When writing Code 45, the script serves as the backbone for the graphic novel’s story as well as a general outline for the action that is seen on the book’s pages and how it should be organized into panels. The next step after producing a script for a particular issue is to create something called a ‘layout,’ which is the visual shorthand used by artist Joe Ng in drawing each individual page.
Although I had worked with storyboards for video and film prior to launching Code 45, which are similar in concept, this was my first time working with a comic book layout. For Issue 1, the two of us sat down together and went through the script one page at a time, with Joe sketching on his pad the various panel locations, character positions, and action pulled from the script. It differs significantly from a traditional storyboard in that panel size, where they are placed on the page, and the order they are displayed aren’t necessarily linked to the linear nature of a roll of film or videoframe.
It was a fascinating process for me as a writer to watch an artist interpret my words and transform them into something visual. It was also an education, as Joe was able to point out to me structural concerns regarding panel size and position that might impede with the flow of the reader moving from the top to the bottom of a given page, or areas that needed to be larger or smaller in order to underscore what was happening in the story (I’ve talked about the nuts and bolts of layout in more detail in this post).
We worked through nearly three-quarters of the original script side-by-side. At that point, we were both clear in terms of how we wanted the book to be presented, and how to transition the rest of the script into the strongest possible layout. For the second and third issues, there was no need for me to be present as Joe created the initial layouts, but once they were complete we would go through them together and discuss any areas that we thought needed changes.