on Feb 21 2011 in Journal tagged by

PERIPHERAL VISIONS: The making of a Mary Doe graphic novel.

It was with great excitement that I commenced work on (and completed) this comic last year. I had done some comic related work before, but nothing quite of this scale and coherence. It was quite thrilling to be doing something as part of a larger project, and the input I received from the guys at MEG helped keep me going and keep the project together. Of course not to mention the feedback and support of my wife… who always plays a major part in anything I do!

The brief was for around 7 pages and it to be an original story, not specifically part of the Mary Doe narrative, but in the horror/zombie genre. After throwing a few ideas around and talking with Nick at MEG (the first of many feedback sessions through the life of the project), I started working on some thumbnails and fleshing out the story. I wanted something a bit different, so I conceived of a medical student from Columbia who is living in Australia to go to university. He works part time as a night cleaner at a Pharmaceutical company, when one day he has an accident, knocking over some chemicals. Unlike a super hero comic, this doesn’t imbue him with any amazing super powers, instead it begins to give him bizarre and horrible nightmares, then hallucinations that slowly creep into his waking life, eventually tipping him over the edge and he loses all sense of what is real and what is imagined.

I tried to make it so that each page was a snapshot of a week within the characters decent into madness. This meant each page had to be fairly self contained, and tell its little piece of the puzzle; almost like a highlight reel on the road to madness. It isn’t until the last few pages that the action of a particular moment is spread over more that one page, and that is in the climax when the shit really has hit the fan and the protagonist is totally unstable.

Visually I tried to show the break between reality and hallucination with a few different visual devices. Some panels had a broken glass shape/arrangement, with little shards around the main panels, to imply a shattering of his hold on reality. I also tried to make any panel with zombies in it a little more angular than normal. I decided to present the comic in a landscape format as opposed to the regular portrait orientation that most other comics are in. I did this because it was going to be a primarily digital comic, and thus viewed on a screen, it made sense to me to have the orientation fit the screen. Comics continue to evolve as different mediums present themselves. From the newspaper strip format to thick book-like graphic novels, and now to digital and motion comics on tablet computers, there is lots of room to grow and experiment with the format of contemporary comics.

The two tone colour scheme was inspired by “Heavy Liquid”, a comic by Paul Pope, which I greatly admire.

As to the line work itself, I did roughs in pencils, then used a light-box to ink, and finally scanned to colour digitally. The style was a strange combination of different artists I admire, amongst them R.Crumb and Hayao Miyazaki. I chose a heavy crosshatching style, as it was something I had used a lot before and I liked the contrast of the sometimes cartoony look and the horror themes. It took forever though! And I was often left with a sore elbow from drawing thousands of little lines… but it was totally worth it.

Check out my Graphic Novel on the Fan Kit/Graphic Novels page of the website –