The Case of the Nonexistent Contraband

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Thoughts on the Process

The art process for this comic is almost exactly the same as the previous one. I did try to experiment a bit more with perspective, especially in panel 5, which is a sort of bird’s-eye parallel projection.

And I tried something with color, but this meant I went “out of gamut.” I can’t say this comic uses twelve or fewer colors. I used the “burn” tool and lowered the intensity of the background behind Czerep, and used burn to shade Rudek’s face. I think the effect is subtle enough. But I’m torn on whether modifying the colors to aid visual legibility is cheating. The whole point of the limited palette is to force myself to think creatively. To problem-solve.

I guess the problem I set myself was not really about color. I didn’t want the unclaimed luggage in panel 4 to seem like it came out of nowhere, so I wanted it in the background of panel 1, which was already quite busy. So the problem was a compositional one–where to put the luggage so it doesn’t interfere with the legibility of Czerep’s action lines. Not sure I solved this problem 100%. What do you think? Leave me a comment below.

What I Learned

For me the takeaway on this comic is in the writing, not the art. I didn’t expect to come back to these characters — the two hapless Belarusian refugees. But I guess after this comic, I felt the need for closure. What happens? How bad of a guy is Czerep the Cat? What will Rudek do about this? Suddenly I had all these narrative-motivating questions. David Baboulene and other writing-about-writing types call them key questions.

So, it’s interesting: that need for closure, kind of opened the doors narrative-wise. All of a sudden, I had multiple ideas for story arcs. I had punchlines that suggested future situations. Now I feel like the ball is rolling.

I’ve been struggling to adapt to the gag format–to orient the pacing of these strips around punchlines. My impulses, in terms of writing, seem to steer me towards exploring characters or dramatic situations. Czerep taking out his anger on the Belarusian refugees came from that place. But now I think I’ve been having a tough time with gags because I’m conceptualizing them wrong. Maybe I can devise better gags if I can get them to come from those key questions.

5 Responses

  1. I completely agree that that these characters needed closure, and I did wonder about how bad a guy the cat was going to be.

    But I had to re-read it a few times to understand what was going on.

  2. It´s hard to believe that a person can act like that next to a woman and her child who obviously took a lot of risk on themselfes to come to the polish/soviet border.

    But sadly they existed through out history. When the iron Curtain was still up my Grandfather was stationed at the inner german border and faced such people himself. The morbid suspiciousness of some of his comrades annoyed him that much that he switched to another post in a different Division only 2 months later.

  3. Since i do not read Cyrillic I’d like a little translation please.

    • In broken Belarusian, Rudek asks the immigrants if they speak Polish. The boy replies “no.” Then he tries to tell them they can pack their things in a valise that had been confiscated earlier and is now just sitting around the office, unclaimed. He’s not sure how to express all that, as he only knows the word for “put it in.” But the immigrants seem to understand.

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