Now that The First Law Graphic Novel is chugging away, I thought I might share some of the process, looking at the script, pencils, inks, and colours on a few pages from issue two I particularly like. First up is the forthcoming page 5, which will be going up on the site this coming monday. We start, of course, with script. I’ve done a rough breakdown of the first book into 16 issue sized chunks, which ends up being around 20-35 pages of mass market book to each 22 page issue, which makes it a pretty comprehensive adaptation and means it hasn’t been necessary to cut whole threads or characters, or even individual scenes very often. Veteran comics writer Chuck Dixon has then been adapting the text more or less as he sees fit, reducing the dialogue to the essentials, rendering the action into visual form, deciding what panels, what angles, what visual methods are going to best get across a sense of the text. He comes up instantly with ways to organise a page that would never occur to me, and it’s amazing how much you can achieve in a single carefully constructed panel. I’ve then been tinkering with his scripts where it seems necessary to retain a certain line, or emphasise something that will become important in the story, or add some context, or occasionally to remove something that didn’t seem needful and could allow the pictures to breathe a little more. The whole thing’s been quite a fascinating process for me, actually, and certainly a steep learning curve…
Anyway, amended script for page 5 – in which the Union’s brave officers tumble drunk from an inn to find Practicals Frost and Severard in the midst of abducting Sepp dan Teufel – looks a little something like this, and I think is pretty much exactly what Chuck first came up with:
Jezal exits the tavern into the street. He’s stumbling. West and Jalenhorm exit behind him. It’s night. They are in a bar of light from the open door illuminating the dark street.
JEZAL: I NEED AIR!
JALENHORM: YOU NEED DRINK, JEZAL!
In the foreground we see Practicals Frost and Severard struggling to bind Sepp dan Teufel while slipping sack over his head. Both Practicals are masked. We see Jezal and his two pals turning to regard this scene from the front of the tavern in the background.
JEZAL: WHAT’S THIS?
WEST: YOU THERE!
The three soldiers confront the Practicals. Jalenhorm and West have hands on the hilts of their swords. Frost struggles with dan Teufel while Severard holds up a hand to the soldiers.
SEVERARD: GENTLEMEN, PLEASE, WE ARE ON THE KING’S BUSINESS.
JALENHORM: THE KING CONDUCTS HIS BUSINESS IN THE DAY-TIME.
SEVERARD: THAT’S WHY HE NEEDS US FOR THE NIGHT-TIME STUFF, EH, FRIEND?
West whips out his sword and Frost roars and flexes his muscles as he throws dan Teufel to the cobbles.
WEST: WHO IS THIS MAN?
TEUFEL: (MUFFLED) I AM SEPP DAN—oof!
Tomorrow, you can see script make the leap to pencils…