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The Sixth Seal behind the scenes


The story

I could say that first there was an incomplete picture of a person seeing the rise and fall of civilizations in retrospective. When the goal became more clear, I could locate the story on a barren planet, which was somehow related to the fate of humankind. I didn't have to invent the nightmares to complete the pastiche, they came for free. My biggest problem is still how to express the same feelings with pictures.

Now when the core of the story was found, I had to find answers to the major "whys". The idea was best expressed if the whole story was a dream after all. So I created an institute which could be responsible for making people see this kinds of dreams. Using a narrator to drive in and cut out of the dream was an obvious choice for clarity. After considering different possible narrators within the framework of what I had defined about the time in question, it became clear that the logical choice was the "psychiatrist" who had the access to the files anyway and was still objective as an outsider. By this time the pictures of the main characters had been defined so well that I could make Thalia request to see the dream, and then I also found the answers to why Daphne had went to a treatment in the first hand and what happened to her after then. The idea of Thalia's injury and subsequent recreation was one of the latest additions but not the least significant. The focus of the story turned more towards the question of the essence of being a human. Finally, a seemingly incoherent piece of story about brother Hari and his followers fitted into the puzzle and gave the explanation for the first part of the whole story about seeing the future.

Each answer to the questions brought along some other connotations until the main story was loaded full of symbolical meanings, becoming an allegory. The given framework is, however, concistent to a great degree, which tells that the story had been going around in my subconsciousness for a good time. If the above description of the making of the story gives an idea of conscious, determinated process, it is not true. The pieces have popped up more by a sudden inspiration than by careful thinking.

The characters

For the visual outlook my methods vary. I had to consider the main character's (Daphne) appearance for months and make several drafts before it came close to my original idea. You can take a look at a couple of these drawings: first (28 kb) and second (29 kb). Then for Thalia, once I had let the idea mature in my head, the first draft was exactly what I wanted. Who knows where I have got my idea of what the characters should look like but there they now are. The less prominent characters like this artificial guy, are given their outlook at the instant when they are drawn the first time (actually, he does not have a physical body and hence his outlook varies according to his purposes).

The personalities are not very hard to create, since they are more or less derived from the main tone of the story. Much harder then is to put one's soul into these characters as to find out how they behave in different situations. All the characters are, however, different facets of my own personality and I have to process my own motives and separate these facets. On the other hand I have to introduce some outside influences to be able to create convincing personalities and not too "thin" ones.

The making

When a scene is complete in the sense that I have a good understanding of its purpose and structure, I'll allocate a certain number of pages to it. I'm taking into account the division of the space into double pages, pages and half pages so that the change in story is supported by the natural division of space. Since the story evolved around some central themes, there is a natural division of the story into scenes. I am also working very hard on transitions from scene to scene, so that they would be simultaneously seamless and surprising, underlining the dreamlike surreality of the story. One such transition is found at pages from 4 to 9, where the page area is used quite unconventionally. These transitions also include some metacartoons, where the panels suddenly change to 3-D and deform like video wipes. One such wipe is at the last panel of (half)page 2A (teletransport gate) and another at page 3B (scattering window).

Next, I'll make a very rough layout of each page in question, mainly fixing the number of individual panels and their relations to each other. At the same time I'll make a rough dialog that contains the information that should be mentioned during the scene. When the dialog is cut into panels, it gives an estimate of how much of the space is left for the drawings. Then I'll draw the rough layout of each panel in the same draft, expressing the "camera angle", line of sight and the main visual elements. You can take a look at the layout for pages 2 and 3 (38 kb). It's really, really rough. You wouldn't expect the final result from a mess like that, now would you?

I'm using common drawing paper of the size A3. Normally it corresponds to one half page but sometimes a full page also, especially when there is one picture on the page only, like the page 1. I'm doing the final layout with an HB pencil directly on the actual cartoon page. This is also the time when the small details of the page are introduced. For some purposes I'll have to consult the local library to get the adequate picture material. This phase takes a long time, since I am balancing the white and black areas inside each panel and between panels for visual effect. Often I just stare at the page for some ten minutes until I have created an insight of the appearance of the panel when it is finished.

The next step is inking. Some may call me heretic but I'm using extensively Pilot Drawing Pens of different thicknesses (mainly from 0.1 to 0.5) for line art and black markers for black areas. I haven't seen so much degrading of my drawings over the years (and my oldest cartoons have almost 20 years of recorded history behind) that I would bother using other methods, especially since the drawings are just black-and-white. I was using a ruler and "French curves" with the pencil work but all the inking is free hand work, except for the borders.

After erasing the surplus pencil lines the (half) page is ready to be scanned and canned. At that time I'll work out the actual dialog. As I do not trust my visual judgement when writing the final text on the page, I have made a "handwriting" font and for net publishing purposes, I add the text directly on the scanned images.



Teemu Mäkinen (teemu.makinen@fmi.fi)