If you've been eating your carrots and Wheaties you might notice that the layouts overlap perfectly with the finished art. This occurs for two reasons. One is that I've started doing layouts on Photoshop. I sit down, do all my research (guns, buildings, clothing - or lack of it, etc.) and then figure out what shots I can do based on what research I've done. It seems much smarter to do this "cart after the horse action".
You might think it limits my storytelling, but it does just the opposite. It seems my brain has very limited camera angles and ways that it can perceive a sequential scenario. This doesn't mean that I can't perceive a scene from multiple angles, I can. I can draw it through the plastic mesh of a shopping basket discarded in a corner, I can perch above a chandelier with the crystals creating a glittering frame. That's not the problem. The problem for me is moving around the scene in a way that is dynamic, highlights the main action and moves in a way that the geography and action makes sense to the reader.
While some people perceive comics as a seamless stream of action, it is far from the truth. In fact, nothing is seamless. Movies have cuts. Hell, even your eyes blink cutting your perception 10 times per minute! That momentary darkness is compensated for in an unconscious immediate way. I know there's a term for it that I learned in my psychology course in college (university for everyone else on the globe), but I just can't remember it. Spot the person who's suddenly regretting their college debt. Anyway, comics are jagged, frozen moments of time held together by dialogue, captions but hopefully (and mostly), good visual storytelling. A good storyteller will lead the reader around the scene in a manner that makes the action seem seamless. If you at any point ever go, "What the hell? Where am I?" when the storyteller hasn't intended you to feel that way, then the storyteller hasn't done a great job.
So by finding the research first, I tend to use these shots as anchors, or to belabor an animation metaphor - keys (coming from the term, "key frame" which is a frame drawn by a senior animator to indicate a key, or important frame of movement). I then tween around these shots (short for "in between - shots that are less important in animation than the "key frame"). I find it incredibly challenging and exhilarating when I'm able to tie it all together in a manner which is both readable and exciting. But I always try and lean towards readable before exciting. I'd rather be boring and clear, than exciting and impenetrable.
Having Paul do the backgrounds for the Human Resources room allowed me to shoot everything exactly as I wanted. We're now experimenting with software that enables him to give me the model and for me to just set up my cameras and light it just the way I want it. It's less time on his part and we don't have to keep going back and forth with me saying, "can you lower it about 10 inches and tilt it up 15 degrees."
Doing this back and forth on email sometimes feels like the joke of two blind men both groping at different ends of an elephant. If you haven't heard it, you can Google it or something.
The second reason the layouts are so close to the final artwork (you thought I'd forgotten that I'd mentioned two right? Well I remembered without even having to do a reread! Go coffee!) is that Frank uses my layouts to do lettering when I haven't finished drawing in time. Which is pretty much every time. Because I follow these layouts exactly, he can have the lettering done before I've finished the art. The letterer then just has to lay the artwork underneath. A 2 minute job for each page. Speaking of which... Frank needs me to double check the layouts and send them through for lettering right now.
In good news, my character outlines for my story have been approved. I'm so excited. I'd been coming up with concept stuff and action scenes. Then I found myself totally bored as I realised I was just writing about ciphers. Faceless killers. So I wrote a quick 100 word background on both of the characters, and discovered that there needed to be a third - a love interest. I added each character's theme and submitted it. Bingo! Approved! Suddenly I'm writing about people and the situations just start to write themselves.