The other day I went to see TENET by Christopher Nolan and I have to admit I was disappointed. The visuals where staggering, but the story lacked any character motivation in my mind. I did however decided to make a comic about it and that was great fun (for me), so something good came out of it after all.
Trust me, I don’t want to hate on this movie, being a huge Nolan fan and all, but I just have to be honest and I think he overplayed his hand, falling in love with the concept too much and discarding a lot of storytelling fundamentals.
Going in circles
Since the entire concept of Tenet evolves around going back in time and things going back and forward in time I thought it would be a nice challenge to create a circular design on the page. This is something various artists have experimented with (one specific page by Bill Sienkiewicz comes to mind) and this is obviously exactly the kind of challenge that makes me love drawing comics. In a way storytelling is like solving all this little puzzles all of the time.
Here is the first sketch where I try to figure out the best way to compose a page like this.
For me the biggest problem with a circular layout is ‘what do you do with the middle?’. Usually that’s where a big whole appears you try to work around. Here I tried to solve this by widening panel 4 and 5. Go here for another example of a circular comic I made a while back.
Another thing that I studied a lot was page flow and the role word-balloon placing plays in this. Eg. making your balloons overlap a panel in the place you want your reader to go next. A very thorough article by Salgood Sam about this was really helpful. Also Todd Klein has written about this a bit in his section of DC’s Guide to coloring and lettering comics.
After all this mumble jumble I was able to create a page layout that was quite close to something I could live with.
The silly thing is, after all this work of planning and laying out the page I always wonder why I’d go to the trouble of actually drawing the damn thing. For me most of the fun is actually in the conceptual level of the page.
I ended up drawing the page after all.
And am glad I did.