Sunday, January 27, 2013

Domino Diaries 6

It should be no secret by now that Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich are the inspirations for J. Parker Wrighte and Domino Mueller. The first film was the lush melodrama Morocco, directed by Josef Von Sternberg, which introduced Marlene to American audiences. She makes her entrance at the cabaret dressed in a tuxedo, daring enough for a woman in the 30's, and then leans and kisses a young woman on the lips. After that, her romance with legionnaire Cooper is pretty tame. Fun stuff with lots of Foreign Legion action and Adolphe Menjou stealing a lots of scenes. It definitely was a first of its kind in American cinema. Very pretty people in a very pretty movie.

My favorite though is the second film, Desire, directed by the master of the light comic touch, Ernst Lubitsch. Cooper is a young engineer from the states on vacation who meets jewel thief Deitrich. There aren't really any surprises; you know Gary and Marlene will end up together, but watching them get there is a terrific ride. I'm sure this film was a big influence on Eisner in both his writing and drawing. A delightful way to spend an evening when you need a break from all the super hero CGI crap that's thrown at you these days.

Below is the revised splash part for the second chapter of All Roads Lead to Rome. And of course that is not Marlene with Parker but Devon Ayers, a character based on a famous dancer in film.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Domino Diaries 5

If I haven't mentioned it by now, the inspiration for Domino was Marlene Deitrich. Next time I'll talk a bit about the two big films she made with Gary Cooper. 

Below is the original version of the first chapter of All Roads Lead to Rome. Beneath the pencils following that is the revised and lengthened chapter.  Bob Peak once gave a demonstration to a class where he did a beautiful little drawing, and then proceeded to tear it up in front of the group. "If you're not willing to do that to your work, you can get better." Sometimes you just have to make changes.

Below are a few of the pencilled frames in this section. On the first one, I chose the drawing on the left because it told the story better, and was certainly more interesting.

Next it's on to chapter two where thankfully the changes were nowhere near as extensive. 

On a side note, both the Retrowood and Lori Lovecraft books are now available online through Comixology and Comicsplus. We managed to turn at #2 in China and #10 in Spain the first week of the listings. I'm not sure what that means, but it was great to hear.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Domino Diaries 4

One of the things that used to bug me when I was drawing comics was writers who would change settings from frame to frame while telling a story. I tend to take the more cinematic approach of needing transitions from scene to scene. So if you can help it, try not to open a scene in the middle of a page, or worse yet, in the right hand frame of a tier. Maybe it's obsessive, but then I'm the guy who wanted justified margins in my fanzines as a kid.

Adding the extra two pages to this chapter gave me the chance to break the scenes up into two four page segments, with the second one starting on this page.

For the establishing shot, I had to add an inch or so in height to make it fit the new layout. Then I also changed the shot of the thugs outside the building to a closer view of them, which fits in my story a little better. The rest of the page I left alone.

On page six I added a large to give a better look at the atmosphere of the room, and also to play out the action a bit more. I did redo the shot of Parker getting hit with the bottle, but decided I actually liked the original better. But I did change the shot of the girl's shoe, since it is a storytelling point later in the tale.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Domino Diaries 3

(Above: A painting I did as development on the Gypsy Twins story, with the lovely Lira Kellerman and Sara Streeter modelling along with the elegant MsMaw.)

When I first decided to change this story from forty eight to sixty pages, I already had the first twenty four pages pencilled and 7-8 of those inked. It wasn't as if I was starting over from scratch; I'm not that obsessed. In most cases I had to create very few entirely new frames.

Here is the original second page, inked and even toned. I kept the opening establishing shot, because it did just that perfectly well. We know who is in the scene, and where it is set. However, I created a new frame and showed Parker, Kinchay and the studio executive in a medium shot so we could get a good look at our principles.

Then I took the shot of the coroner and detective working and expanded it to fit across the page. Much more dynamic and less cramped. And I still have room for dialogue.

On page three I did the same thing; expanded the shot of the sheet being placed over Peppers so that it was more dramatic. Then I added a wide shot (camera wide…not page wide) of her body being wheeled out, and kept the closeup of Parker's take on all this. Then I created a new frame for the bottom tier which shows out trio again and gives me room to fit in the dialogue.

The frames on the top of page four worked well, so I left them alone. I kept the same action for middle frame, but set the background wider to create the feel of the Studio exterior. And then I took the last frame and doubled the size. Doesn't do anything else for storytelling, but it no longer appears as cramped as the original. This also breaks up the chapter into two page four scenes, with the first one ending here.

The major plot of this story is taken from one of my favorite Dashiell Hammett stories, The Scorched Face. I originality questioned whether I was plagiarizing too much of the story and set this tale aside for a year or two. But in that time, I saw the same plot redone three or four times in other detective films from the 40's. So I went back to my guiding rule: execution of an idea should trump originality anytime.

 A frame I redid and never did use, as I liked the original better.

 A few of you have been asking about the first Retrowood book and I still have a few copies available if you are interested. Foreign orders will have to have me calculate postage and add it on as a surcharge.