IMAGE COMICS: What do you like about what your collaborator pulled off in this scene?
JUSTIN GREENWOOD: I LOVED the idea of THE FUSE: PERIHELION. It was such a great contrast to the previous arcs. When Antony suggested a Mardi Gras-type holiday that was unique to the citizens of the Fuse, I was captivated by the idea of this crazy, chaotic day where everybody from every different level comes out and spends the day mixing it up. This sequence is a perfect example of the storyline and reminds us a lot of what makes this concept so unique in the first place. It's almost glamorous and fun at a glance, but of course there is another layer of alternative motives and nothing is exactly working right when you zoom in. And true to form, Antony uses it to give us these great glimpses into the culture of its people while revealing more about our mysterious leading duo.
Also, "Fuck a spaceman" is my single favorite bit of dialogue to date.
ANTONY JOHNSTON: I've found myself saying "Fuck a spaceman" in exasperation, so it appears to be bleeding out into the real world. What a legacy. Hi, Mom!
(I like "I will bet you one hundred space dollars", too—sure it's an amusing turn of phrase, but it also lends the situation some realism, and humanises Klem and the Fuse itself.)
What I like about Justin's work here is that he captures the surface glitz of the celebration, but also the chaos and underlying grime of the environment and situation. Notice how the shots get tighter, more heavily cropped, as we head into the loopevator brawl; how the crowds remain diverse throughout, but the backgrounds drop out when we close in on a punch. This is subtle, skillful storytelling.
Shari Chankhamma's colours do some heavy lifting, too; the bright, golden lights of the carnival contrast with the dim utility lights around the loopevators, while keeping the colour focus on the primary story element within each panel. The sudden bursts of contrasting golden background when the punches fly are wonderful; they make you unconsciously pause to take the panel in, giving it impact, but without being jarring.
IC: Justin, what do you like about what you accomplished here?
GREENWOOD: I think I knew instinctually that with everyone aboard in attendance for the festivities, it was going to require a lot of fine tuning to have the storytelling read cleanly around all of the crowds and festivities. There are spots where the background essentially just becomes dense groups of people, and it was a lot of fun to give them all personalities without distracting from the overall intent. Shari was a big part of that as well—she has a great sense of how to prioritize color on a panel/page, and key them so your eye moves through without getting hung up on things that are ultimately unimportant.
IC: We've talked a little about this scene before, but break down the fight scene for me. How do you approach designing them? Are you a guy who's big on strict panel-to-panel flow, or do you prefer to capture certain "big" moments instead?
JUSTIN: Every scene has a rhythm, whether it's fighting or just two characters having a quiet conversation. I spend a lot of time in the comp stage trying to feel that out and then building that rhythm into the layouts. In general, I tend to lean toward a really fluid panel-to-panel flow but this sequence has a clearly building tension that moved us into that scene with the loopevators where the fight breaks out.
It's tricky right? Big moments only really have a value when contrasted against the smaller ones. Nothing drives me crazier than when a story is clearly built to just be a vehicle to lead the reader into a gimmicky pin-up type of splash page. But you want those big flashy moments to exist and punctuate a story, and building that contrast is what makes comics fun.
JOHNSTON: Listen to me talk about music and within thirty seconds I'll probably use the word "dynamics." It's the most important, yet oft-overlooked, part of songwriting.
The same is true of fiction. You need the quiet moments to give the big moments their full impact, and vice versa. Otherwise all you have is white noise.
IC: When you're coming up with something like Mr Sunshine, how do you describe it to Justin?
JOHNSTON: When you collaborate with someone for a long time, you get to know how much detail they do (or don't) need, and which areas you should focus on (or not) so they can do their best work. Here's my entire description of Mr Sunshine from the script:
"The CARNIVAL finally gets underway, and begins—as it does every year—with a "SUN GOD" PARADE. Think something like a Chinese festival lion, but instead of a lion, it's a sun-faced effigy with a golden 'tail', held aloft by a bunch of men and women all dressed in white and gold."
Justin and I have been living on the Fuse for long enough now that I knew he didn't need anything more.
Remember, a comic script is just a letter to the artist, to explain how I envision the story being told, and give him enough to draw up pencil comps. If I see the pencils and realise there's been a misunderstanding, then I can clarify things at that stage. But that's rare. Justin is a great visual storyteller, and most of the time he groks my intent straight away.
THE FUSE: PERIHELION is available this Wednesday.