In Issue 2 of the Code 45 graphic novel, Vanessa begins her tour of duty on the night shift. Without giving away any spoilers, the attitudes and habits of the night shift drivers are much, much different than those working days.
We needed to find a way to illustrate the divide between Vanessa’s clean-cut, ‘just finished training’ character, and night shift Nikki, her ‘babysitter’ when she first starts out working the nocturnal tunnels.
Artist Joe Ng came up with a very effective way to not just communicate the night shift ethos, but also introduce Nikki’s character in a way that complemented the dialogue in her opening scenes.
The end result was panels like this one. In the foreground we have Nikki, feet up, licorice in hand, uniform casually draped over her body with the sleeves rolled up and intricate braids in her hair. It’s not ‘regulation,’ but there’s no one there to reprimand her – night shift is its own private world, and it’s populated by characters like Nikki who’ve made it their own.
Contrast this to the straightlaced Vanessa beside her, still by the book, still trying hard to stay within the lines she thinks are so important to defining her employment.
Language and dialogue is of course important when defining character, but at the same time they need to work hand-in-hand with the visuals being presented to the reader to have maximum effect.
When the art can drive home not just the personalities on the page, but also set the tone for their entire environment and give clues as to how different one world might be from the next, it’s far more effective than simply having a narrator or individual ‘tell’ you what’s happening in a given scene.