Monday, May 06, 2013
ARCANUM: The Sausage, as She is Made.
Rather than take all the fun out of the fiction, I thought I'd give you a quick background on how Todd, Troy and I put together Arcanum. Everyone works differently on Thrillbent, but this is the general production template.
I write each episode, defining each slide and generally calling out the panels. Every now and then I'll just suggest something, not detail it out. The fight between Cole and the Elven Swordsman in Episode 002 -- or #102 if we're using standard TV episode numbering, which probably makes more sense in this format -- was originally scripted as "Give me as many panels as you think interesting, across as many slides, to show me Cole using stick-fighting to take this asshole apart." Sometimes I'll call a editing pattern, which Todd then translates into page space. In today's installment, for example, I called for a 50/50 to mimic a cross-cut between Subject Zero and the door to the vault opening. In my head they were side-by-side, but Todd designed it as a top-and-bottom spilt, which worked even better.
Todd then sends me layouts, a sample of which appears as the header for this blog post. I approve, he then does the full art digitally, combining colors and inks and what-have-you, whatever guys like him do to make the pretty pictures. It all seems very difficult, frankly.
When Todd delivers the color pages, I tend to re-script. Not a massive re-write but sometimes I look at an action or an expression and realize I want to adjust. Sometimes I see that thanks to Todd's art, I don't need certain dialogue. It's a much more fluid process than print production, a bit more of a conversation.
With the script properly adjusted, each dialogue line being numbered so the letterer knows what goes where, I take Todd's art and export all of that week's installment into a single pdf document. I load that pdf into Goodreader, my iPad doc reader and editor of choice. Using a stylus I lay-out where each dialogue balloon goes, or at least suggest it. Mark taught me how to do this, but I'm a sad dilettante compared to him. He can see the page layout instantly, has an almost musical sense of how comic page storytelling should work. I kind of galumph along.
This often leads to further tweaks to the script. With all that done, I upload the script, lettering-guide pdf and the original color art to our FTP server. Troy Peteri, our in-house letterer and general file genius, letters the comic, does the final image prep, and dumps it back onto the server.
On the appointed day Lori Matsumoto, our general site coordinator, makes sure the comic goes live, sends out the appropriate texts, emails and tweets, and off we go.
We're a little more complicated than most similar sites as we're coordinating a giant chunk of continuous, new material. But I find it boggling and impressive that most webcomics are a one-person show, a single person tackling all that, often three times a week. There's a reason we use them as our distribution/production model rather than print. That sort of hustle is what you need to move the model forward. Time will tell if we've learned the right lessons. Go ahead and read today's installment here.