In an effort to put worthwhile content on this blog that’s not entirely self-promotion, I thought I’d give a look at the process behind the making of Footprints and hopefully show off the nature of the collaboration between Jonathan and I. While I’m going to initially be using pages from Footprints #1 since it’s been available to read for free for quite some time, there were a lot of great instances of a sound partnership in the later issues, as Jonathan and I became better collaborators and, perhaps more importantly, friends. If this is something that might interest you as a fellow creator or just curious party, please read on!
Full disclosure: the script I’m presenting here is what can be found in the supplemental material of the Footprints TPB, which is more akin to a “shooting script” than it is the original drafts. At the time of scripting issue #1 (back in October of 2010 or so), I wasn’t saving my work as separate drafts, which for purposes like this, makes it a bit difficult to show progress on my end. Needless to say, there will still be some things that you notice change from script to final product, most of which happened after I read the lettered proofs. I included the images here in hi-res, so hopefully that provides a more in-depth look at Jonathan’s art as well. Also, the formatting of my script isn’t exact, since the transfer from the actual document to WordPress was a bit wonky, so I had to adjust the best I could. All of my additional notes are in bold.
So, to start, I’m just going to focus on the first page of issue #1, and I’d love to get the feedback of anyone reading this. Is there something you’d like me to talk about that I didn’t? Am I wasting my time? What are you curious about? Let me know and I’ll try and adjust future installments accordingly! Leave a comment on this page or e-mail me or tweet at me. I’ll also take this opportunity to offer my enormous thanks (again) to Scott Snyder and John Arcudi, both of whom were enormously helpful to me as I began to formulate everything.
Here we go:
PAGE ONE – (6 Panels)
A towering figure in a fedora and trench coat lumbers through the revolving doors of a Manhattan high rise apartment building. It’s a dreary day, and the rain is bouncing off the concrete.
NEW YORK CITY.
I BEEN IN THIS GAME A LONG TIME. DAMN NEAR SIXTY YEARS.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice the amount of detail I put into the panel description is nowhere near the level of detail that actually appears in the panel. It’s important to note that by the time Jonathan and I had started Footprints, we already worked on an 8-page pitch together called Roscoe and Alice Find God, which started as an idea for Zuda that was poorly timed (Zuda died right before we began working on it). It’s absolutely not either of our best work, but it did have an important role to play in our careers after all: it got the kinks out of our collaborative relationship. By the time we started on FP, I think we understood how each other worked. I knew I didn’t have to describe every tiny detail of the panel in order for Jonathan to get it — something you only learn by working with a particular artist and learning his/her strengths/weaknesses. Jonathan is huge on accuracy of anatomy, geography, etc. I knew I could rely on him to deliver what I needed in a way that was satisfying to him to draw.
For this panel, the important aspect is that we see Bigfoot as a tall, lumbering figure. Jonathan’s inclusion of the man exiting the building helps to give context to Foot’s size and disposition. Comics are 100% collaboration (or should be, in my opinion). I’m not an artist. I know how I want things to look, but I don’t always have the best idea of how to achieve that look. If you’re working with an artist and you don’t feel that the collaborative aspect is working (it’s a two-way street), it might be time to rethink.
I should note that in the original draft, the inner monologue wasn’t a part of the script. Ultimately, I decided that it’s a very noir/hard-boiled device and that I wanted to very much ape that genre for all it’s worth, so I decided to use it. I’m happy I did, because it would become increasingly important in the later chapters. Not as a crutch, but for juxtaposition of words/pictures that wound up being some of my favorite moments in the series.
I’ll also add that originally, Foot talked in a much looser style, far more than he does in the final product. With such ridiculous characters (particularly Jersey Devil), it was important to keep his dialog more “straight” to bring the more absurd elements down to a grounded level. As grounded as it can get, anyway.
We’re inside the apartment building, near the mailboxes and front desk, where an attendant stands. The mailboxes are the small box-with-a-key-type. The same figure is reaching in, a shadow obscuring his face.
HOW’S EVERYTHING MISTER FOOT? STAYING DRY, I HOPE?
YOU KNOW ME, PIERRE. FEELIN’ LIKE A MILLION BUCKS.
Oh, Pierre. I should’ve done more with you. In any case, this is probably the most important panel on this page. It seems relatively inconsequential, but ultimately it establishes one of the most important things about this book that I thought would probably be the hardest thing to swallow: that humans are totally aware of the cryptids living among them as citizens. The casual dialog that Pierre initiates was important to establish this in a quick, easy fashion. And there’s also the fact that, you know, Foot gets mail and lives in an apartment.
That said, in case there was anyone reading the book that somehow didn’t know it starred Bigfoot, I wanted to keep this opening page a relative mystery — keeping his face obscured and such.
The large man is standing and letting a pretty young woman exit the elevator; he is tipping his hat to her as she smiles, blushing. In his other hand, he’s got a stack of mail.
Same kind of thing here — he’s both interacting with the human populace and his face is still obscured. This also serves to set up Foot’s persona in a simple way. He’s a charmer; classic PI. He’s also got manners, which my mom always told me was important. But I liked the idea of Bigfoot not being this mysterious creature anymore — though his history would come into play — I hoped to establish a new sort of status quo for these characters right off the bat. It’s not a story of why they “came out of the woods” (though maybe we’ll explore that someday) but what it’s done to them.
I do recall in the earlier drafts there was extra monologue in this panel that had Foot riffing on Pierre’s comment in Panel 2. Something like “Yeah, a million bucks that’s been kicked all around this damn city. Twice.” It was axed when I saw it lettered up. In fact, I hated it. Ron Marz did a fantastic column on the dos and don’ts of working with a letterer over at CBR, and one of his “Rules to Letter By” is, essentially, don’t use the lettering process as another draft. Of course there are going to be mistakes that need revising or lines that you want changed/removed, but ultimately your script should be delivered to the letterer as you want it. I’m still working on this. Adam is a godsend, but I know there have been more than a few times that I’ve altered things more than I probably should have in the lettering stage. However, it’s often difficult to visualize how a page or panel will work as a whole until it’s completed with letters. For me, anyway. I imagine this is something that gets easier as you get more experience under your belt.
The figure enters his dimly lit apartment, silhouetted from the hallway light as he enters.
AIN’T MUCH THAT CAN SURPRISE ME THESE DAYS.
AIN’T MUCH I CARE ABOUT.
Not much to say about this panel, other than you see an example of what I was talking about earlier with how I’m not the artist and Jonathan’s decision to use a low dutch angle really helps sell Foot’s huge frame as well as the noir feel of the sequence.
A huge, hairy hand is flicking on a light switch on the wall, and the room is noticeably brighter.
And again, straightforward here, but this is the first real showcase of Foot’s non-human nature, rendered gorgeously. And sound effects! Sound effects rule; part of the unique language of comics. Use them, and don’t let anyone tell you not to.
Over his shoulder, looking down on the stack of mail in Bigfoot’s enormous hairy hand.
The return address reads: “YETI, THE ARCTIC”
Another simple panel, this time showing Foot’s opposite hand and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt (in case you somehow didn’t know) that Foot was more than a human. Plus, the ambiguous return address of Yeti, which seals the deal. I believe this is also hand-lettered by Jonathan, rather than an addition from Adam later on. Makes sense, considering the hand-written nature of the words in question.
Most importantly, though, is Jonathan’s discretion to differ from panel description — the most drastic example on this page. Instead of using the described “over the shoulder” angle that I suggested, it’s a super punched-in close-up that accomplishes two things: 1.) the return address is legible, probably more so than it would’ve been had he kept the angle more distant like I suggested. 2.) It keeps the page’s construction around the elusiveness of Bigfoot intact. Though we’ve seen his full figure already in the earlier panels, the close-up works better in context of the layout Jonathan established (with the preceding panel being a close-up of his other hand) and better pays off the page-turn reveal that we get on Page 2, which showcases Foot in all his glory for the first time in the series.
Here’s the final page:
So that’s it for this installment. I hope it’s proven helpful in some way, whether that’s to you as a creator or just as insight on the process behind this book. Please let me know what would be helpful/interesting to you in the future and I’ll do my best to include that next time. Granted, this wasn’t the most eventful/creatively revealing page in the book, but hopefully it was an interesting read.