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Panel By Panel: Reader Request - "Vampire Girl" and Perception of Scale

hpkomic at 7:49PM, July 14, 2023

Hello everyone, and welcome to Panel by Panel, a periodic exploration of comic panels around The Duck. This week I am tackling a reader request! I was pleased to find a message in my inbox here on the Duck from J_Scarbrough asking me to look at and share some thoughts on a panel from his comic, Vampire Girl. So that's what we're doing!

Specifically, he wanted me to weigh in on the last panel of “Strip XLIV - ecnaD niaR.” Let's look at the panel in question.

Several cool things are going on with the panel, but I want to start by saying that I appreciate the use of overlapping elements between the last panel and the prior. Combined with the dramatic pose from a raised angle and the fact that the figure is cutting into his dialogue balloon works out quite well. A lot is going on across these two panels. It also spills into that final panel, giving a sense of time as the cry of “Rain” -backward - fills the scenery.

As for that final panel, I think there is a lot to like, but I also have a little criticism. First of all, the sense of scale and depth is solid. I get a sense of the vastness of the environment, ranging from the more detailed trees in what we might call the “foreground” compared to the jagged outline that makes up the distant forest. Also, I like the use of clouds as framing on the horizon - they bring the incoming rain cloud, but they are also quite literally peeking over. Overall, the combined elements sell the idea of what is happening, and it's a strong panel to end a page on.

With that said it could be stronger. The most significant issue I have with the panel, and more to the point, the visual style of the comic, is a lack of contract. Because of the heavy use of photographic texture rather than color fills, elements get lost. For example, the figures that occupy the lower portion of the panel blend in with the dark green of the grass. I'd either lighten the figures up or use some lighting trickery to spotlight around them, especially given the lightning arc.

That leads to my other issue: the lighting looks weak in comparison to the environment, such as the clouds. The clouds pop the most in the panel because they are so stark and bright and give contrast. One way to make the lightning more impactful might be to actually draw it in, much like the clouds, rather than use a brush setting that gives it a halo. Imagine hand-drawn lightning thicker with black outlines that cut across the page, and you might see what I mean.

The panel is largely great regardless of my quibbles, mostly regarding an established visual style. Good work, and thanks for being kind enough to send me something to sink my teeth into.

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J_Scarbrough at 9:00AM, July 15, 2023

@PaulEberhardt They definitely are two separate things within my body of work, however, I approach them from similar areas, in that I always like to try to make things look as visually interesting as possible (if not partly to hide the fact that I'm just one little indie guy who doesn't have a lot of tools and resources like the pros do). As far as my comics are concerned, I've always approached them more like an animated series, and that each panel is like its own still frame from such an animated series . . . regardless of what I produce, I'm not one for minimalism. If you like Steve D'Monster, you'll hopefully enjoy his next adventure I've been working on for a couple of years coming out soon!

J_Scarbrough at 8:57AM, July 15, 2023

Thanks so much for your thoughts, I enjoyed your insight! Ironically, I usually try to be mindful of contrast when coloring and lighting scenes (notice the further way the trees and other elements are, the lighter they are, compared to the darker they are the closer they are), but I do see the point you've made, particularly with the figures against the more shadowy part of the grass from where the cliff starts going down hill . . . my only explanation for that was because they were just transitioning from night to day, so not everything had been hit by the rising sun just yet. The lightning from the Wizard's wand could have been hand drawn, I agree, but it would've made it more difficult to give it the "glow" I got from the brush tool . . . but maybe it didn't need the glow, perhaps a simply recolor would've been just effective. Oh well. Either way, I'm glad you enjoyed the use of different angles and framing to establish the space of their environment. Thanks again for your analysis!

PaulEberhardt at 7:09AM, July 15, 2023

The layout really rocks. It makes a very dynamic scene that shows an excellent sense of motion, poses and timing. It's apparent in the whole comic, in fact. @J_Scarbrough: How much and in what ways do you think your experience in making really fun videos informs your artwork? Or do you think of them as two completely separate things? (Gotta love Steve D'Monster's antics, btw. 😎)

kawaiidaigakusei at 8:19PM, July 14, 2023

ecnaD niaR = Rain Dance. I wonder how many areas of the world experienced unforeseen rainstorms as a result of reading the Vampire Girl comic.

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