Hello all, and welcome back to a slightly different looking ARCANUM.
After the pilot story — “here’s your team, such as it is”, it’s time to dig into the meat of the ARCANUM 5-season arc. You’ll notice the art style is a bit different. This is not because we’ve changed artists. No, Todd just has multiple awesome styles in his back pocket. Clever bastard.
(God, I love the hands in that image. Hands are a bear for artists and actors. Seriously, you can tell how good an actor is by what they do with their hands when at rest.)
The change comes about to a great degree because, over the course of the hiatus, we reconsidered the tone of the story overall. I kept talking about that 1st great season of X-FILES, where they are just suffused in that Vancouver grey. Like the X-FILES pilot our first real story happens in the Northwest. This isn’t a matter of slavish imitation, but certainly the similarities resonated as I was plotting out this storyline. And like X-FILES we are an alien invasion story. The aliens just happen to be ancient fairy stories. (And hey, doesn’t that sketch kinda look like a grey …)
“I think we’re more a horror comic,” I said to Mark during one conversation. “Like a Vertigo book, in the old days when Vertigo meant Vertigo.” One of the main themes of ARCANUM is that magic is disruptive and scary and awful. Magic is a corruption, a rot. The big brassy high-colored 1st chapters made sense in order to give us the action look in that 1st Incursion, but as the story goes on ARCANUM very much becomes a tale of unsettling noises in the night, madness borne of broken physics. Soon we’re going to be in the realm of high-beam flashlights and basements filled with things that make you re-swallow your lunch. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS told through the DELTA GREEN lens.
So Todd is now giving us greys and washes, with slightly more impressionist backgrounds and faces very much built around the eyes and mouth. It’s more overtly an character-acting style, which fits. In particular, the Thrillbent process exploits facial expressions in an almost animatic way, which works well with this style.
It feeds back in to how I’m writing, too. Knowing we’ll be dealing with a more subdued palette, in my head I feel the action will come across as more grounded, more noir, and so I write different action sequences. This may be more bleed over from my film background, but it’s even a matter of choosing close-shots during fights rather than wide-shots.
I’ve said before that I find comics writing brutally difficult, because you have to not just be the screenwriter but also the director and editor on every page. The artist, though, has to be the A-operator, all the actors, and the Director of Photography. As everyone in Hollywood knows, Directors get all the juice, but the Director of Photography — the DP — is the real power on a set. In television in particular, Directors come and go on literally a weekly basis, but the DP is there for every episode. If your favorite show has a signature look, it ain’t the “directed by” guys giving you that candy. For an insight into the process, here’s an interview with the DP of BREAKING BAD.
(Bonus anecdote: On my first one-hour drama, I asked the DP what, exactly a Director of Photography does. He said “We’re the guy who stands behind the Director and whispers: “… you don’t want to do that.“)
All this echoes something Phil Hester (@philhester) recently tweeted: “The surest way to be seen as a great comic book writer is to get your claws into a genuinely great comic book artist.”
We certainly hope you enjoy the return of ARCANUM. Please do check it out, and our other fine comics like Mark Waid’s INSUFFERABLE, the dark, gritty crime drama of THE DAMNATION OF CHARLIE WORMWOOD, and the very creepy horror comic THE EIGHTH SEAL
Thrillbent is just beginning. Thanks for reading and spreading the word.
John Rogers has been in the entertainment industry for 20 years. He created and ran the TV show LEVERAGE and wrote the comic BLUE BEETLE for DC Comics. For Thrillbent, John writes ARCANUM. Follow him on twitter @jonrog1.