Anise: Well, hello out there to our Anatta readers. I'm Anise Shaw, the colourist and co-writer for the webcomic Anatta and we're going to do a collaborative commentary for our first chapter. What we would like to touch on is our process, different ideas we've had, how we've worked together and the challenges we've had.
threeeyesworm: And I am Wei Li (threeeyeswurm), drawer and co-writer for Anatta. I guess we will start with page 1.
Anise: Page 1 was probably the most difficult page we've done, it was very stressful.
threeeyesworm: yea it was and it was stressful on many different levels. I mean it was the page we set the style, the panel, the characters and the general entrence into the world of Anatta. So, a lot of fundamentals of the comic was dealt with here. But the most of the stress was from collaborating together. Afterall, it was the first time Anise and I actually worked together on one image.
Anise: It was interesting to hash out our different roles and what we needed each other to do in order to make a successful comic page.
I remember when we came up with the idea to do a weekly webcomic, were we not showering and getting ready for the day?
threeeyesworm: Oh yea! that's true! Haha it was pretty random and I remember it was because both of us felt kinda lost in exactly what we wanted to do with comics…
Anise: and we had this idea for this science fiction comic that seemed so grand, yet we were frustrated with how we were going to get it out. Wei had just submitted his last short story to a few publishers and we were worried that we didn't have enough experience to get published
I had done webcomics before, and I have great admiration for the medium, so I thought it was an option
threeeyesworm: yea, i remember I worked so hard and spent so much time on drawing and redrawing (like 4 times!) the comic that I submitted… When Anise suggested just turning the science fiction idea that I wanted to make a comic of into a webcomic, I was like fuck it what the heck. Let's just do it. Yes it was grand and seemingly larger than life, but in the end… we just had to do it. Oh yea and I remember learning from my past mistake of not writing a script out first. Thus Anatta was born as the first comic that I wrote a script for.
Anise: The script writing was hard for us too, because Wei is a very solitary creator and I was wanting to get in on how the story was going to progress. Chapter one was conceived mostly by Wei and I did a lot of the post editing. For Chapter two I had to ask Wei to write a script out specifically for me for chapter two so I could do a real edit and discuss the plot more in depth.
Now we have actually typed out scripts, which is really nice.
threeeyesworm: So, page 1 was quite hard for the both of us but especially hard for Anise because I thought it would be a great idea to go over the page with an ink wash… which is why page 1 seems more… gray than the other pages… Anise can umm bitch more about this than I can.
Anise: yeah, for sure. It took me a million years to get rid of that wash, I had to do it with a small, hard eraser in photoshop. It took me several hours just to prep the page for colouring
Wei had never done a colour comic before, so he was used to cross hatching to create depth.
threeeyesworm: This also created problems for later… as you shall see (and some have pointed out).
threeeyesworm: Another difficulty I had with page 1 in terms of the writing is having faith in the readers to understand the technology of mind switching without any exposition… I was worried that just jumping straight into the world would have been confusing for the readers.
Anise: I really love the juxtaposition in this page…
threeeyesworm: So far however, having faith in the readers seems to have worked out well. No one complained about page 1.
Anise: it was a great opening to our comic.
threeeyesworm: let's move on to page 2… I recall Anise HATED painting this page. She stalled so much on it.
Anise: stalled, I call it procrastination. I would like to point out that phrenology picture in the second panel, which is awesome. And of course, Gerald Lee, who has a much larger role in Chapter two.
threeeyesworm: Yea I really hope people would make that connection when they read chapter 2
Anise: Lastly, the mindscan picture is credited totally to Wei, he created a great representation in that.
threeeyesworm: aww thanks.
Anise: I sure didn't have the patience for that by the time I coloured this page…
On to page 2!
threeeyesworm: Yea, I nitpicked so much in terms of the coloring for page 2. Remember that Anise?
Anise: Yeah, I had to lay out some serious boundaries.
We were really trying to come into our own with these first pages
threeeyesworm: But then again, I nitpicked about my drawings too… the background scene took especially long.. because I wanted to draw an realistic picture that hinted at Vancouver East Side…
Anise: If anyone has been there, they will get the references right away, especially harbour centre in the background there.
threeeyesworm: You know… now that I look at it… I am quite happy with page 2… The posters and graffiti were a bitch to draw but totally worth it
Just hope people pay attention to those details!
Anise: with those colours, how could you not?
threeeyesworm: Lol. Onto page 3?
Anise: but our furry joke! We understand internet subcultures, hurray!
Anise: Also, Chad. Great dialogue for that guy.
he's such a wannabe.
threeeyesworm: Yea… Some people find him to be too stereotypical “black”, someone actually said it could be offensive… but what they don't know is that Chad's last name is actually Bukowski. He's polish.
Anise: very much not black. Identity is a slippery issue in the Anatta world, and racial identity has shifted as well.
threeeyesworm: Yea, so I find it ironic and actually satisfying to have someone think he was offensive hehehe
So, Page 3 is actually one of my personal favorites and I am quite happy with it aside from some perspective issues.
Anise: That's so technical and boring though. I love Alex's movements and the ad for the mind exchange party.
Plus, BBQ duck, so tasty.
threeeyesworm: Oh! thanks for pointing that out! The location is suppose to be Vancouver China town.
Anise: a very historic place in our city… full of good and bad history.
threeeyesworm: And yes, I do look forward to exploring the idea of mind exchange party in one of our short stories.
Anise: Yeah, I'm on it, I'm on it. Procrastinator, remember?
threeeyesworm: -_- That doesn't justify anything.
Anise: I know, that's the point
threeeyesworm: Now that our readers know of it. I will tell them to bitch at you about it.
Anise: good, then the guilt will overwhelm the feeling to procrastinate
threeeyesworm: Anything else to add before moving onto page 4?
Anise: I kind of want to segway into some of the concepts so far, especially in our storytelling. Technical aspects are interested, but mostly for people that make webcomics.
threeeyesworm: fire away
Anise: I think juxtaposition is a very important concept we've folded into the comic, especially ironic or illuminating juxtaposition. I know that one of Wei's great influences was the Watchmen, the great graphic novel of great juxtaposition.
threeeyesworm: Yes. And I am always trying to find ways to out-juxtapose the Watchmen. :P I declare a juxtaposition duel on Alan Moore… :|
Anise: I remember getting all Alan Moore on you with this page, because you wanted to add the clicking sound when she hung up the phone.
I'm not a huge fan of sound effects, they are quite cheesy.
threeeyesworm: Me neither… but I had a moment of weakness in terms of, again, having faith in the audience.
Anise: It take a lot of the cinemagraphic elements out of a comic when sounds are represented as words.
Anise: I know I feel like I've broken out of the illusion of the story when I read western comics with sound effects. I really love to read Japanese comics because I generally can't understand the sound effects, and katakana often looks like it is part of the picture or panel
threeeyesworm: it's true. I found it very rare that sound effects add anything, content wise, to a comic. A good picture should allow the reader to subconsciously hear the sounds themselves. Afterall, we are not counting on the readers to read the dialogue outloud. What we are counting on is that they will place different voices into the characters themselves when reading the words. It's the same with sounds from surroundings. In comics we are counting on the readers to place the sounds from surrounding objects themselves.
Anise: Unfortunately, writing out a sound gives it another level of representation that is so abstract, so we've pretty much agreed to leave them out.
Page 4 has to be my favourite page of this Chapter.
threeeyesworm: Now that I look at it, I wish I hadn't cross hatch it. But then that would have meant Anise had to do a lot more work in terms of coloring.
Anise: I wouldn't have minded too much, it's really only three colours.
blended, of course.
I love how Wei represented the switch, it's so visceral.
threeeyesworm: It will be the only time I show this though. Although I do think it's enough.
Maybe we can do something with this representation in one of the short stories
Anise: Ha! I was just going to say that! I actually have a story where the switching process is looked at closer and all the strange, psychological events that could probably happen.
So you never told me why you put Alex in a fat dude's body.
threeeyesworm: …… It explains later in the comic….
Anise: I know that part, but where did the initial idea come from?
threeeyesworm: Nah, at first I just thought it would be funny and physically interesting as an experience. Haha
Anise: quite painful…
threeeyesworm: I wish I had went more into the experience in terms of the huge physical changes, hormonally, the feeling of being out of shape… the sudden surge in cholesterol, high blood pressure, the feeling of clogged arteries… but I didn't want to be too explosition-y. Maybe will dive in more details in a short story.
Anise: I couldn't imagine suddenly being hundreds of pounds heavier. That would be such a shock. Alex does have a significant moment of pain here that I think expresses her distress, especially considering she wasn't expecting it.
I'm so glad we changed the way we do speach bubbles now, they look much cleaner when done on the computer
threeeyesworm: Yea haha I should really go back and fix those
Brilliant coloring with the TV lighting by the way. That was all you Anise.
Anise: I spent a bit of time looking at people in only television light, and it's quite a bit more dramatic than this. I am so fascinated by how my senses are confused by shifting coloured lights, the mood of everything becomes so muddled.
threeeyesworm: It really fits the confusion experienced by Alex
Anise: It's definitely a lot of information to take in at once. I love the way Alex rags Chad out here. I really want the hierarchy of their relationship to be delved into further, especially because Chad is so…. characteristic.
We were a bit worried with these next few pages, because we weren't sure how the audience was going to take the body shift.
Would they understand it? Would they be totally confused?
threeeyesworm: It worked quite well at the end actually. No one was confused it seems.
Anise: Wei's original idea way back in the day had the technology operate quite differently. He initially wanted people's physical looks to shift along with the mind and I spent a long time trying to convince him that is was more interested, but narratively more difficult to have the physical appearances remain unchanged.
threeeyesworm: Ah yes. Overcoming the narrative challenge was quite satisfying.
Anise: It really gives us a deeper connection with our audience, I find. The more stock we put in them to be active, intelligent readers the more rewarding it is to receive the feedback we have.
I think it also engages people more with the story, giving them a sense of ownership over the interpretation. I know that happens with me when I read or watch something that challenges me to understand it.
I'm not a big fan of passive observation.
Anise: The whole note thing left by Xiao Ming in page 6 was a big bone of contention for me. I really didn't like the idea initially, it felt too gimicky to me in the telling.
threeeyesworm: Yea I wish I hadn't done that either. I think I lost some of our readers in that transition as well. Some people didn't get that the person who was originally in the fat male body was a girl frim China. Although the page turned out well, I should have thought of another way to deliver this content.
Anise: it might have been okay to let people know later when we introduced the detectives, perhaps a more intriguing investigation?
threeeyesworm: Well, can't really do much about it now. Got to move on. :
Anise: it's okay, we learn from our mistakes.
Most first episodes are quite awkward, Battlestar Galactica being the only notable exception that comes to mind.
threeeyesworm: In terms of visual representation, I am most unsatisfied with page 8… If I could rewrite chapter 1, I would have redone page 8 as well. It's just not interesting enough and fits the dialogue mediocrely. Not to mention the coloring that Anise was suppose to go back and finish. -_-
Anise: Yeah, I was totally sick.
plus, two blue pages in one chapter.
threeeyesworm: Yea, we should finish that before printing.
Anise: definitely. Our print version will have many goodies and high quality art not available on the net.
Anise: So, it's getting quite late and we're going to call it a night for now. We'll be back for part two of our commentary tomorrow.
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