Comics and Storyboards

Sin City

Robert Rodriguez, who in my opinion is ONE of the great directors of this generation, took a piece of work that he adored and made it a movie. That piece was Sin City, a graphic novel penned and illustrated by Frank Miller. Not only did Sin City break open the doors for a flood of comic book movies, but the filmmakers involved also did something else early on in pre-production that in these eyes is just beyond brilliant. They took the comic and decided to create the film frame for frame, even going as far as using the comic as the storyboard.

Comic as the storyboard?

Yea… and why not.

Being a lover of comic books I find myself sifting through my favourites whenever I can (most often the toilet – there really is no better time to read). The thing I can never get over is the flow of the images. It’s astounding. These artist are always given the task of creating frames that are alive. I mean when you have kidnappers speeding away with Detective Gordon’s baby and Bruce Wayne is hightailing on his motorbike to keep up, a single frame depicting this won’t do. These scenes are usually pieced together in the same format our films are, utilizing cut-ins, a variety of angles, and well paced. After enough reading the images seem to become a movie.

Now, does this mean that when we put together storyboards we should completely adapt the ways of a comic book. Hell no. For its uses in a production we will need more info added for the camera operators, continuity supervisor (if you even bother to use one – which you should) and even your editor later on down the line. However, we still come back to the main purpose of the storyboard which is to visualize scenes before they’re shot, which nobody has a better handle on than the comic book illustrator.

So where are you going with this?

Pick up a comic book. Yea, I said it. If you’re in the middle of putting together a piece, may it be a short or a feature, go and grab a comic. And I don’t mean an Archie… something with substance and art please. Study the way the illustrator conveys the action and pace and take those tools for yourself. It will not only help you with storyboarding but it will also help you a lot with varying shots within your scenes (which in this age of film is huge). The development of a scene visually is something that can never be over looked but often is, because when someone is doing it right you’re not seeing it, you’re feeling it!

Suggested readings:

Joker –  written by Brian Azzarello and illustrated by Lee Bermejo

Batman: Year One – written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzuchelli

Sin City (Any volume) – written and illustrated by Frank Miller

The Killing Joke – written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland