Hello! We are in the thick of it now with Mission 6 pre-production. I don’t want to spoil the fun of seeing the story unfold in the comic, but I think I can post a few things that we’re working on.
The majority of Mission 6 is thumbnailed on one page of my sketchbook. After this I switch to an entirely digital workflow, but for these little stick figures I’ve found that nothing beats a real pencil!
The little numbers in circles correspond to numbers in a doc with dialogue and notes for each panel, and the rectangles with numbers correspond to page layouts. After drawing at thumbnail size to sort out which story beats fit on each page, I redraw very roughly at full size in Photoshop. Right now it looks like the next chapter will be around 38 pages. The first round of layouts is done and now we’re editing!
At the same time I’m also working on designs for props, locations, and other new things for the chapter. I always love an excuse for new outfits, so I’ve been playing around clothing design. These aren’t final yet though!
Mission 6 Status Update
Current Mode: Editing
Hi! For our first post of the chapter break, we thought it would be fun to go into the process of how we wrote Mission 5. And by the way, here’s the last page in case you missed it! And here’s the Purity Anthology Kickstarter, we’ll be submitting a short comic!
Mission 5 went through a lot of editing. Originally, we started writing it in 2013 as “Side Story 1” and planned to have it take place after Mission 2, but we decided that we wanted to get right into the main story sooner and set it aside for a while. And now, after putting this story through revisions over the course of several years, I’m really proud of our results!
We don’t usually write out our comics in a traditional script format. Instead, Wensleydale wrote a short story for Mission 5:
Mission 5 Version 1 – Original Short Story
Working from Wensleydale’s story and continued input, I went through and tried to break down the story into its main beats and figure out how to lay those out as panels on the page. We keep a shared document that has the rough art for the pages on the left and dialogue on the right. Wen edits the dialogue as we go, and we’re always discussing and sending changes back and forth with each other. For clarity, Benedict is blue, Edmund is green, Florian is purple, and the speech balloons are numbered to correspond with the text in the right hand column. Here is is our first complete version of the rough layouts.
The text here changed a bit to match the change in chronology from right after Florian’s enrollment to after their first mission. And the art changed in the second and fourth panels because I thought it was important to establish the spatial relationship between all three characters and show more of the setting on the first page. Often we start a scene with an establishing shot, but here we started with a closeup to put us right in the middle of the scene.
We changed the action in the first panels here because we would have needed to add more panels to make it clear that Florian was giving the cup back without drinking, and because it was more fun to show him drinking it. We also cut a little of the dialogue from the original story to keep things moving faster and because Florian already hadn’t been calling Benedict ‘Master’ anymore.
This page is almost completely different! I struggled a lot with trying to show the motion of Florian’s head turning all the way around. On returning to these roughs, we realized the problem was that we put too much focus to that action, and instead we should play up the humor more than the horror. My first goal for page layouts is clarity, and after that it is humor and/or sexiness, depending on what’s going on. To that end we re-arranged and gave Florian an extra line, so that his cute excited face would be a contrast with the backwards head wtf-ery. Edmund’s reaction was moved to the next page and his dialogue was updated to respond to Florian’s new line, though I still like the unfazed “Fascinating” from this draft. We also added an establishing shot, since the positions have changed from the previous pages and rest of the scene will take place with the characters sitting on this side of the room.
Benedict’s dialogue in the first panel was removed, since his expression already says it all, and the last panel was bumped to the next page. In the original story, there is a longer conversation here, but we made some adjustments since situating this scene as a game of truth-or-dare made the context a lot easier to establish.
haha “Kiss! And then makeout!” worked better as a dare than the original lines, and the rest of the dialogue was edited for fit and flow. The panels also got totally rearranged to add a moment of tension where Benedict and Edmund look at each other before responding, and to leave enough room for the text. I draw the little orange speech balloon placeholders as I work on the rough layouts, but sometimes I am way off in how much room I give them! Wen letters the roughs as soon as they are done so that we can make sure the text will fit before spending too long on the art.
A lot of these panels got flipped for spatial consistency with other parts of the scene. Also, right to left movement within panels tends to flow more smoothly since that is the reading order on a page. I can’t remember, but I think I added that detail shot of Benedict grabbing Edmund’s shirt mostly for an excuse to show his lips in close up right before Benedict kisses them. You can see the third panel in the rough was more rendered than most, that’s because I was really getting into drawing that kissing. For the final two panels, we added the back of their heads so to make the change in camera angle clearer, and to emphasize how close together they are.
Not much changed with page 7, though we ditched the sipping since we’d already had a similar panel.
Adjusted page 8 so that when Benedict looks toward Florian he’s actually looking toward Florian’s panel. The effect with the hearts breaking out of Florian’s panel and running into Benedict’s was a last-minute addition.
Page 9 didn’t change much, just adjusted the framing of the first two panels to close ups and zoomed the camera in on the last panel as the scene is getting more intimate. You may notice that this is as far as the original story goes. We sometimes leave action (porny and otherwise) to be filled in at the art stage since that way we can ensure a good flow of movement from panel to panel. The things that make written erotica great often don’t translate directly to illustration.
It’s a little weird analyzing the techniques for making something sexy, but here goes. After the initial draft, we went for more closeups and also added more panels to make the actions of undressing clearer. We completely ditched the last panel here, since we decided that a closeup on the crotch action was less sexy than focusing more on the characters’ faces and the motion of the bodies in general.
Extra kissing panels! This was another sequence that I struggled with a lot in the initial layouts. For me, it’s challenging to show how time is passing in sex scenes. The kissing montage helps to slow it down, and is also different from other sex scenes we’ve drawn. And, uh, I like drawing kissing. Spacejinx is about drawing/writing what we love, after all! Since we decompressed this sequence, one of the panels got bumped to the next page.
The final version is very close to the draft. Since we’re at the end of the chapter, we’re using more wide shots as we leave the scene. We generally like to end on a “punchline” of some sort, though not necessarily a joke. We had a couple different ending lines in other drafts but came back to this one again in the final version.
And that, with probably way more detail than necessary, is our writing process!
Kat: When we first started throwing around the idea of making Spacejinx — back when it was called Bang Maid — I drew a few test pages in my sketchbook.
Kat: These days, aside from some notes and thumbnails, all the production happens in Photoshop and Illustrator. Only the second panel of the comic was drawn on paper (and then heavily edited). Before Spacejinx, Wen and I did a comic called Ruffled Feathers for the Crown Royale anthology. I drew and inked that one all on 11″x17″ pages. I ended up hating how long it took me to rule out margins and gutters (although Wen graciously took over that after all my bitching), and the time it took to scan a page in pieces, and also I ran out of paper. And that is why I started drawing Spacejinx in Photoshop.
The screentones were fun, but have to be applied after the image is sized down for web or else it turns into a horrible moiré mess. Of course, patterns without tones work fine, so I’ve used a speed zoom in a few places, and we’ve made our own.