In the beginning of RFR’s production Silver bought me a Moleskine storyboarding notebook which I started using right away to sketch out the first couple of chapters. Over time, as we had more and more of the story written out, I kept adding new chapters to it.
It’s full of scribbles, each uglier than the previous, only readable to me, even if just barely. Still, this notebook marks the first, and possibly most important stage in drawing a comic book: thumbnailing the story.
Thumbnailing is not about pretty pictures; it’s your roadmap and your comic’s visual plotline. It’s crucial to be prepared and ready, knowing your overall goals and each page’s content before you zoom in on the individual panels. It’s all about story pacing, and page composition and flow, already marking places for drama and suspense. This is where I decide between a silent, one panel page, and a ten panel, action packed sequence, or how to best compose the blacks and whites and lights and shadows that the comic is basically made out of.
You will add the character acting and nuances when you get to drawing the actual panels, but for storyboarding you’ll have to think more like a storyteller than a portrait painter. The key is to always understand how each page works with multiple pages forward and back. If you have this, 80% of your decision making is basically done.
Optimally, you’d have all your story written out by the time you start thumbnailing. This is one thing we learned from RFR: have a script or at least a plotline ready before you start drawing anything. Having to make changes in writing is much easier than having to decide to throw ten inked pages out the window because the story needs to go a different way after all.
All that said, I wanted to give you a little peak into this scribbled mess I’ve been calling “RFR thumbnails”: