In producing them, we tried a lot of things differently - maybe more than were consciously noticed by readers. We learned a lot about what worked and what didn't.
- Boarding out the whole scene before doing any rendering. The necessity of this becomes more obvious the more experience you have with these kind of projects. When you look at what "the pros" are doing in sequential art and animated film, you always see them spending a fair amount of time planning before jumping into making the final product.
- I feel my dialogue writing has improved. Comparing the dialogue to the old comic, it's like night and day to me. Nature of Nature's Art, Blacksad, Watchmen and Duncan The Wonderdog were comics I read and really admired for (among many other reasons) remarkably well-written dialogue. I'm striving for that, and I'm noticing improvement so I feel like I'm on the right track.
- Character expressions are better. I look at old BBA pages and sometimes expressions are muddled, arbitrary, absent, or inappropriately subtle. I'm also trying to give thought to not only facial expressions but body language to all characters in a frame, even if they are not the focus. Previously, if I saw a character in the background of a shot I'd be like "oh it doesnt really matter what they're doing, theyre not the main focus." Then I'd draw them doing whatever, not thinking of how it was relevant to the scene or even in the very least in describing their character. I've read a few comics where expressions were either entirely absent by intention or just an afterthought (they were in print, not on DA). I noticed that I failed to empathize with those character or care about what was happening in the panels. Besides, clear body language and emotive faces have always been key elements to animated film, which is the medium I'm drawing upon for our visual style's inspiration.
- New page format. We changed from the standard, tall and narrow comic page format to a wider, squarer-though-not-quite-square one. A couple reasons for this, but one of them is: this is first and foremost a webcomic, it makes sense to have something that fits people's monitors better. Most importantly though it gives us room for wider frames, which we use more frequently than tall frames, because our subjects are relatively low-and-horizontal-to-the-ground quadrupeds rather than higher-above-ground-vertical-bipeds.
- Production in Manga Studio. Loving drawing in manga studio! Drawing feels great and you wouldnt believe how amazing the speech bubble tools are. They've saved me a lot of time. I havent even tried out the framing tools yet but I'm sure they'll also greatly improve my efficiency.
- Pacing. This was only one example scene but even so, more time was spent on this scene than any other from the old comic, where I was doing scene-changes every page or two. It was positively frenetic.. This was still faster than my preference, since it was a test and we decided ahead of time that we wanted to keep it under 10 pages. But it does show my intention to slow down and allow scenes proper time to unfold.
What I'm on the Fence About:
- Smaller frames floating over a larger "background" frame. There are pros and cons to this. On one hand it allows speech bubbles room to exit the boundaries of the "foreground" frames without overlapping adjacent "foreground" frames. In the old BBA, each panel butted up against subsequent panels divided only by a thin black line. What I liked about this was that the gap was so narrow and the dividing color so consistent and monotonous that your eye passes from one frame to the next quickly and easily with minimum interruption, allowing the action in the frames to "interpolate" in your head more smoothly. My worry is that now that we have different colors coming through in the dividers, and because the space is also wider, that maybe it's slightly more disruptive to the visual flow. But I don't really have any evidence for that - it's a very subtle and nitpicky issue but it's still something that warrants thought in my opinion.
What didn't work:
- Drawing style. There were a few things going on here. Firstly, I was sorely out of practice after not really drawing this kind of stuff (or much of anything for that matter) for years while I honed other skills in the game industry. So I was rusty and not feeling confident. I thought maybe simplifying everything would not only make it easier for me to be consistent when drawing the characters, but would add some sort of appeal to them. I think simplifying markings and body shapes is good, but I think I went overboard when I decided I would reduce the number of "fur tufts" that are drawn - or having each character have a specific number of fur tufts in specific places. The result is that the wolves don't look very soft or furry but kindof hard and plastic-y, which doesn't complement the soft shading I like to do rather than hard-edged cell shading. More importantly is that while it's fine for a fun, silly scene like we wrote for this in order to not spoil anything in the big story, the visual oversimplification doesn't necessarily fit well with the tone of the story I'll be telling, which (if I'm successful) should have a certain level of subtlety and complexity to it which i'd like to see reflected in the art.
So let's talk about timeframe.
I did mention I wanted to release in early 2015 and was hoping for January but, at the end of 2014 there were some unexpected events. A day or so after I announced the BBA Preview pages and my reboot plans, my fox Anya was killed by a coyote. I was utterly useless for a solid month and after finally having won a years-long battle with depression (2013-15 were great years for me) I fell back down into depression. I was pretty negligent about getting the work done on the reboot that i was supposed to be doing while the preview pages were being released.
I'm doing a lot better now. But I took a contract gig that's got me tied up until March 1st (needed the money as a windfall). I'm still working on BBA everyday but the majority of the days are dedicated to game work again until I finish my commitment for the March 1 game deadline.
The good news is that recently I had a really great breakthrough with the script and story. As any of you who have tried writing your own stories may know, it can be a really difficult and complex task. For a long time I was completely paralyzed with confusion trying to answer even the basic question about what this story will really be about and how it will be told. But, I think I've got some really good stuff written finally and I'm pretty dang excited about it. I hope you'll like it as much as I do.
So long story short is I'm a few months behind my initial plans because well life likes to keep you on your toes. But I still feel like Fable and I are on track to make something really fun and we are fully committed to making that a reality as soon as possible.
As always, thank you for your continued patience and support