color and Clayton Cowles finishes with adding the captions and word balloons from King’s script.
Seems really simple.
But of course the work is as nuanced as any other story medium. Including the color pallet shifts Jordie Bellaire uses to highlight certain parts of the story and show the mood of a particular scene.
Clayton Cowles also places his captions and balloons in very specific spots, to keep the readers eyes moving in the right direction.
These folks make the comic making process look simple and even the final art has an air of not being overly dramatic or even overly rendered, but every simplified stroke is perfectly pondered and placed.
Issue 6 of the Director’s Cut (the final of the series) has an essay on the visuals of the Vision series, written by Hassan Otsmane- El Haou who is the creator of PanelxPanel, a magazine about storytelling in comics and a Youtube series called Strip Panel Naked that does the same.
El Haou goes over certain points in the series to show visual choices that were made by the creative team. Things like color pallet, pacing, framing and foreshadowing are discussed.
And while I like to be overly cautious when reading someone else’s explanation of storytelling choices made in a particular work, El Haou does a really great job of shedding light on why The Vision is a master craft in storytelling.
I highly recommend the Director’s Cut of The Vision for any aspiring comic artist. There’s a lot of great information to get you started on making your own comics.
In my next blog post on comics, I’ll talk about pacing differences between comics and film.
Until then, Board On!
PS: The Director’s Cut of the Vision is a far cry from How To Draw Comics: The Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema and I’d love to hear what modern influences and learning guides you’ve come across in the comic world. Please, as always share, share, share!