I’ve discussed layout a few times already over the past year and a half of the Code 45 graphic novel process. Initially, for Issue #1 artist Joe Ng and I collaborated in person on the first half of the layout process, then for Issues #2 and #3 Joe largely worked on his own layouts before presenting them to me afterwards for discussion and tweaking.
For the final two issues — #4 and #5 — we decided to try something new. This time, Joe and I would go page-by-page through each script, with him sharing his screen while he drew, and us chatting over video conference. This was the next-best-thing to working together in person, which was impossible due to the fact that we live about 500 kilometers apart, and also that COVID still made travel and interactions a challenge. There were other benefits to video chat layout, however, that only became apparent once we began.
The layout process can be quite long—we averaged roughly 10 hours per issue—and it can also be exhausting as you try to explore every creative possibility for a given page. It’s not the kind of thing that you want to do in one single jam session, and being able to space our video chats out over a number of days really helped keep the enthusiasm and the ideas flowing, while also providing those crucial overnight breaks where perspective and inspiration can marinate and provide a fresh outlook the following day.
There’s also the question of environment. By working together remotely, Joe and I could both be in our preferred creative spaces, with all of the comforts, tools, and fidget-friendly objects we needed. Being in such a familiar space made it easier to focus on the task at hand, and it also kept us relaxed, knowing that we weren’t under any particular time limit as we could simply call it a night whenever we felt it was time.
By now, Joe is also so familiar with the characters that have been living almost entirely in my head for years that his perspective on certain key points in the story proved invaluable in making Code 45 everything it could be. As a result, the look and feel of Code 45 #4 and #5 are among the strongest in the entire series. Being able to work together on these two issues in particular was of prime importance, given that they tie up the emotions and plot of the narrative, and it’s so much easier to make sure that we’ve wrapped the story the right way when we’re both on deck to bring things home.