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<   No. 1229   2006-06-08   >

Comic #1229

1 {scene: Jane Goodall's office, somewhere in Africa.}
1 Jane Goodall: The world is going to pot. Global warming, pollution, mass extinctions, unsustainable population growth, wildlife habitat loss.
2 Jane Goodall: I know! I'll assemble a team of world experts to produce a series of documentaries to get people motivated to fix it!
3 Jane Goodall: Let's see... I'll need an atmospheric scientist, a sociologist, an oceanographer, an arctic expert, a botanist, a marine biologist...
4 Jane Goodall: ... and... a fearless wildlife wrangler. Damn.

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This strip is a good illustration of some of the conscious decisions I make when putting a strip together, that (hopefully) affect how you perceive it without you realising it.

Firstly, the composition of the shots in this strip is arranged so that we "zoom in" on Jane Goodall as we progress from panel 1 to 2, and then to 3. I did this to match the uplift in mood as Jane identifies a problem in panel 1, then thinks of a way to tackle it in panel 2, and gets more excited about the idea in panel 3. The idea is that this zooming in helps to set the mood by being visually active. In the last panel, we suddenly pull right back again, to a shot even wider than panel 1. This represents the letdown as Jane realises the terrible flaw in her plan.

A second element that reinforces this is the choice of the direction of the arrows from the speech bubbles. Sometimes I'm constrained by the layout of the characters and the needs of fitting more than one bubble per panel, but in this strip I had free rein over what way the arrows pointed. Normally in such cases I make them consistent. But this time I adapted an element of comic strip design taken from Hergé, who usually drew characters facing to the right when progressing forwards in the plot, but facing left when coming across an obstacle or danger. So the speech bubble arrows do the same thing here. You'll notice that Jane also turns around from left to right in the sequences of panels 1 to 3, representing progress in this stylistic convention. She doesn't turn back to the left in panel 4, because the pull-back achieves the visual effect of the obstacle in a way that doesn't rely on the character being dynamic.

You probably never realised it, but I do this sort of thing as I create many, if not most, of the strips. Not all of them, because sometimes I'm just feeling too lazy or the requirements of getting the necessary characters into shot means I don't have the freedom to take this level of design into consideration.

You may feel like telling me to get a life at this point. Hey, I'm over 1,200 strips into a webcomic - it's clear that I don't take such advice well.

2015-11-03 Rerun commentary: Sometimes when photographing scenes like this for these panels, it doesn't just involve moving the camera around to capture the set from different angles. My light sources are fixed, and sometimes moving the camera would cause shadows on the set. So often when the camera seems to be moving around, in reality what I've done is to rotate the entire set.

Ideally you'd want you camera to be invisible, so that it never casts shadows on your set. But a camera that can't intercept photons is a bit of a contradiction in terms...

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